The State of Marketing Technology 2017 (hint: best-of-breed is big)

State of Marketing Technology 2017

I’ve just returned from MarTech Europe in London, which was an incredible experience. I am immensely grateful for all of the amazing speakers who shared their insights and experiences with us — from ABB to Unilever — and I’ll have more to report from that event soon.

But first: the opening day of MarTech Europe coincided with the release of the latest State of Marketing Technology 2017 report from Walker Sands, which I was delighted to contribute to this year. I already revealed several of the key findings to the audience at the conference, but I’m eager to share it with you now too.

Following up on their martech report from last year — which now provides us the benefit of longitudinal data to show how trends are changing in this space — Walker Sands conducted a study this fall with 335 U.S. marketers on the subject of marketing technology adoption.

The two most remarkable findings to me — and they’re related — were:

  1. Best-of-breed marketing technology stacks are leading the field.
  2. Integration is becoming less of a problem — strategy is now recognized as a far greater challenge — in maximizing the return from marketing technology investments.

As summed up in this clip from the opening pages of the report:

State of Marketing Technology 2017 Marketing Stack Findings

Adoption of Best-of-Breed Marketing Technology Stacks

The distribution of different kinds of marketing technology stacks in the survey show:

  • Integrated best-of-breed stacks are the most popular, used by 27% of the participants — with “integrated” being the key qualifier.
  • Fragmented best-of-breed stacks are tied for second place with limited piecemeal solutions and single-vendor suites, each used by 21% of the participants.
  • Combining integrated and fragmented best-of-breed stacks gives us the stat that 48% of participants — nearly half — have chosen a best-of-breed approach. (Hopefully the fragmented ones are on a path to being integrated.)
  • Only 21% of the participants — only 1/5th — use a single-vendor suite — and which is more common in SMBs that are leveraging a multi-function product like HubSpot.

Although one of the supposed benefits of a single-vendor suite is to make it easier for companies to harness the full power of their tools, this study showed that marketers more often get the most value from integrated best-of-breed stacks — 83% rated their ability to fully leverage their best-of-breed architectures as “good” (55%) or “excellent” (28%):

Best-of-Breed Marketing Technology Stacks

Even two-thirds of marketers with fragmented best-of-breed stacks — 67% — reported “good” (53%) or “excellent” (14%) success in fully leveraging their tools. Single-vendor suites did only slighty better — 76% rated their ability to leverage them as “good” (48%) or “excellent” (28%).

Leveraging Marketing Technology Stacks

With integrated best-of-breed stacks being the most common and the most effective, one would be tempted to conclude that “integration” is not the primary challenge that marketers face anymore.

Indeed, when participants in this study were asked “what would help you better leverage the full power of your current marketing technology stack?”, the answer “better stack integration” ranked 7th, near the bottom of the list.

The #1 key to better leveraging your marketing stack? “Better strategy.”

“Better strategy” was selected by 39% of the participants, while “better stack integration” was chosen by only 20% — nearly a 2-to-1 ratio.

Better analytics and more training were also high on the list, followed by more employees and better defined KPIs. Taken together, the top 5 characterize an elevated focus on marketing technology:

  • What do we want to do?
  • How do we actually do it?
  • How do we measure success?

This suggests a maturing of marketing’s relationship with technology. The right tools and their integration are important — the dominance of best-of-breed marketing technology stacks attests to that — but the organizational vision and capabilities we apply them towards are considerably more important.

That’s a good thing.

Download a copy of the State of Marketing Technology 2017 here.

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