Banks & Credit Unions Must Join The Marketing Technology Revolution

As the number of new marketing technologies continues to explode at an exponential rate, banks and credit unions must scramble to keep pace. If traditional financial institutions can't figure out how to leverage the power and potential of martech tools, neobanks and digitally-savvy startups will leave them in the dust.

According to, the marketing technology landscape has ballooned from 150 providers in 2011 to roughly 5,000 in today. With the number of new marketing technology (“martech”) solutions exploding at such a phenomenal rate, it’s no wonder that marketers feel overwhelmed.

In fact, more than half say that it’s nearly impossible to keep pace. A study by Walker Sands Communications found that 56% of marketers believe the martech industry is evolving faster than their organization’s ability to implement and use it.

However, the “State of Marketing Technology Study 2017” study also found that marketers are making significant progress in getting their companies to make greater investments in martech. 70% of marketers expect their companies’ marketing technology budgets to increase in 2017.

Today, half of marketers say budgetary restraints are holding them back from implementing new martech, but that’s down significantly from the year prior when 69% said they felt constrained by their budget. The number of marketers who don’t have executive buy-in for martech investments also dropped by half, down from 22% to 12%.

The “Martech 5000” from tries to makes sense of the dizzying array of marketing technology tools available today. (Click to enlarge)

What Do Martech Stacks Look Like Today?

Not long ago, marketers were using all-in-one suites from the likes of Salesforce, Marketo and Oracle. Back then, the various tools available on the market didn’t always play nice with one another. Poor integration made building an effective marketing stack difficult, so single-vendor platforms were the norm.

That’s not the case anymore. The explosion of new martech tools over the past six years has made it much easier for marketers to build highly customized — and integrated — solutions. The Walker Sands study reveals that marketers today are increasingly opting for multiple providers, integrating a range of tools from different vendors to build their own unique combination of marketing technologies.

Only a fifth of marketers say they primarily rely on a single-vendor suite (21%), while nearly half (48%) are building best-of-breed stacks with integrated technologies.

Less than one quarter of marketers currently believe implementation issues and integration hurdles are an obstacle to their technology strategy, compared to more than a third who said the same thing in the year prior.

Major Martech Investments Planned

Only one in ten marketers in the Walker Sands study said they don’t need new martech tools (half the number of a year ago), and they are probably lying or delusional. The other nine out of ten marketers predict their companies will purchase at least one new marketing technology tool in the coming year.

A third of marketers say they plan to purchase a social media marketing tool, followed by ad tech, email marketing, data analytics and content marketing. Interestingly, those five technology categories are also among the most commonly purchased tools over the past three years.

In many cases, marketers will be replacing a marketing technology that they had previously purchased sometime within the past three years. That suggests that the martech landscape is so fluid and fast-changing that you can’t kick back and relax once you’ve pulled the trigger on a particular martech tool. The email platform you need today might not be the right one three years from now. Same thing for social media tools, data analytics, marketing automation, etc.

More than half of marketers who plan to purchase social media marketing (62 percent), email marketing (61 percent), content marketing (58 percent), ad tech (56 percent) and analytics (50 percent) tools in 2017 have already done so in the past three years.

Reality Check: To keep pace with the needs of your organization and the rapid changes in the martech landscape, financial marketers will need to be constantly evaluating — and reevaluating — their technology options. A once-a-year “annual check-up” won’t cut it.

Who Owns Martech… IT or Marketing?

A decade ago, it’s likely that IT would have had exclusive control of a centralized technology stack, including marketing. However, Walker Sands says that the ever-expanding martech landscape is steadily distributing ownership of these tools — both laterally and vertically inside organizations.

Their study found that martech tools are now owned by marketing at least 41% of the time. Other marketing-related departments — including marketing operations (12%), customer experience (9%) and digital strategy (8%) — are increasingly taking ownership of technologies that would have been under IT’s control in the past.

The purchase decision-making process has also become democratized. Seven out of ten marketers (71%) have led a purchase decision for at least one tool in the past three years, up from 62% only a year ago. This includes more than half of entry-level marketers (55%) and creatives (60%), indicating that companies are empowering marketers at all levels to decide which tools they will use to do their jobs every day.

“With new solutions coming to market all the time, IT is no longer in control, and it’s easier than ever for marketers to add and subtract technology from their stacks,” the authors of the report noted. “Not only are end business users now managing this technology most of the time, but they are usually the ones making purchasing decisions in the first place.”

Four Key Takeaways to Tackle Your Martech Challenges

1. Hire Tech-Savvy Marketers. This may seem obvious enough, but financial institutions shouldn’t be hiring any new marketing personnel that don’t pass the digital sniff test. Walker Sands says there’s a strong correlation between a company’s employees and its level of technological sophistication, meaning that tech-savvy people tend to work at tech-savvy companies, and vice versa. While you might not have the technological culture you’d like to have today, you can use the people you hire to shape your organization and its strategy. Walker Sands says that companies that hire tech-savvy marketers invariably end up with a more sophisticated tech culture, and not just in marketing… across the entire organization.

2. Involve End Users In The Decision-Making Process. Walker Sands says that both the purchase and management of marketing technology have become democratized, with end business users making decisions about martech more often than a centralized IT department. More marketers at all levels should lead and influence buying decisions.

3. Build an Integrated Best-of-Breed Martech Stack. In a martech landscape made up increasingly of solutions that integrate well with other tools, Walker Sands says that marketers will get the most value out of integrated, best-of-breed marketing stacks rather than single-vendor suites. Because integration has become easier, there’s little reason these days to have fragmented stacks that don’t connect the dots between platforms and channels.

4. Consider a Chief Marketing Technologist. While companies benefit from listening to the technology needs of front-line marketers, Walker Sands says more organizations are recognizing the need for a senior marketing technologist who can make decisions based on a high-level view of the martech stack. With implementation and integration posing less of a challenge than ever before, the most successful companies will focus on getting the most out of their martech tools through a holistic technology strategy, more training and better-defined KPIs.

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