Accelerating Value
Accelerating Value

Episode 2 · 1 year ago

Insights from the Godfather of Martech: Scott Brinker

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

One person has been documenting the rise of martech in corporations since the very beginning. For Scott Brinker, VP Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot, the Chief Marketing Technologist blog started out as a labor of love driven by his fascination with the entanglement happening between IT and software development and marketing. Since its inception, it has delivered massive value to the industry at large.

In this episode, we cover:

- What led him to create Chief Marketing Technologist

- The volatility and velocity of change over the past 30 months with respect to martech

- Two things successful companies are doing to ride the wave

- Finding harmony between human and machine to increase speed to insight

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Today. Every budget approval is an investment deal. If you're a marketer, sales or business leader, you had to promise to deliver value and impact. Writing the wave to get there is hard enough. Finding your way through the storm is even harder. If you're looking for that path forward so that you don't wipe out. You've come to the right place. Let's get into the show, everybody. This is accelerating value, the podcast that takes a look at value right, and that's this is something that is not only in the eye of the beholder, it also has some real definitions around it as well. But those definitions vary from person to person and organization to organization, and so this is where every week we talked to somebody either high and exalted or maybe just getting started in their in their career. We have some of those as well, and cross not only marketing but many other disciplines inside of a company or an organization. About how do they see it? How do they see the value that they create? How intentional are they about it? Are they do they have a game plan? Do they have a business case? Even if that's the case, how do they find it right? How do they get sustain it across time and what is the value of their definition of value versus everyone else is definition about? So there's just all kinds of stuff that we peer into and and the whole goal here is to showcase what what our guests have to say about it in the hopes that it will help you in your own quest to create value. So today we have a grand daddy of all guests. Right, it's just some sort of crack on my age. Let me so. So the Scott brinker wears many hats, but one of them is the godfather of Martek. Right. So that's what I meant, right, and it's a better but will will let that one slide. So, so he also runs product marketing at up spot. He has his hands and in other pies as well, inside and outside up spot. But a long time ago, what was that like? Twelve years ago, that started the blog or the that crazy landscape or yeah, so something called chief Martek popped onto everyone's radar and in kind of the first, you know, really memorable artifact. I think. You know, if you go back and...

...talk to a thousand people, this is what they'll say. is a is a logo chart categorized by different categories of Martek and things like that, and that has, you know, over the years, become steadily more and more dense and and has really documented the rise of Martek incorporations and the challenges. And I think that that one of the things that that you really do very well, Scott, is that you part of your role is to be a cheerleader from Martek, but part of your role is also to throw some well chosen rocks at Martek right and say hey, guys, you know, these are challenges that that are not being grappled with, or they're being grappled with incompletely or, you know, whatever the case is right, and I think that you have done that very, very well. And the reason why I say all that is that that right there created a lot of value for a lot of people. Thank you. So let me just go let me ask you to go back in time and say, when you first started chief Martek, did you have a plan for the value that you wanted to create, or was this like something you just started doing and then it caught fire and then you started to understand how you were creating value and you needed more of it? How did you how did you approach it? Yeah, it's interesting. So I would say the chief Martech things started as a Labor of love and I've actually worked really hard to keep it as a laborer love. You know. I mean so the work I do professionally, like before I joined hub spot, I was a cofounder and cteo of ASSASS company myself. You know, the work I do at hub spot with growing their platform ecosystem. I mean, don't get me wrong, for all of those things I'm a very clear set of objectives, like a strategy, looking at, you know, how we create value with the chief Martex stuff, because it started as a laborer love. I was just fascinated by this entanglement that was happening between what it started as like two disciplines on the opposite end of the career spectround, you know it, and software development and marketing. I mean, wow, if these two groups ever met in the hallway, they wouldn't even recognize each other, you know. But yeah, it was clear, you know, over the past decade, two decades, I mean these these communities were entangling, they were creating new kinds of professionals, they were changing the way the organization's work. I was just fascinated by that and so kind of my guiding principle from the beginning with mart chief Martec was do things that I find really interesting and one of the ways I learned things and figure them out in my own head is to try I explain them to other people. And the fact that, yeah, now other people, you know, have gotten some...

