Marketing technology has evolved in multiple ways, originating in spreadsheets, databases, contact management tools, graphic design software and word processing. The Internet accelerated the process, turning an evolution into a revolution. And the result was a jumble of tools and systems, each seemingly dedicated to solving a section or two of the marketing process. Some of these tools are known in the tech world as “point solutions” and focus on a single activity or segment of what marketers do. Email, for example, or lead scoring. Others attempt to automate large swaths of the process.
So marketers find themselves with a bundle of technologies, typically from separate vendors, that together are expected to enable the marketing need, in whole or in parts. This bundle is known as the marketing “stack.”
A typical marketing stack begins with a marketing automation system at its core, and adds in additional tools and pieces as the need evolves—or the budget grows. For example, you might start with an email deployment system, or a contact management system, and later bolt on social media software to schedule your posts, a website analytics tool, and a blog management platform.
The stack then becomes a challenge to manage. Will the software integrate easily? Am I paying for duplicate functionality from multiple vendors?
To address these problems, vendors have moved quickly to create integrated solutions, or “suites.” Their objective is not only to reduce the complexity, but also to compete for a larger share of the marketing tech budget.
Larger players have been expanding their offerings, usually through acquisition of smaller companies. The industry consolidation process is in full swing today. Oracle bought Eloqua, Responsys, BlueKai and Datalogix. Adobe bought Neolane, Omniture, Day Software and Demdex. IBM bought Unica, Silverpop and CoreMetrics. Salesforce bought Exacttarget, Pardot, Radian6, Buddy Media and Jigsaw.
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.