That was the number of the week last week when 100+ marketing technology vendors and 1000+ wicked smart marketers descended upon San Francisco for Scott Brinker’s Martech conference.
3,874 is the number of marketing technology companies that were on this year’s “martech supergraphic” – the logos hardly fit on a single PowerPoint slide. The first reaction for many of us at the conference (I think including our host) was to be overwhelmed. For marketers who are tasked with finding the right technologies to move their organizations forward, a visual like this can be daunting. Just determining a technology category to start investigating can be a challenge, let alone picking a single vendor to buy from. However, after attending many of the sessions and having conversations with a lot of marketers it was clear that context is becoming one of the greatest tools for marketers.
What was even more encouraging is the talk around context wasn’t about executing marketing actions (while that is important); it was focused on how marketers can make smarter decisions and run their marketing organization with context. Setting a strategy, designing processes and buying technologies that fit a vision, this context, rose to the top throughout the conference.
To underscore this theme, here are 3 key learnings from MarTech 2016 around how speakers leverage context.
Context through Marketing Pace Layers – Scott Brinker
The first example of context was in Scott Brinker’s opening keynote where he highlighted different marketing layers and the pace of change for each layer.
The idea here is to build your marketing organization (technologies, processes, and approach) to allow for the proper speed in change, for both in technological innovation and shifting goals. Each of these layers will need to be switched out at different rates in time. Context is so important in this example. Without the understanding of which layers need to be super agile and flexible vs which should have a deeper foundation and more static, marketers risk creating a tangled (inefficient) mess. This context allows for depth and agility in your marketing stack and helps to give direction on the purpose of each technology.
Setting the correct context internally – Pat Lapointe & Laura Patterson
Laura and Pat had two of my favorite sessions of the week. They both urged marketers to understand the context of what to bring to other stakeholders in the company. Both sessions were in a similar vein, moving through data and strong examples of how marketing must elevate themselves to larger goals and a larger stage if they want to be taken seriously.
Pat Lapointe asked “What if we pointed our brain power at what the CEO wants to know?” rather than focusing what specific campaigns or tactics will produce. And Laura Patterson stressed to marketers that they must consider themselves part of the business team, not just marketing.
This type of context is arguably more important than any technology that can be purchased. The questions and points that that Laura and Pat brought up help marketers determine their strategy – how they want to run marketing. Without taking the time to understand how marketing is going to drive value to the shareholders, what bets the department is going to take, and how to communicate this to leadership, marketing risks becoming meaningless.
Context Through Data and the Customer – Gerry Murray and David Edelman
Gerry Murray and David Edelman’s sessions were really the epitome of the MarTech conference. They both looked at how to make use of (or at least be aware of) emerging technologies and utilize them to obtain the correct data to understand the buyer. Marketers have spent a lifetime trying to understanding the buyer. Now with cognitive intelligence and advanced technologies the industry is starting to gain quantitative context on how to best interact with prospects and customers.
A couple of quotes from their sessions that drove home the importance of context for me were:
“Businesses are not just selling stuff, marketers are actually shaping how people are thinking of buying within the category.” – David Edelman
“Ad blocks are the wrong solution – it’s not that we don’t want advertising, we don’t want the wrong (disruptive) type of advertising.” – Gerry Murray
This is the type of advanced thinking that is now being made available (and we as marketers should be pushing ourselves to think about) due to data and technologies being able to provide a new level of context around the buyer. But what is most exciting is the ability to combine this data and technology with the larger industry trend of treating “buyers” like actual people. Fully understanding a customer’s journey both quantitative and qualitatively is the holy grail when it comes to marketing context.
For those marketers who attended (and those that did not), I would encourage them to look past the the 3,874 technologies and find the correct context when setting a path for their MarTech approach.
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