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The world of digital marketing shapeshifts every year. Just when you think you’ve got a solid foothold, trends change. On this rocky terrain, how can you grow your business and generate sales instead of falling into some shadowy corner of the internet?

Your single best defense against the competition is unique branding. In exploring the top five digital marketing trends for 2020, remember that branding is the springboard for each of these strategies. Building an identifiable, memorable brand will elevate your marketing efforts; just look at Nike or Starbucks. Do they have the best product in the world? That’s subjective.

Yet both these companies have unmistakable branding and customers are fiercely loyal because of it. To build a recognizable brand, you have to leave old marketing strategies in the past. In other words, you have to do more than simply rely on a website to grow your business in 2020.

The mainstreaming of social media and digital marketing has created unprecedented shifts in the marketing landscape. What does this mean for small businesses? You’ll need to take a new approach to keep up with projected marketing trends, increase sales and brand awareness.

Here are the top five digital marketing trends and projections on the horizon for 2020.

1.   Video Marketing is King

Only 20 years ago, the presence of a camcorder was enough to clear a room. Now? Every person with a cell phone has a video camera, and the universal shyness about videos is altogether a behavior of yesteryear. People love videos and businesses are picking up on it.

In fact, 85% of marketers use video marketing for business promotion, according to a study by Wyzowl, and it has helped 72% of brands increase their conversion rates.

How can you harness the power of videos to market your business? People watch videos to get information and learn. Your first step as a small business marketer is to outline what relevant information you can share that will help your target customer. Then you can start creating compelling, informative videos.

The state of video marketing 2020

Here’s how to capitalize on the popularity of online video:


  • Create valuable video content that educates, informs, describes, or tells a story that captivates your target demographic.
  • Use an affordable online video maker like PosterMyWall to create branded videos from scratch, or create videos from a wide selection of professional video templates.
  • Combine engaging visuals with complimentary audio to provide a comprehensive experience for viewers. Upload your own audio, or browse stock audio files to find the perfect soundtrack to your design.
  • Now, post your video across all of your social channels: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and Twitter. Short on time? Not to worry; PosterMyWall enables you to easily resize your design to match the dimensions of all your social accounts in just a few seconds.

With video marketing, you can build credibility as a brand, solidify your branding and build loyal customers. What else can you do in 2020 to grow your business?

2.   Use Schema Markups and Rich Snippets

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should be a core component of your marketing strategy. While trends change from year to year, organic search is consistently one of the top drivers of B2B website traffic.

Keyword research, high-quality content, and on-page SEO form the foundation. From there, the projection for 2020 is centered on schema markups and rich snippets. Focusing on these expands your potential to grow web traffic, increase brand awareness, and convert new visitors into loyal customers. What are they and how can they bolster your marketing efforts?

  • Schema markup is a webpage snippet that’s been optimized into a rich snippet.
  • A rich snippet contains all the pertinent details to an optimized page, including images, pricing, ratings, descriptions, etc.

Confused? Think of it this way: if you have a product page on your website that seems clear to you, but Google and search engines don’t understand the contents of the page, you are unlikely to get organic traffic. Schema markups create the context of the webpage which, in turn, increases your website’s visibility and leads to higher conversion.

Why is this important? There’s potential to increase web traffic by 31% with rich snippets, according to Ahrefs.

Bottom line: people aren’t going to click on the website that contains no information about the product or service they are selling. Instead, they’ll click on the search result that has an image, price, ratings, product description and visual information. Fortunately, you can do all of this and more for free in Google Webmaster.

3.   Share Bite-Sized and Informational Content

Just as it’s powerful to share informative videos with your target audience, the same principle applies to other visual content you create. You don’t need to produce Tolstoy-length articles and blog posts to garner credibility and results. In fact, people often favor short, insightful and digestible information. Perfect example? Infographics are educational, concise, and easy to digest.

Hollandzise sauce recipes infographicTake a look at this infographic from Quid Corner, which includes 12 classic sauce recipes. Creating blog posts for each of these recipes would consume hours of precious time. Instead, compiling them into small sections in an infographic with stunning visuals makes it digestible (and tantalizing). The infographic was so effective, it became a staple pin in recipe boards on Pinterest.

