I spent time at MarTech West the other week listening to keynote speakers and visiting all 80 of the exhibitors at the show.






I talked with each of these exhibitors to learn directly from them about the trends and challenges and opportunities they are facing – as well as the challenges facing marketers in this space.

While the growth of broader-reaching MarTech solutions has slowed (only up +3% in 2019 versus 2018), there are still 7,040 MarTech solutions available to marketers and marketing agencies.

In 2011, there were barely 150 firms.

What this conference revealed to me (and my recent study of the space has revealed to me) is that there are a number of things that Marketing Agencies need to be aware of as they work to stay current and move their own business and their clients’ businesses forward.

MarTech Landscape

Marketers Marrying MarTech

Marketers like McDonald’s are buying MarTech companies and turning themselves into technology-driven marketers.

McDonald’s recent purchase of Dynamic Yield puts into their hands the ability to customize and better personalize the experience for their customers.

So instead of hiring an agency to optimize that part of their business, they are bringing the expertise right in-house.

Key Marketer/Martech Stats

-52% of marketers state that integration of different MarTech platforms is limiting to their success. 

-56% of organizations report under-utilizing their MarTech stack.  21% have bought and don’t use what they buy. 

-Only 9% of companies surveyed state they they fully use their full-on stack. 

While I don’t expect Marketing Agencies to become MarTech stack consultants, being knowledgeable about platforms and helping save your marketing partner from the pains of limited utilization can go a long way in building a solid long-term partnership.

Marketers can be Techies Too

There are a growing number of no code/low code tools being dropped into the market today.

There are now open APIs that allow users to extend usage and create customization much easier than ever before.

So don’t assume that your Marketing partner automatically needs you to build platforms to enhance their business…as they can now do it on their own.

Marketing Microscope

Lastly, there’s the coming of “ecosystem specific MarTech” and niche vertical solutions for industries.

So while the growth of broad-reaching MarTech tools is slowing, the number of platforms that address specific niches in specific industries are growing.

Products like loyalty platforms specifically designed for the dental industry and CRM platforms tailored to religious communities are examples of where companies are carving out homes in areas that were once dominated by agencies.

The bottom line is: Marketing Agencies need to know what’s out there and know what’s happening in and around the MarTech world.  Clients will demand it if they aren’t already.

If you operate in a particular vertical, know what’s being developed so you can be the firm that brings the ideas to your clients (possibly as a white label), versus having a MarTech firm beat you to the punch and carve out parts of your business.

Next week we’ll talk about some of the more interesting tools I unearthed at MarTech West earlier this month.

This chart probably makes the point best:  Marketing Technology has EXPLODED over the past five years.


In 2011, the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog identified 100 Marketing Technology firms.  As of January this year, that number approached 1900.  Little doubt it will have passed the 2000 mark by the time January rolls around again.

So what does this mean for future-proofing your agency?

It means your firm needs to be like a Chimpanzee, in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive and complex industry.

The Chimpanzee is a creature with a strong ability to learn.  Chimpanzees can even devise ways to use tools.

In terms of your agency and the pace of marketing technology development, your firm needs to be proactive in continuously studying, learning and applying new tools and technology to build both YOUR business and YOUR CLIENTS’ businesses.

This is not to say you have to go out and study up on all 1,876 marketing technology offerings that the Chief Marketing Technologist identified in January 2015.  Rather consider animal traits we have already presented:

  • The Honey Bee: be selectively specialized. Understand which marketing technologies support your specialization and acquire them.
  • The Ant: curate and contract. How many marketing technologies apply within your area of specialization?  Do you need them all NOW?  Do you need the expertise with them in-house, or can you strategically align with a firm that possesses the expertise in the technologies that will benefit your business or your clients’ businesses?


Chimpanzees are very good students.  It turns out they are teachers as well. 


Encourage your team to be proactive students of marketing technology.  As they learn, empower them to share the knowledge they’ve developed with others in your organization.

Even if the entire staff does not need to use new technologies hands-on, it’s important that they understand the implications of evolving marketing technology.

Our industry has entered a phase of continuous and increasingly rapid change.

One thing is certain for future-proofing your agency: you need to be an active student.

Always be learning.