Rise Of The “Marketing Technologist”: How To Choose The Right Marketing Tools With Scott Brinker From HubSpot [AMP 135]

Technology is supposed to help, not frustrate or overwhelm us. Do you struggle with using, choosing, or consolidating marketing technology tools? Marketers tend to love or hate specific tools. Is your favorite on Chiefmartec’s 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic? If not, there are more than 7,000 tools to consider. Which should you use? What to look for? Who should make the decision?

Today, my guest is Scott Brinker, vice president of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot and editor at Chiefmartec.com. He suggests various strategies for selecting tools, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.


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AMP135: Rise Of The

Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Purpose: Persuade marketing executives to pay attention to the intermingling of personalities and passions between marketers and technologists
  • Categories Covered: Advertising & Promotion, Content & Experience, Social & Relationships, Commerce & Sales, Data, and Management
  • Where to begin? Get clear on foundational systems (CRM, email, content management system, etc.)
  • Significant investment in time and learning; identify gaps to intentionally augment foundation with more specialized tools
  • Ecosystems developed around major platforms can help narrow your choices
  • Makeshift Marketing: Is it good enough?
  • Pieces of the Puzzle: Focus on the capabilities you need
  • Marketing department should identify point person/people to be responsible for operational infrastructure and technology of marketing
  • Ecosystem Mission: Evolution of product, partners, and programs

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Transcript:

Eric: I took my family to a Chinese restaurant the other weekend and as I approached the buffet table, I sat there and marveled at the variety of chicken dishes that I had to choose from. I’m talking sweet and sour chicken, kung pao chicken, General Tso’s chicken, Szechuan chicken, peanut chicken, orange chicken, pecking chicken, sesame chicken, chicken chow mein, I was literally paralyzed from all the awesome chicken dishes I had to choose from.

As I transitioned from Asian cuisine to the marketing technology landscape, it’s got to be overwhelming. It certainly is for ourselves here and for you as a marketer to figure out what are the marketing technologies I should be using. In fact, Chief Martec every year puts out their marketing technology landscape supergraphic. This year, there were over 7,000 marketing technology tools for us to look at and choose from.

Talk about a mind-melting moment, a paralysis to figure out what do I use. You got your all in one tools, your super niche tools. What do I do? How do I use these tools? That’s really confusing and really anxious moment for marketers to make sure we’re using the right technologies to help us be better marketers.

I brought on who else, Scott Brinker, he’s the VP of Platform and Ecosystem in HubSpot and he’s the editor at chiefmartec.com. I say, hey Scott, help us out here, what’s happening in this marketing and technology landscape, will there be consolidation, will it continue to grow, where do I start when choosing a marketing technology? What am I looking for? Lastly, who should be making this decision, is it the contributor on a marketing team or within a department, is it a director of marketing, is it CMO, or is there a new role called a marketing technologist that should be looking at the entire stack and figuring out how they all work together.

It’s a great conversation, something I’m sure you’ve wrestled with, something that we wrestled with here at CoSchedule as a marketing technology solution. I know you’ll love meeting Scott. My name is Eric Piela. I’m the host of the Actionable Marketing Podcast and the Brand and Buzz Manager here at CoSchedule, it’s going to be a fun one. Buckle up because it’s time to get AMP’ed.

All right everyone, welcome to another fantastic episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I’m excited to welcome our next guest on the show. His name is Scott Brinker, he’s the VP of Platform Ecosystem here at HubSpot and the Editor, Program Chair of Martech in chiefmartec.com. Scott, welcome to the show.

Scott: Thank you. It’s great to be here with you, Eric.

Eric: Yeah, absolutely. Well, this is fun. We’re going to be talking a lot about marketing technology—obviously something near and dear to CoSchedule’s heart, to my heart. I’ve been in the Martech game for 15-20 years now. I think it’s something that every listener on the podcast enjoys, and is a double-edged sword, something you love about marketing technology. There are obviously things that really can frustrate us. We’ll dive into all of that. But it’s great to have you on the show.