To capitalize on this marketing trend for 2020, create relevant, valuable content for your target audience that doesn’t distract from their busy lives. When they pop on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be there to greet them with a short but meaty helping of informational content. Use engaging visuals to grab their attention before they scroll past your post.

Here’s how you can combine visuals with helpful information to engage your audience:

  • Use compelling imagery from stock photo libraries, or start with a free, professionally designed template from PosterMyWall.
  • Summarize your message into bullet points, categories, or separate visuals that are easy to scan and read.
  • Customize the design with unique fonts and colors to match your identifiable branding.
  • Share the design on all of your online channels, and don’t forget to use PosterMyWall’s resize feature to customize the dimensions of your design to match Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and more.

That’s it! You’ve created captivating marketing content that is relevant and helpful to your audience. Still, sharing posts on multiple social channels takes time that you flat out don’t have. Fortunately, with PosterMyWall, you can auto-publish and schedule content to post across all of your social channels from one tab.

And instead of creating dozens of designs, which takes up valuable time, you can resize your design for free to share on multiple platforms. Time saved is money earned.

4.   The Future is A.I., and it Wants to Chat

Artificial Intelligence isn’t a robot in an action film or a digital nucleus overthrowing humanity: it’s simply a dynamic marketing tool that makes managing a small business more efficient. While it’s not as glamorous (or scary!) as in the movies, it’s much more effective. That’s likely why in 2020, 80% of companies will use A.I. to increase sales, according to Single Grain.

One of the best digital marketing trends for 2020 is the incorporation of chatbots—auto-responders that answer website inquiries for you. And they moonlight as effective resources for late-night shoppers, which account for a whopping 71.6 % of online customers.

When people want to buy late at night, chatbots are there to help, which can mean the difference between a sale and an empty cart. The future looks bright for A.I., which is why it’s vital to employ these intelligent software bots to clock in while you’re clocked out.

5.   The New Facebook Ad Marketing Trend For 2020

Facebook has encountered peaks and valleys, but the platform is still relevant and even necessary for many marketers. Regardless of privacy concerns and other issues, Facebook still has billions of users, and they like to shop. That’s why 67% of social media marketers rely on Facebook as their primary platform.

While it remains an effective strategy, Facebook marketing will change in 2020. Paid ads are a must. Organic reach on Facebook is perhaps 6% of page likes. But with Facebook ads, you have the potential to reach 2.45 billion active monthly users.

There are several ways to use Facebook ads to market your business in 2020, but one of them reigns supreme: Stories ads. Facebook rolled out its Stories feature in March of 2017, and now 500 million users watch Stories every day.

Instead of spending all your budget on newsfeed ads, allocate part of your funds to Facebook Stories ads. Incorporate video in your Stories ads to inspire viewers to take action.

Using Instagram story templates for adsHere’s how to create compelling Facebook Story Ads in 2020:

  • Create Story Ads from customizable templates in PosterMyWall.
  • Focus on creating video content that entertains, educates and engages your viewers.
  • Use all of Facebook’s interactive story features including polls, GIFs, and Geotags to interact with viewers.
  • Include a strong call to action in every sponsored post. Don’t skimp here, because this is what makes your ad work.

Make 2020 Your Best Year Yet

Marketing a small business in 2020 requires time, money and methodical planning. And as a small business owner or marketer, resources are in short supply. Fortunately, you can tackle all of the digital marketing trends in this article on a budget.

Christina LyonChristina Lyon is a writer, blogger and musician from sunny SoCal. She’s on fire for helping online businesses grow with engaging marketing copy. When she steps away from her desk, Christina loves reading fiction, strolling the beach and playing music. Visit her website at www.bychristinalyon.com.

Spending on marketing technology continues to rise—driven by changing expectations of the marketing function, the introduction of innovative new tools, and increasing pressure on marketing teams to show measurable results.

Recent Gartner research found that CMOs now spend nearly as much on technology as CIOs, as “Marketers are now extraordinarily dependent on technology…Marketing leaders allocate 27 percent of their expense budget to technology, equal to 3.24 percent of overall revenue, compared with CIO technology spend of 3.4 percent of revenue.”