...value out of that, I'm incredibly gratified by. But yeah, it's mostly like okay, well, that sounds like maybe then the explanation I got in my head. Maybe that's a positive feed like that. Okay, maybe, maybe that is the explanation for it. So so, actually, this was a question that that someone we both know asked me to ask you in this interview. That's same room, by the way. Do you see yourself, and I know this sounds like a loaded question, but it's really not meant that way, do you see yourself as an arbiter of MARTE's value? Well, think I'd be in put myself in the arbiter position. That's a pretty that's a pretty lofty position to have. I'm not sure anyone is the arbiter in like a universal sense. I think at the end of the day what it comes down to is who's the arbiter value in individual companies. You know, who are the people who are raisingly our hand and taking responsibility for how do I make this stuff deliver a real value to our customers, to our organization? And, to be honest, it's actually one of the reasons why I've always I you know, tell meet me where. I really love this stuff, I enjoy it, but I'm always sheepish about somehow being the representative of this industry, because the truth is I'm not a marketing operations person. I don't even play one on TV. You know, the people who I look at as I think as the real heroes are the people I talk to who they are leading marketing operations in these organizations. They were struggling with these challenges of how did they deliver value, how did they represent that value? So No, I'm not a Nord in arbitrary I maybe maybe an advocate does that. Yeah, no, absolutely, and I think that that SOM what I said to think about that was, you know, I'm never seen Scott do a review, right, even even at the at the category level. Right. I've never seen you like say well, this is the this is my top ten or my top five or whatever. Right you. You're more of an analyst of sorts, pointing a spotlight on two different issues rather than different companies. Yeah, part of that is also my I think it's kind of just a humility in the fact that there's so much happening with so many companies, so many innovators. I mean this whole landscape that just keeps growing at such a, you know, expansive rate. To be honest, I'm always a little bit skeptical of people who claim to be able to be the arbitraries of these you know, and breath, because there's just it's just so much going on and like which solution is right for which company depends an awful lot on the particulars of, you know, the company that's adopting that solution. You know, I know we come from a world in the trip classic...

...analyst space where, you know, there's these grids of like, okay, there are six players of this space and here's how we map out these six players. And there was a time where I think that way of framing it was actually reasonably effective. But in today's world, with it's just so many things, there's so interoperable in you know, I mean people are customizing things, are adding their own pieces there. It just I think it's very difficult to somehow be like a universal you know, jolly okay, this is the category, these are the three companies done, but not to take anyway, anytime, anything away from someone who's actually doing that is great at it. I guess I'm just very cognitive the fact that I I'm not smart enough to be able to do that. I've I think that that's right on. So let me ask you this question. You know, a lot of things changed in the last fourteen or fifteen months, right. One of them was, and we see this, it proved with customer data spanning like two thousand and Nineteen, two thousand and twenty and now in to two thousand and twenty one. There's just literally no it's all important. The historical data is important to what's going on right now, but the amount of volatility in the velocity of change that's represented in that roughly thirty month period right, is huge. Right. And so what everybody has kind of figured out to some degree, expost facto for the most part, is, you know, what was working before isn't working now. That poses challenges for people process technology, right, and the way that all that kind of links up how do you see this issue specific to Martek, because it's way beyond Martek, right, when you can read about hrros having exactly the same conversations, right, I mean that this is it's everywhere, right. So how would how do you see kind of the not necessarily the change in the products, okay, but the change in the way that those products are being used today, to sort of pierce the veil on this problem? Yeah, it's it is a fascinating challenge. I feel like this is, you know, we're living in such a dickens state of like the best of times and the worst of times. I mean it's it's amazing so much of what's innovating the fact that we have the opportunity at this point in time to help be a part of this change and you know shape, you know, this future of the business. Yeah, it's I mean it's an incredible opportunity. But yeah, at the same time, just the rate of change and things that are swirling around us. I mean,...

