What Martech Partnerships Really Say About the State of Digital Marketing

The Martech Landscape Has Become Too Diverse And Specialized For Agencies To Stay Locked Into One-Vendor Partnerships. R2I’S Chris Chodnicki Discusses Why Having Multiple Partners Can Make Agencies More Effective And Credible.

R2IntegratedWhen the MarTech Series invited me to discuss R2i’s Preferred Partnership level with Acquia, I was surprised. In many circles, we are known as an Adobe partner, but normally, agency-vendor partnerships aren’t big news. What’s behind the interest?

Maybe this partnership is an avenue to speak candidly about the state of marketing technology, the agency business, and their interlinked future.

R2i invested in a partnership with Acquia for reasons that will not shock you. We value this partnership as highly as we value partnerships with other cloud solution providers like Adobe and Sitecore and other channel partners like Marketo or Yext. In the digital marketing world, there shouldn’t be a favorite ‘technology child.’ Exclusivity is incompatible with our clients’ need.

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The value of diversity in people and perspective is well known in the agency world. The value of diversity in technology deserves more attention.

A Mushrooming Ecosystem

In 2017, HubSpot’s Scott Brinker counted 5,381 marketing technology vendors in his annual tally. That’s up from 150 in 2011. The growth is astounding. The mounting competition and variety match the trend we see in the agency business.

Initially, the web was a marketing venue for online companies and a few avant-garde enterprises. Beyond having a website, traditional companies invested little in digital experiences. Now, no company can forgo them. Forrester predicts that digital marketing spend will hit $120 billion in 2021, amounting to 46 percent of advertising.

Practically every company wants the targeting precision, accountability, and creativity the web affords. However, different companies have different requirements. The needs of an e-commerce company or media brand differ drastically from those of a manufacturer or military contractor.

Acquia addresses certain needs better than other players in the space. They receive strong rankings in analyst reports. It’s a healthy company with a strong executive team and skilled sales professionals. When we’re in the weeds implementing their systems, we receive great support.

Everything I just said about Acquia is equally true of Adobe and Sitecore too – otherwise, we wouldn’t partner with them.

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From Duality to Diversity

Why might a new martech partnership rattle observers and seem newsworthy? Because our culture favors simple, dualistic representations of reality. We feel uncertain when people or brands make reality more complex. Adobe versus Acquia. Samsung versus Apple. Democrats versus Republicans. Jon Snow versus Ramsay Bolton. #Thedress is black and blue versus white and gold. Two sides in every case.

When an agency recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of dozens of vendors, it ruins the illusion of an orderly market. To use one vendor for everything is simple. The data and content from one app are shared among all others in the platform. When you take ten platforms and integrate them, you introduce specialization and complexity. But you might get better results. That’s why there’s such demand for quick, preconfigured martech integrations.

On a small team, a diverse martech quiver can be overwhelming. Each system requires extensive training and experience, without which the agency will struggle to hit its target. If you have a limited number of people who are already experts in three other systems, is it worth their time and the company’s money to branch out?

It might be. But there’s an equally important reason for agencies to have a broad range of technology partners.

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The Credibility Factor

If I walk into a Ford dealership, guess which brand they’re going to recommend? A Ford salesperson won’t say, “You should really consider a Toyota instead.” If you sell one brand, you tend to believe it’s the right fit for potential customers, whether that’s objectively true or not. That costs credibility.

Customers can’t trust a one-vendor agency to speak impartially about the merits of different systems. Pushing one vendor at the exclusion of all others creates that simple, dualistic reality while denying all the complexity, nuance, and differentiation that exists. Those 5,381 vendors aren’t made for the same companies and functions.

Martech is a commitment. Vendors generally require either 12-month or three-year deals in their contracts. Choosing software is as weighty of a decision as hiring an employee. Just as a new employee will affect the culture and team dynamics, the tools you have changed how employees imagine possibilities, strategize, and act. Consider if you had to commit three years to new employees no matter how well they performed! You wouldn’t want that risk.

A diversity of vendor partnerships creates credibility for agencies, and credibility gives clients a sense of trust. Personally, I want to be at an agency has the liberty to discuss the differences between Acquia and Adobe with a client. I’d like team members to recommend the best solution rather than default to one system.

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Time to Branch Out

Agencies should welcome choices in martech, and so should vendors. The best vendors will be motivated to innovate. Every competitor is both an opponent and a teacher.

By deepening our partnership with Acquia, R2i can solve more nuanced customer problems and be a better partner to other vendors. Diversity in people, diversity in skills, and diversity in partners are all competitive advantages for agencies.

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