One of those who have come the furthest in their work to actually create clear, practically applicable tips and support regarding work with martech is American Tony Byrne and the company Real Story Group. The name of his own consulting firm came when, for many years, Tony challenged Gartner and Forrester's more sponsor-supported and commercially produced ways of designating the digitization industry's best actors in various product and service areas in graphs (Quadrants). The underlying model was not end-customer friendly enough, from which he developed his own, straighter and more honest evaluation methods. Even his latest overview of martech is straightforward, realistic and very good. Read More.
In the News
With engagement technologies in place, marketers are now turning to the foundational layer for replacements.
“Enterprises have been in kind of a replacement mood,” said Tony Byrne, founder of Real Story Group, at The MarTech Conference.
The changes in customer behavior during the pandemic forced organizations to improve and update their engagement technology. That’s what our latest MarTech Replacement Survey showed.
Now, marketers are looking below the engagement layer in their stack, evaluating and replacing the foundational technology that powers the other layers.
The foundational layer
“More and more enterprises are investing in what we call ‘enterprise foundation’ services,” said Byrne. “These are systems that are not channel-specific. They live below your engagement platforms, and they help deliver a more omnichannel experience.”
Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are rapidly becoming a foundational technology piece in omnichannel martech stacks. They can also serve as a key component in broader digital transformation and customer experience (CX) initiatives.
Unfortunately for you the technology buyer, scores of products call themselves a “CDP,” and perhaps as many platforms in other categories have CDP-like capabilities. Naturally, almost every vendor claims to be a leader, challenger, largest, first, leading, global or some combination of these.
With this much noise in the marketplace, several issues arise, including:
- Many prospective customers have the impression that most of these products are similar and there is not much to differentiate between them.
- When evaluating CDPs for your requirements, it becomes difficult to create an initial shortlist of tools relevant for your requirements. Read More.
A modern enterprise, particularly a large one, needs headless and coupled publishing capabilities.
Old-timers (like me!) in web content & experience management (WCM) will remember an early entrant called RedDot. Founded in Germany during the mid-1990’s, the platform originally had the somewhat prosaic label of “InfoOffice CMS.” Yet the plucky upstart boasted an important innovation: an in-context editorial interface showing the published page with the editable blocks marked off by a red dot 🔴that you would click to get a pop-up editorial window. Read More.
Let’s say you work in martech for a large, well-known enterprise. It’s a global firm, a recognized brand. Ideally, you’d want to follow a structured, test-based approach for how you bring new technology into the enterprise, and you’d expect participating vendors to follow your lead in the vetting process — out of respect, if nothing else.
Well, reality can prove itself quite different. In Real Story Group’s role as a buyer’s advocate for martech stack leaders, we’ve noticed a recurring trend where larger software companies often disrupt well-reasoned martech selection strategies through aggressive and frequently questionable tactics.
Of course, none of this is new, and perhaps vendor bullying today is more subtle than in years past — but it remains just as persistent. Read More.
When I started as an industry analyst 20 years ago covering the web content and experience management (WCM) market, I marveled at the plethora and diversity of vendor start-ups. Well, some elder analysts clapped my shoulders and intoned, “Yeah, but how many will be around in five years? The market will consolidate, so you need to pick winners.” No doubt they were extrapolating from their experience with other industries — notably ERP, but maybe CRM too — where vendor oligopolies did emerge.
Yet, the story of the WCM market, and the marketing tech space more generally, is that consolidation by and large has not happened. If you follow the progression of Scott Brinker’s famous logo chart you’ll note not just the expansion of categories, but also the almost vertigo-inducing number of logos within each particular box. What’s going on? And how should you the enterprise marketing tech leader respond to a world of highly fragmented marketplaces?
I can think of at least six reasons why “industry consolidation” has been less the norm in the martech world. Read more.