Scott, if you could introduce a little bit about your background, how you ended up at HubSpot, why you decided to spearhead Chief Martec in the Martech industry.

Scott: Sure. My background has been in marketing technology, in one form or another for most of my career. For a number of years, I ran the tech team for a web development agency to build website companies like Citrix, Siemens, created a SaaS product with the company called i-on interactive for interactive content for marketers.

Most recently, about 18 months ago, I joined HubSpot to help them with their platform ecosystem, helping HubSpot do a better job of connecting to all the other amazing marketing technology tools out there. That’s been my career, but in parallel to that, I’ve just personally been fascinated by this intermingling between the disciplines of marketers and technologists which not too long ago were on completely opposite ends of the career spectrum. The way the world has transformed in our digital age, these two professions just collided, mingled and evolved in fascinating ways. That’s what got me writing the Chief Martec blog. Then ultimately that led to the Martec conferences starting to pull together community and these hybrid professionals who live at that intersection.

Eric: Yeah, I love that you said that. Earlier in my career, I talked about this emergence technology and it having what I think was what I like to see, you’re going to have your marketing artist and your marketing scientist who were really driven by the creative set of marketing. Then you have this new breed of scientists or analysts that really love the technology or even marketing technologists who really love the technology behind it.

You have this intermingling of personalities, passions, and really great marketing team to have some of both. Sometimes, certain roles are forced to be kind of both. It has been a really interesting landscape, I think.

It’s funny, you talked about the Martech conferences. CoSchedule was at our first one in San Jose, which was fantastic, loved our experience there. We loved the conversations that we had there.

Of course this is super timely, it was just maybe a little over a month ago, maybe two months ago, you released your big yearly 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape–supergraphic, which I love. I love that, Scott. I wanna ask, but first of all, I have a quick anecdote. We’ve been keeping an eye on that–it’s always fun if you’re in marketing technology, a vendor like we are–where we at and looking for your logo in the Where’s Waldo? Of logos.

We thought we’d have some fun this year so we actually created a custom thousand-plus-piece puzzle of that super graphic. We actually have a bunch of nerds, puzzlers here, we love to do that. In our downtime, we literally have this puzzle we’ve started putting together that is of the super graphic and we’re putting it together, it’s a fun exercise.

My point being is this landscape has just seen this skyrocket growth. I’d love it if you could just talk about one… You’ve done it for a number of years, maybe 2013, 2012 you started, but you’ve seen obviously a lot of growth. But there’s been a slight change that you talked about in 2019. If you could, Scott, maybe just talk about that graphic, the landscape as a whole.

Scott: Sure. Man, I’m so jealous of that puzzle you have created. I’ve thought about that a few times, like that would be a really fun gift for Martech speakers or something. The fact that you’ve gone ahead and done it gave me a kick in the butt.

I started doing this in 2011. The first version of it had around 150 companies on it. The whole purpose of the graphic originally was simply to try and persuade marketing executives to pay attention to this collusion of these two professions. This whole idea of saying listen, you’re becoming more dependent on technology to execute your mission here. You’re probably going to augment your team with people who have that marketing technologist capability or as you said, sort of bringing a little bit more of the science or the analytics version of it.

That was fine. I kept coming back to that exercise year over year, just kind of out of my personal curiosity, how is this evolving? It really caught me by surprise as much as anyone else, just the way in which it blew up, it ballooned. From hundreds to thousands and many thousands.

You’re right, for seven years here, it was essentially double-digit or triple-digit growth year over year. What was fascinating this year is that this is the first year where we went through this exercise. We’re like, okay, essentially didn’t grow at all, it was like 3% growth or something like that. But we kind of wrestled with that because the way I framed it to the audience at Martec was is this peak Martec or is it just peak Martec landscape. The truth is we realized we just missed hundreds and hundreds of companies that legitimately would have qualified for the landscape but they were based in different markets, different countries. There were those that really focused on vertical industries, solutions of a particular kind. You’ve got these ecosystems now around so many different products. I kind of realized that oh my goodness, we frankly really only scratched the surface of what’s actually out there.

