What is marketing technology and how is it changing? Scott Brinker, co-founder, president and CTO of ion interactive, tells Michael Krigsman of CXOTalk about the changing landscape of post-click marketing and conversion optimization.

Brinker, one of the most influential voices in marketing technology, shares how greater personalization and artificial intelligence are increasingly important as marketing tech incorporates AI.

At ion, Brinker leads product development and technology operations for the company, whose software has been adopted by organizations worldwide like American Greetings, DHL, eMusic, Inuit and Juniper Networks. He also writes about marketing technology management on his blog at chiefmartec.com; frequently speaks at industry events such as SES, SMX, Pubcon and Search Insider Summit; writes a regular column for Search Engine Land; and is co-author of the book “Honest Seduction: How Post-Click Marketing Turns Landing Pages Into Game Changers.” He is also the host and producer ot the influential Marketing Technology Conference.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: Welcome to Episode #249 of CxOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman, an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. Today, we are exploring the world of marketing technology and our guest is… You know, I call him, “Mr. Martech,” because he is the guy, more than anybody else, who popularized that term, and whose research has done so much to extend our thinking about marketing technology.

I want to thank Livestream for their massive support of CxOTalk. And, if you go to livestream.com/cxotalk, they will give you a discount on one of their plans! So, do that.

We have a tweet-chat that is going on right now using the hashtag #cxotalk. And you can join in and ask Scott Brinker, Mr. Martech, your questions and share your thoughts. And so, without further ado, Scott Brinker, how are you doing?

Scott Brinker: I’m good, Michael! Thanks for having me!

Michael Krigsman: Scott, you are […] this superhuman godlike creature…

Scott Brinker: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: I don’t know if you’ve ever been called a “superhuman”…

Scott Brinker: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: I don’t know if you’ve ever been called a “superhuman, godlike creature,” but you created this thing called marketing technology landscape, which, if you just search on “marketing technology,” you’ll see it.

Tell us about that and what do you do?

Scott Brinker: Sure! Yes, so that crazy graphic that shows, at the moment, about five thousand marketing technology companies, it had really humble beginnings. So, for many years here, on my blog, chiefmartech.com, I’ve been advocating how marketing organizations need to include more technical talent within their team. That’s just the nature of marketing; it’s become a technology-powered discipline, and so, back in 2011, I put together that first slide just to show marketers all of the different kinds of tools and technologies that they were becoming dependent on. And so, at the time, I found something like 150 different marketing technology tools and yeah, it had the exact effect I was hoping it was! I was like, “Oh my goodness! One hundred and fifty different marketing technology tools! How will we ever keep track of them all?”

And then, it became a bit of an annual exercise to say, “Okay! Well, we’re in 2012. How many are there?” And, “Oh my goodness! There are 350.” And a couple years later, it went up to 1,000, and then 2,000 and yeah, now here for 2017, we’re looking at nearly 5,000. So yeah, kind of a wild industry out there.

Michael Krigsman: Okay! So, you’re researching 5,000 companies. Something I’ve always wondered, and now, we’re going to get the chance to have it revealed, if you’ll reveal it to us, how do you do that? How do you research so many companies and you’re running a conference also. And you run a company. So, how is it possible?

Scott Brinker: Yeah! Well, it's not. Yeah, I think research is probably too high of a verb to attribute to what I do, you know? So, the idea of that landscape is in no way to analyze these 5,000 different firms. I'm not in the business of trying to pick the winners or rank them relative to each other. That is a very lightweight look across the entire landscape mainly just to give people a sense of the scope of all the different companies that are at least out there putting themselves out on the internet as saying, "Hey, we have a marketing technology solution that we'd like to offer folks."

So it’s still… That alone, even doing that lightweight, has become a very large venture. It’s usually done over a series of months. This past year, I had the […] actually help me with a bunch of the research on that as well, too. But, yeah! It’s […] a lot more than it was when it was 150.

Michael Krigsman: And, we have a comment from Twitter. Shelly Lucas, whose Twitter handle is, I don’t know if “Twitter handle” is the right term, is @pisarose, says she likes my nomenclature

Michael Krigsman: Welcome to Episode #249 of CxOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman, an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. Today, we are exploring the world of marketing technology and our guest is… You know, I call him, “Mr. Martech,” because he is the guy, more than anybody else, who popularized that term, and whose research has done so much to extend our thinking about marketing technology.

I want to thank Livestream for their massive support of CxOTalk. And, if you go to livestream.com/cxotalk, they will give you a discount on one of their plans! So, do that.

We have a tweet-chat that is going on right now using the hashtag #cxotalk. And you can join in and ask Scott Brinker, Mr. Martech, your questions and share your thoughts. And so, without further ado, Scott Brinker, how are you doing?