...as human beings we have limits to how much of this we can just, you know, internally process and so I don't know, I guess I would say there there are two big things I see in organizations that are making the difference right now. One is this point, actually designing for change. I think these days of like, you know, mapping out stuff you know very completely, of like this is our five year planned or how we're going to do this, I think those days are gone. I think what we now need to be thinking is, okay, we've got a we've got a vision in a strategy, we know we're headed towards, like our North Star, and now what we want to put in place is a set of capabilities and infrastructure that not only do what we need them to do today, but that one of the key characteristics were optimizing for is adaptability and evolution and change. You know, I think anytime you're if you're adopting systems or processes now, that start to feel like like a litmus test. would be like, okay, if a year from now I had to change this, how painful would that be? Like? If the answer is right, really painful, then you might be like, so some other way I could do this. That wed me a little bit more optionality. And so I think this whole idea of everything from how we architect systems to how we implement like ongoing training and professional development. You know, for you know, our human resource you know. I think that's that's really important. And then the other thing I think that's changed and I see the leaders in this space getting really good at, is this this idea that, you know, each one of these little pieces of the organization, you know, is digitizing its own elements. Right, it's not just about the big hall, it's even down in the you know, the sort of the the infinite niches of the business. You know they're steadily digitizing. You know what they do and how they contribute. That you know, and I think if you recognize that, there's an opportunity to balance, on one hand, centralization of being able to connect these things together so they don't get isolated, you know, in their own little pockets, but at the same time balance that with enough freedom and empowerment. You know that those little niches are able to very quickly iterate and adapt what they need to be able to execute on and I think you could. I mean, this is not an easy balance to manage, but I feel like this is the challenge. Is If we can balance those two things and we can do it in an environment where we're designing for change and we can adapt as new things happen, as they will, very likely fast rate. I kind of feel like that's that's the best you can do and actually that's all. That's a...

...lot. You don't even have to be perfect that that you just have to be better at it than your competitors and you can get a real, you know, powerhouse in this environment. So one of the things that you and I've talked about a lot over the last a couple years is the you know, the classic people, Process Technology kind of triangle and how you know, once again, lots and lots of evidence on this right, that people are the long pole. Right, one of the things that markers stereotypically have been thought really prize historically, like in less say ten or fifteen years of particular, is orchestration. Do you see that? How do you feel about the the idea that, culturally speaking, that priority, that value that they prize, or at least some of them prize, right, is the enemy of agility and and the ability to deal with change? Yeah, no, that's a great question. I think that that gets exactly to that heart of that centralization be centralization tradeoff that you're trying to balance, because I think this idea of perfect orchestration. It's really hard at scale and I'm not even sure that if, theoretically, we achieved it in some Nirvana state, that the well, they call that, let's like the diminishing returns. Like, as you ask some topically right like perfect orchestration, how much net additional value is being created through that process? You know I mean. Yet and yet it was seen for a long time as being kind of like a one of the defining characteristics of competence as marker. Well, yeah, but okay, so if we got a spectrum, we're on one hand it's like complete chaos, nothing is coordinated whatsoever, and on the other hand it's like perfectly orchestrated. Make no mistake, yeah, I'm in agreement. The total chaos one is, I believe, the technical term, and shit show right, you do. You don't want to do that. Mean, at the end of the day, I could sort look at it through the Lens of the customer. Like, first and foremost, you don't want to come across as completely schizophrenic, disconnected in the way that customers engage with you. And customers engage with you now through a variety of different channels, at a variety of different touchpoints, you know. And so I think what you need at the orchestration level is enough cohesion across how those things are happening that the experience you're giving it doesn't have to be optimized down to we use the exact word here that we use used in this and we figured this color blue over here, Gordon, you know. But 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 at these different points. I feel like that level of orchestration you have to do. If you don't do that, you just pissing people off. It's like when you start to go further down that path of like, okay, not necessarily even for customer driven interactions, but for marketer driven interactions, you know, how big is the scope of things we want orchestrated and how tightly orchestrated is it? I mean, you know, customer journeys are like one of these things too, where it's right. I mean it's actually probably a great metaphor for this is if you were to try and map your customer journey. It's an interesting question to ask. Okay, at what level of granularity can you get before it just becomes fiction? Right now, you won't eat. You want to make it as granular as you can because understanding, you know these different stages of the customer journey. Let you make sure that you're able to serve, you know what they're looking for at those stages and you're able to measure are we doing a good job at those different stages? But when you start to get down to a level of granularity of like okay, and at this point they will go from this page over to this page and then we expect an exactly five minutes, they're going to want to tweet about this like it's the level, like you're just making this stuff up, like you know it is. And I kind of feel that's that's another proxy for thing about orchestration. Like yes, you want to orchestrate across, you know, the customer journey, but once starts to get down to a level of like, you know, really minute, you know interconnections between things, it's like it's a it's a ton of work, not much any I don't know. So then let me ask you this. So if we kind of use product management and Dev right as is kind of a comparison, right, because that's where this really came from. So you have waterfall, right, and you have agile and and waterfall had governance built into it and agile sort of kind had some governance built into it, right, but what was prized was the reaction to change, right, and you could iterate. And yet when we won't, so particularly wont when Agile is applied to non tangible things. So not a product but more like a let's call marketing a service for a second. Okay, things can get you can iterate and iterate and iterate in the middle of high velocity iteration, right, and then you can kind of like lose your bearings. Right. How do you feel that that Martek is moving right now to help people manage this? And I'm intentionally being very, very general, right, because you just point out very eloquently, it kind of is all it's there's some elasticity in this, but nevertheless, if you are a CFO, for example, you tend to see this...

