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Marketing has evolved. Today’s marketers own more customer data and touchpoints than ever before, and more than any other department.

New digital channels and devices — including search, social media, and mobile — have empowered consumers and complicated the customer journey. On each of these, consumers create unprecedented amounts of data about themselves and their interests. And as a result, both the process and technology of modern marketing have expanded as a result of these changes in consumer behavior. Twenty years ago, marketers (largely advertisers) relied on TV, press, radio, and direct mail. Today, digital offers new channels for engagement and accurate measurements to learn from.

What’s more, as marketing’s reach has grown, the traditional roles of sales and support have diminished because consumers increasingly inform and support themselves.

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Scott Brinker documents the proliferation of the mar-tech landscape, but the editor of the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog readily laughs and admits that this generally causes more confusion than anything. Indeed, the image is a frequent slide used by technology vendors (especially integrators) to demonstrate complexity.


Customer experience: consistency and personalization

Along the customer journey, another trend is taking place thanks to these new channels.

Competition for customers’ attention and wallet are fierce. Consumers see more marketing messages than ever. Customer experience, journey mapping, and personalization have all become buzzwords today for good reason: companies need to deliver on customer expectations not only to compete but to survive.

Marketing logically becomes the primary department for managing customer experience, because it already owns the most customer touch points — and also the most access to consumer data.


Above: The modern marketing process and related technologies are circular and connected, rather than linear as they once were.

Marketing technology is therefore becoming the most important technology stack for customer identity and experience.

Other department technologies remain relevant, but they’re just being eclipsed. Even CRM, which will remain a critical technology, will likely be replaced as the primary customer database. That role will eventually belong to part of the marketing (read: experience) technology stack.

Especially for B2C companies, customer interactions must be increasingly real time and make use of unstructured data, both of which are difficult to do at all or at scale with traditional CRM systems.

Big money is betting on marketing technology

I had a recent conversation with Ajay Agarwal, who leads Bain Capital Venture’s West Coast office and has invested almost exclusively in marketing technology companies.

Agarwal is quick to tell you that all enterprise technology categories other than marketing have seen exits over $10 billion: Siebel and Salesforce in sales, PeopleSoft in HR, SAP in manufacturing, and Oracle in finance.

Not a single one in marketing. Yet.

It’s worth noting that marketing is the one part of the business that does not have a core enterprise technology platform, like sales has CRM, for example. (That may be changing, as we see the increasing relevance of marketing automation as a marketing hub, and even beyond that the rise of marketing clouds.)

We have, however, seen numerous IPOs and acquisitions in the past few years—most of them by the three most prominent “marketing cloud” vendors:

IPOs (prices are approximate, based on market)

  • Criteo: $2.5 billion
  • Hubspot: $1.2 billion
  • Marketo: $1.1 billion


  • Oracle:
    Responsys: $1.50 billion
    DataLogix: $1.2+ billion (estimated)
    Eloqua: $871 million
    BlueKai: $350-$400 million (estimated)
    Vitrue, $300 million
  • Adobe:
    Omniture: $1.8 billion
    Neolane: $600 million
    Efficient Frontier: $400 million
  • Salesforce:
    ExactTarget, $2.57 billion
    Buddy Media, $689 million
    Radian6, $326 million

It is not unrealistic to expect marketing technology to produce a $5 billion company within the next few years, Agarwal told me. In a way, we already see that — after all, Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, IBM, and others covered in our recent Marketing Cloud report are now, at least in part, marketing technology companies.

Marketing technology is eating the customer journey. Customers are empowered; marketers need to provide relevance; and mar-tech investments and exits keep going up.

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