Why there are 10,000 martech products that “kinda all do the same thing” (but not really)

Martech Differentiation is at the Decision Layer

A person of the perennial criticisms of the martech landscape is that “most of these products all do the similar point.” Send an e mail. Render a net web page. Examine some facts. This criticism has grown louder in proportion to the growth of the landscape.

With an more and more exasperated tone, men and women inquire, for instance, “What’s the point of hundreds of CRMs or marketing automation tools? They’re all just storing the identical customer fields and mail merging them into campaigns.”

I’ve usually had two reverse responses to that accusation.

Initial, I get a tiny defensive and say, “Hey, there are genuine innovations that occur in martech all the time. For occasion, you simply cannot look at a product like DALL-E 2, that magically generates illustrations or photos from any description you can express in text, and not take pleasure in that, wow, this actually is something new below the sunshine.”

But not all innovations in martech are that outstanding. Coming up with the very first several reverse ETL resources to easily (re)hydrate knowledge into your app stack from your facts warehouses was tremendous useful. But it wasn’t worthy of a headline in The New York Moments.

So, my fallback reaction is to confess, “Yeah, I guess you’re ideal. All electronic mail marketing and advertising equipment kinda do the very same factor. But, hey, on the dazzling side, that sort of commoditized competitiveness amongst suppliers need to be wonderful for you as a marketer. Legal guidelines of economics: it really should push down your value.”

That usually mollified individuals critics, who largely just wanted me to acquiesce to their intestine-amount perception that the martech landscape was all sound and fury signifying very little. But it did not sit effectively with me. It didn’t feel to demonstrate the sheer volume of variations of products in martech types nor the massive total of mental funds that kept becoming invested in them.

Three-Tier Architectures: Knowledge, Choices, Shipping and delivery

Let’s start by recognizing that most computer software follows a pattern of 3 tiers or layers:

  • Data — at the base: documents stored in a database
  • Presentation — at the top rated: what seems on the display to people
  • Enterprise Logic — in the middle: decisions and flow in between the other two levels

David Raab, the inventor of the CDP category, mapped these to a few stages of knowledge, selections, and shipping. (I wrote an post previous 12 months riffing on that design termed Data, Decisioning, Shipping & Layout to distinguish CDPs from cloud info warehouses, CDWs.)

But these three levels aren’t equivalent in scale or complexity.

The info layer seems intuitive as the easiest layer. If you’re conversing about shopper documents, this sort of as in CRM, there are generally a finite range of fields staying saved. And the most essential fields are constantly the exact: identify, business, title, e mail, phone number, address, etcetera.

Of training course, all client facts isn’t fully that homogenized. Unique companies collect different information and facts all over buys, customer behaviors, demographic, firmographics, technographics, and so on. There can be relational data connecting those people consumers with strategies, system, and partners.

Nevertheless, the quantity and dispersion of variation is modest. In other terms, the information layer is reasonably vulnerable to commoditization.

Data Layer

What about the presentation or shipping layer? Most folks — particularly UX professionals — would say there’s a lot additional scale and complexity right here. It’s every little thing that anyone sees or hears!

Intuitively, there’s massive variation in presentation. Some interfaces are attractive some others are unpleasant. Some exhibit you precisely what you want, wherever you want it other people are a very hot mess that your eyes painfully bushwhack by way of to come across the a single detail you have been really looking for.

So presentation is an location of differentiation, not commoditization, ideal?

Really, no.

Forgive me for obtaining a bit philosophical below, but trust me, there’s a meaningful place to it.

The technological layer of presentation is really quite constrained. There are only so a lot of pixels, of so many colors, that you can set on a monitor. I’m not conversing about what all those pixels depict — which is one thing distinctive, which we’ll get to in a moment. The uncooked pixels and their frequent patterns veer in the direction of commodities.

For that make any difference, if we expand outside of just “presentation” to protect other facets of “delivery” — how that presentation actually comes in entrance of anyone — which is pretty commoditized also. The HTTPS protocol for world-wide-web pages. The SMTP protocol for e mail. The SMPP protocol for text messages. These are not just commodities, they are requirements.

Now in advance of designers start out sending me anatomically unflattering wireframes of exactly where I can stick this write-up, allow me immediately abide by up that design and UX are amazingly complicated and crucial sides of goods and ordeals that offer huge chance for differentiation. (Glimpse, I even place it in daring!)

UX Is More Decisions Than Delivery

But the magic and mastery of structure and UX is not in the shipping and delivery. It is in the decisions about what to deliver — when, in which, how, to whom.