But with the explosion in the number and types of marketing applications available, how can marketing leaders have confidence they are making the right choices? Scott Brinker’s marketing technology landscape includes more than 200 marketing automation systems alone—and those represent just one of nearly 50 different categories of marketing tools.

Approaching marketing technology (martech) purchases using a structured process can help CMOs and their teams make smart, informed choices. Here are six keys to help make wise martech investments.

Start with Strategy

The specific set of tools you need depends on how your marketing operation functions. Just as a cabinet maker and a home builder will have very different tools even though they both assemble things out of wood, so there is no one-set-of-tools-fits-all for marketing teams.

Map out your marketing processes from end to end, then determine where tools can help. It may help to jumpstart your thinking with an existing martech model, such as the website visibility and engagement model or the marketing technology ecosystem model.

Creating your ultimate martech “shopping list” based on strategy helps assure you don’t end up with either gaps (missing functionality) or overlaps (duplicate functionality in two or more tools) in your martech tool set.

Watch the Suites

Some vendors offer all-encompassing suites, at least within a specific martech product category. Others provide point solutions designed to one thing, or perhaps just a few things, very well.

For example, all-in-one SEO software suites from vendors like BrightLocal, Link-Assistant, and Moz offer a broad range of SEO functionality from keyword research and rank tracking to competitive benchmarking and backlink analysis. In contrast, special-purpose SEO tools like Monitor Backlinks and Video SEO for WordPress focus on optimizing a specific task.

Which approach is better? The answer is an unequivocal…it depends. Suites reduce training and application management efforts, while point solutions often provide deeper functionality.

Automate SEO functions with Sheer SEO

As Brinker told Dom Nicastro in CMSWire, when he “first launched the MarTech Conference in Boston in 2014, the debate was ‘suite versus best-of-breed.’ Marketers still face those choices today. However, many have gone with each approach, using large suites as foundational platforms while plugging in point solutions…’It really seems like it’s suite and best-of-breed. Maybe the suite or best-of-breed discussion is coming to an end.’”

Do Your Homework

At the risk of suggesting the painfully obvious, once you’ve narrowed your choices for a particular type of a tool to a short list, thoroughly research each alternative online. There is no shortage of information about most options.

Popular applications tend to have dozens if not hundreds of independent reviews written about them. Sources include independent blogs, online publications like PCMag and ZDNet, and dedicated software review sites like Capterra, G2 Crowd, and Software Advice.

Read reviews carefully. Independent bloggers may also be affiliates, and the happiest customers are generally invited to submit reviews to the ratings sites.

Objective reviews should point out product “cons” as well as “pros.” No tool is flawless. Don’t expect to find a tool that’s perfect, but rather one that has shortcomings you can live with.

Check Your Connections

It’s essential your various martech tools work together to prevent duplicate data entry, save time, and provide “one version of the truth.” Issues as small as a slight misspelling of a customer or prospect name (e.g., McDonald vs. MacDonald) can lead to embarrassing and even costly mistakes.

Fortunately, most cloud-based apps can generally be integrated with each other without too much pain. Vendors will often provide integrations to popular CRM and other platforms, and tools like Zapier can help connect apps in other instances.

It’s best to find tools that offer prebuilt or native integration to your in-place systems when possible. But what’s most important is to choose tools that will best meet your needs and have a plan in place for sharing data between apps in real time (i.e., avoiding flat files if you can).

Diversify Your Investments

Like the suite vs. best-of-breed question above, another quandary often faced when selecting martech tools is the choice between “established” vs. “innovative.”

Established tools come from well-known vendors, have a track record in the market, and generally a sizable user base. They are often viewed as a “safe” choice.

Innovative tools lack the pedigree of established products but generally offer other benefits to compensate: simpler/faster implementation, unique features, greater ease of use, better industry-specific functionality, or other advantages.

If your enterprise is already committed to a martech “stack”—really a matrix, read: Marketing Technology isn’t a Stack—It’s a Matrix—from a vendor like Adobe, IBM, Oracle, HubSpot, or Salesforce.com, and that vendor offers a tool in the category you’re evaluating, that’s the place to start.

