Hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More with Pam. Today, I have an incredibly special guest – Scott Brinker. Scott is the VP Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot, Editor at chiefmartec.com, and Program Chair of MarTech Conference.
Today we talk about Martech in practice – MarTech trends, opportunities and challenges.
In this episode:
- What are the biggest trends of 2021 in terms of marketing technology development?
- What makes the digital marketing side so fragmented, and how can marketers navigate the landscape?
- How should marketers evaluate MarTech as a whole for a company without getting overwhelmed?
- What makes change and martech implementation difficult and slow?
- What can marketers do to pitch to management to invest in MarTech?
- Why should marketers evaluate their MarTech stack regularly, and how to do so?
- What are the marketing technology predictions for the second half of 2021 or even 2022?
- What kind of no-code platforms or tools can marketers use in their work?
Quotes from the episode:
“I’m very excited about this whole movement that people call ‘no code.’ And when I think about no code, I don’t just mean things that don’t require code anymore. I think of that category much more broadly as a new generation of tools. Tools that use a great UX and great AI engines to make it easy for ordinary people to build things without waiting for someone in IT or an agency to build it.”
“The fact that marketing is continually evolving in what it needs to execute and how it needs to reach people is tough because of the pace at which that evolution is happening; it’s really hard to keep up with.”
Hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More with Pam. Yes, here I am. Today. I have a very, very special – incredibly special – because I met him when I wrote my first book. Scott Brinker. Hey Scott.
Scott Brinker: Wow, Pam! I love the energy. This is awesome. It’s great to be here.
Pam Didner: Good, great, great. A quick intro about Scott and that he’s the VP. Platform ecosystem at HubSpot. I know a lot of you using HubSpot. He’s also the Editor-in-chief at Martech.com. If you’re interested in any kind of marketing technology, check out this website, it is my go-to website. That to get myself educated on marketing technology. And he is also a pogrom chair for the MarTech conference east and west. And they usually have two conferences on both sides of the coast every single year. Love it. I love it, love it.
So can you share the pandemics’ impact with us—also the virtual communications–what is the biggest trend of 2021 in marketing technology development?
On top of it, based on the outlook back in 2020, is there any kind of surprise to you at all?
Scott Brinker: Yeah, well, you know, it was really interesting. When we started in 2020, I was expecting a modest amount of growth in the MarTech industry. As soon as the pandemic hit, a lot of people in the industry, analysts were, “okay, uh-oh, this is the cataclysmic event that’s going to like put a whole bunch of these MarTech companies out of business. Everyone’s going to tighten their belt; the whole thing’s going to, you know, consolidate dramatically.” Um,
Pam Didner: None of that happened (Pam laughs)
Scott Brinker: Yeah, exactly the opposite happened. Pandemic, let’s face it, it was terrible circumstances, but one of the things that have come out of that unfortunate event is that, oh my goodness, the motivation that so many companies got to get serious about their digital business capabilities, their digital marketing capabilities. It was just incredible because, let’s face it.
Pam Didner: There’s no other choice! I’m telling you like me. I was like, oh my God. You know, I’ll have to look like virtual communications, right? Like I have to, like, if you look at I’m doing this on video recording, so everybody who is listening, we are doing a video recording on Zoom. Okay. But you cannot see it, but I changed like the backdrop of my room, and I buy like three or four microphones that sound God. And I changed the lighting in my room. I mean, among the crap I have to go through just to look decent. You know, decent, like in any like zoom communication, is outrageous. All right. (laughs)
Scott Brinker: Yeah. Well, that’s a good thing then, you know, we’re not sharing the video of this because I don’t think there’s enough equipment in the world to like, help me look good on video, but, uh, you got your background. You’re doing well. (laughs)
Pam Didner: I remember talking to you the first time. Seven years ago, when I wrote my first book, I mean, you look the same. You look great. You have not even get one pound. What the hell? Seriously?
Scott Brinker: But no, it was amazing. Not only did all these companies adopt this technology at a prodigious rate. Because of that incredible pull-through and demand in the market, many existing MarTech companies did not disappear. Most of them saw record years and performance. This also created an environment where many new startups launched in the space as well. I mean, even if you just pick in particular, the, uh, I mean, makes sense the virtual events space. Oh, my goodness. It’s on fire.
