Last month's Internet World show at Earl's Court in London, somewhat surprisingly given its title, was about digital marketing. Internet World looked just like the Technology For Marketing & Advertising (TFM&A) show at the same venue, two months earlier.
The difference? Well, in truth, not much. Both Internet World and TFM&A offered 4 main tracks for content management, digital / mobile marketing, social media, and ecommerce. TFM&A focused more on analytics, and Internet World more on connectivity and hosting, but the sentiment was the same: "if you don't buy into this stuff, your company's marketing will die, and soon". There is more than a grain of truth in this.
However, digital marketing vendors have adopted a strange language that is difficult to penetrate. One company describes itself as ‘leader in Behavioural Email and Conversion Rate Optimisation', another ‘integrates incoming emails with business processes'. What are these people talking about? Both marketers and IT people alike are scratching their heads trying to work it out. Here's my take on the 4 main categories:
- Content management = are you capturing data from visitors on your web site(s)?
- Digital marketing / mobile marketing = are you using that data to target via email or text those people who are showing an interest in your products or services?
- Social media = are you trying to engage potential customers and actual customers in a conversation that increases their propensity to buy from you?
- Ecommerce = have you got an online mechanism for taking their money if they want to buy something?
The above are all basic modern business functions that require investment. Unfortunately, in trying to differentiate their products and justify premium prices, Digital Marketing vendors have ended up confusing potential customers. Hence the exhibitions' educational seminars were heaving as marketers struggled to understand what was going on—and report back in a language that their bosses could understand.
Fundamentally the use cases were missing. "Who is using this? What are they using it for? How are they benefitting?" are questions rarely answered. This is slowing market growth and development and plays into the hands of larger, potentially less innovative vendors.
To date, technology for marketing has been a relatively small and fragmented market. Integrated marketing suites have traditionally been expensive, complex and difficult to use. So marketers, not normally the most tech-savvy, have preferred to take an ‘incremental' and low-cost approach to product adoption. Mostly they use some kind of Email management tool (e.g. Silverpop, Communigator), Campaign Management (e.g. Neolane, Marketo), and Web Analytics (Google).
But the big players have sensed market opportunity and are re-aligning their considerable forces for a big push into the integrated marketing platform market. Hence IBM has acquired Unica and Coremetrics, Teradata has acquired Aprimo, SAS has acquired AssetLink, and emailvision has acquired smartFOCUS in recent times.
This should be a good thing for the digital marketing industry. The current piecemeal approach to technology adoption in Marketing is neither integrated not scalable, and is causing enormous problems for both marketing departments and their IT counterparts. Cut and paste is commonplace as personal productivity tools are used in enterprise application scenarios.
The large vendors have significant consulting capability and specialist channel partners to make sense of ‘the business of marketing' and how the technology meets the business needs. This will be a welcome departure from the short-term tactical technology buying that is currently blighting the industry.