Scott Brinker: I’m good, Michael! Thanks for having me!

Michael Krigsman: Scott, you are […] this superhuman godlike creature…

Scott Brinker: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: I don’t know if you’ve ever been called a “superhuman”…

Scott Brinker: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: I don’t know if you’ve ever been called a “superhuman, godlike creature,” but you created this thing called marketing technology landscape, which, if you just search on “marketing technology,” you’ll see it.

Tell us about that and what do you do?

Scott Brinker: Sure! Yes, so that crazy graphic that shows, at the moment, about five thousand marketing technology companies, it had really humble beginnings. So, for many years here, on my blog, chiefmartech.com, I’ve been advocating how marketing organizations need to include more technical talent within their team. That’s just the nature of marketing; it’s become a technology-powered discipline, and so, back in 2011, I put together that first slide just to show marketers all of the different kinds of tools and technologies that they were becoming dependent on. And so, at the time, I found something like 150 different marketing technology tools and yeah, it had the exact effect I was hoping it was! I was like, “Oh my goodness! One hundred and fifty different marketing technology tools! How will we ever keep track of them all?”

And then, it became a bit of an annual exercise to say, “Okay! Well, we’re in 2012. How many are there?” And, “Oh my goodness! There are 350.” And a couple years later, it went up to 1,000, and then 2,000 and yeah, now here for 2017, we’re looking at nearly 5,000. So yeah, kind of a wild industry out there.

Michael Krigsman: Okay! So, you’re researching 5,000 companies. Something I’ve always wondered, and now, we’re going to get the chance to have it revealed, if you’ll reveal it to us, how do you do that? How do you research so many companies and you’re running a conference also. And you run a company. So, how is it possible?

Scott Brinker: Yeah! Well, it's not. Yeah, I think research is probably too high of a verb to attribute to what I do, you know? So, the idea of that landscape is in no way to analyze these 5,000 different firms. I'm not in the business of trying to pick the winners or rank them relative to each other. That is a very lightweight look across the entire landscape mainly just to give people a sense of the scope of all the different companies that are at least out there putting themselves out on the internet as saying, "Hey, we have a marketing technology solution that we'd like to offer folks."

So it’s still… That alone, even doing that lightweight, has become a very large venture. It’s usually done over a series of months. This past year, I had the […] actually help me with a bunch of the research on that as well, too. But, yeah! It’s […] a lot more than it was when it was 150.

Michael Krigsman: And, we have a comment from Twitter. Shelly Lucas, whose Twitter handle is, I don’t know if “Twitter handle” is the right term, is @pisarose, says she likes my nomenclature for you, being a “superhuman, godlike creature.” And I want to let everybody know that I’m not sure what Shelly is doing these days, but @pisarose is one of the best influencer content marketers that I know. And, you should, if you need an influencer content marketer, you should absolutely call her.

Scott Brinker: Yeah, well she’s got my vote now!

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]

Scott Brinker: Thank you […]! [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: No, she’s really good. Okay! So, this marketing technology landscape, first off, what do you… What do you define as “marketing technology?” Is that kind of a dumb question? Or, is that a reasonable question?

Scott Brinker: Well, yes and no. Alright, so on one level, yeah, what is marketing technology? Well, we know that the simple definition would be the technology used for marketing. But, it turns out, actually, where things get interesting is when you ask, "Well, what do you mean by ‘marketing' and what do you mean by ‘technology'" because let's just take the marketing one for the moment. I mean, one of the things that are happening here in the marketing profession and the marketing industry is just this incredible scope explosion, right? I mean, marketing used to largely, once upon a time, be almost synonymous with advertising. You know, PR and the folks who put together the brochures, you know? And marketing still has all those responsibilities as well, too. But, right in this digital environment, we've added all these new things associated with the website, you know, mobile experiences; how does customer experience live from the very beginning of a prospects-first touch point all the way to, you know, ongoing customer success loyalty programs? You know, the whole social sphere; how does that fit into that? How are we managing social relationships? Influencers, right, to Shelly…

I mean, […] how companies go out and manage the different people in their environment, too. They develop those relationships with the help of the social space. I mean, I can go on and on, but the scope explosion in marketing is one of the reasons there’s been an explosion of marketing technologies. So, if you look across that landscape, there are just so many different kinds of activities and opportunities that marketers have in the digital world that, yeah, the explosion of tools is simply a reaction to that to help marketers deal with all of these new touchpoints.

Michael Krigsman: The explosion of marketing technology tools reflects the reality that marketing tasks, activities, and tactics have become that much more rich and complex. And in fact, though, when you start moving into the role of data and personalization, it moves beyond pure marketing alone and so, at what point is it no longer reasonable to even call this “martech” because it’s actually something different?

