Coming off the heels of Oracle’s Modern Marketing Experience and Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit, some of the most memorable quotes from the keynotes delivered by Oracle Marketing Cloud’s Kevin Akeroyd and Marketo’s Phil Hernandez were around the notion of crowding – both in the vendor marketplace and in the amount of data/technologies/services for marketers to consume. They talked about the current density of the marketing technology vendors as you can see in this LUMAscape. There are a lot of companies bombarding you with “relevant, targeted, effective” messaging about how this piece of software is going to change your life.
The predictive marketing space is no stranger to this phenomenon. Within this past year alone, this category has raised investment to the tune of $384 million. That’s a lot of money shared between a few vendors and not only does it buy a lot of rapid innovation, it can also buy a lot of “loud bull horn” marketing.
But I’m a product guy and throughout my career I’ve believed in collaborative product strategy. Ultimately we are trying to solve a customer problem and different vendors choose their own unique strategy to delight the customer. We make our bets and execute. So I took to these two conferences to do an experiment — I wanted to learn more about all of the predictive marketing vendors and act like a potential customer. Ask questions, view their booth collateral, see their employees in action, and try to imagine what it really feels like for a buyer to consider and select these different solutions. Here are the three things I learned:
- Extreme Paranoia. I mean, I get that all of the vendors are well funded and catching up is just a matter of prioritization but the level of secrecy that the vendors displayed confounded me. No vendor would give me a demo (obviously, I work at a competitor), but I also found that many prospects who came to our booth were surprised to see us willing to show a demo so quickly. That’s odd, right? But maybe not. Just six months ago, using web visitation data to approximate buyer intent to find and prioritize leads using this data was the hot topic. Now we find almost every vendor supporting this same web visitation data source, commoditizing this once unique data asset. So perhaps investors need to protect their investments, causing secrecy to be paramount?
- Deception Selling. Every sales team has to do a bit of vision selling. Let’s say 10-15% more than what the product actually does today. That’s okay -– sales cycles are long, and once the deal is closed, those features and more are already released in production. We all win. But deception selling is something completely different. I heard two vendors pitch that they are the only SaaS platform in their category. That’s pure deception because a) two independent vendors can’t “only” have a killer feature and b) if anyone can show me those SaaS products in action, or even point me to a login button/page on their company websites I would be super grateful.
- Customer Maturity. Predictive marketing is in the same place that marketing automation was a half-decade ago. Adoption was low, mostly because it was something new and it wasn’t as easy to understand how to use this new product. But with tools like content optimization and predictive marketing, these are bolt-ons to the now very popular marketing automation suites. It’s like the user experience and learning curve of using the Apple Watch to an iPhone user. Of course it looks intimidating, but slip it on, press a few buttons and you’ll quickly realize you can skip lead scoring and jump directly to predictive marketing. Education is still paramount and all vendors in this category need to collaborate if we can to help mature the market.
For a person walking the tradeshow floor, after many sessions, great parties, dozens of sales pitches, every predictive vendor starts to look the same. Predictive marketing is becoming a heavily competitive space, but there is quite a bit of differentiation in the details. After a few questions and clarifications, you can start to see each vendor’s unique value proposition to solving marketing and sales challenges for customer acquisition and revenue growth.
Despite the investment in time and money to assess, qualify and implement a predictive marketing vendor, I am surprised to see customers do it all again when things go awry – an indication that there is massive potential in what we do here. And if done right, we can help organizations achieve revenue acceleration and low time-to-value. Predictive marketing is a solution to a complex problem that requires both advanced software as well as talented individuals to guide these machines and make customers successful. When we at Mintigo have found the right customer, and they us, we not only help them drive revenue growth but also completely change the way they run their operations. This is meaningful.
Here are some of the questions you need to be asking to pick the right vendor:
- How can I get visibility into how predictions are made?
- How do I know you understand my business?
- How can I operationalize this predictive data in my marketing and nurture flows?
- Will the predictive vendor grow with me as my needs change over time?
- Does the investment fit into my marketing ROI goals?
- Will the software AND the team grow with my business?