My first impression of the MarTech conference was the vendor booth area, a very crowded room of technology companies offering solutions to help marketers amplify, manage, and measure their messages. It was a bit overwhelming – maybe because all the vendors were given equal space and setup so it was easy to think they all were the same. I found two “print friendly” vendors; PTI’s MarcomCentral and PTL – Printing for Less whose booth boldly talked about direct mail (only booth in the vendor area to talk about a print specific channel on their booth graphics). I was feeling for the attendees of this conference, so much work to figure out what technologies to use and what is noise that should be ignored.

Marketing is becoming a technical role. The CMO is going to outspend the CIO in technology by 2017. Venture capitalists are rushing in to invest in marketing technology. One of the main sessions was a discussion with venture capitalist about this space. The market is growing and there are large players; Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce who are actively acquiring technologies to round out their offerings. The number of technology solutions in this space is a bit mind-boggling even for someone like me who actually loves to follow this kind of stuff.

I didn’t speak with every vendor, there was not enough time between sessions but here’s a summary of the language on their booths and printed materials; cloud, measurement, lead nurturing, content amplification, SaaS models, and an overwhelming focus on integration. Everything seemed to be integrated into at least five other systems. There is no more point solutions (isolated from other parts of your business), marketing is about managing and measuring across many channels and technologies.

I think this is the overwhelming message for the print industry; we need to proactively integrate print into the new marketing technologies. Maybe we should stop trying to argue that print is still relevant and start proactively integrating the ability to manage and purchase print within the new marketing automation solutions, CRM solutions, and lead nurturing solutions? Integrate or be left out of the modern marketing mix – that’s the message I took away from MarTech, integration is the most strategic thing print can do in the face of so many digital alternatives. Much like we spoke about the advantages of personalized print vs. generic messaging, integrating print into a campaign that includes digital messaging improves our overall ability to track the success of the campaign. We have to make this easy and prevalent no matter what technology the marketing department is deploying.

Print is too complicated to buy, print is not easy to measure, print is more expensive than its non-physical alternatives, and print isn’t connected. Maybe that’s where we should focus – combine the ideas of RFID and print. Remember when we talked about every printed product would be personalized? Maybe we should extend that and talk about personalized and connected print. The closest I’ve seen to this idea is documobi. This technology allows you to connect printed pieces and direct viewers back to into personalized digital content from a printed piece;  “the RFID of print?” We have to evolve beyond the QR code and be able to “connect” any printed piece to personalized online content. Could we make printed marketing pieces part of the internet of things by linking them back to personalized content that we can update and tailor for a single viewer?

Let’s stop being defensive about print’s place and go on the offensive. Make print an integrated part of the online ecosystem – something that is physical (a real artifact) that also connects us back to the measurements and metrics that are vital to the modern marketer. Marketing has to maintain a mix of digital and physical messaging – the physical messaging has to an integrated part of the system of record (marketing technology).

In speaking with the attendee’s (most of whom were marketing executives from larger companies), I found that most of them were still spending portions of their marketing budgets on print. Many of them felt overwhelmed by the plethora of technology solutions being offered and openly confessed that they had wasted money on several of the solutions due to lack of adoption across their enterprise.

MarTech was informative to get the sense of the marketing technology space and the attendee’s ability to adapt to these new technologies. Print will continue to struggle to remain relevant without a concerted effort to make it easier to buy, easier to integrate, and easier to measure. Marketing is becoming more data-driven, results driven, and quota driven. Executives expressed to me that they are being held accountable for their marketing budgets like never before. I encourage all printers to look for conferences like these and send your people to them to see a non-print dominated approach – get your people out of your plants and into situations where print isn’t the main topic.