Eric: Yeah. Just when we thought it was saturated, maybe it’s still continuing to saturate with more and more technologies. That’s growth. Even the ones that you happen to cover, Scott, it could be content marketing platform, social media platform, if you look at the graphic, I will make sure to link to it. There are these different categories.

We have our own marketing technologies tact that we’ve tried to implement here at CoSchedule. I’m leading a marketing team or I’m a marketing practitioner or I’m a CEO of a business trying to figure out which tools to use, it has got to be extremely daunting when you’re trying to figure out which tool to use, how many of these do I actually need, where do I start? I mean, do you have any practical advice around instead of looking at that graphic and wanting to kind of throw up because of where do I begin, how do I go okay, I can tackle this, where do I begin, Scott?

Scott: Well definitely I’m actually witty on my first advice to people who ask for it. Crumple up that landscape and toss it in the wastebasket. It’s not designed as a tool to help people hone in on what tools they should use. It’s quite frankly more than anything else just a discussion piece of hey, listen, it is worth stepping back at the 50,000 foot level and recognizing just how incredibly diverse and expansive our industry is. The strategies we need to use to actually navigate that happens at a very different level.

What I usually recommend to people are a couple things. First, get really clear about what your foundational systems are. What are the things that are going to be–as Gartner might call it–your systems of record? Typically this is stuff like okay I’m going to have a CRM, I’m probably going to have some sort of marketing animations slash emails slash campaign system. I’m probably going to have some sort of CMS, or web experience management platform, maybe a digital asset management system. I’ve got e-commerce.

You can probably count on one hand these fundamental systems that are the heart of your marketing technologies stack. Then I think what you’re looking to do is once you’ve got that in place, and you’ve got those things working, and that’s not necessarily a trivial challenge for a lot of companies. Just getting that stuff in a good shape is a significant investment of time and learning.

But once you’ve got that stuff in place and you understand the tools we’ve got here, and what capabilities do they give us, then you start to then identify either the gaps where you’re like okay there’s this particular use case I have, like maybe I want to manage some campaign with influencers that my core CRM can’t do. Now I can start to go out and very intentionally augment my foundation with more specialized tools.

One of the things I recommend, I’ve been talking about this a lot lately, again full disclosure, part of this is deeply tied in with what I do at HubSpot. But this idea of saying listen, these ecosystems that are developing around these major platforms are actually a really helpful way to sort of narrow the choice set. If you’re running whether it’s HubSpot, Salesforce or Marketo or whatever your foundational systems are, each one of them has a pretty rich ecosystem these days, these more specialized solutions that plug into them. Once you’ve made your decisions on your platforms, to then be able to say I’ve identified point solution needs, I can start by going to the ecosystem of my primary platform. Then sort of looking like okay what’s the best one that’s going to fit cleanly into this without me having to reinvent the wheel. There’s a bunch of strategies you take with this. Even just starting there, you don’t have to boil the ocean.

Eric: Yeah, I know it’s great advice to think of something that we all can think about and hopefully we’ve began early to that process contemplating which to add an immediate interesting point. You talked about integrations and potential tools written together that’s something we’ve done here CoSchedule HubSpotting integration partner. We see the value there because one of the things that I’d love you to comment on is this, one of the narratives that we always share. We talked with all of our customers and it’s really good marketing research to be on phone calls with prospectives and even existing customers and we kind of labeled it makeshift marketing because what we’ve seen marketers do is they’ve kind of cobbled these varied tools together in order to let through a process that’s kind of good enough. They’re doing a lot of copy and pasting, nothing seemed to clearly work together. But it’s kind of like this is good enough, right? And we call that process makeshift marketing.

The idea is how do we, as marketers, get around technology’s post to help us. The idea was going to make us become more efficient which is going to help our skills, it is going to increase all things—the productivity and everything, to save us time and money etc. But we, sometimes I know we hear a lot where it’s become sort of more work because you’re using multiple tools to try to do multiple things. Nothing talks to each other so have you seen yourself talk about ecosystems, the part integrations where do you see to kind of look into future, Scott, like what’s going to be important for marketers to consider as they start to invest more dollars and cents into marketing technology?

