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Everything martech communicators need to know in 2019

Posted by Alex Warren on 3rd January 2019

From customer experience platforms to content management systems, AI-powered prediction tools to the latest advances in marketing automation, at Wildfire, we work closely with the world’s leading marketing technology brands.

Working with these clients — along with their associated analysts, events and media — we get a unique 360-degree view of the martech sector, helping us to consult, shape and inform our clients’ directions for the year ahead.

With this in mind, I wanted to provide a quick snapshot of what we expect to see changing in the marketing technology space in 2019. But don’t worry, this post won’t be your usual cut-and-paste predictions piece. You won’t find any talk of AI, AR or account-based marketing here. Instead, this post aims to provide a far less tactical perspective, designed to help those in the martech industry develop a truly effective communications strategy for the year ahead.

1. Everything is going to get harder

Let’s be honest. If you work for a marketing technology brand, the national newspapers in the UK aren’t exactly climbing over each other to write about your product. Martech platforms are corporate-facing tools with niche audiences, built for a purpose that the vast majority of the public don’t want — or need — to know about.

The good news, however, is that B2B marketing has its own broad media spectrum, with a sizeable number of journalists and analysts working in the space who are genuinely keen to promote new developments and innovations. The problem in 2019 however, will be one of convergence.

As more and more martech start-ups get absorbed by the industry giants, the marketing media is increasingly inclined to only cover those at the top of the food chain. We’ve previously seen this in the electronics sector (with Qualcomm and Intel) and the IT space (with Google, Microsoft and IBM), where these monoliths become the central focus for the majority of industry discussion.

For start-ups and mid-sized players, this means working a lot harder for your share of attention. It also means being smarter in how you retain that attention, including becoming less reliant on media relations as your only form of influence.

2. Be cautious, but don’t be ashamed of data

2018 proved a really difficult year for marketing tech. Everyone knows that to create effective marketing, you need a lot of data. But in the post-GDPR area, just the admission of mass data collection can be enough to bring down a brand. From Google Analytics to personalised email marketing, anything can sound creepy if its data collection practices are described in the wrong terms.

At the same time, journalists are hungry for negative tech stories, while lawmakers are looking for any opportunity to prove that GDPR isn’t just a toothless piece of regulation. As such, martech brands need to be watertight when it comes to both their data collection practices and the way they talk about these practices in 2019.

Still, brands should avoid being apologetic about their use of data. Unpopular as it has become, the vision of big data as a solution to spam, unwanted ads and impersonal content still holds true. Time and time again, consumers have proved that they want more personalised experiences. As long as brands are playing by the rules, there’s no reason why big data can’t still deliver on this demand.

3. Be experts not thought leaders

Thought leadership is everywhere. Marketers are great at talking the talk, and as such a lot of martech brands spend time wheeling out their VPs to deliver regular — if half-baked — opinions on the marketing space. The problem however, is that without a clear strategy to follow, most of this ‘thought leadership’ just acts as noise to bump up the brand’s share of voice in the press. It doesn’t build credibility and it doesn’t add real value.

In 2019, martech brands need to think far more clearly about what they want to represent. They need to move away from simply being ‘thought leaders’ and instead focus on being trusted, credible experts in their fields. Many marketers still buy into the idea of putting a face to their brands — to making their CEOs, CMOs or VPs into industry commentators. In reality, however, the truly trusted players in this market aren’t sold on the back of their individual employees, they’re sold on the strength of their brands.

This isn’t to say that thought leadership is worthless, but that it should be considered as nothing more than a means to a strategic end. Companies such as Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle have spent years cultivating their brand names to symbolise credibility, scalability and expertise. It doesn’t matter if individual employees are considered thought leaders or not — employees can leave, but brand values can be built to last forever.

4. Get visual

In the age of content marketing, it’s easy for brands to get bogged down in text-based mediums. Endless articles, releases and reports are a great way to drive the sales funnel, but in the increasingly saturated media space, you need more than just copy to cut through the noise. While everyone in the marketing space is busy talking about voice and AR, the reality is that marketing remains a visual format and strong imagery and video content continue to drive results.

Despite this fact, memorable visuals are the one thing that most martech brands lack. With intangible products and difficult-to-describe solutions, there’s a good reason why so many communicators in this space over rely on text-based content marketing.

This isn’t to say that marketers need to start churning out corporate videos and yet more meaningless infographics. What’s needed is not more corporate content, but exciting imagery that stimulates the imagination and brings a brand’s story to life. From picture stories to stunts, quirky content marketing to clever advertisements, if martech brands are to compete with the big players in 2019, they’ll need to go beyond just saying the right things and work to ensure that everything they do looks the part as well. B2B audiences can be just as superficial as consumers, and nothing ruins credibility quite like a good idea surrounded by bad visuals.

To find out more about Wildfire’s martech PR experience, check out our customer case studies.

Alex Warren

Alex Warren is an expert in AI and marketing technologies. He has published two books, Spin Machines, and Technoutopia and is regularly quoted in PR, marketing and technology media. In his role as a Senior Account Director at Wildfire he helps tech brands build creative strategies that deliver results and cut through the marketing BS.