Scott Brinker: Yeah. I mean, I’ve wrestled with that for a long time and my solution to it is to not worry too much about the labels. I think, you know, increasingly, we all understand that to have a great brand, have a great business, you have to be able to deliver a really compelling customer experience. Again, kind of from those very first touch points, when people are just looking for things, are first researching things, they have some sort of initial touch from you; what's that first impression and then all the way through their entire customer experience with you?

You know, there’s a lot of different companies. You have different people who are trying to lead and organize that new, holistic view of customer experience in a digital world, but I think, increasingly, for a lot of companies, marketing is really at the center of that. Marketing is serving as the hub for really understanding the customer across that journey and really helping to provide increasingly the technologies, but even more so, that operational vision of how do we execute on that brand province.

Michael Krigsman: So, customer experience; so, from your perspective, customer experience is the heart of marketing today. Is that an accurate statement?

Scott Brinker: I think aspirationally, absolutely.

Michael Krigsman: Aspirationally, meaning what? What does that mean?

Scott Brinker: You know, it’s very easy to say we want to deliver an amazing customer experience across the entire buyer’s journey. Actually, delivering that, as it turns out, is incredibly difficult; incredibly challenging. For a lot of companies, they're developing new muscles. They're developing as many changes to their own culture and internal operational velocity to be able to live up to customer expectations in this environment. So, yeah. That's a process that, again, to embrace it and say, "Hey! We want […] champion of a great customer experience," that's a great place to start but actually developing a company's capabilities to live up to that promise, for most companies, that's a multi-year journey. Don't underestimate it!

Michael Krigsman: Well, not according to the vendors that I see; the software vendors.

Scott Brinker: Well, of course! There’s always a magical elixir and the hero can quaff you, instantly jump, and defeat the dragon! That would be nice, that would be nice! You and I have talked about this bit before, that if you think of a hierarchy of technology and then the process we wrap around the technology and then the actual people and talent we have running and designing these processes, operating that technology; you know, it’s sometimes easy to have the focus go in that direction. Like, we think “Alright! We’ll get the right technology and we’ll figure out process and make some people […],” you know. And the attention focus goes down from there.

But in reality, almost every organization I’ve seen, the actual meaningful aspects of bringing this to life, is the complete inverse. I mean, technology is the easiest part of this equation. If you have a PO, if you have a credit card, you can apply the technology and increasingly, the stuff actually even connects together through APIs and a bunch of other fun stuff we can talk about. You know, you can get these things to connect! But then, it’s that organizational capital; you build around that. The process, the people, and the new talent; not just the particular talents for people but even thinking about how do you manage an organization where marketing no longer operates at that cadence of a yearly marketing plan, you know, quarterly executions? But instead, we’ve got this almost daily evolution of, “Okay! What experiments are we running on these different channels? What’s happening? You know, we’ve suddenly got a single something through, you know, social media; is it an opportunity or a threat? Operating at that increased cycle speed for marketing is just a very different kind of management environment.

Michael Krigsman: Yeah! So, the cycle speed of marketing today, if you think about personalization, about almost real-time personalization, somebody visits a website and there’s analytics; so, we’re tracking them on the site and we know where they’ve been and we have predictive analytics that will present them the right type of choices, it means that this is all happening instantaneously. A campaign is happening; there are a thousand people on your site and there are a thousand different campaigns that are running. So, you talk about cycle time, that’s a pretty short cycle time.

Scott Brinker: Yeah! You know, and again, this is one of these things where you can get as granular as you want. What’s kind of fitting at the moment here is the limit to that, today, has largely been just our ability as humans, like how much complexity can we manage with our human brains? And, we kind of tapped out; the state of marketing in large organizations today, there is so much complexity to it that it’s really hard to have an individual get their head around all the different moving parts.

And what’s kind of exciting is , now that we’re starting to see this generation of AI; I know this is an overhyped word; but this idea of being able to turn over algorithms, increasingly the ability to come up with more narrow definitions of audience segments, being able to personalize and dynamically experiment with individual pieces of content and I rate far beyond what we would be able to keep track of as humans. You know, letting some of that take over more of these machine learning algorithms…

It’s kind of a mixed bag! Like on one hand, it’s hopefully going to pretend to make things a little easier for us as marketers, and we don’t have to, like, manually be pulling all the levers and dials onto themselves. On the other hand, when we turn over more of that experimentation, that optimization […], their ability to just have essentially an order of magnitude, several orders of magnitude more possibilities that they can computationally run through… The actual reality of marketing; what’s actually happening between our brand and its interface to the world is likely to get much more complex really quickly.