But if you’re not committed to a stack vendor, or if you’re looking for a tool in a niche or emerging platform, keep your options open. Think of your martech purchases like financial investments: You want a mix of “safe” choices to provide a stable base with emerging alternatives to support growth.

Train for Strength

The best possible collection of tools won’t make your marketing function successful without the right people skills. In some cases (e.g., buying a tool to support an expansion of current activities) you’ll need to hire. But in almost all cases, you’ll need training.

Keep in mind there are two types of training for most tools. The first is functional training (e.g., how do I set up an autoresponder sequence) and the second is strategic (what do I want the autoresponder sequence to accomplish? What assets do I need to do that? How should I handle branching to move prospects through the sales cycle?).

Companies generally account for functional training but often overlook or shortchange strategic skills. But winning in the marketplace is much less a function of knowing what to do (e.g., write an eBook, create a landing page) than in optimizing how it’s done (i.e., creating pop-ups that grab attention without causing annoyance, and optimizing all aspects of landing page design for conversion rate optimization).

Why This All Matters

The right mix of martech tools enables marketing teams to either do things they simply couldn’t (or at least practically couldn’t) do before, or to perform common tasks much more efficiently.

The wrong mix, on the other hand, can lead to problems with “tool proliferation” that actually make marketing teams less effective. According to recent research summarized by The Drum:

“While B2B marketers have more data than ever, they cannot harness it in a way that helps them market more effectively with 85 percent of marketers spending more time than ever managing marketing technology, at the expense of spending time engaging with customers.”

In addition, survey “respondents complained of too many technologies (50 percent) followed by problems integrating the technologies (49 percent).”

Using a process that starts with strategy and includes integration considerations, as outlined above, helps CMOs and their teams assemble a portfolio of marketing tools that simplifies marketing operations and improves performance—rather than creating a time-consuming distraction.

A version of this post originally appeared on the V3*Broadsuite blog.

A version of this post originally appeared on the V3*Broadsuite blog.

CMOs and their teams are spending more than ever on marketing tools. Gartner has predicted that “CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs” in 2017, while IDC projects “CMOs will drive marketing technology spending to $32.3B by 2018.”

The number and variety of tools they have to choose from has been rapidly expanding as well. Scott Brinker, widely known as @chiefmartec on Twitter, began cataloging this universe in 2011. His initial Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic listed 150 tools. The 2015 version showed 2,000. The 2016 version cataloged more than 3,800, and Brinker’s newest version of the supergraphic includes nearly 5,400 tools!

But while buying is increasing, the purchasing isn’t always strategic. In companies of all sizes, but most notably in companies with specific characteristics—such as those with multiple product lines, divisions, or geographic locations; those that have grown by acquisition; those that have sharp divisions between marketing functions (e.g. social media marketing, PR, and events); and those that rely heavily on outside agencies—technology selection is often “siloed,” without a high-level view of what is purchased and how all the tools work together.

The Costs of Tactical Buying

Ad hoc, as opposed to strategic, technology selection can lead to three types of problems:

Gaps and overlaps: Gaps occur when the selection of tools leads to missing functionality. For example, the company may invest in influencer marketing tools to find and engage with the most prominent voices in their industry, and a keyword research tool to nail down topics. But it may not have any tool for backlink analysis to track the value of backlinks generated by writing targeted content and sharing it with the top influencers.

Overlaps are, of course, the opposite—they occur when a company has two (or more) tools that perform the same function. One example is website analytics: if a marketing team has two analytics tools, each of which report a different number of website visits in a certain period—or worse, different numbers of visits from a specific campaign in that timeframe—how do team members know which “version of the truth” is really true?

Suboptimal tool selection: Again, there are two types of risks here. The first is taking the wrong approach to tool selection. For example, is it better to purchase best-of-breed SEO tools for different functions (link research, keyword research, rank tracking, etc.) or to purchase an “all in one” suite-type tool? Best-of-breed tools tend to offer deeper functionality, but all-in-one tools simplify management. It depends on your environment and needs.

