Scott Brinker wears many hats. He’s the CTO at a leading marketing tech firm, author of the chiefmartec.com blog and forthcoming book “Hacking Marketing” and program chair of MarTech: The Marketing Tech Conference. It doesn’t take the pattern recognition capabilities of IBM’s Watson to conclude that Scott is immersed in marketing technology. We sat down with him for his take on the convergence of marketing and technology, an update on all his projects and what’s happening at MarTech in March.
Keep reading for an up-close and personal interview with Scott. Then secure your place to meet him at MarTech. Register today!
You have a really impressive background: college after your junior year in high school, advanced degrees in business and computer science from MIT, Harvard and Columbia, and you’re the founder of Ion Interactive, a content technology firm. You were also a pioneer in online bulletin boards in the 90s, with your company, Galacticomm. Are you a Trekkie?
Tell me a little bit about your start in the technology business with Galacticomm.
When I got started as a teenager in the 1980s with computers and online games, it was a pretty novel thing. I was lucky to have the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship at an early age. These days, of course, Mark Zuckerberg has set the bar pretty high for young software entrepreneurs. But I got started when the world was just on the cusp of the digital age. I saw the early adopters using bulletin boards for gaming, for chat, email — all sorts of online interactivity that prefigured what the web would become.
I was able to see patterns of these digital dynamics early on and was able to watch the process of disruptive innovation firsthand — because that’s what the web did to bulletin board systems at that time. It was the disrupter. No one imagined it would have the impact it did. I had a front row seat to that, and it was an amazing learning experience.
Fast-forward to 2008, when you started chiefmartec.com. What prompted it?
When I was running the tech team at a web development agency, I was fascinated by the management dynamics within our clients’ organizations. We’d be hired by the marketing department, but I was the fellow who had to walk down the hall and coordinate with the IT department.
Here were two departments that lived in two completely different universes: the way they thought, the language they used, the incentives they had — they were worlds apart. Yet it was clear that, moving forward, the things that needed to be built would require both sides to work together very closely. These two departments – marketing and IT – were like “When Harry Met Sally,” squabbling, yet destined to be wedded happily in the end.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, so I began blogging about this convergence on chiefmartec.com.
And now you have a book coming out in March.
Yes, it’s called “Hacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster, and More Innovative,” which will be published by Wiley in March. The underlying premise is that modern marketing has management dynamics that have become more like running software development and IT services than classic marketing management. I know that sounds strange, but it’s the natural outcome of the world going digital.
Look at the speed at which things are evolving, the malleability and innovation that software and digital marketing platforms provide. Within this environment, marketers can successfully borrow ideas from the software community to harness the digital dragon. Agile marketing, for instance, is a great example of this cross-pollination, drawn from agile software development methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban.
Basically, the book is an introduction for the non-technical marketer to learn how to adapt management ideas from the software profession to be more effective at marketing in digital world.
This is the time of year when we look back at 2015 and predict what will happen in 2016. Can you do a look-back on 2015 and make a prediction for this 2016?
I’m not much of a prognosticator, but here are two trends I believe we’ll see this year:
1) For the past few years, there’s been a narrative that suggested marketing technology was going to collapse into suites, and everyone would abandon independent tools in favor of unified platforms. As of 2016, however, that’s just not the way things works — and I expect this is true for at least several years ahead. In general, marketers are comfortable assembling “marketing stacks” with a set of products that work together independently. Of course, there are challenges of working with multiple tools, but the benefits outweigh them. And increasingly, great middleware and cloud integration products are making these ecosystems easier to build and manage.
2) Martech is going mainstream – and actually, that’s the theme of this year’s MarTech Conference. By now, everyone has had a CMS and a CRM. But in terms of other marketing technologies – whether it’s personalization, content marketing or social media management software – we’ve crossed the chasm from Early Adopters to now the Early and Late Majority. Executives at “Main Street” companies are now acknowledging the need to adopt these tools. MarTech is no longer just for tech companies and the leading edge.
The chart. Tell me about the chart. How do you find all those companies?
I try to emulate a top-of-funnel prospect: What do they do when searching for and evaluating martech software? I start by Googling the topic, looking for articles, vendors, reviews. I check out trade shows and associations. I look for the influencers and follow the dots of who they connect with. It’s time-consuming, but it’s not rocket science, and I actually enjoy the process. I learn a lot.
How do you build it? How long does it take?
It takes longer every year!
Everyone says consolidation across the martech ecosystem is going to drastically reduce the size of that landscape, but it certainly hasn’t happened yet. It would certainly make my job easier. Eventually, I think that may happen, but it’s certainly not the case with this year’s graphic.
You aren’t going to believe how I really build this chart. It’s one huge PowerPoint slide. Yeah, I know, that’s embarrassing. Last year’s was a 38 MB slide, took two minutes to load. I’m sure there’s a better way, but for now the high-tech slide is a low-tech production.
This year’s layout is going to be different. I started from scratch and re-designed it in a way that reflects how the industry has evolved, in a way that I think will make more sense to marketers.
When will it be ready?
How has life changed for you now that you’re a MarTech rock star?
I’m wouldn’t say I’m a rock star, but I am delighted by how popular this topic has become and very grateful to be able to play a part in the community that’s emerged around it. The intersection of marketing and technology has always been a passion of mine. But for a long time, it was a relatively obscure and nerdy topic. People initially thought that “marketing technology” was an oxymoron. Now, it’s become mainstream.
I love that my role affords me the opportunity to meet and hear from so many people who lead marketing technology at companies across different industries. They’re the real rock stars. It’s one thing to write about this stuff. It’s another to actually do it. I’m continually inspired by the marketing technologists I get to talk with.
The MarTech Conference is coming up March 21–22. What can we expect?
It will be the best one yet, and I say that without hyperbole. Just check out the agenda and see all the incredible speakers and companies that are going to be packed into the Hilton San Francisco.
On one end of the spectrum, we’ll hear from “Main Street” brands such as Frito-Lay, Disney, Heineken, DHL, Clorox, Coca-Cola and PBS about how they’re organizing and leveraging marketing technology in their marketing and operations.
On the other end, we’ll hear from “digitally native” pioneers such as Uber, Zendesk, Mozilla, LogMeIn, New Relic, LinkedIn, Akamai and more about how they’re pushing the envelope on the next wave of technology-powered marketing and marketing management.
And there’s going to be an incredible array of innovative marketing technology companies in the exhibit space. Really a phenomenal opportunity to see such a diverse set of marketing software all in one spot. I get giddy just thinking about it.
Register today for an All Access Pass and save $300 off on-site rates!
If you had to take two weeks off with an unlimited budget but no access to technology, what might you do?
What good is an unlimited budget if you can’t spend it on cool technology?
But seriously, two weeks off, unplugged, sounds great. And I have always wanted to visit Japan…
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