Pam Didner: Hopin got, what, $200 million in no time? You know that it is a virtual event platform.
Scott Brinker: It was insane. They got like a 5 billion, $6 billion valuations. Uh, I mean, it was about a year and a half that they’d been around. Yeah. I mean, amazing company. I, you know, they deserve it, but the acceleration of growth in this space is just incredible.
Pam Didner: Yeah, I hear you. I hear you. So it sounds like the marketing landscape, especially the digital marketing side of things, is even more fragmented than ever before. What do you think?
Scott Brinker: Well, I think it depends on what we mean by Frank Bennett. So are there a lot more solutions in the market? Yes.
Pam Didner: Yes, there are more things that marketers need to consider, and it’s a lot of work. Don’t you think so?
Scott Brinker: I’ll give you that. There’s a lot of choices. One of the things that’s happening in the very encouraging industry – and if I may give a small plug, this is the work I’m doing at HubSpot for the HubSpot platform – we’re starting to see this real emergence of out of the box integrations with these different MarTech solutions and the primary platforms, that marketers use. If you’re a HubSpot customer or you’re a Salesforce customer, you know, whatever your major platform is now, very often you can go to an ecosystem all these partners have already. He created out of the box integrations so that you don’t have to be the person to stitch this stuff together and figure out, “okay, now what do I do? Do I get some sort of I-PASS and like, you know, trigger this and sequence that over there.”
The more that the developers of MarTech apps and MarTech platforms can do the work behind the scenes to just make this stuff plugin so much better experience for the marketing.
Pam Didner: No, that sounds great. And all, but, uh, what I have come to realize given that I worked for myself and I use probably, uh, over, uh, 30 different kinds of tools, you know, to do different things, right. And from virtual communication to CRM to marketing automation, and on top of it using different data analytics tools and that kind of thing. So literally, I kind of counted how many tools I use. It’s literally over 30.
So as a marketer, we tend to get overwhelmed, uh, MarTech as a whole. There’s an app for everything. And, uh, there is probably a MarTech tool for anything that we do. How should we evaluate MarTech as a whole, for a company, and at the same time not to get overwhelmed? Do you have any insights for that or any suggestions that will greatly help reduce the stress for marketers? So we can, I don’t know, drink less. (both laugh)
Scott Brinker: Or if you’re going to drink, you do it for recreational purposes only. Um, yeah. Okay. That’s fair. Um, well, I think there are a few things here. I mean, one of the things I just want to distinguish is sometimes the MarTech landscape gets blamed because, you know, marketers are like, “oh my goodness, there’s all these different things I need to do.” But it’s not the MarTech landscape–the companies on that MarTech landscape–that are to blame there. I mean, part of the challenges we’re just living in a world where technology, in general, what people can do online, you know, what consumers expect to be able to do, I mean, like what’s the hottest thing at the moment—Clubhouse. Like, this didn’t exist, you know, like a few months ago, you know?
And so we as marketers, right. Pretty simple. We need to go wherever our audience is and give them whatever we need to give our audience to get the engagement. And unfortunately, we’re just in a world where so many things are coming up where our customers are engaging in new ways, or they’re coming through new channels, or they’re trying new capabilities out on the great big inner webs. And we, as marketers, kind of have to chase that. And that’s what ends up getting this explosion of all these MarTech tools, where you’ll have software developers who try and come up with apps or solutions to help marketers reach those folks.
But I guess I would push back that it’s not the fault of the creators of those apps. Uh, you know, it’s the fact that marketing is continually evolving in what it needs to execute and how it needs to reach people. And that’s tough because of the pace at which that evolution is happening; it’s really hard to keep up with.
Pam Didner: Yeah. Usually, my recommendation to my clients, uh, who are overwhelmed by the MarTech or different technology choices and the platforms they need to choose or use my recommendation to them always look inward. Right. Look in the company or look in the Marketing Department itself and understand what kind of channel you use to reach out. And for all those channels that you are using, what are the processes? Can you document the processes and identify the areas you feel you can use tools to make your job or certain functions easier.
