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Digital Transformation CMS Artificial Intelligence

As martech goes gangbusters, indie agencies might hold the edge

By Eoin O'Neill, Chief technology officer

Tug Agency


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June 12, 2024 | 7 min read

Technology is (still) revolutionizing the marketing industry. But, Eoin O’Neill at Tug says, don’t go for the big companies that promise you every bell and whistle. Indies still have their place.

A person's hands adjust wires on a rudimentary computer

Big martech stacks might have their allure, but independent agencies can offer a tailored approach / Jeswin Thomas via Unsplash

Since 2020, there’s been a meteoric rise in the adoption of high-tech enterprise tools. The mammoth software companies that provide them are generating exponential year-on-year growth, buoyed by an insatiable consumer appetite for digital-first experiences.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about an unprecedented acceleration of digitization. Globally, we’re now lightyears ahead of where we once were and it‘s understandable if marketers feel they are in a perpetual state of overwhelm. Factor all of this in with a macroeconomic environment that is currently reshaping the omnichannel journey and we find ourselves in a complex landscape. It can often be hard to see the path ahead.

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Big martech stacks have an allure

Large solutions stacks are capitalizing on this complexity, offering a one-stop-shop that promises to make life easier. The allure is difficult to resist. Clients look to big martech suites to help them navigate today’s shifting sands, expecting a turnkey solution to alleviate some of the ever-mounting pressure.

Stacks offer organizations a kaleidoscope of benefits: cutting-edge technology, seamless integration, and advanced analytics capabilities. All the things you need to propel agile, omnichannel marketing. Client teams look to these suites to automate important workflows, so they don’t waste time switching between tools, or manually transferring information from one place to another. This, in theory, should reduce the budget required to execute campaigns.

Across all industries, people are under more pressure than ever before to get a better bang for their buck. This further enhances the appeal of tools that promise big impact and high return on investment (ROI) attached to a fair price tag. In times when trust is paramount, the default option might be to select one of the big players. But is it right for any and every business?

One of the strongest appeals of enterprise tools is their seemingly endless array of features and benefits. But, according to the Gartner 2023 Martech Survey, 83% of organizations do not use all, or most, of their martech capability. Later on down the line, customers may become frustrated and disheartened as these solutions fail to meet their practical needs.

Over time, these huge systems can become clogged with inaccurate, irrelevant, and outdated data. Users struggle to access the reports and dashboards they need. Worst of all, they may focus on incorrect data, which can have critical implications for businesses in the long term. Put simply, big martech stacks promise the moon on a stick – but can end up creating inefficiencies and delivering intangible results.

Room for the indies

In response to this, independent agencies are stepping up, offering bespoke solutions that address specific client needs. Unlike the one-size-fits-all approach of big tech platforms, boutique digital agencies are making waves in tech-enabled services.

But what sets these agency-developed tools apart? Well, the products originate from companies that live and breathe marketing. Agencies are already embedded in the industry and have an intimate understanding of client requirements. While development teams create large tech stacks that work in isolation, the bespoke and purpose-built indie alternative strives to deliver on client-specific business goals.

This personalized, human-first approach contrasts sharply with the disconnect often found in tech giant tools, where an overload of features may lead to analysis paralysis. Users become overwhelmed with data without clear guidance on what matters most.

In 2024, we’re finally beginning to question the narrative that everything is completely trackable. The demise of cookies and attribution challenges will force all agencies to come to terms with limitations and get creative. The democratization of emerging technologies and AI has leveled the playing field for indie agencies.

With less bureaucracy and red tape to prevent vital experimentation, the small players can attract some of the brightest talent in the industry, with environments that nurture the specialist skills required to create innovative solutions.

The transition to a more tailored approach is expected to evolve. As marketers continue to grapple with digital transformation, agility will become key. Clients are increasingly turning to performance media and independent agencies for services such as SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) – and as valued partners for problem-solving.

All this considered, smaller agencies appear to be sharpening their edge, by realizing their ability to build effective, tailored solutions that align with specific business objectives.

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Digital Transformation CMS Artificial Intelligence

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Tug Agency

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