Want feedback, just ask…

This week one of our automatic garage doors needed repair.  It’s something I know very little about so I took the internet and did some research.

I looked at Yelp, Google Reviews, and other sites.  I decided on Precision Garage Systems because they had far more reviews and most were positive.  Nevertheless, I was nervous and somewhat skeptical.  Review fraud is pretty easy to execute.

I just finished with the Precision repairman and exhaled.  He did a fine job.  However, the moral of this story is the secret behind Precision’s many reviews – they simply asked.

Precision Garage Door review request
Second interaction requesting a review
Actual Review of their Service

Minutes after the job was complete I received this email asking me to review their work.  They had no idea whether I would give a positive or negative review, they just asked.

How often have we purchased something and not been asked our opinion?  Kudos to Precision for being brave enough to simply ask.

The Crowd-Sourced Ranking of the Marketing Technology Ecosystem

Most MarTech infographics depict thousands of tightly packed company logos meant to convey a complex, confusing ecosystem.  No effort is made to distinguish companies, leaving one without an understanding of the differences.  It’s impossible to identify major vendors and compare categories to each other. I have addressed this issue in a new infographic and explain it below. 

The Martech ecosystem is complicated and growing. See how companies differ when social media is used to determine big players from smaller ones.

I have read many stories over the past few years about the complicated MarTech ecosystem.  From amusing descriptions to serious conclusions and suggestions, the technology component in the marketing process continues to evolve and expand.

Scott Brinker’s infographic or those from Luma Partners are most frequently cited. Brinker’s chart is more complex with 3,874 company logos in 2016, up from 150 in 2011.  He has analyzed the composition and shown the number of companies within each sub-category. LumaPartners created its own series of ecosystem charts and they’ve been viewed across the web over 6 million times.

While these infographics display a wide ecosystem, they generally do not help viewers make better decisions or provide more information.  Just read the comments in Brinker’s blog post where many readers have requested a database with more information on the companies.  Beyond that, articles referring to Brinker’s work also speak to its complexity.  VisionCritical.com called it “overwhelming”.   Ryan Skinner of Forrester referred to part of the infographic as “a blob of logos…hard to relate to…but it looks intriguing”.

There have been efforts to simplify or synthesize the complexity.  Martechadvisor produced its own infographic that reduced the ecosystem to the “hottest categories of 2016” and listed logos from 1,151 companies.  Growthverse went beyond listing logos and developed an interactive visualization.  It provides some basic information on specific companies.  Heinz Marketing “partnered” with Brinker in 2015 and published a database of the 2015 ecosystem.

The work done by Luma, Brinker, Growthverse and others is amazing.  However, as a macro view of the ecosystem, they do not go deep.  These infographics have been frequently referenced and much has been written about MarTech’s complexity. It’s clearly difficult to ascertain who the main players are, differentiate them, and compare categories to each other.

I wanted to go deeper into the ecosystem and see who the major players were and separate them from everyone else.  If you believe in the wisdom of the crowd theory, using social followers as an indication of product and company value might be a better tool than presenting thousand of icons.  While James Surowiecki’s 2004 book titled “The Wisdom of Crowds”, gave widespread credence to this theory, he is certainly not the first to argue “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.”

Academic papers on the subject abound.  One such paper title, “The Social Psychology of the Wisdom of Crowds“, written by Richard Larrick and Jack Soll of Duke University along with Albert Mannes of Carnegie Mellon reviews several studies from a variety of experts.  Many suggest that opinions from many sources is more accurate and valuable than a single opinion from a known authority.

So I wondered what these infographics would look like if they were subjected to some sort of crowd sourcing.   If the crowd “votes” by following certain companies through social media, a framework for differentiating companies from one another could be developed.  Subsequently, the ecosystem infographic could be redrawn with companies denoted by the strength of their following.

In my new martech infographic, companies are presented if they register a meaningful social media following.  If the following was non-existent or negligible, I excluded them.

While this information was painstakingly compiled, it is not 100% accurate.  Some companies have no social presence and others place low priority on it.  Some companies focus on small niches.  Some companies engage socially through a product name instead of their company handle.  Some companies also have a B2C relationship which results in an artificially high social following.  But, for the most part, the results are generally reliable and will only improve as this model is iterated and improved.

Once the analysis was completed, an interactive version of Brinker’s now familiar infographic emerged.  Each of the links in the interactive version connect the user to the company’s specific LinkedIn page for more information.  The graphic below is a static picture of the interactive version.  A printable version is also available.

