10 things I learnt at MarTech Europe 2016

For Jess Pike, MarTech Europe was a chance to shimmy her way into the martech throng and find out what’s topping the agenda in the most populated tech-scape in the world


1. Data in and of itself is meaningless: You need insight to make it work

It sounds obvious, but with so many people discussing ‘data explosions’ and ‘the power of big data’, marketers are at risk of being blinded by the data lights and missing what’s right in front of them. Velocity MD Doug Kessler laid it on the line: a sharp, intelligent and successful campaign only needs one nugget of insight to make it work. 

2. Marketers are being faced with a new and very real challenge: the entitled consumer

In the words of Roald Dahl’s Veruca Salt (see below), today’s buyers ‘want the world… the whole world’. They want it all and they want it now. This insight distils the biggest challenge facing marketers today: the unbelievably high expectations of consumers. As Nick Worth from Selligent pointed out, it’s not uncommon to hear people bemoan the fact that their Uber apps are a couple of seconds out of sync, despite the fact this is a taxi service yet to be beaten on price or convenience, two of the key drivers for customer engagement.

Veruca Salt - I Want It Now (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)

3. Men still dominate the speaking agenda (yawn)

Despite the best efforts of technophiles like Michelle Robbins, the martech sector continues to be charged with testosterone – and the only way to redress the balance is to keep banging the drum and encouraging female involvement, which the MarTech organisers are passionate about. Interestingly, a fellow delegate posed an interesting question in a coffee break: does the male/female imbalance in tech stem from a lack of tech focus in schools or is it that female experiences of the tech world (of work) are so poor that they duck out soon after having ducked in? Rather depressingly, many leant towards the latter.

4. Scott Brinker’s ever-expanding martech lumascape is getting out of control

The fact you almost need a microscope to really figure out what's going on reflects, of course, the massive proliferation of martech in marketing today – something that continues to baffle marketers looking to invest in (and harness the power of) the latest technology.

5. Agile is more than just a buzzword

…which is lucky, because we’ve just written a whole feature about it here. But yes, a 10/10 talk by Ulrike Eder gave us the lowdown on what agile can do for marketing, and pointed us towards some pretty amazing (albeit) B2C campaigns that were only possible because of the brands’ agile approach.

"27% of marketing budget is now allocated to technology"

Scott Brinker,

6. Take everything you hear from martech vendors with a pinch of salt

That’s not to say they’re all out to swindle you, but it pays to proceed with caution, according to Theresa Regli from Real Story. With only 39% of martech projects being completed on time, don’t believe the brands that tell you they’ll have your new software whizzing away in a matter of days. And don’t believe them when they say martech as a sector is highly evolved and you need to start playing catch-up: you’re not as behind the curve as they’d have you believe.

7. Digital transformation is more than a single IT or marketing issue

Vineet Bhalla from Unilever said it like it is when he told us that change will never be as slow as it is today, a pretty terrifying thought. And as much as we endeavor to avoid the ‘d’ word at all costs, the pace of disruption (apologies) is only ever going to speed up – day by day, hour by hour. The answer? A strategic, well-considered approach to change management.

8. Testing is what it’s all about

To be fair, Skyscanner’s Colin McFarland was addressing the more techy delegates in the room, but he wins ‘quote of the conference’ with: ‘Design like you're right, test like you’re wrong’. This could easily work as a mantra for B2B marketers: testing (whether that be landing pages or email subject lines) will continue to be a bedrock of success going forward.

9. You may as well rewrite the marketing rulebook when it comes to digital

Paul Gottsegen from Mindtree sums it up pretty neatly: ‘Modernisation in marketing is about hiring martech ninjas, assigning product champions and moving to an agile way of working.’ And he was quite insistent when he said marketing success hinges around assembling a team of full-stack soldiers (Paul’s descriptor) rather than siloed specialists. Paul wasn’t the only one heralding the dawn of a new age: Unilever’s Vineet put it thus: ‘Digitial’s about moving from waterfall to agile, from big bang builds to ‘test and learn’ and from brand enablement to platform development.’ Do you agree?

10. And Gartner have an uncanny knack of predicting the future

In 2016 almost more money is being spent on matech as IT, just as the US research behemoth predicted. Added to this, 27% of marketing budget is now allocated to technology, as Scott Brinker highlighted in his keynote. Think you don’t need to be on top of the latest martech trends? Think again – the time for the marketing technologist is now (or yesterday, depending on your outlook).