So. To be a marketer today, you need to think like a manufacturing company with assembly on the manufacturing floor. A lot of time for them to scale and to be more efficient, they have to break down the manufacturing processes and then determine where the defect or where the inefficiencies are, and then they will try to optimize it – changing the tools, the changing the toolings try to optimize it. I feel that the marketers need to do the same thing as well.
And you are right. And I don’t think the MarTech going and creator of technology is to be blamed. And the opportunities like that all the time, right? The startup will look at the opportunity, and they create a product to fill the gap. But the marketers need to look internally and use the processes, use their current existing tool, document the workflow they have, and then determine what technology will fit into that workflow. Or modify the workflow and then find a solution to elevate that.
Yeah, it’s easy to say. Um, Scott, that would go where the audience goes, but sometimes. It’s really hard for enterprises to make, uh, changes. They are like Titanic, right? If you want to change just a little direction, it takes forever for them to make a change. And so it’s kind of like a hard problem, and I don’t have an ideal solution for it. It is hard. It’s hard to be a digital and a modern marketer in the current world. It is.
Scott Brinker: I swear. I think marketing is an Olympic sport at this point, because for all the new things that we now have to juggle in our work, it’s not like any of the old responsibilities of marketing went away, you know, like all those things are still there the same way they ever were. This is additive on top of that. (Pam laughs)
I do like the way you’ve described the recommendation of this sort of digging into the processes. You know, of what marketing teams are doing, what they’re trying to deliver to who and why. It reminds me that there was this book years ago like the technology side of things called The Phoenix Project.
Pam Didner: Oh, yeah. I know it’s uh, written by Kim. Ah, I cannot remember the author’s name.
Scott Brinker: Gene Kim, I think.
Pam Didner: Yes. And that was talking about IT projects. Yes, yes.
Scott Brinker: Right. But the way they thought about these projects of like, identifying where the bottlenecks were, the constraints and how you alleviate. I realize you’re in a world where marketing is operating on such a digital supply chain in everything it’s doing that, yeah, I wouldn’t imagine a lot of the principles from that book and from that era, you can adapt them into what the modern marketing organization has to do.
Pam Didner: So my next question is to understand, right? Not to be overwhelmed and look inward, understand your process, but montage is not cheap. Add. All right. It doesn’t matter if it is like $15 description per user. And if you have 20 users adds up very quickly. Or if you have to buy a licensing deal and again, it can be very expensive in the enterprise. So do you have any suggestions about what marketers can do to pitch to management and invest in MarTech? Because MarTech is so behind the scenes, many people don’t see the value and efficiency right away. So what is the best way to pitch it?
Scott Brinker: Yeah. Wow. I think it ties back to what we were just talking about. Part of what you’re doing in evaluating a particular MarTech tool is aligned with, “okay, this is an activity we know we need to get done”, and you can start to quantify. Like, this is either how long it takes, or if we wanted this level of quality, what we’d have to pay to like outsource people to do.
I think almost all MarTech – almost all MarTech – should be acquired with some sort of financial model of saying, this is the return we expect on this. Whether it’s, you know, greater efficiency in our internal production or being able to engage with a channel that we think we’ll be able to generate net-new demands and the business, and we can put dollars. We can attribute leads and customers that come through those channels.
Because you’re right, it does add up. I mean, I think one of the things I’ve been excited about in the MarTech industry is that a lot of the products out there now do at least offer some sort of like freemium starter way where in many cases, you can try something to get a sense of like–
Pam Didner: That if this works for you.
Scott Brinker: Yeah. That’s a good place to start because, you know, it is very nerve-wracking to say like, “alright, there’s this tool, in theory, I think it’s going to work. And now I have to sign a big multi-year contract to even like put into practice.” I, I don’t like that model at all. I think it’s much better if, you know, marketers can experiment with things on a smaller scale, find what they like and what works. And then if you’re going to invest in a higher tier or more commercial package, yeah, you’ve, hopefully de-risked, you know, a little bit better, like what you’re getting.
