In previous posts, I have often referred to the vast martech landscape as the land of shiny objects. This was a term of derision and admiration. The landscape is filled with amazing innovations. It also can overwhelm even the most tech-savvy marketers and cloud strategic thinking.
We marketers were often so enthralled by what we could do, we often lose sight of what we should do. Today, as the economic impact of COVID-19 grows, the effect on marketing technology spend will be significant. The martech landscape has been built on billions of speculative investments from private equity. However, most of these products were barely profitable, if at all, before COVID-19. Most of them are now burning significant cash, and they were never capitalized with a pandemic in mind.
Soon, investors will be making hard choices. Many martech solutions will be sold at huge discounts, some will close. I believe the much-anticipated industry consolidation is around the corner. This is not the way we wanted martech consolidation to happen, but this is the painful reality. For those marketers who rely on these technologies while navigating an industry landscape that changes almost daily, here are four considerations to make when adapting to the oncoming martech consolidation:
- Hire “The” technology expert. Many martech companies have implantation consultants; the best ones are often held closely and deployed on the most complex projects. This could be your opportunity to hire them. If new hires are not in the budget, perhaps a contracting agreement might work. In either case, if you have invested in the technology, why not invest a bit more for the right talent who will help you get the most out of your investment?
- If you are using a niche technology, reach out to your account rep. Find out how they are doing and what their plans are. If you have a good relationship with your rep, they will hopefully share any changes afoot, availability of on-going product support, the possibility of a sale or even closure.
- If you need to invest in new technology, look for solution providers with a broad base of active clients. (Notice the word “Active”). In some cases, one or two large clients can support a solution provider just fine. However, if typical license fees are $60,000 per year and the solution provider has a staff of 20 people, a broad base of clients will be critical for survival. (It’s just math.)
- The exceptions to No. 3 are cases where the solution provider has recently been acquired by a larger concern, especially post COVID-19. In such cases, someone with deep pockets thought enough of the technology to buy and invest in its survival. Although deep pockets do not always translate into smart money, it is enough of a reason to consider the technology seriously.
Those of us who have been keeping track of the martech universe know that the growth was unsustainable (There were over seven thousand solutions in the market as of 2019). The hope was that the best products would survive and eventually lead to industry consolidation. It seems that COVID-19 will abruptly end the natural evolution of the industry, for the time being. Innovations and investments will return, but exactly when is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, we need to be kind and helpful to those who will be affected. In doing so, we may benefit from their wisdom, which was often drowned out in the previously noisy clamor of martech.