My version has fewer companies, approximately 2,300.  It gives bigger companies slightly more play and weeds out very small players who have negligible or no social followers.  And, rather than citing how many companies exist, I believe it is better to show average followers per company as a measure of relevancy.  With that as a metric, the value of each category changes significantly.

Crowdsourced knowledge often surpasses those of experts. After collecting and analyzing the social media followings of over 2,000 martech companies a different infographic is possible. If one considers a “request to follow” as a vote, the ecosystem can be differentiated with more attention awarded to more popular companies.  An Interactive Online Version and a Printable Version are available.

A stripped down version is below.  Hover over a sub-category and a pop-up will appear with companies in each respective group. If you want a printable version of each sub-group then you can click on the clouds in the bottom portion of the table.

The Marketing Technology Ecosystem
differentiated by social media followers
Advertising Content Social eCommerce Data Management
Rollover any word below to see a pop-up of the companies in its respective sub-category

Click any word below to see a printable version of the companies in each respective sub-category








While the ecosystem contains thousands of companies, there are only a few hundred meaningful players.  And, within those, a handful of enormous companies dominate many of the sub-categories.  Only a few large companies are listed in more than one category.  By combining aggregate followers across all companies in a category, you can get a sense of the more popular ones. For example, the six major categories are as follows:

Broad Category # of Companies
Content and Experience 601
Social and Relationships 509
Commerce and Sales 380
Advertising and Promotion 374
Data 350
Management 151

An inverse relationship exists when you look at average followers per company. While it is possible that fewer players result in less dispersed relevant audiences or that very large companies skew the distribution of the category, it is also possible that categories with more average followers indicates a wider group of users and/or a more broad audience.

Broad Category Avg Followers per Company
Data 136,732
Management 125,832
Commerce & Sales 89,010
Content & Experience 72,118
Advertising and Promotion 49,328
Social & Relationships 42,467

A few specific sub-categories stood out as well.

Sub-category Broad Category Avg Followers per Company
Budgeting & Finance Management 352,000
Affiliate Marketing Commerce 289,000
DMP Data 282,000
Collaboration Management 259,000
Mobile & Web Analytics Data 241,000
iPass/Data Integration Data 201,000
Retail & Proximity Mktg Commerce 199,000
SEO Content 170,000
Search & Social Advertising 150,000

Given how many companies have relatively small followings, one can assume they are either new or very niche players.  Unifying vendors across multiple sub-categories to work together will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future.

For the first time, Brinker included a category called iPass.  These are companies that provide this service and tie together various vendors through APIs and other hooks. For CMOs and CTOs looking to make their lives simpler and more productive, I hope this component of the ecosystem grows and becomes stronger.

In an interview with Oracle’s Marketing Cloud Blog, Brinker said that, “there is a second tier that these platforms really help cultivate. They help enable ecosystems through the APIs and their ISVs (independent software vendors) that allow hundreds or possibly even thousands of companies to come up with more focused, innovative, marketing software that plug into that environment and really give marketers the best of both worlds…”

With this work you can actually see the players based on popularity and see more detail with a simple mouse click.  You can quickly access additional information from the LinkedIn page that is associated with every company displayed in this ecosystem.

Brinker’s infographic also did not include some categories that I plan to explore over the coming months.

If you have comments or suggestions please contact me via this form.

What SMB vertical categories are more likely to use DIFM presence solutions?

Over the past few months I’ve tried to understand which SMB categories use DIFM (do it for me) providers for their digital presence.

I started by reading publicly available research reports that compare DIY solutions such as Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, WordPress, etc. to the DIFM provides such as LocalEdge, Yodle, DexMedia, YP.com, and Hibu.  As I read through stories it became clear to me that much of the research was qualitative.  I really wanted to see facts.

So, I decided to conduct a little first-hand research of my own.

I visited many sites created with the tools from these providers.  It soon became apparent that a large percentage of sites created with the DIY providers are not SMBs.  As such, it became difficult to quantify the DIY sites because so many of them were personal blogs, photo galleries, and other topics not related to a small business.

On the other hand, most sites from the DIFM providers were clearly SMBs. This was my “AHA” moment.  I selected the five largest US states and visited sites in those markets that were “Powered by” or “Created with” any of the five previously mentioned providers.