Michael Krigsman: We have an organizational question since we are just talking about that, from Twitter. And, Arsalan Khan, actually he’s asking two questions. So, number one, are you an enterprise architect by background because you’re talking about holistically solving problems? So, what’s your background, Scott?

Scott Brinker: I’m a software engineer by background, and I have helped build enterprise systems but, yeah, I am not an enterprise architect today. And, my hats off to the people who are.

Michael Krigsman: Okay! And, his second question is, is it better to have on your team a technical person who knows marketing, or vice-versa; a marketing person who knows technology? I think it gets to the heart of how you organize martech. Where does it fit? How do you organize it? What’s your recommendation and your thinking about that, Scott?

Scott Brinker: Yeah! I know, it’s a great question. And, a lot of companies are struggling with this, right? I mean, new kinds of organizations require new kinds of organizational structures. And that’s always a challenge. You know, this question of, like yeah, you know, a technologist who learns marketing versus some marketer who learns technology; it’s a little bit like those old Reese’s commercials of “chocolate in my peanut butter, peanut butter in my chocolate.” On some level, it doesn’t matter. What matters is, okay, do you have people who are responsible for your marketing operations, for your marketing technology capabilities that really do understand both sides of that equation?

You know, a lot of these marketing and technology leadership positions do require a nontrivial amount of technical death, right? There is some actual architecture happening here, right? We have to think through things like SLAs. Even if the marketing is running the technology team under their organization, you know, this cannot be a rote group, right? It has to be interfacing with corporate IT. There were considerable issues here around just governance. So, you know, having folks who understand that is really, really important.

I think that the one caveat I’d add to this is while I think that marketing technologists need to have some pretty good technical chops, whether they came originally from a marketing background or software background, but you know, today, they need to have somehow acquired those technical chops. I don’t think that everyone in marketing needs those kinds of technical chops. The analogy often used is like with graphic design, right? Marketing uses graphic design and there are amazing graphic designers! Hopefully, your marketing team has access to one you want to leverage.

And so, marketing as a whole needs to understand that graphic design is an important part of what we do; we need to know who we’re going to turn to for that resource. The rest of the organization needs to be able to leverage it but not every marketer needs to be a brilliant graphic designer. It’s kind of the same thing with marketing technology. Every marketer needs to be comfortable with this technology being a part of their toolset, you know, and really focus on how do they use those tools to deliver compelling marketing. But, they don’t need to be technologists themselves.

Michael Krigsman: It seems like the technology component is becoming more and more important. For example, if we think about growth hacking, right? That’s all about understanding the data. And think about social media. That is all about understanding the data. And so, it seems to me that the technology dimension is growing by leaps and bounds, whereas the strategy dimension, of course, is… We can argue it’s more important because that’s the head that sort of wags the tail of the dog, right? But, there has been this shift from the importance of strategy to understanding technology and, let’s throw data in with that as well. That’s my perception.

Scott Brinker: Yeah! Absolutely. I mean, again, it becomes one of these things where it's a little bit like, again, marketing versus technology, chocolate versus peanut butter, strategy versus technology… You know, trying to argue over which one of those is dominant over the other… At some level, it becomes a semantic argument. I mean, you know, to step back and simply say, "Hey, listen to me. If you want to have a great brand, whether it's a b2b brand, or a b2c brand," right, you have a set of customer expectations from your first touch point to how they experience your products and service all the way through that lifetime success and loyalty. You have to figure out how to have your brand stand out in this incredible noisy and competitive world, you know? And technology is a huge portion of that and a lot of these customer expectations are based on how are you going to handle technical touch points with them; digital touch points with them? Just social media alone, how are you going to handle that?

But if you don't have some sort of organizing strategy, if you don't have a larger vision in which those pieces are being orchestrated towards, yeah, largely it just becomes sound and fury signifying nothing.

Michael Krigsman: So, how do you break… how do you break down the marketing technology landscape? Is it based on customer life cycle, or something else?

Scott Brinker: That’s a really interesting question. So, you mentioned earlier one of the things I do is I’m the program chair of the MarTech conference. So, this is a conference that I do a couple times a year. A few thousand marketers and technologists come together and figure this stuff out. It’s very interesting!

So, one of the things we have done for the past three years with MarTech is run a contest that we call the Stackies. And what we do is invite marketers to send in a single powerpoint slide that visually illustrates how they think about their marketing technology stack; all the different tools they’re using and how they think about those pieces fitting together. And, the fascinating thing… So, we put all these up on Slideshare for free, so if you search for MarTech Stackies, you can download, literally now, about 120 of these.