The second risk is in purchasing the wrong specific tools. If purchasing is siloed, it’s entirely possible for an organization to end up with a collection tools that individually meet functional needs, but don’t work well together. Taking a big-picture view of technology selection helps optimize the entire marketing process rather than just individual steps within it.

Insufficient or improper services: Tools don’t solve problems by themselves. Improving marketing operations and maximizing the value of technology investments requires properly and fully utilizing those tools. That in turn requires investing in the right mix of services.

First, tools must be implemented and configured properly for the organization’s needs. Second, they need to be integrated, so that information is reliably passed in real time from one platform to the next to keep marketing operations in sync. Finally, employees need to be trained not just on how to use the tools, but on the strategy for their use (marketing automation systems are a great example).

A Strategic Model for Marketing Technology Selection

Modeling your organization’s marketing process provides a framework for strategic tool selection. Here’s one model that works well for content-centric B2B marketing functions. It extends the time-tested web presence optimization (WPO) model into prospect/customer marketing as well as adding supporting business technology tools (e.g., scheduling, file sharing, time management, and project collaboration).

The website visibility and engagement model for marketing technology selection

Using a model like this, marketing executives can map out what types of tools they need in each area. For example, content strategy and development may include tools for topic ideation, planning, research, and content curation. Website design and optimization may require form and landing page builders, design elements, and SEO tools. Social media marketing relies on tools for monitoring and management as well as platform-specific apps for optimizing use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and other networks.

Marketing Technology in Harmony

The result of tactical, poorly coordinated, siloed technology selection is like a disorganized benchtop covered with tools: there’s a hammer (or two or three), a few screwdrivers, some wrenches (though never the size you need), and some odd special-purpose gadgets that are hard to identify, thrown together.

A strategic approach to marketing technology, however, creates an environment more like the work area of a professional craftsman: a tool for everything, and every tool in its place. There are no missing wrenches. Each tool has a clear purpose, is easy to find, and has been chosen to complement all the other tools in the neatly organized box.

Finally, a strategic approach assures the tools are integrated to work together to automate marketing processes and provide accurate metrics for decision making, and that your team is trained to get the most of out of every application.

What does your marketing “workshop” look like?

Advanced marketing technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) have the potential to revolutionize brand messaging. Customers and prospective buyers can be served ever more personalized, relevant, and compelling content, at the ideal points in their decision process.

However, recent research suggests this future may be a way off yet. Most marketers, particularly in small to midsized businesses, aren’t ready to capitalize on these cutting-edge technologies. They have more immediate priorities. Many are still struggling to effectively implement more basic marketing technology (martech) tools.

The Case for Optimism…

Recent studies from the Economist Intelligence Unit and other sources indicate a significant share of business leaders expect AI to help their companies improve decision making, customer service, operating efficiency, and sales revenue.

Further, the positive impacts of AI are expected to be felt soon. Per the Economist, “75% of…business executives surveyed said AI will be actively implemented in their companies within the next three years…(and) 79%…believe artificial Intelligence will make their job easier and more efficient.”

Separate research summarized by Carla Johnson shows marketers expect AI will help them “deliver highly personalized and relevant messages” and eliminate waste in marketing operations.

…Meets the Reality of Advanced Marketing Technology Adoption

In practice, however, organizations of all sizes are struggling to maximize the value of their existing investments, much less adopt cutting-edge applications. Issues like the difficulty in integrating different tools and finding or developing the talent to fully utilize the technology in place remain obstacles to moving forward quickly.

Gartner research director Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, interviewed by CMO.com, revealed some stunning findings:

“Things like web analytics, web content management, and e-mail marketing, which you’d assume are pretty widely adapted and would be considered table stakes, (are) still not being used by 20% of large enterprises. These are things that we consider to be the bare minimum for a fully functioning marketing team today…

“Marketers aren’t getting all the value they should from their existing marketing technology. In some cases, clients come to us asking what is the best new personalization technology, yet they haven’t even tried the standard personalization that comes with their web content management system. They’re out there chasing new, shiny objects, without really knowing what they are already capable of doing

“If they’re not currently using technology that everyone else considers table stakes, are they able to move and scale as fast as they need to be, or should they question their strategy?”