Scott: Again, I’m biased on this but I think the ecosystem mission is really important for exactly the reasons that you outlined that basically, marketers don’t have the time or necessarily even the skills. Or should they even have the skills to be in the integration business. This really is something that the platforms and the app developers, it is within our grasp to say, okay, we can do this, right. We could map out how to make these things connect, we can have standards, not just on how they exchange data but on how they work together across workflows, how they are able to share elements of the UI and user experience across. We can put standardized structures in place in the ecosystems around governance. You’re like oh, I know anything I get from this ecosystem is going to be GDPR-compliant.

A bunch of these stuff that basically, if we on the development side work together to solve these, the whole benefit of that to the marketing world should be like you focus on the capabilities you need and picking those. We’re going to take the hard work once you’ve decided what capabilities you want, being able to share to you that these things plug in a lot more like lego pieces rather than here’s a roll of duct tape, good luck.

Eric: Right. That’s interesting to talk about kind of the decision process. Let’s talk a little bit about the role of the marketing technologist. I know you’ve talked about this before, Scott, and this seems to be a title that’s starting to pop up here and there. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily widespread. It comes back to who was the individual that’s choosing these tools. We run into marketing directors, we run into marketing managers, and then everyone’s from CMO. And then depending on the market sometimes, the CIO will step in if it’s a larger enterprise type of organization. As a marketer, who should be making the decisions on these tools? Is it a panel, a board of people, or is it this marketing technologist whose job is to truly understand what is their foundational framework? How are all these are going to work together? How do you see that playing out or what have you seen in your experience at all, Scott?

Scott: Something to keep in mind is this still, although so much has happened so quickly, this is still a relatively young profession and it’s a pretty young structure. Just 10 years ago, marketing was not doing nearly the sorts of things they’re doing with technology today. I think it’s okay to acknowledge that across all these different businesses, different stages of their transformation, their different internal structures, different business models, there’s just a lot of variants out there and how people manage this and that’s okay.

We’re at a stage where we’re still learning and things are still evolving. That being said, I will say where the pattern that I see that’s most common that seems to be growing in popularity is this idea of saying a marketing department, among other things, should have a marketing ops/marketing technology leader/team or if it’s a really small company just whoever it is who’s going to raise their hand and wear that hat. But you basically identify someone or some set of people that take responsibility for the operational infrastructure and technology of marketing.

They certainly wouldn’t decide these things in the back-end, new technology’s going to be a question as well, what are the needs elsewhere in marketing or serving. If there’s an IT organization that has governance in place for things like what are going to be the SLAs, these technology, and do they need these compliance and crime.

It’s all good, but I think for the marketing ops and tech team, inside marketing to basically be the point, people, all the folks who take the responsibility and say, “Okay the buck will stop with us. We will make this stop altogether.” Then they manage the inputs from these different constituents and stakeholders. That seems to be the model that the world is converging towards. Again, I see so many exceptions to the rule too that it’s like I got my truths entirely rolled.

Eric: That’s something that I think if I’m going to go into marketing, if you’re coming fresh out of college you’re not thinking about I need to systematically think about the technology, infrastructure I’m going to put. I would agree, it’s still kind of a new concept and I think finding that right individual or that team of people to really think methodically about that is becoming more and more important.

Again, what we see, and it kind of goes back to that makeshift marketing story, you got a social team that’s looking for a social tool. Now, my content team is looking for content marketing platform. Oh, I need a project management platform to make sure it all works together. Oh, crap! Now none of these talk to each other, why can’t I do this all on the same place? That’s some of the things that CoSchedule’s trying to address with some of our organizers. But we see that and I’m sure you see that. I love that idea that someone needs to be responsible to figure out, and to think about how these things are going to work together, what are the tools that we actually need?

