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What does the future hold for your MarTech stack? Chief marketing technologist Scott Brinker gives insight into what brands can learn from the marketing tech employed by others, tackles the challenges of integration, and gives advice on handling attribution data.

Marketing is in a constant state of evolution thanks to the ever-changing technology available to marketers. So it is better to closely guard your marketing secrets, or share them with other industry professionals for the good of the many?

According to MarTech Conference program chair and VP of platform ecosystem at Hubspot, Scott Brinker, the future marketing stacks depends largely on the motivation of companies and vendors to seek out others in the professional space with which to share their ideas.

Marketing technology vendors display more eagerness than most to share their stacks in order to demonstrate specifically where their product fits into the larger ecosystem of marketing technology. However, an emerging group of companies are also starting to demonstrate a desire to share stacks – Scott singles out Red Wing Shoes as a prime example – whom he praises for their foresight.

“I think what we’re seeing here is the emergence of a community of the professionals who work in the space realising that they have the opportunity to learn to from each other. Those who are willing to take the first steps to get the conversation going, we owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to,” Scott explains. “No one has all the answers here, this is a collective journey we’re on together.”

Speaking to the topic of integration, Scott laments how difficult it can be to think about how suites of products are connected:  “It was a real mess…But I think we’re starting to see progress in a couple of ways.”

He praises major technology vendors like Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce and HubSpot as companies that have “really invested a lot in building out their project capabilities”, meaning that the tech is continually building improved relationships with its own ecosystem. Major companies like the ones Scott mentions are even designing their tech specifically to “plug into each other and start sharing data”, making the integration process that much easier.

“I feel like the industry is moving in the right direction,” Scott enthuses. “This is going to get better and become more manageable for us… The real challenging stuff is rethinking how organisations operate given these technologies and how they reimagine what sort of marketing they can do to better find and engage with their audience. I think that’s where the really exciting journey is.”

Finally addressing the thorny topic of attribution, Scott admits that although it’s the “great promise of all the digital marketing channels that have trackability”, he concedes that it’s “still impossible” to have perfect attribution.

“You want to be able to leverage data and connect the dots and get a better model for understanding what is working and what isn’t working, but at the same time [you need to have] a little bit of humility to realise that there might be factors you haven’t included in your model,” Scott recommends.

Listen as Scott Brinker digs deep into the ways that marketing stacks will be utilised and shared in the future, and learn which companies have already kick-started sharing processes to gain mutual benefits.

Resources:

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The CMO Show production team

Producer – Candice Witton, Charlotte Goodwin

Audio Engineers – Jonny McNeeDaniel Marr & Tom Henderson

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: cmoshow@filteredmedia.com.au.

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Transcript

Participants:

Hosts: Mark Jones and Nicole Manktelow

Guest: Scott Brinker (SB)

Mark Jones: This episode of The CMO Show is brought to you by Filtered Media.

Nicole Manktelow: Telling your story brilliantly.

Scott Brinker: The real challenging stuff is is rethinking how organisations operate given these technologies and how they reimagine what sort of marketing they can do to better find and engage with their audience.

Mark Jones: Welcome back to The CMO Show, my name is Mark Jones.

Nicole Manktelow: I’m Nicole Manktelow. We’re glad you’re here.

Mark Jones: We are glad you’re here. We are your co-hosts for what is a very interesting episode. Now let me set this up for you – one of my enduring fascinations in marketing is automation, which sounds really geeky but let me just explain.

Nicole Manktelow: And also a little intimidating, frankly.

MJ: Well, we think of robots and other silly things but actually I’ve been a big fan of Scott Brinker and Chief MarTech and the MarTech conferences for quite a number of years. Many of you might be aware of this, the concept of a marketing “stack”. And every year they have the “Stackies” awards, which is really fascinating. It’s where these brands come together and they show off their marketing stacks.

NM: It’s a perfect award name.

