I’m coming to the end of my first year back as an industry analyst and thanks to all of you who recognized me from previous contacts and worked with me in 2019. Through my collaboration with Research in Action GmbH, I’ve interviewed thousands of marketers on their business processes automation. And I’ve also talked to some 120 marketing software vendors and some have told me that I’ve set a new standard for market analysis. Here are a few general impressions from the year.
- Business POV is the right approach. My research reviews MarTech from the business practitioners’ point of view and names their most important business process, or perhaps family of processes. Why? Well, that’s how business people plan their automation projects and look for suitable software or SaaS suppliers. In our interviews, we discuss the process first and then the vendors they work with to improve that process in their company.
Many vendor CMOs tell me that this approach has been an eye-opener to them and some have even debated changing their messaging. On the other hand, quite a few still respond that they prefer to see themselves in a different technology category (than where customers named them?) and that I am therefore “wrong”. Others gladly take note of competitors they’d underestimated.
- Tech marketers still misunderstand the significance of brand. I’m amazed at how many MarTech vendors still only talk about themselves and their products, relying on product-based differentiation to be noticed. They don’t get that their customers are now expecting every aspect of their experience with a vendor to be as sophisticated, consistent, and frictionless as those they have with the most admired B2C brands.
Many vendors object to the weightings of selection criteria I use. But Customer Satisfaction and Price/Value Ratio feedback does far overweigh what people think of the product itself. The emotions that buyers experience when they consume a vendor’s content and engage with its employees define a company’s brand more than the product or service.
- Perception is reality and so important. We ask survey respondents to rate the vendors they know well – but that doesn’t mean that they’re customers or users necessarily, so it’s also an awareness and perception survey. Business professionals care about whether a vendor is innovative or if it has a partner ecosystem rich enough to reach their needs (geographic or industry), and they form those impressions based upon what information is available.
Incredibly, I have heard counter-arguments from several vendors that they only reveal their innovation and go-to-market strategy to anybody under non-disclosure terms. These day, so many vendors are eliminated from a list by buyers doing their own initial research – and the vendor doesn’t even know about it.
Next year, I will continue the same research process and revisit most of the topics covered in 2019. It will be interesting to see how the vendor landscapes change.
I will also be doing other research in collaboration with the B2B Marketing.net organization, based in London and Chicago. My first project is to prepare the keynote research, and a premium report, for the next GetStacked conference in March 2020, where I will report how B2B companies are planning and developing their marketing technology stacks. This is nice extension of the work described above and is determined by their conference schedule. Later in the year, I will explore other topics across B2B marketing.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I’ve been researching the topic of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and find that 57% of businesses plan to invest in ABM software in the next 1-3 years. Business marketers in every industry must add ABM functionality to their marketing tech stack because their buyers only want communications relevant to their current business issues.
The ABM process is actually a long-established marketing/sales methodology in business services companies, where success depends so much on personal empathy and the relationship. So, they research the interests and needs of their target audiences and provide that “market intelligence” to their sellers or account managers.
The advent of digital marketing, tooled by technology advances in website and data analytics, now allows all B2B businesses to do ABM by leveraging collected behavioral and profile data on companies (accounts) or even individual buying decision-makers. ABM software enables marketers to channel personalized content to potential buyers. But first and foremost, ABM is a strategy and is applicable to all marketing channels.
ABM is currently the most-used promotional acronym by marketing software vendors with well over 90 software vendors claiming to provide ABM-specific functionality. There are probably several dozen more with no ABM claims but also being used by B2B companies to market to specific accounts with target-market segmentation and content personalization. Still, I estimate the software market at around $750 million in 2019 with a current annual growth rate of some 12%.
The term ABM is actually a misnomer, it should be Account Based Marketing and Selling (ABMS). The ABM process will only succeed if marketing collaborates with its sales counterparts to select the target accounts; share the important contact data; coordinate content distribution and distribute intent alerts. My survey found the second most important driver for ABM investment to be “enable sales to better understand their customers”. Some interview respondents pointed out that they have always done ABS but this is now supported better by their ABM project.
My prediction is that the current mire of confusingly-positioned vendors will converge to a couple of dozen platform providers supporting all, or most, of the ABM-related processes such as account and contacts selection; analytics and insights, content personalization, customer engagement orchestration, and performance assessment. Many survey respondents reported deploying two, three or even four ABM vendors, with integration an issue. 30% plan to migrate to a more suitable system, unusually large compared to other vendor selection matrix surveys.
