There was a moment, about 18 months ago, when Scott Brinker thought we finally might be approaching “Peak MarTech.”
Brinker is the creator of the Marketing Technology Landscape, which has become tech’s version of Where’s Waldo? Back then, his supergraphic checked in at 3,000-plus companies that sold marketing-related software solutions. This monster can’t keep growing, Brinker thought. It’s not sustainable. Consolidation has to be coming.
“We’ve added 2,000 more companies since then,” Brinker said, laughing.
His 2017 landscape is a mind-boggling 5,381 solutions. (Magnifying glass not included.) And he knows his “MarTech 5000” is missing several hundred companies because Brinker thinks he has heard from each and every one of them.
And that begs the question: How much is too much?
“What’s happening is as much a surprise to me as anyone,” added Brinker, the editor of the chiefmartec.com blog and CTO at ion interactive. “That’s why I tell everyone that from a pragmatic point of view, it just doesn’t matter how many there are. You have to figure out how to turn this to your advantage.”
In fact, he believes the number of MarTech companies and products will continue expanding for the foreseeable future. So, Brinker offers this no-nonsense advice:
Deal with it.
“If you’re a marketer, this is just the start of a new cloud world,” Brinker added. “Yes, it’s challenging. But the upside is if you’re smart at managing all of this innovation, you’re ahead of the game. Then it doesn’t matter if the amount of technology grows because you’ve already nailed down a strategy to conquer this world by bringing a method to the madness.”
It’s no wonder that earlier this year, analyst firm Gartner noted that the amount of money CMOs spend on technology is on track to pass the tech budget of CIOs this year. For marketers, the post concluded, the technology decision-making process will eventually become an ingrained discipline. Brinker also cites Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2017 report found that marketing teams at enterprise companies use an average of 91 cloud-based services.
The result is the SaaS marketplace can feel like — to borrow from Brinker — madness. This emerging space can be overwhelming, confusing and more than a little intimidating. There are so many vendors. All seem to be making the same extravagant claims and promises. Separating the shiny toys from the game-changing solutions isn’t easy. But it’s easy to become cynical.
When faced with so many choices, businesses many times choose to do nothing. It becomes a case of paralysis by analysis. The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is being replaced with just plain fear of making a terrible mistake.
Call it vendor fatigue.
But it could be worse, Brinker said. Choice might be hard, but it’s better than not having any choice at all.
Look at the CRM market, he added. Salesforce remains the giant of the cloud-based sector. But healthy competition has emerged, including businesses like HubSpot and Zoho as well as the growth of Customer Data Platforms in the B2C space. That’s a good thing for everyone, Brinker said.
“When you have companies with something close to a monopoly, the incentive to innovate starts to wane,” he said. “That’s the downside when one or two vendors own the market. Competition creates great choices and keeps prices down.”
Even as the overall number of MarTech vendors keeps growing, Brinker added, it’s not like they all end up winners. There is no shortage of businesses that fail to find a good market fit. Also, if the economy ever does experience a downturn, the herd will be thinned.
But Brinker, for one, is not expecting any widespread extinction event. Only half of the companies in this year’s landscape have received venture capital funding. The rest have built their businesses on their own and probably could weather a recession.
“So even if all the funded companies disappeared, you would still have 2,000 or 3,000 companies out there,” he added.
Which all leads back to the original question. How much is too much?
Brinker, for one, is done making predictions.
“It’s interesting to ponder how this industry might play out over the next few years,” he said. “But from a practical standpoint, we all have revenue goals that we have to achieve this year. So it is what it is.”
And “it” is probably only going to get bigger and crazier, at least for now.
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