...more rigidly then maybe other maybe a sales leader would right. And so you there is this perception not only in marketing but also in big transformation projects. So we do some work on that with different sizes. where? How do you govern it? Where is the eye in the sky? So you're talking about the North Star Right. How do you how do you see that kind of evolving now post covid wow, there is a ton in that question. Like I think we could probably do like three podcast episodes just from that. I accept. except. So I guess let me start with the first thing that came to mind, the way that that set up was, which because he kind of pressed one of my buttons, which I feel like there's been a lot of people over time who have tried to position Agile methodologies is somehow being on the other end of the spectr from this sort of like you know, oh well, you get you can be strategic and coordinated or you can be agile, and I guess I just I disagree with the premise there. I feel like, like you know, a lot of the real agile methodologies out there, they were designed to have this balance where, yes, you have to have a feedback loop, you have to be able to iterate, but one of the things they do with those short feedback loops is there are control mechanisms at the start and the end of each feedback loop. Absolutely could happen there is. Those should be the points where both, a you're getting a measurement reading and you're also making sure that it aligns, you know, with a higher level strategy and objective, because that is your guard rail to make sure that you're not just like iterating off into, you know, some random space. Now, don't get me wrong, I think there is a real problem that a lot of people do agile and they don't put those control mechanisms in place, and I think it's fair to then say like, okay, people who don't have those control mechanisms are at that risk of sort of iterating independent of the rest of the where there's just so many simultaneous things that are iterating, including stuff that's not under your control. That's true, but again, like I would still say, like you know anything. There's almost another point, a very good one, of like okay, yeah, what are the variables you're working with and what are the variables outside of your control? But again, I kind of feel like the whole point of Agile, in my opinion, is you want to have these short enough cycles that when variables change, whether the ones you controlled or, frankly, something externally, you have the mechanism to react. But if you don't have those like, you know, guard rails about the start of each of that cycle of like okay, what we're actually going to do? How does this a lineup,...

...you know, again with our core strategy, our core objectives? What's the measurement mechanism so that when we get to the end of this, you know, cycle, we can say, all right, you know, is this working? Is it not working? You know, and again these things. Probably don't want to a whole podcast on that. Child. No, no, it's great's all good. Let me, let me, let me ask you this, though. Do you do you feel like that? And so this is part of this is a totally unfair question because it's an overgeneralization, right, but I'm at a loss. It's how to frame an any other way. If we think about kind of the typical MARTEX stack implementation, even among the top third, right the best, do you feel like that the feedback loops, from a data standpoint, are currently fast enough to handle that level of iteration, or do you feel like that that you know that that needs to be enhanced? Yeah, I mean so my impression is, yeah, this isn't so much about would agile work or not work in, you know, management of a stack. I think there's a brought her like a the the related question is, are people actually thinking about stack management that way? And I think my opinion is most people are not. You know that these stacks are coming together, probably at a lot of companies, still in a mode that's incredibly ad hoc. Or again, it's hard to generalize this stuff, but it's almost like, I mean these stacks are large. I mean we now know, like if you ask someone what the size of their stack is, pretty much guarantee you there underestimating it, probably by a factor of two. But that kind of speaks to the fact that these stacks are unevenly integrated. Like even within a given stack, you know, people think like Oh yeah, my core, like Crm, here's the couple things I am to it, and then the universe of other things that start to get related to that, you know, the the you could almost picture like a solar system model where, okay, yeah, you know, the planets closest to the sun, they're, you know, have a certain you know, gravitational relationship with it that you know, as you get further and further out, you know, into the ORC cloud of you know, the MARTEC stack or whatnot. Then like the gravitational connection there is just not as strong. And so I think, yeah, I mean, you know, people have gotten much better with the core of their stacks, I think. I think it's unusual for a company of any size to be like completely uncoordinated with their, you know, the top three to five major elements and their stack. But once you get beyond those top three to five, yeah, I think a lot of people are still not actually managing that in an orchestrated, you know, fully governed way. Right. One of the things that we've noticed a lot in the last year is the time to insight, whether we're talking...

