Interview with Scott Brinker, The master of MarTech - How to tackle the explosion of marketing technology
We interviewed martech guru, Scott Brinker about what marketers need to know about marketing technology and why we all need to design for change.
7 years ago, Scott Brinker was working at a boutique web agency when he had to convince a prospective client about the importance of marketing technology. He put together a simple infographic showing the scale of the current martech landscape.
There were over 150 tools. The client was astonished at the size of the market and Brinker’s agency was hired immediately to help them navigate this complex landscape.
7 years on, the marketing technology landscape looks like this:
The number of tools has increased by 5000% to over 7500. Suffice to say, things have developed quickly and now Scott is the martech guru, editor of the chiefmartec blog, and organizer of the successful MarTech Conference. His work helps people across the world take a smarter approach to choosing, implementing and maximizing marketing technology.
Scott was kind enough to take a look at a report we’ve produced to help marketers put together their own marketing tech stack and then took time out to discuss his journey and why marketers need to start designing for change if they want to keep up with the furious pace of technological innovation.
You can listen to the full audio here or read the text version below:
Thanks for joining us Scott. We all know you now as the martech guru but how did your interest start, where did it all begin?
My background was around the early 2000s, I was the head of the technology team at a boutique web development shop. We were hired by companies to build their websites. We were almost always hired by the marketing team but because I was head of the technology group I would be the one who got nominated by the company’s IT team to see how we could interface with their systems. It was fascinating and as I was going back and forth between IT and marketing two things were very clear. These professions and communities were living in a separate world with their own language and their own way of looking at things, but when you were looking at what needed to actually get accomplished, it was so clear that these two groups were going to be married and entangled together deeply. That was the spark of interest, in how the worlds of technology IT and marketing would come together. Not really from a technical side but organizationally and culturally. That was the seed for the chief martec blog.
How did you come to create those infographics we see each year, outlining the marketing technology landscape?
It was actually 2011 and the reason I did it was, at the time, I was trying to advocate to marketing executives that they should really consider hiring technical talent into their teams, that that was going to be a crucial part of what the marketing organization needed. So the reason I put together that slide of around 150 tools, was that I was trying to viscerally communicate just how technologically dependent marketing was becoming, and it worked! People were like, oh my goodness 150 technologies how will we ever keep track of them all!
And now there are over 7500! Did you expect that it would grow so quickly?
I can’t say I predicted how much this space was going to grow and how quickly, which is really at the end of the day the most fascinating part of this. Over a period of about 6 years, to have this explosion where there are now thousands and thousands of marketing technology vendors is very surprising. Looking back though it kind of makes sense because martech, if you just look at it in supply and demand, on the supply side it’s becoming a software world thanks to open source and infrastructure as a service by Amazon, Microsoft, Google.
All these things have made it easier and lowered the barriers of entry for people who have a really great idea to be able to create software and bring it out to the world. And it’s not just marketing, this is pretty much across every industry, this explosion of software innovators and startups.
The reason I put together that slide of around 150 tools, was that I was trying to viscerally communicate just how technologically dependent marketing was becoming, and it worked! People were like, oh my goodness 150 technologies how will we ever keep track of them all!
Then on the demand side, for marketers we’ve been dealing with this explosion of digital touchpoints, this scope creep of marketing’s mission into more and more customer experience management. Handling all these opportunities to create better CX along the buyer journey and as that responsibility and the scope and touch points have exploded, naturally marketers have looked to vendors who can help them execute on all these new opportunities, new requirement that marketing is wrangling. Both supply side and demand side there have been a lot of reasons why there has been this explosion. But it’s still awe inspiring when you look at it end to end.
What in your view has caused this massive explosion in martech and what marketing technology trends do you see developing?
The thing that is really exciting is that the scope of responsibility for marketing has grown in the last 5 years. It’s not just about generating demand, but increasingly this recognition that customer experience - from the very first touch point to becoming a customer and repeat customer -that whole journey is now defined by the quality of experiences people have and marketing has increasingly become the champions for customer experience and journey. And because so many of those things happen directly through digital channel or in environments that are supported by digital tech on the backend, marketing needs to have technology management DNA as a part of who it is .
And what impact did social media have on this?
It’s that steady rise - and you guys I’m sure, know this through the social media side – it’s that combination of search and social that has really changed the power that buyers and consumers have to be able to search and compare vendors on a much more level playing field. Whether they have a great experience or a terrible experience or if they have questions or challenges, customers are now feeding this back out into the social sphere as a way to connect with their peers and their tribe. But as a result of that, it’s becomes such a crucial part of how companies and their brands are perceived by the rest of the world. Social media, probably more than anything, has really driven marketers to realise that great customer experience is the secret to having a great brand.
