Scott Brinker: The Godfather of Martech on Delivering Value
In the second episode of our Accelerating Value podcast series, we sat down with Scott Brinker, the ‘Godfather of MarTech’. Scott is the VP of platform ecosystem at Hubspot and founder of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog. He’s deeply fascinated by the relationship between IT and marketing, which has helped him deliver enormous amounts of value to the MarTech industry at large.
In this episode, we look at what led him to create Chief Marketing Technologist, and we talk about the volatility and velocity of change over the past 30 months with respect to MarTech. We spoke about two things successful companies are doing to ride the MarTech wave, as well as finding harmony between humans and machines to increase speed to insight.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the episode:
When you first started @chiefmartec [on Twitter], did you have a plan for the value you wanted to create?
The Chiefmartec thing started as a labor of love, and I've actually worked really hard to keep it as a labor of love. I was just fascinated by this entanglement that was happening between what had started as two disciplines on the opposite end of the career spectrum.
Do you see yourself as an arbiter of MarTech?
I'm not sure anyone is the arbiter. I think at the end of the day it comes down to who's the arbiter of value in individual companies? Who are the people who are raising their hands and taking responsibility?
You’re more of an analyst pointing a spotlight on different issues rather than different companies. Not a reviewer.
Yeah, part of that is also in the fact that there's so much happening with so many companies, so many innovators. This whole landscape just keeps growing at such an expensive rate. And which solution is right for which company depends on an awful lot on the particulars of the company that's adopting that solution.
A lot of things changed in the last 14 or 15 months. One of them was the huge amount of volatility in the velocity of change that's represented in that period of data. What everybody has figured out to some degree is that what was working before isn't working now. This poses challenges for people, processes, and technology. How do you see this issue specific to MarTech?
It's a fascinating challenge. I would say there are two big things I see in organizations that are making a difference right now. One is actually designing for change. I think the days of mapping out stuff very concretely are gone. One of the key characteristics we're optimizing for is adaptability, evolution, and change.
And then the other thing that's changed is this idea that each one of these little pieces of the organization is digitizing its own elements, even down in the infinite niches of the business.
One of the things that you and I have talked about a lot over the last couple of years is the classic people process technology triangle and how people are the long pole on that. One of the things that marketers have been thought to really prize historically in the last 10 or 15 years, is orchestration. How do you feel about the idea that perfect orchestration as a priority is the enemy of agility and the ability to deal with change?
I think this idea of perfect orchestration is really hard to scale, and I'm not even sure that if we achieved it, how much net additional value is being created through that process.
I think what you need at the orchestration level is enough cohesion across how the customer journey is happening, and that the experience you're giving doesn't have to be optimized down to the finest detail. It has to be like, ‘Hey, we understand where you're at with the journey and your relationship with us, and we're representing that in a consistent and coherent way’.
If you try to map your customer journey, at what level of granularity can you get before it just becomes fiction? Yes, you want to orchestrate across the customer journey. But when it starts to get down to a level of really minute interconnections between things, it's not that helpful.
So if we use product management and dev as a comparison, we have waterfall and we have agile. Waterfall had governance built into it and agile kind of had some governance built into it, right? But what was prized was the reaction to change and the ability to iterate. Yet when agile is applied to non-tangible things (like marketing), it can cause high-velocity iteration to the point where you lose your bearings. How do you feel that MarTech is moving right now to help people manage this?
There have been a lot of people over time trying to position agile methodologies at the other end of the spectrum. A lot of real agile methodologies were designed to have control mechanisms at the start and end of each feedback loop. This helps you align with a higher-level strategy and objective. It's fair to say that people who don't have these control mechanisms are at risk.
The whole point of agile, in my opinion, is to have a short enough cycle to have the mechanism to react to changing variables. This allows you to ask: ‘How does this line up with our core strategy?’
The amount of time it takes to achieve insights is a big challenge people grapple with. Everything is happening faster and it becomes harder to do without computers. Where do you see this going?
This is where there's a tremendous opportunity for AI, machine learning and automation. I think what gets really exciting is not if something can all be done by a human or entirely automated by a machine, but how we find these sweet spots.
We are learning to leverage technology to deal with the curse of dimensionality happening in the environment around us, but for the way in which these things interconnect. I think that's where a lot of machine learning and AI is still very challenged.
Nobody gets excited about the value of MarTech quite like Scott Brinker. His deep knowledge of the industry, as well as his passion for what the future holds, makes him one of the top figures for using this technology to accelerate value.
The Accelerating Value podcast series focuses on how we see, create, and plan value. Every week we talk to new guests, who are leaders across various disciplines. We understand their definition of value, and showcase their expert insights to help you in your own quest to create value.