As usual, I will publish a Vendor Selection Matrix showing the ratings for the 20 most cited ABM vendors across our survey of 1500 practitioners. That will be on October 8th. The top ten vendors rated by the respondents are (all listed alphabetically): 6sense, Demandbase, Engagio, Kwanzoo, InsideView, Jabmo, Madison Logic, Adobe (Marketo), MRP, and Zoominfo. In positions 11 thru 20 are vendors Agent3, D&B Datavision, Lattice Engine, LinkedIn, Radius, RollWorks, TechTarget, Terminus, Triblio, and True Influence
For my fourth Vendor Selection Matrix, I’ve researched how businesses manage the web experience of their prospects and customers. Web Experience Management (WEM) is a set of business processes to create, manage, deliver and optimize contextualized digital experiences on websites. WEM software must now cope with an ever-more complex, extensive and interconnected technology landscape. It is a mature software market but under disruption from new vendors because of this challenge, but also because of the transition from on-premise to cloud-based implementations.
There are well-over 100 software/SaaS vendors offering WEM solutions with a multitude of open-source providers and vendors active only in their local markets. Websites are run by businesses and individuals alike and so, over the 2 billion websites worldwide, the overall WEM market-leader is the open-source, and free, solutionWordPresswith around 25% share.
But the list of vendors used by businesses is under 30. In 2018, the total global annual software license, maintenance and SaaS revenues for WEM totaled over $ 5 billion. WEM is now strategic to companies. Originally a product supporting the appearance of just one or a handful of websites with essentially static content, WEM buyers now seek a broader platform to broadcast across many digital channels and render dynamic content on hundreds of websites at speed.
In my global survey, the five vendors who were rated highest by the 1500 business practitioners for the business process of web experience management were, in alphabetical order: Acquia, Bloomreach, Episever, SDL, and Sitecore. Similarly, positions six thru ten (actually eleven because two were equal in position 10) were taken by: Adobe, Amplience, Crownpeak, Contentful, e-Spiritand Progress.
The survey notes that switching vendors is a challenge for many businesses though, most users tend to want to stay with their vendor as migration costs are perceived to be high if they have been creating web content for several years. Vendors looking to capture new market share must offer migration services and/or focus on new business initiatives where brand-new WEM platforms could be deployed.
Across the WEM vendors, I saw a curious range of target audiences addressed in their marketing; some used language and provided features aimed at technical web developers while others focused only on marketing professionals. I think that marketing users will prevail over IT developers. As the web experience becomes the primary business presentation of a company, business users will insist on more ability to control and configure that experience. They know and understand the needs of their customers and prospects better than the IT department or teams of web developers. Even in large companies that have built up resources of web developers, there will be a drive to provide the WEM platform directly to staff in Marketing Operations. If I am right, this will require some vendors to change their go-to-market language and approach.
An abridged version of the report can be viewed here bit.ly/VSMWEM2019 and below are my headlines for each of the top 11 vendors.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I presented at the Online Marketing Rockstars (OMR) Festival last week.
OMR started in 2011 as a small event on online marketing held at the prestigious Bucerius Law School, Hamburg. It is now the leading conference for digital marketing in Europe and OMR 2019 hosted 50,000 visitors over two days to meet over 400 exhibitors including some 1,500 executives from the national and international marketing scene.
I was a guest of the vendor BrandMaker– we’ve been working together for many years: I was at their HQ in Karlsruhe 8 years ago to do a workshop on through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) back in my days as an industry analyst at Forrester Research. Earlier this year, marketers around the world scored them highly in my research on Brand Content Management. I was engaged to present in their OMR19 Masterclass and we had over 300 applications to attend but could only admit 150 people – I expect that BrandMaker will set up a webinar to make the same presentations to those who lost out.
I had initially discovered BrandMaker when I was researching innovative marketing automation vendors from Europe– a report I then published to Forrester clients each couple of years. It was a sort of hobby project (Forrester didn’t really care about doing European research) where I could champion local vendors and also make clear that marketing in Europe is so very different to the marketing challenges faced by an American firm selling to American customers. You’d be amazed at how few American companies export their products – especially compared to the economy here in Germany of course.
Unconsciously, I think I also probably used Brandmaker as a method to educate many of the analysts in my team (as Research Director, my team of 11 B2B marketing analysts were all based in the US). Understanding how BrandMaker worked and what it offers, helped them to understand the true complexity of business marketing, especially in an international context. As they always admitted, this was beyond what was being offered in the so-called leading marketing automation systems coming out of the US.