But, what’s fascinating is when you look at these companies and what they thought about their marketing technology infrastructure, it’s not just like they throw a few logos on a page and say, “Yeah, these are the six tools we use,” and then they’re done. What they do is they really help illustrate how they think of mapping those tools to the buyer’s journey, how they think about mapping that to different functional responsibilities within the marketing organization. Some of them, you know, with more of an enterprise architecture background, actually help illustrate, “Okay, what’s the data view of this? How does the data from these different pieces connect together?”

And so, going through this exercise, one of the takeaways for me was there was no one right way of looking at your marketing stack. You really need to look at it through several of these different lenses. Do you need to look at it from an enterprise architecture view of, "Okay, what's the actual interface? The data between these different systems?" Do we need to look at how are we mapping this customer journey? Do you need to look at how does it map to our organization? Who are the people in charge of not the tech piece of it, but the marketing layer of what we execute on top of this?

And so, when you start to look at it through all these different lenses, that’s a much better way to get a holistic view of marketing technology than just saying, “Oh yeah. Here’s one form. Just follow this form and you’re done.”

Michael Krigsman: Well, that begs the question… All of this now is so complex and so rich. And so, how can a marketer slice and dice the pieces in order to weave together the appropriate… Can we say, “stack” or “collection of products and tools and processes” that are right for their organization?

Scott Brinker: Yup! Well, I think this is again, for an organization of any real size, you are looking at having a marketing operations team or a marketing technology team that takes the ownership of designing that stack, selecting the vendors for it, and then, actually operating and maintaining it. You know, there’s a lot of strategies you can take in how you put these pieces together. You know, I think some very, very high-level advice; the main thing I would say to people is design for change. You know, I mean, there’s very often, particularly among some of the larger vendors in the space, they will sometimes propose, “Hey, we are going to create a suite or a marketing cloud and we will pull together all the pieces you need until one product or one solution set, and they’ll just all magically work together,” and it’s a very beautiful vision. And, they’re certainly spending billions of dollars trying to create this.

The truth is, that just doesn’t exist today. I mean, even if you buy these cloud solutions from these vendors, there is still a lot of duct tape required for getting these different pieces together and there are a lot of gaps that you then have to augment with solutions from other vendors. And so, even if you will say, "Okay, maybe someday they will get there." Maybe three years from now, these marketing clouds will be buying one product and just does it all for you. It's wonderful. In fact, maybe by then, the robot will just do it all for you, too and we'll be looking for a job. But, alright.

Even if you say we’re going to get to some sort of Nirvana of marketing clouds in the next three years, that doesn’t really help most marketers today, right? I mean, we’ve got things we’ve got to deliver. We’re on the hook to our boss this year, this quarter, next year, you know? And so, I think recognizing that we have to operate in this world where we have all these different pieces, there are still a lot of changes happening across these different pieces. We can’t fully predict what we’re going to need two years from now. You just have to start architecting these things in a way that allows them to adapt. You can just swap out one vendor in the future and replace it with another.

Michael Krigsman: So, the Nirvana of marketing clouds is simplicity, where you have a set of products that work together across the customer lifecycle and just really actually work. Is that the Nirvana?

Scott Brinker: Well, I mean, that would be the ideal vision, right?

Michael Krigsman: So, the ideal vision is that it just works.

Scott Brinker: Yeah! Although, you know? It's interesting. This becomes a bit of a philosophical debate. Imagine you had a magical marketing cloud product that you plugged it in and it just automatically did all the wonderful marketing you needed to be done for you. Would that be a great world for marketers? I'd actually argue it wouldn't be because one of the things that marketing… One of the missions of marketing is differentiation, right? It's like, how do you create an edge over your competitors? How do you create a better experience? How do you manage a customer lifecycle process in a way that's smarter than your competitors?

You know, we were all just leveled down to one, magical system that did all this for us in just the same, consistent way across every brand, right? I mean, it would eliminate all those access of opportunity we have to innovate, to differentiate, to stand out. And, I mean, again, you go through this thought exercise and obviously, we're never going to get to that level of universal marketing like an Apply 1984 commercial, or something like that. So, I mean, that's not what the future is going to be looking like, at least not anytime soon.

Michael Krigsman: You know, it sounds like ERP, in the sense that historically, the ERP vendors had these big stacks of unified software and eventually, people made the argument, "Well, you know, we shouldn't be changing our ERP system because that's… We don't want to be changing accounts payable, standard way, and we need to differentiate based on our… differentiate those technologies and those processes that are unique to us." And so, it sounds like what you're saying is you have to be clear about which part of the marketing stack and marketing process is unique; will give you a competitive advantage, and then focus your attention there?