So down to the business of martech. What do marketers need to keep in mind when selecting tools?
I think there are 2 principles that you can’t go wrong with. First, is to really have clarity around your data. What data the different tools you’re working with create, how you get access to that data and how you share that data between applications. Because at the end of the day, it is necessary for marketing to look at its capabilities in a holistic way and connect the dots across the buyer’s journey.
But the second piece that goes along with that, is the idea of designing for change. If there is one thing we can be certain of, it’s that marketing is not standing still. There is so much disruption and innovation that is continuing to happen not just because marketers want it to happen but because things in the world at large just continue to advance. We’re right here now on the cusp of some really interesting things happening with chatbots and voice computing interfaces and right around the corner, VR, AR, IoT is starting to move from something that was already there off to one side, the hype of some day in the future. But, now we end up with a tremendous number of devices in our lives that are connected.
All you can be certain of is that you are going to need new technologies, so when you design your marketing stack today, do it through the lens of designing for change.
As these things move forward they push marketers to adapt to these changes, to adapt to these new ways of engaging their audience. I have a lot of empathy for marketers today, it is really hard to predict exactly what you’re going to need 2 years from now. All you can be certain of is that you are going to need new technologies so when you design your marketing stack today, do it through the lens of designing for change. Knowing that if you need to add new components and swap new components out, that you have enough of a gameplan on how to do that. That way you’re never caught off guard and never cornered in terms of what to do in the future.
What kind of advice would you give to vendors in this martech landscape?
At the end of the day, this isn’t a technical challenge, there is technology involved, there are hurdles to be overcome, but for most companies and marketers the technical dimension is not what holds them back. The challenge is understanding how they incorporate these new capabilities into their organization, how does it change the activities that marketing does, how does it change the way marketing is governed given these new capabilities and given that, how do you apply this to create really compelling customer experiences? Really engaging touch points and brand moments with your buyers.
Customer experience - from the very first touch point to becoming a customer and repeat customer - that whole journey is now defined by the quality of experiences people have and marketing has increasingly become the champions for customer experience and journey.
The key is helping marketers understand how to do those two things: the front stage of how do you move forward with the way you engage modern audiences and the backstage of how do you run your operations to be able to consistently deliver that. That’s the place where vendors who are able to communicate these kinds of solutions and insights and frankly just educate their prospects and customers, they break through the noise because they are helping to solve the real problem that folks are wrestling with and the technology is just a means to the end.
What mistakes do you see people making when choosing marketing tools for their stacks?
The biggest mistake I see people making is somehow a fear of making mistakes. That they are reluctant to try new things. It’s sometimes very easy to want to strive for perfection. What would be the perfect martech stack, and people can spend months or years trying to envision how that would be. When the truth is, we’re in a world that’s moving quickly and changing very rapidly. The brands that are having the most success are those that are willing to dive in and recognize that, ok there is not a playbook for how to do this. This is greenfield territory for redefining what modern marketing looks like. The only way to really get good at it, is to jump in with both feet.
The brands that are having the most success are those that are willing to dive in and recognize that, ok there is not a playbook for how to do this. This is greenfield territory for redefining what modern marketing looks like. The only way to really get good at it, is to jump in with both feet.
This doesn’t mean be reckless but be willing to try new things, experiment, to mesh them. If they don’t work, take a lesson from that and then say ok what did we learn from that and what could we try differently. If you design with change in mind then it reduces some of the risk of trying out new products. You can adopt things to see how they work for you. You can trial them and if they work out great, you stick with it. If they don’t that’s ok you swap that out and move on to something else. But you’ve got to be willing to make some mistakes to be able to even engage in this environment today.
This openness to try new things and potentially fail is quite hard for businesses to stomach though, isn’t it?
It is culturally not how most organizations have been structured, particularly around technology. This is one of the reasons there was so much tension between IT and marketing, because on the one hand, marketing is always in this digital world being pushed more and more. How do you keep up with these changing consumer expectations but on the IT side, decades and decades of best practices there say we can’t take a risk, we need to know how everything is going to work and plan this out for the next 5 years. There is this mismatch in finding the right balance and do these experiments without being reckless. That’s a new skillset, a new corporate culture that needs to be developed and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Looks like we all have some work to do! Thanks for taking the time Scott, I think we all learned a few things about putting together our tech stacks in the years to come.
Scott Brinker is the VP platform ecosystem at HubSpot. He also publishes the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, chiefmartec.com, and is the program chair of the MarTech conference series. He is the author of the book "Hacking Marketing" published by Wiley. Previously, he was the co-founder and CTO of ion interactive. He has degrees in computer science from Columbia University and Harvard University and an MBA from MIT. Connect with him on Twitter @chiefmartec.