And let’s face it, four years ago in the MarTech industry, that was generally not the case. You had to buy a lot of stuff where you sort of pay, get it installed and on-boarded, and then you get to discover what it’s like to use it. And, uh, there were more than a few surprises that were not pleasant, uh, in that sequence.
Pam Didner: Yeah. I do agree with you find a way, uh, to make a projection and in terms of, will increased number of leads you’re going to get, uh, if that, uh, will be more efficient, can you quantify the number of the days that subject matter expert will save? Or, uh, can you quantify in terms of, you know, it will save some time in terms of, uh, how salespeople engage with prospects?
Even if it is just estimation or projection, it’s nice to have that information that you can use to pitch to your management. Okay. My next question is, do you have any kind of prediction for the second half of 2021 or even 2022?
Scott Brinker: Yeah. You know, I’ve, I will tell you, I used to be in that camp and people, whoever year would make, you know, our predictions of like, “okay, at the start of this next year, here’s what we think will happen.” And after 2020… (laughs)
Pam Didner: And after 2020, it was like, “You know what? I don’t know. I don’t know about this.” Who actually can predict? I mean, seriously. this is one thing that was like blew my mind. Right? The first thing that was a shortage, as a massive shortage, was toilet paper. Seriously? Seriously. Did anybody, did anybody see that? At all. I mean, I was thinking water bottle. You think about food, right? No toilet paper. (laughs)
Scott Brinker: Yep. If I could go back in time, I would’ve made two recommendations. I would have said buy Bitcoin and buy toilet paper.
Pam Didner: Talk to me about bitcoin, crypto.
Scott Brinker: Well, that’s going to be frankly, another one of these categories where the intersection between innovation and crypto and how consumers behave with that and what’s available through it is going to end up connecting back to, uh, the third wave MarTech innovation, you know, around that and integrating with it and supporting it, so, uh, yeah. Anyways. All right. Such predictions. So a lot is happening. Uh, so I’d rather than try and cover it all. I’ll say I’ll just pick one thing that I’ve been paying very close attention to, and I’m very excited about, and it’s this whole movement that people call “no code.” And when I think about no code, I don’t just mean things that don’t require code anymore like, you know, building an app or building a webpage or something like that.
I think of that category much more broadly as a new generation of tools. Tools that allow general marketers – not specialists in IT, graphic design, or video editing – are really simple tools that use a great UX and great AI engines. To make it easy for normal people to build things without going through that cycle of, “oh yeah, I’ll take a ticket and wait for someone in IT or agency to build it for us. If people have an idea, there’s becoming this incredible set of things that we can just do on our own. Uh, and it’s already exciting today.
I mean, like there’s now hundreds and hundreds of these no-code tools on the market.
Pam Didner: So for people who are listening, do you have any suggestions in terms of, you know, any kind of no-code platforms or tools that they can check out right now?
Scott Brinker: Sure. Well, I mean, you know, probably some of the classics you are already familiar with, you know, like Zapier, was one of the first no-code tools or integrations, uh, Airtable is a great no-code tool.
Pam Didner: Oh, I know. Yeah. Airtable is getting so popular. Yeah.
Scott Brinker: For websites, things like Webflow now. And it’s not just these specialist tools. Like even the major platforms, like HubSpot’s, added a bunch of no-code capabilities. Salesforce has a bunch of no-code capabilities. It’s like really becoming a mission to empower a broader set of people, to be able to be creators. And not just creators if they’re independent off on their own, but you know, creators also operating inside the context of a larger marketing organization.
Pam Didner: Can I provide a little bit of comment about that? So let’s use Webflow as an example, Scott. So I evaluated Webflow for my website. And I have an in-depth conversation with my web developer because I was thinking, you know, either this year or next year, I want to completely redo my website. And I added a bunch of stuff, so it’s making it pretty heavy. And, uh, the upload speed, the site speed is slower. And so I kind of want to rebuild that and then to improve the site performance.
And when I was looking at Webflow and compared that with WordPress, for example–just make a comparison between these two simple platforms, if you will. I haven’t realized a trade-off between a custom-build or the coding that needs to be done versus completely no code. Because it’s no code, the customization or the features associated with that specific platform is limited. So like for my website; I have some custom pages, and I have some code that needs to be written specifically for some pages that will make it easier for my social media manager to upload, say a podcast episode, to update a webinar, or to upload some webinar videos, you know after my webinar is done.