My work found almost 5,000 sites.  From that, I honed the database and weeded out irrelevant sites.  The remaining 3,100 sites provided good information from which to determine the vertical categories most prevalent among the DIFM providers.

I identified minor categories and major categories associated with each SMB’s website and then looked at the results.  Almost 50% of the sites fell into only three broad categories: Home Improvement/Construction, Medical, and Home Services.  I’ve pasted a chart from my work below.  It illustrates all the categories found in this research.

Have comments or suggestions?  I would love to hear them.  Send me a note via this form.

DIFM SMB Categories
SMB usage of DIFM digital presence providers by vertical category

Is Traditional Media Succeeding in Social Media?

As the traditional media industry continues to experience massive disruption, have you ever considered how it has reacted to social media?

While continuing to contract, media companies still enjoy vast audiences, both online and via their traditional channels.  But as media consumption migrates from destination web sites to social media (think Facebook’s instant articles), I wonder how traditional media has reacted and whether lessons could be learned from those who have reacted well?

To get at some answers, I analyzed digital performance of almost 2,000 television stations and newspapers.  I looked at their monthly unique users and social media stats to identify best practices.  To learn more about how the database was created and what it contains, see the detailed description at the bottom of this post.

This Google map shows the actual properties used for this study with newspapers in blue and television stations in red.  If you click on a marker, you’ll see specifics about each property.

The most interesting top-level finding is that television stations seem to have developed a greater social media following than newspapers.  While the two groups receive roughly the same number of monthly uniques per site, tv stations have almost twice as many Facebook fans on a per site basis.

The graph below summarizes the top-line findings.  An average Newspaper website receives about 325,000 monthly unique users compared to about 290,000 for the average tv stations website.  But look at the number of Facebook fans for each.  The average tv station fan page has over 100% more when compared to average newspaper site.  If you further look at the “engaged” Facebook users, those who are talking about posts, the tv station advantage is almost 400%.


But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Many variables exist and additional blog posts will explore questions such as:

  • How else is the newspaper industry different from the television industry?
  • What criteria determines better performance?
  • Does a large corporate parent make a difference?
  • How do larger properties compare to smaller ones?
  • Within the television industry, do affiliates of a network matter?
  • Are certain geographic markets more inclined to use social media?
  • Can best practices be identified at the individual site level?
  • Can we learn from sites that record strong social metrics?
  • Is usage of Twitter more pronounced by some and/or Facebook by others?
  • Do daily newspapers outperform weeklies?

Over the next few weeks I’ll take a deep dive into answering those questions.  My work has yielded a vast array of interesting conclusions.


By accessing available APIs and writing a series of scrapers I was able to gather data on over 7,000 newspapers and television stations.  The list was vast and included well-known entities as well as many specialized stations and publications.  Only the prominent entities actually had well-trafficked websites.  The list shrunk considerably — to just under 2,000 — when I included only those with available web traffic data.  Most of those websites also supported Twitter and Facebook accounts.  In some cases multiple traditional media properties shared a single website. Given these facts, this analysis focuses on the 1,200 newspapers and 700 or so television stations that made this initial cut.

Ecosystem Chart V2.1 Updated

I have just made a few updates to the SMB Marketing ecosystem chart

Thanks to comments from several readers, a few new companies have been added and the appearance of a few others has changed.  The spreadsheet attachments have not yet been updated but they will be shortly.

Thank-you to my friends at YP.com, Guarantee Digital, TruMeasure, Mono Solutions, and InfoGroup for pointing out omissions and suggesting improvements.  A few other companies have asked to be included and I’ll be working on getting them into the chart over the next week or two.

The SMB Marketing Ecosystem V2.1

The SMB Marketing Ecosystem v2.1
Relative sizes determined by Social Media Followers and Site Traffic
Hi-Res JPEG Image













Presence Operations Media















(These Cos provide multiple services & are not listed in the specific cells)

Search Mgt


Loyalty Programs

Ad Networks

Traditional Media

Site Design


Call Tracking

Email Platforms

Social Media

Social Management

Listings Management


Digital Directories

Reputation Mgt


Direct Marketing

Digital Local Media

Compiled by Lorren Elkins w/input from these sources: BIA/Kelsey, Borrell Associates, Local Search Association,
Street Fight Magazine, Local Media Association, Bing Resellers, Google Adwords Resellers, SEMPO, Local Onliner Blog


Check out my StreetFight article (The Complex SMB Marketing Ecosystem)

As I begin to work on the next version of the SMB Marketing Ecosystem Infographic, I wanted to make sure the StreetFight article was posted to my website.  The new version will include additional companies, better organization, and an attempt to differentiate companies from each other by using available crowd-source metrics.