The exhibitors at OMR19 included new and established software vendors in all aspects of digital marketing. I had many productive meetings and could finalize my upcoming reports on Web Experience Management, as many of the leading vendors in that report were present (I’ll publish both a global and a Germany-specific Vendor Selection Matrix later this month). I was also prospecting for vendors to include in my planned research on Customer Data Platforms later in the year.
The “Rockstar festival” modus was also an education for me as a marketer. When I was first invited, I must admit that, at first glance through the agenda and the set-up, it seemed a little strange for a serious business event. But it is being deliberately presented and positioned to our younger generation of marketing colleagues. And there is a lot of wisdom in that plan. BrandMaker had clearly recognized that as well.
Many of us talk of how we need to market to Millennials and recruit Millennials into our teams. But the point is: Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1998. They are now all over 30 years of age and some of them are approaching their 40thbirthday.
So, it is now time to consider targeting the generation after that – they are going to be our buyers very soon, and they are the new employees that we will be recruiting. For vendors and buyers of marketing technology, this generation has one very clear characteristic.
IF THESE PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE SOMETHING, THEY WILL IGNORE IT
My last survey across 1500 business professionals had “adoption” among the top 3 project success factors and I am therefore considering a new set of criteria in my market research about software applications. One that indicates how likely is the system to be adopted by the staff you are trying to help and motivate by investing in the software.
I’ll call it something like “Employee Experience” and it is about much more than the design or ergonomics, which software engineers call User Experience. The EEx is influenced by how:
- Accessible the application is, especially if the employee is a casual user
- Integrated or even embedded it can be (did you know the average business employee already opens scores of applications each day?)
- Does it communicate back to the employee – one who is now in the habit of using voice activation, read quickly, consume pictures and videos and so on.
If anybody has suggestions about to measure these factors, feel free to contact me.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I’ve just been to two fascinating events that fed a theory currently rotating in my head about marketing automation software – the question asked in the blog title. Sure, I make a living off the fact that marketing professionals need help selecting vendor partners to automate various business processes. But I have found myself asking some whether they are really ready for that step at all: for various reasons.
Event #1 was held in Munich by Nintex, the business process automation (BPM) vendor. Last November, my research on Marketing Lead Management had exposed that many marketers automate that process not with a branded marketing automation software but through a BPM project – both bpm’online and Pegasystems appeared in the top ten rated by 1500 business professionals globally. So, I’m keeping my eyes out for other BPM vendors and appreciated Nintex’s invitation to their 2019 customer event.
Nintex has certainly grown up since their early success as a utility/tool that made Microsoft Sharepoint so much easier to manage and use for business operations staff. They now have over 8000 clients and offer a fully-fledged BPM suite (including the Robotic functions which form the new secret sauce for BPM projects) as a cloud solution. I networked with many experienced ops developers who’ve been loyal to Nintex for years and were now excited to see how this relationship can continue. Nintex CEO, Eric Johnson, pointed out that three quarters of enterprise business processes in organizations are still NOT automated. While the spread of packaged business applications continues to reduce this number, many mid-sized companies and enterprise organizations prefer to eshew that option and instead task their operations departments (or a services partner) to set up the required automation through a low-code, drag and drop, scalable workflow automation system that better fits their needs. Nintex showed some examples of these projects in marketing at the event. And even Workfront are now promoting their system as a solution for Marketing Ops.
The other event was last week in London – I was invited to present at the GetStacked conference by my old friends at B2B Marketing. They scheduled me in the “Getting Started” track and briefed me to “keep it simple”. And I did meet several Marketing Directors who were experienced in marketing but new to the concept of automation technology – and were not that sure about it, in various ways. I congratulate B2B Marketing for recognizing this need. Indeed, I did present the slide you see below with the comment “You may not even need a marketing automation application”.
Justin Hall, of the
renomatedagency Protocol (who are certified on several MA solutions), also had a slide saying: “DO YOU NEED MA AT ALL? Is it just modern-marketing hype and bullshit?“. Then he showed how he had set up their own marketing automation system for less than 500 GBP.
On that note, the GetStacked conference ended with a keynote that was emotional and dramatic in its major point that marketing automation vendors promise too much, deliver too little and show little sympathy for the true challenges that marketing executives have in their jobs. Maureen Blandford, clearly as exasperated as she is experienced, said that she is tired of their “shame-marketing” (referring to the typical tone that much of the vendors’ marketing content likes to adopt). She also stated (wrote it on slides even) that:
- “Foundational Tech doesn’t work as it states on the tin.”