MJ: It’s amazing, and if you’re aware of this conference and you’ve seen the diagrams, there’s actually a couple of things running in parallel. There’s actually a chart that puts out, it’s five and a half thousand, probably six thousand by now, individual vendors who are providing services in this giant marketing landscape. And then at the same time, from this sea of thousands of vendors, you get the companies who show off a chart describing how all of their different marketing tools connect.

NM: I’ve seen this ecosystem or community map poster around the office and it is frantic with activity.

MJ: I know, right? It is frantic and fascinating. So the Stackies are celebrating how people have connected things together. This is actually “back to the future” because 12 months ago I went to the Martec Conference in San Francisco and we’ve had this particular interview in the vault, not released.

NM: It’s been ageing like a fine wine.

MJ: Scott Brinker is the guy who is from the Chief Martec dot com site and he runs the conference and also has a software company. He has been tracking this space. He is Mr Stackies. He is Mr Martec. He’s the guy who understands and tracks at a very detailed level what different companies are doing in the combined marketing and sale automation space. He’s a very interesting guy and I got the chance to interview him on the sidelines of the Martec show last year. The timing is interesting because actually, the next one is coming up in April in San Jose. Now, that was just a cheeky plug – we’re not affiliated with these people in any way.

NM: Mark, you don’t have a plane ticket yet do you?

MJ: I know, right? Maybe he owes me one as a result of this show, but it’s interesting timing to be bringing this up again.

NM: It’s definitely a time everyone will start looking at what they’ve got in their stack.

MJ: Exactly right. And the point I want to make is this: we’re using so many tools in marketing, communications and sales now and it’s very easy to sign up to all these things. You just need an email address and a password and off you go. The challenge is how we tie them together, or do you go to a big integrated stack? Right, you’ve got your Adobes, your Oracles, your Salesforces, the big stack – and they do the integration? Or do you hack it together yourself?

NM: DIY. Build your own stack.

MJ: Right. And so there’s probably some truth in – there is truth – in both things.

NM: Or you can want for one of the big guys to gobble up one of the little guys in the DIY stack and where does it go from there.

MJ: And that’s what’s happening. That’s how these big stacks have also grown. These big vertically integrated things, they’re just acquiring companies left, right and centre. I think it’s fascinating, so let’s hear what Scott has to say about a really interesting aspect – what does it take to bring all of your marketing tools and services together in one place.

Mark Jones: If you’ve got a question you’d like us to answer on the show, just tweet us @CMOShow or use the hashtag #TheCMOShow. We’d love to hear from you.

Scott Brinker: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here with you.

MJ: Onstage, you talked about the gratitude you have for the spirit of companies who share their marketing stacks in a real transparent way – what’s the real motivation do you think?

SB: So I think there’s a couple of motivations. Some of these stacks are shared by marketing technology vendors themselves, so what they naturally want to be able to do is explain where their product fits in a larger ecosystem. And I think it’s actually very helpful when they share it as a specific stack, so it’s not hypothetical products that connect to but they actually show real products that we connected up within their organisation. But then there’s another example because some of the folk that send in stacks, they’re not marketing to technology vendors, they are companies like Red Wing shoes you know and I think what we’re seeing here is the emergence of a community of the professionals who work in the space realising they have the opportunity to learn from each other and those who are willing to take the first steps to contribute a bit to get the conversation going, we owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to.

MJ: I think if marketers are really honest then they know how much they don’t know and there’s thirst for education and knowledge and from your perspective – how are you seeing that working out in the marketing community? Because it’s changing so fast, it’s too hard to keep up – we know that – but they’re really looking for clarity and a way through this mess. What’s the big-picture view you have of that context?

SB: I think you’re absolutely right, the speed at which things are changing, everybody feels that. I haven’t met a single marketer in years who’s like, “We have this under control. We’re all set. No questions.” So everyone is facing these changes – not just in marketing technology, but really the broader shift of how technology is changing the way consumers and B2B buyers deal with businesses and the way the worlds connect. I mean, this stuff is evolving rapidly and it has big implications for marketing. So I think it’s great that as we collectively realise we’re all in that same boat, we start to look for whether it’s conferences or meetups or online forums and sort of ways to start to connect to peer groups that can in a comfortable setting be able to share experiences and learn from each other. No one has all the answers here, this is a collective journey we’re on together.