Scott Brinker: Right. I mean, you know, again, back when we started, this idea of marketing increasingly having… being the champion of customer experience… That is ultimately the dimension where the customer experience that defines your brand is going to be different than the customer experience of your competitor. Because, again, this isn’t just about the technology, it’s very much about the people and process on top of that, the culture and reorganization, all these things that get embedded in the communications you do, the way people interact with each other inside the company with customers, with partners… Yeah! So, I mean, just looking at customer experience […] like, yeah. There’s just no way that will ever be ERP. We wouldn’t want it to be like ERP.

Michael Krigsman: So, I’m still trying to figure out what to do. How do we get a handle on the scope of all of this? So, if you’re, let’s just take a practical example, okay? You work in a mid-sized company or a large company, and you want to improve customer experience. And, you’re looking at the five-thousand companies in your marketing technology landscape. Where do you begin? How do you identify that… Which is going to be the right path for you?

Scott Brinker: Right. Now, it’s a great question. So, first and foremost, it starts with data, right? It’s not about Big Data; it’s not about whoever has the most data wins. It’s about having good data, you know, particularly when you talked about being able to recognize a customer; a prospect, a customer; through their entire journey and be able to serve them in a way that your previous interactions, you know, have set up a set of expectations for them so you know what they want. You know the relationship with them and all of your digital touchpoints behave as if you do recognize who they are. And when I say “digital touchpoints,” it isn’t just the digital touchpoint that the customer directly uses like your website or your mobile app, but it’s also the digital technology that your services teams…When they have the call center, when they’re in the retail store, when they’re interacting with someone through social media, do those people who are connecting and serving those prospects and customers… Do they have easy access that helps them identify and understand who that person is and how they can most quickly and efficiently help get them what they need; help make their experience better?

So, I mean, focusing on understanding that data, and really making sure that you're thinking through how are you going to plumb that data through all of these touch points that we have with customers? That, to me, is the place for a mid-sized enterprise company. If you don't get that right, everything else you layer on top of that can be very interesting and made very cool, but without that core data foundation, you just end up with pieces that keep falling out of sync with each other.

Michael Krigsman: So, it gets back to this strategy and process piece; and like everybody else, Scott, the vendors say; I’ve heard this, and I’ve seen this; the vendors say that if I buy their product, my problem is going to get solved. And you keep telling me that I need to think this through, and I need to think about these touchpoints, and I need to do a whole bunch of crap that, quite frankly, I don’t have the time to do because I am buying a product from a vendor, and God damn it, it needs to just work. And so, why are you hassling me?

Scott Brinker: I know. I hate to be raining on the picnic. Well, I mean, the truth is, actually, if you look at some of the fastest growing companies in this space, with the largest expanse of business happening, it’s not actually the martech vendors, it’s the consultancies. It’s the Accentures, it’s the PWCs, it’s the Deloittes. It's for, you know… this is a more complicated subject, but the evolution of agencies; marketing agencies that used to be more focused just on the advertising side of the equation, you know, increasingly trying to figure out how do they help their brands with other aspects of this whole marketing technology mission?

So, yeah! I mean, it’s hard. This is why there's a huge market, and a multibillion-dollar market for services providers who can come into the CMO and say, "Okay. You know you have to do this. You know you’re not going to be able to change it internally fast enough to meet the needs of your customers if you’re bored. For this relatively large sum of money, we will come in and we will help you make that transformation.”

And in some cases, they do. I don't want to disparage, you know, that whole field, but I think the reason I would just… I always hesitate a bit in saying, "Oh! It's that simple! Just hire the right professional services agency, and you're done," is that so many times here, this thing I'm actually creating, customer experiences that people love, isn't something that an external consultancy can impart to your organization. This is something that has to grow from within, you know? It really does have to become part of the culture. I mean, you look at this with the digital natives who are probably the best examples of, “Hey! Really, ideally, how should these digital experiences work, you know?” I mean, how does Amazon deliver its experience to its customers?

You know, so they… The way Amazon works is so deeply embedded into their culture that I think for companies who look at digital transformation through the lens of saying, “Hey! Listen, we’ve got to accelerate this, so we’re bringing in some consultants and bringing in some professionals services folks to help assemble the pieces for us a little faster so we don’t have to learn all of this on the job.” I think the caution there is, you know, that can help with a certain amount of the mechanics, but the actual transformation of the company from a cultural level, from a people level, from an organizational capital level; that has to be a mission that you’re going to embrace yourself.

Michael Krigsman: So, I feel like we have now pulled on this string of marketing technology and suddenly, the ball is completely unraveling because now, what we’re doing is we’re talking deeply about changes in the company. When you talk about digital transformation and mindset of customer experience, you’re talking about transforming the fabric, the culture of the company, which is the fabric of the company. And all of this started because you created a diagram of five-thousand marketing technology companies.