This first of three articles on personalization at scale explores the right place for personalization services in your marketing technology stack
Online personalization as a concept has been with us for more than two decades, but recent developments have elevated its importance for martech leaders:
- Greater attention to test and optimization leading to demands for more “always-on” personalization programs;
- Better access to customer data and segments, opening up possibilities for more targeted experiences in any digital setting;
- Emergence of AI and ML-based approaches for automating personalization logic; and
- Heightened customer expectations for relevancy, leavened by experience with major consumer platforms like Netflix.
Customer Data Platform (CDP) providers saw a growth resurgence of sorts in the past six months. The CDP industry continued to expand in the first half of 2021, adding 20 vendors for a total of 151, more than 1,200 employees and $550 million in funding, according to the released last month by the CDP Institute.
The growth represents a jump-start to an industry that saw a “brief slowdown” at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than year ago, according to David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute. “Everybody kind of froze last year when things first came down,” Raab told CMSWire. “...The world did not end, and it turned out there's a lot of demand for this stuff because everybody's doing digital transformation, and digital transformation requires good customer data.”
Before evaluating a martech solution, be ready with a methodical approach and a set of key questions.
When selecting vendors or services firms, martech buyers ask for references often, but check them rarely. Perhaps you believe you already learned enough from your peers, or perhaps you trust your gut instincts on a platform or vendor. However, when you skip this step, you miss an opportunity to enrich your understanding of a solution and supplier, which can hinder your evaluation, but also potentially slow down the actual implementation.
Based on two decades of helping large enterprises select the right martech platforms, I believe martech customers should overcome any reticence and arm themselves with a methodical approach. A savvy reference checker will employ a variety of different approaches and questions to obtain a richer and more transparent view of potential suppliers. Moreover, reference checking is invaluable when it transcends simple lists of strengths and weaknesses to uncover broader issues of supplier “fit” for you. And it’s all about fit!
So I’m happy to share twenty-five specific questions for which my Real Story Group colleagues and I have experienced good results. But first, like any good campaign, you need to set it up right…
Industry surveys over multiple decades have repeatedly shown that more than half of technology projects fail to meet their objectives — or just fail outright. My discussions with martech customers suggest their success rates are no better.
There are many reasons for this, but in my experience, most technology problems originate in the critical early stages of an initiative. Once the boat gets headed in a particular direction, it can be hard to steer it back on course.
Choosing the right vendor and technology for your marketing initiatives is one of the most critical decisions you can make in those early stages. The wrong choice won’t necessarily doom a project, but it can make success much more difficult to achieve.
In the end, selecting technology better means selecting better-fitting technology. Here’s a look at 10 steps for doing just that. Read More.
In 2019 when IBM suddenly let go of nearly all its martech portfolio, I joked that it reversed an ancient adage: while perhaps “no one ever got fired for recommending Big Blue,” it turns out IBM can fire you. Yet, IBM was not alone. Big martech vendors — even successful ones — routinely jettison or replace longstanding tools.
Yet, when it comes to perceived viability and stability, enterprise customers often fear smaller martech players. Early in my career as an industry analyst, I noticed that some of the best web content and experience management (WCM) solutions came from lesser-known vendors. Upon hearing this, my industry elders would pull me aside and say, “sure, but how much longer will that WCM vendor be around?” It’s a tough question to answer, because of course no one can ever really know, and martech marketplaces are highly fragmented. (“Fragmented” is analyst-speak for, you have a hell of a lot of choices!) Read More.
A couple week’s ago in RSG’s inaugural MarTech column, I made the case for refactoring your MarTech stack to focus on lower level “Foundational Services.” Today let’s dig deeper into what that means for your manifold customer data platform technology choices. Read more.
Tony Byrne, founder of Real Story Group, which helps enterprises make technology decisions said it’s a big win for speed-to-market and adaptiveness, "if IT or some sort of data office has been building and activating segments so far, and the CDP is able to successfully enable marketers to do this themselves." Read More.