When the largest enterprises struggle to optimize their use of fairly standard marketing technology, it’s likely smaller firms will be even less inclined to tackle more advanced marketing technologies in the near term.

Boost social media engagement with Post PlannerAccording to a broader study reported by ClickZ, nearly two-thirds (65%) of marketers “have no plans to invest in new technologies like 360-degree video, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), chatbots and beacons in 2017.” Even the simplest applications of AI are likely to be adopted only gradually: just 9% of marketers said they would invest in chatbots in 2017.

The research cited by Carla Johnson further notes that both marketers and customers have mixed feelings about AI (when does it cross the line from personalized to creepy?), and that CMOs face challenges in adopting AI: “60 percent of marketers said they worry about integrating AI into their existing tech stack.”

Instead, most plan to invest in more established marketing technologies this year, such as marketing analytics, social media monitoring, content management systems, and marketing automation tools.

Walk Before Running

There’s no question advanced marketing technologies like AI, AR, and VR have the potential to significantly enhance the customer experience, or that they will be widely adopted (eventually).

Marketers do need to keep an eye on these technologies and look for ways to experiment with small projects. Standing still means falling behind.

But most midmarket CMOs and marketing professionals recognize the practical imperative to optimize their use of current technologies rather than chase shiny objects.

Create a marketing technology strategy based on your marketing process model. Start with tools to develop compelling content, share and amplify that content, and measure results. Establish basic contact list segmentation before moving on to AI-driven personalization.

Advanced marketing technologies will move from “hype-full” to helpful when they are able to combine measurable improvement in operational efficiency and customer experience with pragmatically simple implementation and use.

Has your marketing technology framework enabled your department and processes to run like a well-oiled machine? Or are you more like the 50% of marketers, as reported in recent research from Signal, whose “stacks are not helping them to coordinate marketing across channels”? For those in the latter group, part of the problem may be in looking at marketing technology (martech) as a “stack.”

Lenati and Chiefmartec.com have produced an infographic, Making the Right MarTech Bets, with guidance for leaders and professionals selecting and implementing marketing tools. Here are the recommendations from that infographic combined with the research findings from Signal detailing martech challenges.

1) Martech success starts with strategy. More specifically, marketers should invest in long-term core platforms while experimenting with flexible point solutions, for functions like social media management. Absolutely! That is exactly the framework the B2B marketing technology strategy model on home page here helps marketers develop.

Yet 39% of marketers, according to Signal, identify “lack of effective strategy” as one of their top five obstacles to marketing technology success.

2) Overall, marketers say only 9% of their stack is “fully utilized.” Training and planning are key: how does each tool fit into your marketing process flow, and what training and integration is needed to maximize the use and value of it?

Two of the top five obstacles to success (“integration complexities” and “inconsistent data across technologies”) relate specifically to integration issues.

Most cloud apps provide APIs to simplify integration. Many also provide pre-built integrations with popular platforms, such as the huge array of tools that integrate with Salesforce. And tools like Zapier simplify the process of connecting cloud apps to automate workflows.

3) Talent – invest in the right people. Effective marketing requires strategy, processes, and tools. But these components are worthless without the people to make them work. Digital marketing and marketing strategy are the top skills sought.

38% of marketers say “inadequate budget/resources” is one of the top obstacles to success. Certainly, budget dollars can be spent many ways: on technology, services, advertising, outsourced functions, travel, and other items. But given that author, blogger and former Googler Avinash Kaushik has been quoted saying “for every $10 spent on your…tool(s), $90 should be spent on people,” budget shortfalls are highly likely to impact the quantity of talent on the team.

4) Be innovative; stay in front of what’s next. This presents a catch-22 for marketers in small to midsize companies. Most are already hard-pressed even to invest in relatively proven marketing tools. Devoting time and budget to experimental technology is an even tougher sell.

But failure to anticipate technology developments puts the company at risk. Consequently, SME marketers need to at least be aware of AI tools for customer service, analytics, and other applications—and to try to carve out modest allocations of budget and time to explore.

