The State of Martech 2018: Maximizing Value

In early April, my colleague and I sat in eager anticipation for the latest Martech Supergraphic at the Martech conference in San Jose. If this sounds exciting to you, you clearly know something about the space, which is centered around enabling marketers to better connect with their customers via technology.

At Walker Sands, we’ve been eagerly watching the number of available marketing technology solutions grow from under 200 in 2011 to nearly 7,000 with the latest Supergraphic release.

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This year, we once again partnered with the Supergraphic’s creator and martech thought leader Scott Brinker to survey marketers on their attitudes, perceptions and beliefs regarding their own use of technology and thoughts on the future.

Our 2018 State of Marketing report shows that, as in the past three years, marketers remain eager and invested (emotionally and financially) in the tools that they’re using. In 2018, however, we discovered that marketers have abandoned the “set and forget” mentality and the desire to make one major purchase. This is a natural evolution from our findings last year, which found that marketers are forgoing all-in-one cloud-based suites in favor of comprehensive stacks. According to Brinker’s Martech keynote, these stacks contain an average of 91 different SaaS solutions.

How are they managing those solutions? Our annual survey of 300 marketers found:

Adoption Isn’t the Challenge

When it comes to the use or concept of martech, marketers are all in – so much so that they’re evaluating their stack every six months to a year. Twenty-four percent of respondents said that they evaluated their tech at the half year mark; the same proportion evaluated solutions annually.

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This indicates that solutions are so plentiful that marketers have myriad options to meet their needs – and are content to play the field. As Brinker stated in the report: “Marketing technology is evolving faster than most marketing organizations can absorb it.”

Agility Follows Adoption

Nearly half of marketers feel that the space is evolving rapidly, which is not a surprise. The largest proportion of marketers, however, feel that their company is one step behind in the space. Thirty-seven percent of marketers say their company’s use of marketing technology has evolved steadily, but only one-fifth of marketers say their company has kept pace with the industry and evolved rapidly.

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The discrepancy isn’t universally due to budgets, however: over half agree or strongly agree that their companies are investing the right amount in martech. Internal resistance to change may be the culprit: after cost and implementation struggles, it’s the factor most often cited as a hurdle to martech success.

Optimism is on the Rise

Along with budgets, marketers’ willingness to embrace change means that vendors will have big potential in 2018. Forty-one percent of marketers say they have the tech skills to elevate their entire department. That optimism, however, is tempered by the additional challenge in ensuring that martech stacks are up to date and sufficient. Fewer marketers felt that their tech was up to date and sufficient to help them do their jobs (63 percent this year vs. 69 percent last year).

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Download the latest version of Walker Sands’ State of Martech 2018 here, and check out past studies here to view the evolution of marketing technology and marketers’ attitudes toward it over the past three years. If you’re interested in learning more about how Walker Sands can elevate the awareness around your solution and drive leads, check out our martech capabilities here.

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Walker Sands Welcomes Three Agency Veterans as Newest Partners

2018 has been an incredible year of growth at Walker Sands. So far, we opened a brand-new office in Seattle, won multiple awards for client work and office culture and our headcount is quickly approaching 100 full-time digital and PR experts. With all of this exciting progress, we are thrilled to announce that our leadership team is growing once again with the appointment of three company veterans to partners!

Walker Sands’ newest partners are Chicago PR leaders Allison Ward and Erin Jordan, along with Seattle team lead Annie Gudorf. All three have given so much to the agency over the years and truly exemplify our core values of learning, supporting and getting things done.

New Partners

At Walker Sands we are proud to have created a culture of constant learning where employees have numerous opportunities to advance their careers. Each with 5+ years of experience at the agency, these three incredible women have climbed the ranks  two from interns all the way to partners  to become true leaders in their respective practice areas.

Annie Gudorf joined Walker Sands in 2012 and worked her way up through media relations and account management roles before heading to San Francisco, then Seattle, to expand Walker Sands’ west coast presence. With client experience that includes CompTIA, Owler and Nintex, Annie and her team are responsible for some of the agency’s best campaigns  work that regularly receives recognition from the Public Relations Society of America, among others.

Erin Jordan joined the firm in 2012 and has grown to lead the agency’s retail technology practice. In addition to her experience with brands including CloudCraze and Globant, Erin leads Walker Sands’ annual Future of Retail research, now in its fifth year. Erin is a board member at PRC Next, a small group of rising leaders within the PR Council.

Allison Ward joined Walker Sands in 2013 as an account manager after prior experience in both agency and in-house PR roles. As a senior account director managing a book of business across FinTech, electronics and other areas, Allison’s client experience includes work with Newark element14, Worldpay and Billtrust. She also serves as the PR partner for the Illinois Technology Association’s Women Influence Chicago initiative.

By including senior leaders in the agency partnership, we are excited to not only be investing in our employees, but also in the continued success of the company. We are so incredibly proud of these three partners and can’t wait to see where the future takes us!

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Client Feedback Lists Walker Sands Digital as Top Marketing Agency in Chicago

We’re excited to announce our recent achievement on, a B2B ratings and reviews site. In 2018, Clutch has recognized Walker Sands as a leading company in not one, but four different categories in their Top Chicago Advertising and Marketing press release! These include: Digital Marketing, Inbound Marketing, SEO and PPC.

There doesn’t seem to be an end point to the growth of digital marketing. It continues to evolve in unpredictable ways. As such, our team is always thinking about how to reinvent our strategies to keep up with customer trends and technologies. Our team of strategists and original thinkers at Walker Sands thrive on rising to these challenges, and we’re grateful to have client reviews on Clutch to prove it.