The latest meeting of Real Story Group's private MarTech Leadership Council centered around marketing and creative operations in the wake of the pandemic. The session included a case study from a Fortune 50 consumer goods firm along with some RSG analysis. These meetings are confidential, so I can't share all the juicy details and side conversations, but below I'll offer a general overview of some team findings.
This topic was particularly apropos following a Council meeting earlier this year on "Content Supply and Demand Chains." Looking at full-cycle processes inevitably takes you to considerations around operations. When it comes to MarTech operations, there's a wide range of topics to discuss! Here's a sampling of where enterprise stack leaders generally concurred. Read More.
By nearly every measure, marketing technology stacks are getting more cluttered. Stack leaders and ops managers need to manage a wider set of tools, across a growing number of channels, while getting bombarded with pitches for new capabilities from vendors and colleagues alike.
Meanwhile, stack leaders face pressure from business executives and sometimes IT leadership to rationalize their environments and justify incremental spend. Read More.
Tony Byrne, CEO and founder of Real Story Group, which provides WCM technology assessments and strategies for buyers, is skeptical of a successful CMS “combination platter approach.” He told CMSWire there is no “combination play” in this market.
Byrne cited what he deemed as failed examples, some going back decades:
Mediasurface: The original combination platter was, which had three different CMS tools, Byrne noted. That failed, he said, and they all died via Alterian and then SDL.
Divine: Roll-up tech company divine had three different CMS tools, also on purpose. All died except for Content Server, which went to Oracle via FatWire. FatWire killed its own homegrown CMS when they bought Content Server from divine, another failed combination, according to Byrne.
Episerver-Ektron: We did find Ektron still with a heartbeat as recently as last June. But there is no denying Episerver's lobbying efforts to get Ektron users to abandon ship and get on Episerver (which is now Optimizely).
OpenText: OpenText at one time sold and managed five different WCM tools: Gauss, Obtree, RedDot, Vignette, TeamSite.
"In the examples of killed-by-roll-up systems, I cannot recall a single time where the vendor did not say, ‘We are going to support the new system...things will work out well...synergies…" Byrne said. "They have to say that. And they are always, always lying."
When COVID-19 happened, enterprises had to shift their priorities to focus on serving their immediate needs of their customers and employees while ensuring everyone’s safety. Companies previously carefully crafted plans were put on hold in the wake of the pandemic.
In this article, Tony Byrne, founder of Real Story Group, talked about how the large, global enterprises who subscribe to RSG research view the impact of COVID-19.
“They typically haven’t perceived the pandemic as a major break-point, but more of an accelerator,” he said. “In other words, they are not coming out of the pandemic with some new or revived agenda, but rather, an updated urgency around pre-existing digital transformation initiatives. They have to execute them faster now.”
Organizations are having to become more efficient, decisive, flexible and transparent in how they run their businesses and in how they interact with their customers and employees — and rapidly. Byrne also noted that several RSG Council members are forming strategic task forces to respond to anticipated long-term behavioral shifts, which will then significantly impact those organization’s stack architectures. Read the complete article.
Think you finally got a handle on MarTech? Think again. Looking back on this year's MarTech 2020 event, two sessions on marketing trends raised the stakes: how do you future-proof your MarTech stack? Scott Brinker and Tony Byrne shared their latest thinking. Read More.
Byrne, on the other hand, says that the real problem of deploying open source across the martech space is that it’s not really a suitable foundation for creating SaaS apps which live in a multi-tenant cloud.
Open source software is typically downloaded by developers, “massaged,” then delivered back to the community. By it’s nature, it’s single tenant, Byrne explained. “If you’re in the cloud, you’re paying Azure or Amazon or somebody. The cloud is designed around a service model not a software licensing model, whereas open source is all about the software licensing and getting access to the single tenant. You don’t typically see open source solutions built cloud natively, from the ground up.”
Less than a week away from the start of the new fiscal year for many businesses on July 1, IT and marketing departments have already started their annual tug-of-war over martech purchasing platforms, tools and vendors.
What are the best practices when buying martech for the 2021 fiscal year? It may be easier than you think.