Marketing technology has exploded in the past three years. According to Chief Marketing Technologist, as many as 1,876 tech companies are battling it out for your dollars in 2015, nearly doubled in number from last year. The largest single category in marketing tech is marketing automation, with no fewer than 211 solutions available today.
What does this mean to marketers? Lots of good things. First, automation means faster, more accurate marketing communications. These technologies are designed with results in mind. They include data capture, metrics, analytics and dashboards—meaning that marketers can track campaign outcomes and demonstrate the return on their investments like never before.
Second, the intense competition stimulates innovation, so clever new solutions to marketing problems emerge regularly, as do continuous improvements in design, ease of use and—one hopes—cost.
Best of all, these technologies are created for non-technical users. Often delivered via SaaS (Software as a Service) in the cloud, with intuitive interfaces, they can be acquired and installed without the involvement of an IT department. This means that marketers not only control the technology acquisition process, but they can also sidestep the lengthy—and often political—vetting process typical software purchases require.
Rebecca Lieb, industry analyst with the Altimeter Group, predicts that the CMO will soon be in charge of the biggest technology budget in the firm. “Marketing technology spend has gotten so important that companies are creating marketing tech officer roles,” she says. “Managing marketing tech is now a full-time job, perhaps not at the C-level, but certainly very senior and with huge influence.”
Technology enables marketers, increases their productivity and expands their capabilities in the firm. But with these positive developments also come challenges. Managing all this technology is not easy. Marketers are being asked to develop new skills. They may be more productive, but their jobs are in many ways more complex. And certainly the efficiency and time-saving promised by marketing automation rarely translate into shorter working hours or calmer days.
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools around the world. She is past chair of the DMA Business-to-Business Council, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain's BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM and holds an MBA from Columbia University.