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MarTech West 2019 Recap

MarTech West 2019 keynote presentation

MarTech West 2019 was held at the beginning of the month in San Jose, California. The conference brings together marketing technology practitioners and providers and offers opportunities for education, networking, and discovery of new tools to enhance a company’s existing martech stack.

The event also serves as a platform for the conflicting viewpoints on the current and future state of marketing technology. From listening to thought leaders speak at the MarTech conference sessions and keynotes to having conversations with marketing practitioners and providers, three common themes emerged:

1. There’s No “One Size Fits All” MarTech Stack

An educational and entertaining part of the MarTech Conference is the presentation of The Stackies Awards. For those unfamiliar, The Stackies is an annual competition in which companies enter a single slide to represent their martech stack. While it’s mostly for fun and creativity seemingly outweighs any set judging criteria, this behind-the-scenes look into how businesses are leveraging marketing technology reveals a not-so-surprising truth: there’s no “one size fits all” martech stack.

Another confirmation of this at MarTech West 2019 was the number of speaking sessions dedicated to educating marketers on how to assemble their martech stack. These sessions included “The Right Way to Buy Marketing Technology” and “Building a MarTech Portfolio That Transforms Your Marketing”, among others.

While there’s undoubtedly value to be gained from learning how other businesses are leveraging marketing technology tools and listening to experts’ advice on how to assemble a martech stack, your best approach is to simply build your stack one tool at a time to solve a business need.

Avoid replicating another company's marketing stack. In a world of over 7,000 marketing technology vendors, it’s unlikely another company’s martech stack will fit your exact needs. Another practice to avoid is forging forward with an all-in-one product suite (unless you’re certain it’s the best choice for your business). Remember, more than half (54%) of marketers that use single-vendor marketing clouds don’t believe it provides value.

Instead, look for tools that easily integrate with your existing stack and a variety of others so you can easily plug and play with your existing setup and swap tools in or out in the future as needed. This affords you the freedom and flexibility to pick and choose the best tools to fit your business needs while future-proofing your martech stack.

2. Agility Enables Success with Marketing Technology

Nearly 60% of all marketing initiatives take more than six months to market, according to McKinsey. This hard-to-fathom fact (we want things now, not in six months!) welcomed those at MarTech West 2019 who attended the Agile Marketing Workshop, lead by Andrea Fryrear and Raviv Turner of AgileSherpas.

The formal practice of Agile (with an uppercase “A”) Marketing, an approach to marketing with the goals of improving speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability, has been growing in popularity in recent years and was discussed in this workshop, as well as in “How To Leverage Your Web Team To Drive Agile Marketing Transformation” presented by Pantheon’s VP of Marketing, Roland Smart.

Research on the impact of Agile Marketing indicates that there is a way to overcome this almost assumed six months minimum to launch a marketing initiative. AgileSherpas’ “2nd Annual State of Agile Marketing Report” shows common benefits for teams after implementing this marketing approach:

  • Ability to change gears quickly and effectively based on feedback
  • Roadblocks and problems are identified sooner
  • Higher quality of work
  • Faster time to get things released

The core ideas behind the values of the Agile Marketing Manifesto, such as “validated learning over opinions and conventions” and “many small experiments over a few large bets”, were common talking points of the thought leaders and speakers throughout the MarTech conference. Translated, presenters pitched the importance of accurate data and analysis to inform future marketing efforts, constant testing to continually optimize performance, and an iterative approach to marketing initiatives (let’s make progress in six days or six weeks, and not default to six months).

Not to be confused with the practice of Agile Marketing, the word “agility” (lowercase “a”), meaning the power of moving quickly and easily, was a key phrase used during presentations.  Speakers emphasized the importance of speed for success in today’s quickly changing digital world, especially when leveraging marketing technology.

Whether you’re simply seeking to become more agile (lowercase “a”) at marketing or ready to instill a formal practice of Agile (uppercase “A”) Marketing amongst your team or organization, you’re in the majority, and methods do exist to help you systematically overcome the common challenges we face in marketing.

3. Change is Inevitable: Adapt or “Die”

“Many marketers...go through their days like zombies, doing rote, repetitive work without creativity or enthusiasm.”, Andrea Fryrear writes in her book “Death of a Marketer.”

This is reality for many marketers, resulting from the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality, stress and burnout caused by 24/7, always-on marketing demands, and the ever-evolving marketing technology landscape (with the additional skills and mastery of technology tools required to compete for and succeed in today’s marketing roles).

Marketing is no longer just for marketers. On the bright side, this change is bringing more diversity (and new ways of thinking) into the marketing profession, including the continuing trend in demand for t-shaped marketers or persons from unconventional professional backgrounds.

For businesses, this means there’s greater importance on each hire to ensure that the marketing team is able to succeed today, as well as in the future. But, businesses must also be able to adapt in ways to innovate their organization and offerings, embrace new ways of interacting with their customers, respond to new emerging competitive threats, and so on.

With all of these challenges come inspiring stories of success, such as one showcased at MarTech West 2019: “The Journey from Marketing Technologist to CMO” by Mayur Gupta.

Mayur studied computer technology and started his career as a software developer. He transitioned to a senior developer role, to a manager of technology, and then took a risk and accepted a product lead role for a programmatic advertising platform. The move proved rewarding as he continued to advance his career and within a few years became the technology director for marketing technology and strategy. From his technology-focused background, he’s since propelled himself to leadership positions at Kimberly Clark, Healthgrades, Spotify, and, most recently, Freshly, where he serves as CMO.


Conferences like MarTech West 2019 intend to educate and inspire. The event facilitates conversation on trends, best practices, and so on. Attendees came away with a renewed interest in (and possibly a new way of thinking of) their martech stack, a lesson on the importance of agility and the benefits associated with the formal practice of Agile Marketing, and a reminder that our digital world is moving fast and is ever evolving, which will play a role in the jobs we do and the tools we use.

What were your biggest takeaways from MarTech West 2019?


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