SMEs: It’s time to hold martech vendors to account


Adobe’s acquisition of Marketo announced last week is the latest in a string of purchases by the big tech firms that include Salesforce, IBM and Oracle. Consolidation of martech and related technology firms is not a new trend, although it certainly has picked up speed over the last few years.

The value that these ‘acquired clouds’ or ‘frankenclouds’ promote is that they supposedly achieve greater functionality and results. However, users often cite implementation issues, not to mention different acquired solutions being cobbled together can mean that the integration between them and larger platforms is not effective. While these solutions often look like a single platform, it is usually the case that the decision of which point solutions are included has been made for, not with the customer, resulting in a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

So, what are the other options for SMEs? They can either choose a number of point solutions for their martech stack and integrate the technology themselves or through a partner—rarely cost or time effective. Or, they could choose a single platform that best case does all or a large part of what they require or, not so good, sit redundant while marketers eventually realise that one size doesn’t fit all.

There’s no doubt marketing plays a vital role in the success of a business—from promoting an organisation’s mission and raising awareness, to providing leads to the sales team.

The digital era has made marketers and customers much more sophisticated, but currently marketers could be guilty of not applying intelligence alongside. When a brand sees no real value in a service, it will downgrade that to a commodity. Marketers need to prove their worth and it starts with martech vendors offering a more proactive service to their customers.

It’s no longer enough for a vendor to ask prospects and customers, “What are your problems?”. What they should be saying is: “We know your problems and here’s how we’re going to help you address them”. If customers know more than a martech vendor, what’s the point of the engagement?

Similarly, everyone in the industry knows data is king. The promise of marketing is a true, personalised experience that delights the customer at every turn. To deliver on that promise, organisations first need a view of their customer. However, data continues to “sit”—and this is the correct term here, as many organisations aren’t leveraging their data effectively—in many different parts of the business and with many different vendors.

Organisations should be asking themselves: “How do the vendors that I work with help me get the most out of my data?” And if in response to this question, that vendor doesn’t use one of the following terms—data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning—it’s time the organisation looks elsewhere. With the data deluge, human-driven marketing simply doesn’t scale. Vendors must be relying on some degree of machine learning to achieve results in the digital world.

If you’re an SME and not getting this level of service from your partners, my advice: look elsewhere. If anything, the latest acquisitions in the big end of town have demonstrated that there’s certainly not a lack of choice when it comes to martech. And with so much choice, the power is squarely in your hands to demand the most of your partners and ensure they’re not simply pedalling empty software.


Heath Barlow, Market Lead, ANZ, Emarsys.