- “Proliferation of Band-Aid Tech to make up for the gaps in the foundational but causes integration and reporting gaps.”
- “Worse than budget, ever bit of tech requires
capacityto learn it, onboard it, use it. And troubleshoot the downstream issues x every piece of tech in your stack.”
Her 30-minute rant was met with heavy applause by the GetStacked audience of around 400 B2B marketers – looks like the vendors need to create more empathy in their marketing (reminds me of my post on digital marketers being cobbler’s children).
Oh, and my theory was fed once more only yesterday when a vendor of Web Experience Management software (my next research report in April) briefed me on how one of its clients had used the software to create a Partner Relationship Management portal as well as a quite capable Sales Engagement Management solution.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
In 2019, I still get people asking me “Didn’t you write that Death of the B2B Salesman report?” Actually, I didn’t, I was just one of the editors. The author of that Forrester Research report was my old colleague Andy Hoar, who was covering eCommerce. I just leveraged his research in a keynote speech to provoke my audience of 500+ sales enablement professionals at the conference I was moderating. That was in 2015 and, well, it certainly succeeded! Back then, my colleagues and I had established the need for the discipline of sales enablement within B2B organizations and the conference was used to discuss the role, responsibilities and technologies. For my latest thinking on the role of B2B sellers, feel free to listen to this webinar, which was broadcast just last Fall.
It’s been great fun to revisit this topic recently and catch up with all the leading software vendors as well as many business practitioners. But I’ve moved the goalposts a little in my new research report because I don’t think that sales people (definitely not their management) will want to have that many different systems running on their devices.
Marketers want a system to distribute content to sellers at the same time as Sales-Ops is focused on on-demand coaching plus supporting the day-to-day operational processes that sellers must endure. Ultimately, these solutions will be combined into one robust set of sophisticated tools, on the seller’s device of choice, in order to engage productively with their knowledgeable prospects and buyers. I therefore see Sales Engagement Management as one of the fastest growing Martech markets and 48% of 1500 business executives we interviewed will be investing for the first time in this area of software automation near term.
Now, because the market is in its early-adopter phase and many of the users tended to buy from the first vendor that called, the survey may not accurately reflect the current offerings of all vendors. Some of the early leaders, with somewhat-satisfied customers, are no longer the innovators; while newer vendors, but with smaller reputations, are encroaching rapidly.
Indeed, the one thing I noticed in my briefings, and this is confirmed in the scores allocated by the 1500 practitioners we surveyed, is that it’s difficult to separate vendors from each other at first glance. I had to dig very deeply at each briefing to find out exactly which customer types were being targeted, and with which value proposition. This is typical of a market in rapid growth, where the RFP process is only just starting to be applied, and where a high close-rate means that marketing concepts like thought leadership or value-based story telling have not yet taken hold.
Anyway, the report is now published and below is a table which lists the highlight statements for each of the vendor scorecards I wrote for the vendors with the 10 best aggregate scores.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I’m almost ready with my third research project across the major marketing business processes. As organizations acquire more insight into the buyer journey, Marketing is playing an increasingly active role in selecting and funding enablement software for the sales team, often collaborating with their colleagues in Sales Operations (if that organization exists).
Marketers usually start off their project by seeking a system to distribute content to sellers; while sales-ops wants to provide on-demand coaching plus support the day-to-day operational processes that sellers must endure. Ideally, these projects should be combined into one robust set of sophisticated tools, on the seller’s device of choice, in order to engage productively with their knowledgeable prospects and buyers. So, I see Sales Engagement Management as one of the fastest growing Martech markets and focused on equipping Sales Representatives, Sales Managers, and Marketers with the necessary tools to engage with prospects in an all-digital fashion.
I found nearly 30 active software and SaaS vendors generating an estimated total revenue of around $ 1 billion in annual software licenses, maintenance and SaaS and I know of many companies budgeting well over $100 per seller per month for solutions in this area. Most of the vendors I talked to are enjoying annual growth rates of over 100%.
In our survey of 1500 business executives, 48% said that they will be investing in Sales Engagement Management software for the first time soon and 37% of those who have current solutions will be replacing their existing system for various reasons. The market is in the early-adopter phase; in our survey, the users scored most vendors quite low on perceived differentiation, tending to buy from the first vendor that calls. We anticipate considerable vendor consolidation or churn in 2019/2020 as smaller vendors with point solutions lose their customers to a more complete sales engagement management provider.