It is the decisions in UX that develop differentiation.

Decisions Are the Wellspring of Differentiation

Most of program is decisioning. All people guidelines running by processors deciding if this, then that, thousands and thousands of moments for each moment. The majority of code in programs is “business logic”, a wide ocean concerning the seabed of typical info and the fairly slim waves of presentation shipped on the floor.

The scale of the choices layer in software program is massive. I’ve drawn it as 80%, relative to 10% for data and 10% for shipping, in my diagram. But it is possibly nearer to 98% vs. 1% and 1% in most apps.

Martech Differentiation is at the Decision Layer

It’s also elaborate. And I signify “complex” in the scientific feeling of several interacting pieces — and not just isolated within just that one particular application itself. The choices 1 software program app would make are impacted by the selections other related software apps make. In a stack of dozens of applications, hundreds of info sources, and 1000’s or tens of millions of end users, all feeding diverse inputs into a program’s selection-building, you have an astronomical established of prospects.

It is in this intricate atmosphere in which distinctive computer software applications bring to bear various algorithms, frameworks, workflows, and types to make choices in various methods.

There are three essential factors about this conclusions layer:

  1. It is the major portion of what composes a application app.
  2. Collectively, there’s a close to infinite range of diverse probable decisions.
  3. These conclusions can have substantial, material effect on company outcomes.

The last place ought to be self-apparent. Companies compete on the decisions they make. If you really don’t consider you can make diverse — superior — conclusions than your competition, you really should probably look at a profession as a hermetic monk. (Ironically, a quite differentiated choice to make.)

The selections layer in software program is a massive canvas for differentiation. And with its possible impression on outcomes, it’s a massive canvas for meaningful differentiation.

Pretty much no two computer software apps — at least applications of any substantial size — are the exact same.

Martech: Commoditized and Differentiated

When you seem at the superior-stage categories of the martech landscape, this sort of as a significant bucket for CRM, with hundreds of logos, it is honest to say that, confident, in some broad sense, all individuals apps are the very same. They are all for customer marriage administration.

CRM Category on the Martech Landscape

You could also rightfully say that the data saved in those CRMs are normally fairly equivalent as well. As are the shipping channels in which they serve up presentation to staff again-phase and clients front-stage. As a result of those lenses, they are commoditized goods.

But the gigantic mass of choices within just every single of these different CRMs differs greatly.

Invest some time using HubSpot (disclosure: wherever I perform), Microsoft Dynamics, and Salesforce, and you will appreciate just how various these CRMs are. Surely for your working experience as a person. But from the myriad of things that contribute to differentiated expertise for you in these CRMs springs a fount of distinctive organization conclusions and purchaser interactions.

Is just one clearly much better than the some others? (I’ll resist my individual bias in answering that.) Specified the broad adoption of all 3, you have to conclude that the reply to that problem is distinct for unique corporations.

(Yes, it’s a meta-final decision to determine which selections bundled in a CRM system you desire, to support you make better selections for your consumers, to then support them make far better choices in their businesses, and so on. Turtles all the way down? Nope, it’s conclusions all the way down.)

And it’s not just individuals a few CRMs. It’s the hundreds of other folks. Just about every 1 developed by diverse folks bringing different thoughts, philosophies, frameworks, and implementation options to the big variety of selections embedded in their products. All of which ripple into variations for how your business will in fact run in zillions of tiny ways… but which mixture into not-so-very small distinctions.

Extra colloquially, this is named opinionated computer software.

Now, not all those differences will be very good kinds. It’s a Darwinian current market for absolutely sure. Some CRM platforms will thrive some others will go extinct. New CRM startups will sprout with new versions. Above time, there may possibly be additional or much less. But there’s room for different CRMs with unique selection levels to legitimately exist, as extensive as each 1 has a consumer base — even if, or possibly particularly if, it is a specialized niche — who want the exceptional conclusions of that vendor.

This dynamic is present across all classes in martech.

Incremental Innovation Is Nevertheless Innovation

Now, are the variances in the conclusions layer concerning two martech products and solutions in the similar classification breakthrough, leap-frogging innovations?

Admittedly, most of the time, no. They’re extra often “incremental innovation” — locating superior ways to do one thing, not so a great deal creating solely new somethings. But it would be a oversight to disdain, “Pffft, which is only incremental innovation.”

Incremental innovation is still innovation. It can meaningfully differentiate just one vendor from an additional and supply wonderful rewards to their buyers.

This why martech has 10,000 items that all kinda do the exact same thing — but not definitely.

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