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.