At some point, Scott Brinker began to notice a familiar pattern at business conferences. Each time a marketer was on stage giving a presentation, one slide would eventually appear on the screen. The speaker would say something like: And here are the tools that we use.
That always got the audience’s interest. Invariably, photos of those technology stacks would eagerly be snapped on cellphones.
“It’s fascinating because everybody loves these slides,” Brinker said. “It’s awesome to see how an organization thinks about what tools they need and how they fit them together. All the rest of us learn an awful lot by looking at these examples.”
Brinker is the chief technical officer at ion interactive and the influential blogger at chiefmartec.com. He’s also the chair of the annual MarTech Conference. One of the highlights is an idea he borrowed from all of those other speaker sessions — the Stackies Awards. Companies are invited to share a visual representation of their tech stacks on a single slide.
“It’s one thing to just throw a bunch of logos on a page, but it’s another thing to explain how there is a method to the madness,” Brinker explained. “We want businesses to say, ‘This is how we think about the marketing architecture and the capabilities that we’re trying to develop.’ There are just some really smart ways of thinking about how modern marketers are expanding their capabilities. And everybody has really upped their game.”
At this year’s conference in February, he announced the five recipients of the 2016 Stackies Awards from among 41 entries. But in a very real sense, all the vendors included in those sophisticated diagrams were winners as well.
“It seemed like everybody had LeanData as one of the key pieces of marketing infrastructure on their slides,” said Jessica Cross, a Marketo champion.
An account-based solutions platform company, LeanData was featured in nine of the entries: 22 percent of the competitors. And one customer — Acrolinx — took home a Stackie trophy.
“It’s clear that the early innovators in marketing technology understand that LeanData is a key part of their stack,” said Evan Liang, the chief executive officer. “It doesn’t even surprise us anymore when we go to conferences like MarTech and we see speakers showing us in their stack. We don’t even know that they’re going to mention us. We just appear on the screen. It’s great validation.”
It’s also not easy to stand out in the increasingly crowded space of marketing technology. Over the past few years, there has been an explosion in MarTech products. Brinker is best known for his Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic where he tries to capture the entire sector in a single slide. His 2016 landscape included an astounding 3,874 vendors — more than double from last year’s figure of 1,876 companies. (Unfortunately, magnifying glasses were not included.)
It’s a complicated, convoluted and crowded industry. Everyone is trying to sort out which technologies actually work . . . and work best for them.
“A big question is: ‘OK, what do I use? What integrates with other things? What’s the right number of tools?’” Brinker said. “There are so many questions because this really is uncharted territory for marketers. Most people didn’t enter marketing because they wanted to be IT architects. Wrestling with all of these tools is a challenge. All of these touchpoints, channels and programs are things that you didn’t think about even five years ago. So all of us are trying to figure it out.”
That is the real value of the Stackies, he added. Too often, articles and presentations about marketing technologies speak only in vague generalities. But diagrams are very specific and offer real-world examples so other marketers can get ideas that they can apply to their own businesses.
“I think sometimes people look at their own diverse tech stack and wonder: ‘Is this normal?’” Brinker said. “With the Stackies, people can see what the state of marketing is today. At the end of the day, none of this is super-proprietary. It’s not giving away vital information. But it is very helpful to the rest of us.”
“We’re really proud of the fact that our customers love us,” Liang said. “It not only says that our technology is helping businesses, but it also shows how we invest in customer success to make sure they’re achieving their goals.”
And some companies are so successful that they want to publicly share in a contest how LeanData is a vital component of their technology strategy.
“It says something that companies have built their stacks with your products,” Brinker said. “It’s really a credit to you guys and a great testament to your work.”
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