What makes for a valued martech provider?
In the rapidly growing martech space, how do you determine which providers are worthy of your investment? Contributor Scott Vaughan taps some industry pros to share their tips.
We’re fresh off what has been dubbed as “martech events season.” Ten industry and vendor platform conferences all jammed into Q2 this year. One of the big conversations I had with practitioners, martech company execs and industry observers is not about the hype — gasp! Some 5,000 martech companies — but how many “new” businesses are simply pre-existing companies pivoting their position to become a “martech provider.”
This is what happens when you’re part of a white-hot market. Marketing departments are currently undergoing a great customer-driven shift, while also being one of the last business functions to automate. In the eyes of many vendors, this combo signifies a gold rush.
With so much riding on martech investments, the question looms: What are the attributes of a valued martech provider in the golden age of marketing technology?
I tapped into some of the pros and thought leaders in the martech world, and here’s a starter list as you contemplate your next investment.
Must be a business partner, not another vendor
This was the No. 1 cited attribute of a valued martech provider. Not a surprise, as martech is still in its infancy and marketing orgs need the expertise.
Sam Melnick, current VP of marketing at Allocadia and former marketing analyst at IDC, puts it like this: “From my chair, a true partner is one who can walk the walk and provide value to their customer with sheer will and intelligence. They’re committed to your success in terms of product, service and expertise.”
This amplifies the idea that martech providers must be consultative, advising marketing teams beyond their product or service. The most successful providers realize the key is to create more efficiency and/or business value than the effort to implement, use and manage their technology.
“The vendor MUST understand the marketing industry and where they fit into the broader tech landscape,” says Leslie Alore (disclosure: client), director of global marketing operations and automation at Iron Mountain. “It’s really about being a consultant first, especially if you’re investing in something challenging the status quo. You need your provider in it with you.”
Scalability, integration and usability matter
Part of understanding the whole martech picture is understanding the role their technology plays in their customers’ martech stacks — today and looking forward. Alore emphasizes the need “not only to integrate with my current tech stack, but not compete [with] or contradict the core stack in use.”
Marketers are assembling their own list of expectations for marketing technology. Min Wang, VP of digital strategy at Brocade, looks for technology providers that deliver open, modular and easy-to-implement solutions. She advocates standards-based, open architecture and digs deep to understand their APIs and the portability of data and analytics.
Often-overlooked attributes are usability and flexibility. Corey Craig, who has driven martech efforts at Dell and Lululemon, expands on the requirement: “This means the solution can be used out-of-the-box, that it’s user-friendly and anyone on the marketing team can be trained to use it. And, it must be able to be customized for my use-cases.”
The martech provider makes my team and organization better
There’s not enough martech talent and experience to go around. In fact, marketing orgs often compete with martech providers for talent. B2B marketing execs expect their providers to roll up their sleeves, know their business and deliver both short- and long-term value.
“Leaders of marketing teams find themselves ill-equipped to take advantage of most martech because of budget, skillset and time,” states Dawn Colossi (disclosure: client), senior director of digital marketing at Commvault. “The vendors that get my time, mindshare and budget have helped me and my team get better, push further, and think modern marketing. These vendors are part of the team, even part of the family. They don’t just sell me stuff.”
Alore echoes this point: “A martech software provider can make or break a deal today. It’s that important.”
Have the resources to make our business successful
Marketing today is about agility and the ability to move at the speed of the customer and the business. Being able to get the tech solution up and creating value quickly is an imperative. Because of the immaturity of martech and so many young companies, it’s amazing how many solutions lack the basics marketers need to implement and execute.
“What I look for from my martech providers, especially less established ones, are the resources they have, including basics like online documentation, training videos and onboarding tools,” says Dave Lewis, industry veteran and CEO of DemandGen. “In the end, success comes down to my team’s ability to get up and running quickly. We expect providers to have the resources to maximize adoption and our investment.”
Involve customers in tech strategy & development
Marketers are making big bets to solve immediate pains and create business value. It’s hard to make investments if it’s unclear where your provider is headed. Marketers want to look beneath the current solution’s hood, and also shape future development.
Scott Fingerhut, VP of worldwide demand marketing at Elastic, puts it this way: “To me, it’s access, flexibility and influence. I want to be able to get a view of the road map and have a deep discussion with technology and product leadership on what’s coming. And, I want to make sure the vendor’s business model fits with ours. If it doesn’t, I want to be able to have a dialog to share what might work.”
They get my business and the big picture
It’s clearly more than cool or interesting technology that makes a great martech provider.
Anand Thaker, CEO and founder at IntelliPhi, sums it up: “Most valued martech providers are not the loudest or shiniest object in the industry. Grounded in fundamentals, they’re instead committed to adapting their clients’ business and talent first to maximize the use and ROI of the technology.”
Before your next marketing tech investment, write down what you value most in a provider. Make it part of your due diligence and evaluate all for the criteria that matters to you and your organization. Your success depends on it!