And there are not many like Divi themes or pages set up in a tailored way for my needs. Therefore, I still have to have a custom code associated with my website. I did evaluate Webflow extensively, and then I decided to walk away from that. But I hear you loud and clear, you know, if it’s not a lot of customization, I do agree with you. The no-code project and platform serve as a wonder. It’s fantastic.
Ultimately, the customisation part is almost inevitable for some enterprises or even for the startup that even they continue to grow. Does that make sense? So I understand the no-code part of it is serve certain stage of your company well. But when your company continues to grow, it’s kind of like you have to go through that growing pain, and you have to evaluate your MarTech stack again. Is that helpful?
Scott Brinker: I completely hear where you’re coming from. And so here’s the way I would think about it is two things. First of all, like no-code tools, they’re not intended to replace the sorts of work that you want developers to do for you, right? B ut as it turns out like there’s a ton of all these little projects. Like, I don’t know if you know, I’m going to run a, you know, a little special event. And all of a sudden, I just want a little website for that event, you know,
Pam Didner: Yep. I agree.
Scott Brinker: So that’s one thing I think is we can have a balance of no-code and code. The other thing I’ll put out there is that this strikes me as the pattern we’ve seen repeatedly; disruptive innovation and technology is usually when a new disruptive technology arrives. It isn’t nearly as good as many of the existing solutions that are out there. It starts by serving these very low end—
Pam Didner: Very, very low and very niche market.
Scott Brinker: Exactly. But then what happens is over time that technology keeps improving, and it gets better and better, and it gets maybe more flexible, more extensible. And so I hear you today. You would choose WordPress over Webflow.
Pam Didner: I did evaluate it. I agree.
Scott Brinker: You did evaluate it, and I wonder if in two to three years, if, when you reevaluate your like, Hey, actually, you know, whether it’s web flow or some other, you know, solution out there, you might be like, “yeah, maybe I don’t need to be coding in WordPress anymore!” Um, so it’s a space I expect is going to continue to evolve very rapidly. That would be my prediction. (both laugh) See, you got one out of me after all!
Pam Didner: Basically, it’s going to continue to change. So continue to evaluate your MarTech stacks. (laugh) I’m going to move to the next phase of, um, the podcast. I usually ask my guest one silly question. So the question is, what is the most useless talent—seriously, like the talent you possess, that you possess–but it provides no benefits whatsoever to society. (laughs)
Scott Brinker: Well, let’s see. I mean, like we got a lot of competition for that. Um, I am an absolute expert at dad jokes. I mean better than anybody I know. Um…
Pam Didner: You know what, to be honest with you, I don’t think that’s useless per se. I mean, you can say it, everybody was like, “okay, whatever, dad.” But why don’t you just capture that and create a YouTube channel for it? I’m pretty sure some people would just go in there and say, “okay, Scott, that’s kind of lame.” You know, you see a lot of negative comments, but it’s good comments,
Scott Brinker: “Man, you suck!” But you know, getting some advertising revenue out of it.
Pam Didner: All right, so Scott, I’m going to put you on the spot. Tell as one dad joke.
Scott Brinker: Oh man. On the spot. Um, all right now, I’ll, I’ll give you one second. I will pull up the one I was just texting.
Pam Didner: Your kids? (both laugh).
Scott Brinker: Um, it’s like, you know, the kid and the father are sitting outside. And the kid turns to his dad and asks, “dad, can you tell me what a solar eclipse is?” And the dad looks at him and says, “no sun.”
Pam Didner: (laughs) I think that’s funny. It took me like a macro-second to get it! That’s a good one. That’s a good one. Hey, thank you so much, Scott, for joining me on my podcast. It’s wonderful having a chat with you about MarTech. It sounds very boring, but you make it so interesting, and the conversation was fantastic. It will be great to connect again in person.
Scott Brinker: Sounds great. Thanks so much for having me. Stay safe in Portland.
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