Scratch the Stack

Part of the answer to overcoming these obstacles may be to discard the notion of marketing technology as a stack. As Asad Haroon notes in his summary of the Signal research, “a concept we like to call the ‘anti-stack’ can in many cases work better than the typical individual marketing stack.”

And as pointed out on the V3B blog, marketing technology isn’t so much a “stack” as it is a matrix. The stack model comes from the software world, where it identifies “an operating system, database, web server, and programming language designed to work together to provide a development environment.”

Marketing technology doesn’t work that way—it’s a mix of interconnecting (or not) applications that support a marketing strategy and set of processes unique to each company.

Three Approaches to Martech Strategy

As the Lenati infographic and the Signal research both conclude, marketing technology success starts with strategy. Three common bases for developing such a strategy are:

Data-centric: Strategy is based on the ultimate metrics or KPIs most important to a company or its marketing team, and the tools and platforms used to report those measures. Metrics, however, are more useful as indicators of relative success and guidance for modifying specific tactics rather than driving strategy.

Contact-centric: Some firms choose to make their CRM platform the base for martech strategy, selecting other tools (for social media monitoring, analytics, etc.) based on their integration with the CRM system. While this can be effective for “post-CRM” marketing (communications with customers and known prospects), it’s not helpful for managing the pre-CRM stage (e.g. SEO, online advertising, and top-of-the-funnel content planning).

Content-centric: This approach, reflected in the website visibility and engagement model for martech, puts content planning, targeting, and development at the base of strategy. It’s effective at addressing both the pre- and post-CRM phases of martech strategy.

The MarTech Bets Infographic

Here’s the infographic from Lenati and Chiefmartec.com.

Making The Right Martech Bets #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Does the world need yet another website dedicated to marketing technology? Clearly, this site is based on a belief the answer is “yes,” particularly to address the concerns of small to midsized (SMB) B2B businesses.

While there are a number of established and varied marketing technology-focused sites around, most seem to fall broadly into two categories.

Expert (Enterprise Martech) Sites

These are the sites and blogs maintained by the industry analyst groups (Gartner, IDC, etc.) as well as experts like Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec, David Raab at Customer Experience Matrix, and Douglas Karr at the Marketing Technology Blog.

These brilliant writers and thinkers are among the top influencers in marketing technology, along with Lana K. Moore, Mike Quindazzi, Stewart Rogers, Joe Rizzo, Steve Woods, Matt Heinz, and others on this martech experts Twitter list.

They cover topics like big data analytics, blockchain technology, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented/virtual reality, and predictive analytics, which resonate with enterprise marketers—but aren’t often part of everyday life for SMB marketers.

Marketing Technology Review Sites

At the tactical end of the spectrum are the  marketing technology review and ratings sites. These well-known and highly regarded sites list thousands of products, enabling visitors to compare tools, check overall ratings, and read user reviews. These include:

  • Capterra
  • Cloudswave
  • DiscoverCloud
  • G2 Crowd
  • GetApp
  • Serchen
  • Siftery
  • Software Advice
  • SoftwareInsider
  • TrustRadius

These sites play a vital role in the research and evaluation phase for specific tools. But their coverage is very broad and the focus is generally more on product features and functions rather than marketing processes and technology strategy.

B2BMarketing.Technology: The B2B SMB Martech Strategy Site

Where B2B Marketing Technology fits in the martech infosphereThis site is designed to fill a gap between review sites and enterprise blogs. It’s designed to be a resource to help marketing leaders in small to midmarket B2B companies make more strategic marketing technology purchase decisions.

Visually, it’s positioned as show at right: more strategic than the review sites, more mid-market focused than most analysts.

It’s a bit like Growthverse, but with more of a strategic guidance / less directory-like focus.

Curious: what are the biggest martech challenges your organization is facing? Where do you turn for answers?

This website, as noted on the home page, “is designed to help marketing professionals—particularly in small-to-midsized B2B companies—make more strategic decisions about acquiring marketing technology (martech) tools.”