We talked about what’s the priority of those tools and how do they play nice with each other because I think whether that’s someone that has an official title or someone raising their hand and saying this is an important piece of what we’re going to be doing as a marketing team and as a unit that we need to make sure that someone’s spearheading this. I love that concept and it’s definitely something that our listeners should keep in mind.

At HubSpot, what are some of the things that you do?  We actually had Kieran Flanagan on this show a couple of months ago, another VP at HubSpot, but you’re focusing on the ecosystem, right? What are some of the things that you’re looking at as you prepare HubSpot for 2020 and beyond? You guys are obviously a juggernaut in the marketing ecosystem but obviously you got a long game as well. How do you see that ecosystem, being a part of that, Scott?

Scott: I think in general, there are two levels to this. There’s the evolution of our product, we want to continually open up more APIs, more extension points, provide better developer tools, better developer experience, documentation, example. There’s so much we can do so that when someone says, “Oh, I wanna build something on top of HubSpot,” or “I want to integrate my product with HubSpot,” the better of an experience it can make for those developers and engineers, that’s one whole half of the mission.

The other half of it is okay, as we get this ecosystem of amazing partners who have all these capabilities they’re in a position to offer customers, how do we design the business half to really support that? This is having the right partner programs, having things like a great marketplace, having marketing programs that allow our partners to be able to reach our customer base and be able to get in front of them with the solutions they have. Being able to implement some of those government responsibilities like picking something like security and privacy regulations, being in a position where when we certify apps in our ecosystem, that becomes a real stamp of approval that our customers can say, “Oh, okay, we can trust this.”

That trust in the ecosystem removes restriction for the customers who then when they see something in the marketplace, they say, “Oh, wow! That sounds exactly like the capability I want to add to my HubSpot portal. We want them to feel that they’ve got the information and the trust to be able to install it. Those two halves are what we’re working towards.

Eric: I can’t get that super graphic out of my brain. You got a lot of these single-function tools. It feels like it goes back and forth. First, there’s the one that does it all, that can do a bunch of stuff, then they got the individual toolsets, the technologies that maybe do one thing really, really well. Do you see a consolidation happening in the Martech space where companies are going to come together and create a multifunction type of tool? Maybe not the capacity that HubSpot does, but is that something that as a marketer we should be keeping an eye on or do you think the kind of single tool that just does that specific function extremely well is still viable going into the future?

Scott: Yeah, it’s a great question. What’s fascinating about the Martech industry is it feels like it’s a continual pendulum in every category of both of those things. Other things being equal, yes, people prefer fewer tools rather than more tools. When you have a tool that’s able to aggregate a larger set of capabilities, there are certainly advantages to that.

But as it turns out for specific functions, capabilities, and use cases, the needs that people have, not only do they get highly-specialized, but they vary tremendously. What I think is a great tool might actually be very different from someone who’s a content manager for a living. That might be very different from someone who’s acting as a true editorial director. You get all these different use cases and I think there’s so much value to that continuum of apps where there are some that aggregate a whole bunch of capabilities and become more horizontal and more general purpose, but I think when you’ve got these apps that specialize in particular capability for a particular audience, for particular use cases, they almost are always able to innovate those solutions and ways that are frankly impossible to do in a generic way. What makes it special is the fact that it was designed and the people behind it, very often it’s not just a business to them, it’s not just what they do for a living, it’s like a passion. They are really, deeply passionate about that particular slice of the universe. It’s hard to scale that to a super generalized one-ring to rule them all.

Eric: Yeah, that’s good insight. It’s obviously something that we’re keeping our eyes on here at CoSchedule. I’m sure you are as well at HubSpot. It will be really fascinating to see each year how it continues to grow, is there consolidation, what does it looks like. It’s certainly exciting to see how those things progress.

Well, Scott, our time is almost up here. I want to thank you so  much for coming on the show. Scott, if they want to learn more about the Martech space or get introduced to your site to learn more about some of the technologies, where’s the best place for them to go and read up on some of this?

Scott: You can certainly come to my blog at chiefmartec.com. I’m also @chiefmartec on Twitter and happy to connect.

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