...about data or analytics, right. Is the really huge challenge that people are trying to grapple with, right, and that it's almost like, by the time they get the information, the future is no longer the future. And so how do you? And then there's you know, there's a lot of research that transcends this whole discrete topic, that that says that the average human being, the unaided human brain, can't handle more than four variables, and so intuiting all this becomes all but impossible. It's sort of like the reason, or the differences between flying a fighter plane and combat in World War Two versus today. Right, though, the variability is exponential. And then the speed is just an or, you know, many orders of magnitude greater, right, so everything's happening faster and thus it becomes harder to do it without computer aids right in the cockpit. Yeah, why, I love your analogy there with, you know, the World War Two to modern day fighter planes, and I think that's a very apt way of looking at it. Is, you know, this is where there's a tremendous opportunity, you know, for Ai, machine learning, for automation. But I think what gets really exciting is, you know, not like Oh, can that's all be done by a human or can this be all entirely automated by a machine, but how do we find these sweet spots, you know, where we're weird leaning into leveraging the technology to deal with the curse of dimensionality? You know, that's happening in the environment around us. But that for the way in which these things in our connect because I think that's where a lot of machine learning and AI is still very challenged, like within its domain. Wow, man, you know, can outthink you know, an army of us, but when you start trying to connect dots across domains, that's just we're just not there yet, you know, on an AI. Yeah, it's not. It's not poly Mathic, right, you know. And so I think when you get that combination of the machine for simple things just, you know, responding immediately, but where things start to like be more of a set of signals that need to be raised for for a human to be able to connect the dots, not just across them a but also across things like, Oh, was this mean for my organization? Was this mean for, you know, like our strategy? You know, was it? You know, it's like those combinations. I mean we barely begun to scratch, you know, those possibilities. It's you know. And so I I'd say this next ten years, I think that's sort of I've sometimes called this the harmonizing of human and machine. Sure, I think there's going to be a lot of innovation for that. That that's I'm bullish on it. But yeah, I'll be...

...the first tecknoledge. We are barely at the beginning of that here in April two thousand and twenty one. I to check it like what Mounth covid plan is that it's like one month of the year. It's the so shifting gears here. You think about how you how you invest in value your personal life? How do you think about that? I mean, because we're tempted to say, well, it's altruistic and you know, all this kind of stuff, but even within not for profit type stuff, right, there's a tradeoff, there's a there's an opportunity cost, and so your you know, I know in my life, right, I'm always kind of saying, wow, I kind of have a choice on how I can spend my time here where, you know, what's going to be the best way for me to do that. How do you think about it? Because there's a kind of a short, medium and long horizon view of that, right, and again that's the same as in business. But I mean, how do you how do you think about that? Yeah, it's interesting. You know, I swear her about the family side of that very differently, like pretty much everything else in my life outside of family, to be honest, all merges into all things Martech, which makes me one of the most boring people on the planet. You know, if I think about friends I have who are not, not family and not MARTECH. I'm trying to think like if there's like if they that's the empty set, you know, because even friends I've had who were at Martec, I'm like here, let me show you why this is so cool. So either they got excited to or they're like, Scott, I'm just not going to be your friend anymore. Of Our I don't know. I mean I feel like, you know, one of the reas. I mentioned this earlier, like the thing with chief Martech. I've gone out of my way to keep that as a labor of love. So, for instance, I do not keep an editorial schedule for, you know, my blog, which anyone who followed my blog, people be Ley, say yeah, he definitely doesn't give an editorial schedule, you know, and I basically only right things when I when I feel like it. I'm like, oh well, that's really interesting, I'd like to write that up, and you know, it's that basically the complete I mean, I'm sure there's a bunch of people who are like professional thought leaders and content marketers who, like hearing me say this, are like you crazy man, but for me that's that's how I'm able to sustain that piece of my life is. It's it's not a job, it's it's what I do for fun, you know. And then for me, yeah, this what's helped me sustain that is the fact that other people do get value out of that. Yeah, it's it's rewarding. I mean it's I kind of feel like I get two bites of the...