MJ: How do you think the whole theme of integration is playing out? Technically speaking, integration is ok if you have the right APIs, but how well do you think marketers have got their heads around the values of connecting everything up properly?

SB: So the challenge of integration is I think one of the things that are in “flux” right now. Certainly a year or two ago, it was a real mess. There was all these different products dispersed and it was very hard to think about how they connected. It hasn’t become easy yet but I think we’re starting to see some progress in a couple of ways. Certainly the major marketing technology vendors – Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, HubSpot – folks like that have invested a lot in building out their platform capabilities, getting better APIs, working on having better relationships with their ecosystems so it becomes easier to say, “Okay, well I’m going to buy this one, this one and this other one”, they’re actually already designed by those companies to plug into each other and start sharing data. But we’re also starting to see a whole new category of technology, things like integration platform as a service, things like Zapier. And the consumer side – if this, then that. These Cloud-based tools, their whole mission in life is to make it easier for people to take data and activities from a variety of different Cloud services inside your organisation, outside your organisation, and almost act like a traffic controller to dynamically route where we want certain things to go. So that’s also opening up a whole new set of possibilities for integration. It’s definitely still a challenge but I feel like the industry is moving in the right direction. This is going to get better and become more manageable for us.

MJ: And that’s fascinating because history is repeating itself. Back in the day when, if you think about enterprise IT, along came the technology integrators. We’ve kind of seen this before, but now it’s playing out in the Cloud.

SB: Yeah and now we see Accenture, DeLoitte, IBM interactive, the services business around this is blooming. Part it’s the integration but you know what’s really fascinating is – again, I still believe that the technology, the integration – in many ways that’s the easiest piece of this puzzle. The real challenging stuff is rethinking how organisations operate given these technologies and how they reimagine what sort of marketing they can do to better find and engage with their audience. I think that’s where the really exciting journey is and it’s certainly where – if we look at the evolution of systems integrators and agencies and a variety of consultants in this space – I think there’s such opportunity to help marketers along that journey so it will be really good to see how that develops.

MJ: I imagine that it’s going to get to the point where marketers just want a single throat to choke, so that’s the marketer or the consultant or the agency. Who’s going to fix this mess for me? We’re selling people wheels and steering wheels and seats and saying, “You build the car”. In that whole context, what will be the role of story and narrative because there’s a creative piece that’s going to be implicit in this?

SB: I mean there’s so much to talk about that you know, you have to pick your battles. But I completely agree with you though, people always talk about customer experience and that this is really what the new state of marketing means. When you break down customer experience, my opinion of it is that it’s basically – marketing used to be in the business of telling stories, and we still have to do that, but now we’re more and more on the hook for delivering that story. If you create a vision of what it’s going to be like to interact with me, I’m actually taking responsibility for fulfilling those promises to you. And that is the mission that ultimately matters. You know the whole single throat the choke thing, it’s interesting. That goes both ways. If you have just one company that you have everything from, then okay, if something goes wrong, I can choke that throat. On the other hand, if you become so dependent on that one company when it comes to the renewal time, how much do they have you over a barrel? Are you really going to shift all of your systems here and how long is that going to take you? So one of the things I think you see with these more open integration approaches is that marketers are trying to find the balance between those two things. I don’t want everything scattered all over the earth, you know, I want a rational set of technologies and vendors but I also want some flexibility and some freedom. If something isn’t working for me a year from now, I want to be able to change that without the whole castle crumbling down around me.

MJ: You need some leverage, right? You don’t want to lose your leverage. So on these stacks – I wonder, is there a way of judging these companies in terms of how well they use all the different components? An example might be that we have MailChimp, but we only send one email a month to our customers, for example, and it’s not a complete story yet.