Scott Brinker: Yeah. There’s an order of operations here, right? So, my landscape, right, is a reaction to what happened. My actual graphic, right? I mean, that’s just some guy who had too much time on his hands looking through Google to find martech […]. So, that isn’t the change. That isn’t even really the catalyst of this. The catalyst is customer expectations are changing! You know, customers, again, there’s this thing I’m sure a number of your guests have spoken about; just, customers are in control in a way that’s so radically different than even what it was like ten years ago. And, marketing technology, this is a piece of the puzzle. It’s a piece of what companies have to get right in order to be able to live up to those expectations and to execute on that. But yeah, just if you went out and you bought best-in-class marketing technology across the board and said, “Boom! We’re done!” You know, marketing automation doesn’t mean, “Hey! Marketing only automatically generates customer performance.”

Michael Krigsman: So, I talk with vendors just like you do, and I talk with, and I do video interviews with really superb marketers; companies who are having incredible results with marketing technology and the thing that amazes me is the fluency and the skill that they have about the tools; how they go about collecting that data and advertising on Google Adwords and then analyzing those results in Google Analytics and then using tools to segment and then email. And, it also, at the same time, the really good ones are really, really strongly connecting with the needs of their customers and so, the marketing messages that they’re putting out are fundamentally accurate and then they’re using the tools to refine and slice and dice.

Scott Brinker: Yeah! You know, I mean, it’s interesting. You know, that phrase, “It’s the craftsman, not the tools.” So, on one hand, that means, right; you can’t just buy the tools and expect to be able to be a master craftsman. But, the flipside of that is most craftsmen, they really do understand their tools very well. You know, this is not something that they take for granted. It’s something that they embrace, they learn, they figure out through that trial and error process of what works specifically for them and their particular marketing experiences that they’re building. So, yeah. It does not at all surprise me that the very best marketers in this space have a real fluency about the tools. And again, it’s not about saying the tools are magical and the tools are where the action is; it just… You have to understand how you’re going to leverage this stuff at a real level. It can’t just be a nice vendor PowerPoint.

Michael Krigsman: So, we only have about five or so minutes left. And, I still have a whole bunch of questions to ask you. You know, it's funny. These conversations go by so quickly, and I'm always left with a lot of questions still. So, very quickly then, what about the suite versus standalone tool approach? You have a bunch of companies like Sprinklr is one that immediately comes to mind that’s buying up lots of product so that they offer a suite. And yet, each one of those individual products you can purchase as standalone from a different vendor. So, what about suite versus best-of-breed in marketing?

Scott Brinker: Yeah. So, for a number of years, that was the great debate. Will it be a suite, or do you just assemble every piece from scratch? So, it's suite or best-of-breed. And, I think one of the things that I've seen now, in most mid-sized and enterprise companies here for the past year or so, is it's not an either-or-proposition. For most of them, it's, "Well, we buy the suite, and we buy a bunch of other tools that we augment." If I buy Sprinklr and I like every aspect of what it does perfectly, that’s wonderful! But, Sprinklr still isn’t a CRM, so I’m probably still getting Salesforce. Sprinklr still isn’t like an actual web experience management platform, so I’m still probably buying Adobe.

I mean, you know, you go through the list, it’s like, it’s very often where you see these things that are sold as suites and a lot of real companies, they have two or three of them! You know, that they’re using each for their particular strengths, and there are, again, also augmenting these more specialized tools. I think that’s fine! You know, I mean this idea of tent pole solutions, things that become sort of these central hubs around which we then augment our capabilities is a very sane approach to architecting a good marketing stack. So, I don’t think it’s an either-or decision anymore.

Michael Krigsman: So, you buy whatever works for you and if it’s part of a suite, you get that and if it’s not, you get that.

Scott Brinker: Right. And, you know, again, earlier we were asking, “Okay, where should you start?” The foundation really does have to be the data. So, you have to think, “End-to-end, what does our view of the customer look like? What are the pieces that contribute to that?” And so, when we’re selecting these tools that we’re going to use for our CRM, for our web experience, for our social […], you know, you have to go through the actual enterprise architecture piece of understanding, “Okay, who is going to own the data record? What’s going to be that central customer identity?” And then, for the other pieces, “How do I connect to feed into that? How do I read out of that?” It’s not rocket science, but yeah, it is some data architecture.

Michael Krigsman: And, what’s the role of the CMO in all of this?

Scott Brinker: So, again, this varies from company to company because companies are going through these transitions. They have a variety of different roles and titles. I mean, you have a number of them on your show, right? I mean, Chief Digital Officer is, in some cases, or the folks that are […] championing this opportunity in some organizations. It is actually the CIO who is very deeply engaged in the customer experience side of these solutions. Maybe, he’s partnering very closely with the CMO.