Apple. It's like, I'll I learned by writing this stuff and doing that stuff and I find great joy in that, you know. And then when I hear that other people, you know, found what I wrote about that useful and it helped them, I'm like, Oh wow, that's that's great, and I don't know if I'd be able to do that if I didn't keep it in this bucket of like okay, this, this is the Labor of love. So, anyway, that's that's it on everything except family, and for family it's actually the Ben Diagram does not intersect. My wife does not want to hear anything about Myr deck her family when I have them, you know, like they don't want to hear anything about myr deck, and that's perfectly fine by me. Yeah, and I think I have a similar situation right. I mean, and actually it's one of these I've learned is that I talk so much about all this on a regular basis that when I'm not doing it, I really don't want to talk about it. You know, I used to, I used to be very used to actually be professionally in politics, and one of the things that that was true for every official or candidate or whatever that I was ever around and a part of, was that they had pretty much at any one time two speeches, not three. They had to. This was pretty you know, maybe in a campaign situation it would go to three and they would tourtly iterated a little bit for the circumstances of the audience that they were before and all, but it was still this two or three stock speeches and by the end of the campaign or the period of time whatever, right, they were so sick of talking about those three things that they just couldn't take it anymore. Right, it was like give me something new. And I do think that that this kind of dovetails somewhat with what you were saying about keeping it joyful, keeping it fun for you, keeping keeping it sort of advocational. Right is that it's the only way to sustain it. Right. As soon as you as soon as you feel like that your whole being, and this is definitely true in politics, right, that your whole being kind of rides on the success of these speeches or whatever. Right, it sucks all the joy out of it. There's only been probably two politicians in the twenty century. One is Bill Clinton and the other is LBJ who sort of for different reasons, free inscended that framework. Right. So I'm right there with you. Yeah, thanks. Thanks so much for this. I think that we're going to really highlight the, you know, the Martech part of this, because this has been a really,...

...really interesting discussion about a lot of the issues that underpin where everybody is right. That isn't really about this part of our attack or that part of our attack or this sales teck or whatever right. It's. It's and it's not really philosophical either. It's highly operational right, but it's where people are circumstantially, given what we've just been through. Cool. Why? Thank you so much for the you know, the analogy there with the World War Two fighter and Modern Day fighter plane. That's that's now stuck in my head where we're actually working on a on a video at proof right now that uses that analogy because, among other things, it's very visually catching and high energy and all that kind of stuff. Right, and it's kind of like doesn't matter who you are, for that brief moment you're going to say, well, that's pretty cool. Yeah, no, I's yeah, congrats, band I brilliantly just paints a picture and like five seconds. It's amazing. Thank you so much. And if you if you would love to come back and talk about agile or anything else like that, right, you always are. Welcome. You all, I mean, and I'll reach even reach out to you, you know, after a suitable period and and say hey, is that still burning a hole in your pocket? That sounds good. I'd be delighted to do this again with you. Thanks so much. All right, guys, we have another great session with Scott Brinker and look forward to the next week. The sooner you can optimize your marketing spend, the quicker you can start delivering clear, measurable value to Your Business. That's exactly where business GPS from. Proof analytics can help learn more at proof analytics DOT AI. You've been listening to accelerating value, where raw conversations about the journey to business impact help you weather the storm ahead. To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time,.

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