SB: I completely agree. These “stackies” are great fun because you get to at least see a glimpse, a snapshot of generally what are the way these folks are conceptualising the tools they use for these marketing operations. But it is only that – a snapshot – of something that for most of these companies is a very complex set of processes and systems that they put in place. You don’t get to see that in a single slide. You’d really have to sit down with these folks for a day to really walk through all of that. But you’re absolutely right – people can do really great stacks. And one of the reasons they’re able to do that is because they’ve invested that time and really thought it through much more deeply.

MJ: Attribution is a big deal right now. It was the theme of the main slide for the stackies. What is the future of attribution and why are marketers so interested in it right now?

SB: Everyone wants to know what works. Attribution is the great promise of all the digital marketing channels that they have that trackability, at least theoretically, but it’s fascinating because it’s still impossible to have perfect attribution. There’s just too many different things that connect. We don’t have all the data. A lot of conversations happen in the real world. There’s a lot of factors that we can’t truly get into people’s brains so I think we’re walking this balance where you want to be able to leverage the data and connect the dots and get a better and better model for understanding what is working and what isn’t working, while at the same time having a little bit of humility to recognise  there might be factors you haven’t included in your model. You constantly have to be open to discovering these other factors that really make a difference.

MJ: Scott Brinker, thanks for your time.

SB: Thank you, Sir.

MJ: So Nicole, that was Scott with all the glorious sounds of the conference in the background.

NM: Dare I say, “stacked” with information.

MJ: Well done, I’m so proud of you.

NM: I got in a dad joke before the dad. My role here is done.

MJ: I know, I love a dad joke. A reflection point, if we can maybe indulge ourselves, is that we’ve seen this before in the enterprise. This is one of the oldest stories in enterprise computing – how do we stitch all this stuff together?

NM: And also the competitive nature of these vendors, all trying to steal functionality from their neighbour and squeeze them off the shelf, virtual shelf.

MJ: The other thing for me is the number of these companies that describe themselves as platforms. It’s almost like a swear jar.

NM: It’s bingo! It’s buzzword bingo

MJ: It’s an interesting conversation that’s been recurring in this sector for quite some time – everyone is a platform, so it actually gives pause for thought. Is it a platform? For me it’s a bit like an operating system, in old-school Windows. For me, a platform is a core foundational piece of software upon which lots of applications run.

NM: Isn’t it just an invitation to say “come and build your stuff on our stuff”? It’s an invitation for you to go and build what you need in our place, and we want to own that place, but that just means every time you sign up for something – how much are you getting yourself into? How long is that lease you’ve just signed? By the way Mark, are we a platform?

MJ: Are we a platform? No, we’re not. No. And to my point, we are more interested in the automation or the integration and connection of things, right? It’s not about, “I’m the platform upon which all of these things sit”,  but “I am open to being connected in a really interesting, dynamic way to all of these other relevant useful parallel services.” And I think that’s where we’re seeing things go.

NM: I’m curious about what happens when you do sign up to one of these platforms and then they are subsumed into something else – do you go with them? Do you change?

MJ: Well presumably the company that you signed up with, you’re now one of their customers and they go to the new acquiring vendor. So you become a customer of someone else by accident. Presumably it’s always been this. But maybe that’s a subject for another show – global domination. So there it is, a bit of an insight into attribution and stacks and “stackies” and some words from Scott.

NM: Do we need our own award show? I just want to find a word as cute as “stackies”.

MJ: We can work on it.

NM: The “showies”.

MJ: The “CMO-ies”? I can’t see it. Maybe. You never know. Well thank you for joining us on The CMO Show this time, it’s been great to have you with us.

NM: I’ve learnt so much Mark, thank you.

MJ: It’s my pleasure. One of my favourite subjects.

NM: Can’t tell.

NM: Subscribe. Like us, love us, do all of the things. You’ll find us on your favourite channels.

MJ: Until next time.

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