The top twenty vendors who were mentioned the most by the 1500 executives appear in the Vendor Selection Matrix, which will be published the first week of March. They are (listed alphabetically): Accent Technologies, Apparound, Bigtincan, Brainshark, Clearslide, Client Point, CustomShow, DocSend, Fileboard, Highspot, Insite Software, Journey Sales, Mediafly, Octiv, Pitcher, Prolifiq, SalesLoft, SAP, Seismic, and Showpad.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I hear remarkable things when sharing my vendor selection matrix results with marketing practitioners. The most common? Well, comments like: “I found their sales rep so pushy – he wasn’t at all interested in what I was asking about”; or “They don’t seem to have anyone locally to help us”, and “Now that looks like a very complex system to implement, not sure if we can manage that”. Now these are the usual issues that all software vendors face, especially when addressing a business-orientated audience instead of IT professionals. But I also hear complaints about the vendor websites and how difficult it is to get the information that they need.
Now that surprises me – we’re talking about digital marketing software vendors here: surely, they’d know how to put up a website which resonates with marketing professionals. Well, it seems not……
So, I took my own look at the websites and concluded – oh my! Where is the empathy between marketing professionals creating a website for their marketing-practitioner peers? Why don’t they practice what they preach? Do they even use their own products and utilities? Sadly, I must conclude that these digital marketers seem to be the proverbial cobbler’s children when it comes to digital marketing.
But then again, one of the most repeated sentences said by a vendor to an analyst has always been: “Don’t take any notice of our website, we are in the process of relaunching it”.
In a previous life, I led a team who reviewed and tested websites for digital empathy. We used a series of 15 criteria to evaluate how friendly and human, engaging and topical, plus interactive and useful a website was for the target audience. So, I thought I’d run that test across the top ten vendors in my recent marketing lead management report. Here are the results. In the table, I try to be positive and name applicable sites if they are a best practice on any of the criteria, but the top scores are only 25 out of 45, and most are under 20.
Of course, it may be that I am not being identified as a potential buyer (or not a named account) and therefore not treated to the series of empathetic microsites and landing pages set up for lead nurturing. If that is so, I apologize to those vendors (and please let me know!).
But what most sticks out to me across the board is the absolute lack of any role orientation and how difficult it is to find inspiring content (if there is any at all). Nobody really makes the attempt to post content that addresses business challenges, builds empathy, and encourages a longer-term relationship.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
Due to client requests, I have adjusted my planned research calendar. Here is the new version.
VSM Project Field Survey Briefings Publish Brand Content Management done done Dec 2018 Sales Engagement Management Nov 2018 Jan’19 Feb’19 Web Content Management Nov 2018 Jan’19 Mar’19 Digital Asset Management Dec 2018 Feb’19 Apr’19 Account Based Marketing Mar’19 Apr’19 Jun’19 Partner Engagement Mgment. Apr’19 May’19 Jul’19
Here is my next Vendor Selection Matrix – the top twenty vendors named by business users who have automated their Brand Content Management process.
Managing brand and content is now a major business pain point in marketing organizations that seek a consistent process from content creation, thru delivery, to attribution. The recent explosions in content marketing and digital channels have increased both the complexity and volume of content assets. Plus, the transition of the classical sales cycle to what is now recognized as a buyer-led research process means that marketers must obsess about the brand message carried in all the channels. Many of them also serve an ecosystem of subsidiaries, distributors, resellers or even franchisees.
Most companies use several software tools within this process as there are few vendors who cover the complete lifecycle for content and brand. But companies want to consolidate their software platforms – a recent study showed that business users typically switch applications over 1,100 times per day. We found that 76% of the 1,500 buyers we surveyed will invest in brand content management software in the next 1-3 years, over half of the 1,500 for the first time.
So, it is no surprise that the market for this software is active and growing. I found nearly 50 active software and SaaS vendors globally generating an estimated total revenue of around $2 billion but it is still quite fragmented across many vendors – the top 20 vendors selected by buyers in this survey generate less than 40% of that total. This list includes established software giants like Adobe and OpenText but there are several innovative solution providers, who talk more about marketing than technology, enjoying annual growth rates of 100% plus. Vendors like Brandmaker (the global leader in our survey), Brandmuscle, Brandsystems and Bynder plus MarcomCentral.
As I did with the marketing lead management report, here are the highlights I noted for each of the top ten vendors on their scorecards. Remember, the ranking is based on their total scores: an aggregate of the scores assigned by their users plus my assessment.
Always keeping you informed! Peter