Since joining the ratings and reviews platform, we’ve had a number of our clients take the time to provide their feedback, which we are so thankful for. The reviews not only help with our online reputation management, but show prospective buyers that we can be trusted with their business challenges and deliver important returns on their investment.

To say the least, we’re thrilled to have 5-star ratings on Clutch!

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We’re honored that our clients have provided feedback that allows us to be amongst the best of the best in Chicago digital marketing. We will constantly strive to create work that is impactful and leads to results that matter for our B2B brands.

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Learning in London: Walker Sands PROI Exchange

In addition to summer hours and the legendary annual Cubs game, Walker Sands offers employees who have been with the company for three years a great opportunity: To visit an agency within the Public Relations Organization International (PROI) network. The goal of the program is to strengthen our ties with agencies around the world, while learning from our PR and digital marketing peers.

WS Lansons London Trip

I was awarded the opportunity to visit Lansons, a full-service agency specializing in corporate, political and financial communications. At the end of February I packed my bags, exchanged my dollars for pounds and brushed up on the British monarchy by binge-watching “The Crown” for a full week of learning in London.

Why Lansons?

In July 2017, we were joined by Becky Annable, account direct and partner at Lansons. Not only did Becky share their incredible work and client portfolio, but she also emphasized Lansons’ interest in building a strong content program. As a content strategist and part of a 14-person team, I saw an opening to talk more about content’s role in public relations and digital marketing – and maybe show off some of the great work we’ve put together for our clients.

Learnings & Takeaways

After nearly 30 years in business, Lansons has cemented its place as one of London’s premier public relations agencies. And after meeting with their teams, it’s clear why. Everyone from new business development to financial services is so deeply immersed in what they do, and are constantly looking for ways to improve their processes. Here are a few of my biggest takeaways:

  1. Cross-Practice Area Opportunities. While Lansons serves several practice areas (public affairs, fintech, consumer communications, etc.), employees aren’t limited to one specific team. For example, you might have a client in the financial services space, one in consumer communications and one in public affairs. The reasoning behind crossing practice areas is it gives employees a chance to broaden the scope of their work, and helps maintain fresh perspectives for new ideas and media opportunities.
  1. Dynamic brainstorming. We love a good brainstorm at Walker Sands, and Lansons is no different. But instead of everyone sitting around a table, their brainstorms require a ton of movement and interaction. It was loud, fast-paced and I loved every second of it. In the end, the account team working on the client pitch had four white boards full of potential story ideas.
  1. Data-Backed Sales Processes. Lansons’ new business development team (our equivalent of sales) walked me through a typical presentation process. While most of their steps aligned with how our sales teams handled potential clients, one of the biggest things that stood out to me was how they incorporate data into presentations. They don’t believe in just showing prospects what they can do – they show them why that strategy will work

Lansons Culture

This trip would be misrepresented if I didn’t talk about the incredible staff at Lansons. I quickly learned there are few differences between Walker Sands and Lansons employees. Everyone is hard working and supportive, and truly enjoys being around their teammates. Plus, they know how to have a good time.

With the few extra days I had to myself, I explored around London (admittedly getting lost more than once). I wandered over to Oxford and Piccadilly Circus, strolled through Westminster and enjoyed seeing Tottenham Hotspur take on Huddersfield Town A.F.C. at legendary Wembley Stadium.


It’s hard to believe one week with another agency can have such an incredible impact on your professional growth. But it was unexpectedly refreshing and eye-opening to completely immerse myself in Lansons’ processes and cultures. Now if I can just make the case to go every year…

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Walker Sands Sponsors ITA Initiative to Empower Women in Tech

When the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) launched Women Influence Chicago last fall, we immediately recognized an opportunity to be a part of an initiative that we’re passionate about­­: empowering women in tech.

In addition to being associate members of the ITA, we’re so excited to announce that we are now proud sponsors and founding partners of their Women Influence Chicago Initiative. Through this incredible organization, we have the opportunity to help women in the Chicago tech scene through training, education and events, with the goal of empowering women throughout a variety of leadership roles.

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The Women Influence Chicago Initiative will focus on three key areas:

  • Pre-Workforce: encouraging interest in technology through mentorship, education and STEM programs
  • In-Workforce: providing resources and training for Chicago tech companies, as well as their male and female employees, to help them create inclusive work environments for women
  • Positions of Influence: increasing the number of women in the C-Suite, on boards and in other prominent leadership roles at tech companies in Chicago

Powered by the ITA, Women Influence Chicago is co-chaired by Kelly Stickel, CEO of Remodista, and Aimee Schuster, CMO of Miller Heiman. Walker Sands will attend Women Influence Chicago board meetings as their public relations and marketing advisor.  

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Allison Ward, Senior Account Director

Walker Sands senior account director Allison Ward is excited to bring her experience and insight to this initiative. As a senior member of our FinTech public relations team and a working mother, Allison is personally passionate about Women Influence Chicago’s mission to empower female leaders and hopes that their work in the city has a wide, long-lasting effect. “We want to make Chicago an ecosystem where women in tech are not only prevalent, but thriving and supported. If we can empower women in tech in Chicago, hopefully there’s a ripple effect in other large tech markets.”

Toward that goal, Women Influence Chicago will be working on action-oriented projects throughout the year. They are determined to not just highlight the problems — but to actually solve them. Events like the “Women Influence Chicago Series: Negotiating Your Equity Package” are designed to do just that. The group is also working on an actionable blueprint to promote diversity and equality in the workplace, with tips for tech companies on how to empower their women into the C-Suite and leadership positions.

We are thrilled to be a part of this important initiative and can’t wait to share more with you on their fantastic projects throughout the year. Keep an eye out for future Women Influence Chicago blog posts, and in the meantime, connect with them on their website or on Twitter.

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