It’s based on experience and anecdotal knowledge about the technology challenges faced by SMB marketers. There’s no question some B2B companies struggle to:

  • Develop an overall strategy for building their marketing technology stack (or more accurately, their martech matrix).
  • Select tools based on their fit with the organization’s overall martech environment and strategy—rather than just the “best” tool within a specific functional silo.
  • Integrate their tools and get the proper training, on a business level rather than just a “how to” for tool use, to maximize value from their martech investments.

There is at least some research to support these points as well. MarTech Today has reported that integrating different martech tools is among the top challenges marketers face, and advises CMOs and directors to “Consider your full marketing technology stack when making software decisions, and avoid inefficiencies and sunken resources resulting from too many solutions providing similar functionality and value.”

But in general, while there are numerous studies done each year on the challenges faced by B2B marketers generally, there’s a dearth of research specifically focused on marketing technology.

And what is produced is often targeted at the enterprise level, such as the prediction from Forbes that “B2B marketing technology choices will simplify in 2017 because…the predictive marketing automation market will consolidate.” That’s a real possibility, but not something SMB marketers are thinking about. Even the “all-in-one marketing cloud solutions” touted by MarTech Today as potential solutions to integration issues are primarily targeted at large companies.

One other challenge noted at the SMB level is underinvestment in technology. Marketers often have difficulty getting budget allocated for technology purchases because of their inability to prove ROI from the tools.

But that creates a chicken-and-egg situation: it’s extremely difficult to prove the value of investing in marketing technology without first investing in analytical tools that can track the metrics required to prove the ROI.

Anyway—what are your thoughts? Are the challenges noted above familiar? If not, what are the biggest martech challenges your business faces this year?

Revised July 14, 2017

The interactive graphic on our home page extends the established web presence optimization framework into “post-CRM” marketing (communication with known prospects, leads, and customers) to provide a useful model for planning a marketing technology (martech) strategy.

The objective wasn’t simply to produce yet another list of martech tool categories. There are plenty of those out there, like this one and this one.

Rather, it’s to provide a framework for marketers, particularly in small to midsized businesses (SMBs)—who aren’t particularly concerned about enterprise martech concepts like predictive analytics or real-time interaction management (RTIM) —to visualize how different types of tools fit together within their marketing processes.

This model helps SMB B2B marketers minimize gaps (missing functionality) and overlaps (duplicate functions in two or more different tools); select tools that work well together; and identify integration and training needs.

The model starts with content strategy and production, then moves to distribution channels, and then to metrics which feed back into the strategy level—all sitting atop a layer of tools that help optimize business operations, individual productivity, and other specific functional needs.

Level One: Content Strategy and Development

At this level are tools that help marketers develop and document their content strategy, using approaches like the ACKTT framework or thinking like a reporter.

This area is too often overlooked, but there are a wide array of helpful apps at this level, including tools for:

Effective content marketing starts with great content, so it’s important to start with the tools that can help plan and develop compelling content assets.

Level Two: Content Distribution and Promotion

At this level are the tools that help get your content noticed, through the five main online channels:

Website Design and Optimization: This includes tools for all aspects of SEO (keyword research, rank tracking, link building) as well as website design resources and WordPress plugins.

Social Media Marketing: In this channel are tools for social media monitoring and management along with platform-specific tools (for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).

Influencer Relations: These are tools for content amplification as well as influencer identification and outreach.

Online Advertising: This channel includes tools for building social media campaigns and monitoring online advertising.

Prospect Marketing: These tools for reaching known (“post-CRM”) prospects include customer engagement, customer service management, email, marketing automation, and screencasting applications.

Level Three: Metrics and Analytics

At the highest level are tools for web analytics, competitive intelligence, and marketing performance management.

Analyzing the results of content marketing production and distribution efforts—both in terms of trends and benchmarked against competitors—enables CMOs and marketing directors to make informed decisions about budget allocation as well as tactical adjustments (what to more of, less of, differently, or not at all).

This model is designed to help marketing leaders view the tools in the context of marketing workflows. Taking that strategic view should in turn help marketing teams buy all of but only the tools they need, and integrate those tools to simplify workflows and support both business-level and operational analysis and reporting.