The Complex SMB Marketing Ecosystem

With so many companies selling similar services in the local digital space, distinguishing the subtle differences between vendors can sometimes be challenging.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a small or medium-sized business owner (SMB).  In addition to their operational demands, they must also navigate the complex new world of digital marketing. Pity the poor SMB trying to figure it all out. There could not be a worse time for SMBs to be confused. As nationally-focused outfits hone their digital offerings to compete against Amazon, eBay, and other pure-plays, SMBs are generally lagging behind. In a recent PwC study, 52% of internet users said their favorite retailer was Amazon, and 13% said it was eBay. But just as traditional media once owned audiences, SMBs still have a chance to hold on to their customer base. Forrester estimates that 70% of consumers look up products online and then visit a store to purchase. A recent Yodle survey found that 82% of consumers currently use local businesses.  Now is time for SMBs to capitalize on consumer preference for local shopping.

In a Thrive Analytics study, almost two-thirds of SMBs said web development and SEO were their highest digital priority. Social media management, content marketing, loyalty marketing, reputation management, mobile presence and other channels were still cited by over a third.  However, even with these good intentions, 47% of SMBs feel they do not have enough expertise and 43% do not have enough time.

If you look at how effective SMBs are at managing some of these challenges, a 2013 study by vSplash (now BuzzBoard) found that over 90% of SMBs had no social media widgets on their home page, 95% did not have mobile optimized sites, and over 50% did not list either a phone number or email address on their home page. And this survey did not even address topics such as loyalty programs, listings management, reputation management, et cetera.

So, if an SMB is going to make progress, most will rely on the services of a third-party vendor.  But the list of vendors is enormous and the market segments they fall into are often amorphous.

As the head of digital strategy for a broadcaster operating local TV stations around the country, I’ve been challenged to clearly understand the digital marketing space from an SMB perspective.  I’ve been selling to and speaking with SMBs about their digital marketing needs for years. From this, it’s clear that most SMBs are confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed by the digital marketing options they face.  I’ve also spoken with hundreds of vendors in the space about the services they offer. While some do a great job describing their offerings, many do not.

To help me better delineate this space, I asked my network of relatively senior digital executives if they had ever seen a chart (similar to the popular Lumascapes) that maps out the digital marketing ecosystem from the SMB perspective. Not surprisingly, such a chart does not seem to exist.

So, I went ahead and developed my own, both to enhance my understanding and to assist SMBs in identifying potential suppliers in the various digital marketing categories.

Given such a complex process, the folks at Street Fight asked me to provide a little insight into how the chart was compiled.

  1. The first step was to understand the marketing needs of an SMB.  Essentially an SMB has three broad marketing needs: reach audiences, operate their digital platforms, and enhance their online presence.  So, I began by segmenting across that spectrum.
  2. I then identified the major product categories (there turned out to be about 20 or so) and began aligning them within the broader construct.
  3. With a framework in place, the next challenge was to identify vendors, assess their product offerings and position them in the appropriate ecosystem location. This part was fun as I learned about many new companies and took a deeper dive into those I already knew.  I began by identifying those companies that had either been mentioned in the relevant press, attended an industry event, was listed as a search reseller, or was a member of a related industry trade group.  With that information I built a database of keywords, logos, contacts, descriptions, URLs, and addresses.  While some data was collected manually, much was gathered through a series of automated crawlers.
  4. Since some vendors offer more than one service, they appear in multiple categories.  And a handful of other vendors offer a full-suite of services.  To reduce repetition, those vendors are categorized as “full-service agencies” and qualified if they offered four or more of the identified services.
  5. Since the chart quickly became crowded, I also hyper-linked each gray category box to a table with more information on my website. Those tables provide specific website, Facebook, and Twitter addresses, geo locations, and a description of the services provided.

My goal is to help SMBs better understand the types of services they should consider using and provide a basic resource in their search for a provider.

This is just the first version and I expect the map to evolve.  There will certainly be tweaks and adjustments as the landscape changes, market experts write new stories, and others submit suggestions.

If you are a provider and have suggestions for either reclassifying or including your company, please contact me.  And, if you are an SMB trying to figure out how to navigate this space, I would love to hear suggestions from you as well!