What’s hot at MarTech SF 2016?

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I’ve had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the MarTech SF conference this week. What’s on the minds of marketing technologists and companies? What’s hot at MarTech SF 2016? Three things: predictive, machine learning, and customer journeys.

Predictive is the buzzword of the event. Everything and everyone is offering a predictive solution, from predictive lead scoring to predictive analytics to predictive content marketing. Have we arrived at the predictive revolution?

Yes and no. Predictive can mean anything. It’s a great sounding word, but unless a company or vendor reveals which predictive technology they’re using, there’s no real way to tell how legitimate a predictive claim is. We could be talking about the most advanced technology and algorithms possible, or we could be talking about an intern with a dartboard. Both are truthful claims; both are predictive technologies.

The second major buzzword on everyone’s mind is machine learning: machine learning, artificial intelligence, neural networks. Like predictive, machine learning can mean many things, from very simple Markov chains to true deep learning software like IBM Watson, TensorFlow, and others. Without insight into the underlying technology, machine learning claims are very difficult to evaluate. The scale of adoption is also difficult to assess; I have personally installed TensorFlow on my MacBook and played around with it. To say that SHIFT Communications uses TensorFlow in production is technically truthful, but not at a scale where it impacts any customers.

The third major buzzword at the event is the customer journey. Marketers have substituted customer journey for marketing funnel; in many cases, however, marketers are simply filing off one label and putting on another without changing the underlying processes. True customer journey strategy and analysis is rooted in the perspective and viewpoint of the customer, not the marketer. Funnels exist for the convenience of the marketer and the organizational hierarchy of the business. Customer journeys exist for the convenience of the customer and are profoundly inconvenient for the marketer. Anyone promising easy one-size-fits-all, turnkey customer journey analysis is likely not doing actual customer journey analysis. (feel free to download my customer journey analysis webinar for how to construct yours; it is neither turnkey nor easy)

The good news for many marketers is that what’s being discussed today at MarTech is skating ahead of the puck. Many businesses are still working through the basics of good marketing, analytics, and content. Should you be throwing all your resources against these cutting edge topics? No, of course not. Should you be ignoring them? If you’re not executing the basics of marketing well, you should keep an eye on these, but don’t rush in until your business is ready for them and you’re doing marketing 101 with excellence.

Did you miss my talk at MarTech about scaling innovation? Download the entire talk – slides and script – here.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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