And then, in other cases, you have a CMO who, if hopefully, they’re not actually doing the enterprise architecture themselves, they have other things to do; but, it’s not unusual now for them to have a VP of Marketing Technology or a VP of Operations, and having […] really take under its responsibility; it’s umbrella of responsibility, assembling and maintaining that marketing stack.

Michael Krigsman: Another complicated question, but we're running out of time so, quick: You see a lot of companies. What's interesting coming down the pipe for marketing technology?

Scott Brinker: So, real quick, there is the back-end of marketing and the front-end of marketing. Some of the most exciting things happening on the back-end of marketing around this category of integration Platform-as-a-Service offerings, iPaaS, as it’s sometimes called, so it’s really making it easier for citizen integrators, which happen to be these marketing operations people all the time. Being able to much more easily connect different systems, proprietary systems, commercial systems, to do really exciting customer experience things across all of them. Sometimes, these are also customer data platform systems, is another interesting category there.

Front-end, wow! I mean, it's just… Every year, there are new innovations happening, new touch points emerging. I mean, right now, stuff happening with the Internet of Things is becoming very real. We're starting to see the inklings of AR and VR being an actual mainstream commercial technology, chatbots, voice-enabled things if you're doing it through Alexa or Google Home…  I mean, these are really exciting touch points between brands and their customers. So, yeah. A lot of innovation happening there in marketing.

Michael Krigsman: What’s the story of AI in marketing? You have about a minute; no, thirty seconds to answer that one! [Laughter]

Scott Brinker: You know, AI is just being embedded in everything. That’s one of the reasons I don’t have an AI category on that landscape. Almost every computational process in marketing is finding ways to leverage machine learning and other kinds of AI to be able to do things that we, as humans, would just have a hard time computationally managing ourselves.

Michael Krigsman: How much of that is hype and how much is actually useful and real?

Scott Brinker: Well, there's always more hype than reality, but a surprising amount of it's becoming very real, very fast. This is… Was it Eric […], Andrew McAfee, and you know, you talk about that second half of the chessboard where once you start gaining these exponential improvements in technology, in this case, computational capability, wow! I mean, things change quickly, and AI is becoming very, very real in a number of applications.

Michael Krigsman: Again, with our theme of discussing complicated topics very fast, privacy… You’re killing me, Scott! You’re killing me with the whole privacy thing. What about that, and personalization?

Scott Brinker: Yeah. It’s really tough. There’s definitely not a fast answer to that, other than I think this GDPR-like […], you know, in the EU is really fascinating because, first of all, the chaos it's creating among all the vendors and companies and whatnot there gives you a taste of just how complicated it is now to try and regulate this. But, it's interesting as people start to put draconian measures in place that every website you go through makes you fill out a multi-stage form of "Yes! You have permission to give me some friggin’ service over the web!” You know, I think you’ll start to see this consumer-level realization that there is a trade-off here. And, I think it’s going to be an open debate for some time as to what should be an implicit tradeoff between privacy and experience, and what does the consumer really want to be able to control themselves.

Michael Krigsman: Is there any hope for privacy at all? Or, are just simply screwed and we should acknowledge...

Scott Brinker: Well, Eric Schmidt… “You have no privacy! Get over it!” I don’t know. I’m not that much of an extreme, but I would say on the curve, you know, privacy is really, really hard to… We can’t go back to the era where the world is not interconnected down to the real-time microdata level. It’s just, this is… We’re here, and how do we manage with those privacy challenges rather than somehow roll back the clock to a golden age of, I don’t know, fire and stone.

Michael Krigsman: And we do like the fact that Amazon personalizes, and that’s a function of the data we’re giving away, and the more data that we give away, the more our privacy is gone.

Scott Brinker: Yup! This would be a whole CxOTalk discussion unto itself! [Laughter] And no short, magical soundbite on this one. It’s a complicated issue.

Michael Krigsman: And, we did a show with the Chief Privacy Officer of Cisco, by the way, and it was an entire show.

Scott Brinker: See? [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: All right! Well, we are out of time. You’ve been watching Episode #249 of CxOTalk and what a fast episode it’s been! We have been talking with Mr. Martech himself, Scott Brinker. Scott, thanks so much for taking the time and being here with us today!

Scott Brinker: No, thanks so much for having me, Michael!

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching. We have great shows. Go to the CxOTalk site, and be sure to "Like" us on Facebook, please! And subscribe on YouTube while you're doing it. Thanks so much, everybody. We appreciate that you're watching. We appreciate your patronage, and we'll see you next time. Have a great day!