Why SMBs Have a Distinct Advantage in Martech with Scott Brinker

How can SMBs and startups with little or no budget outfox the big brands much deeper pockets?  How are organizations leveraging “no code” to implement fast, scalable business solutions?  In this episode, Chris Casale and Ryan Smith chat with Scott Brinker about why SMBs have a distinct advantage in MarTech.

Scott Brinker, godfather of Martech

Scott Brinker is the godfather of the Martech movement, which for those of you that might not have heard that term, its diffusion of technology into the marketing landscape. He’s the author of the bestselling book Hacking Marketing, founder of Chief Marketing Technologist Blog, which if you’re not familiar it’s a blog that examines the Intersection Marketing Technology Management Program, and chair of the Martech conference series. Scott is also the V.P. of Platform ecosystem at HubSpot.

Here are some of the podcast episode highlights:

Scott Brinker: [00:06:20] A little bit of my background is sort of through the late 90s and then through the early 2000s. I was running the tech group at a Web development agency. And so our agency would get hired by the marketing departments of these Fortune 500 companies because there’s marketing that had, you know, the budget. 

And, you know, had big dreams and you know what they could do on the Web. But since I was running the tech team at the agency, it would then be my role once we got the engagement to go and talk to the I.T. department at that company because the marketing department and the I.T. department couldn’t actually talk to each other. 

It wasn’t that they hated each other, it wasn’t like there was animosity. It is frankly more of just like they literally did not know how to talk to each other. They were just living in different worlds with different objectives and different languages. And so as I was like, yes, shuffling back and forth between these two departments is just two things that struck me as like, yeah, wow. I mean, the gap there was wide. 

But also when you were looking at what the businesses were ultimately trying to achieve and execute, it was so clear that these groups were going to have to work together. And so that’s where I got really fascinated by other professionals who were serving as the bridges between these departments. 

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How did you come up with the name Martech?

Scott Brinker: [00:07:45] I didn’t actually come up with the name chief marketing technologist. Someone else had suggested, oh, hey, maybe there should be a role of someone who’s explicitly designated to, you know, bridge these two departments. And so, yeah, that started the blog. 

And, you know, for the first from 2008 till 2014 it really was a ragtag band of, you know, individuals like yourself. I myself in that same category of like it was. Clear, there was value being created here, but it was such a new role. You know these technologies in the marketing department.  

Scott Brinker: [00:08:49] Yeah, it was really as momentum started to build that finally Harvard Business Review actually reached out to me about that, where they said they were starting to hear more and more of these stories, you know, just among their audience. And so that’s how they found me and asked me to write that article. And so I think that was kind of a bit of a turning point where suddenly what was yeah, there’s this very underneath the radar unofficial role started to actually become a, you know, credible profession.

Ryan Smith: [00:09:52] Well, you know, it’s interesting about that is coming from the other side of things. I don’t want to know how it all works. I just want to have go from here to there. You figure it out. 

What happens in between, and at a very high level, it’s kind of what the conversations sometimes would be, you know? I think from somebody on the strategy side of things who doesn’t really know, even in 2020, all the nuts and bolts and now we have marketing automation and all that, don’t really know or wants to know exactly how it’s done. 

That’s where I think this relationship from both sides and the development and obviously strategy, digital marketing side is so important that the communication is vital. 

Chris and I, you know, we started with this company. It was siloed. It took a little while to, you know, tear down those walls, you know, and not to get all Ronald Reagan here. But, you know, it could come together where all the sudden we can be like, wait a minute. OK, so this is what you do. This is what I do. Maybe we should meet somewhere in the middle. That’s kind of where a lot of this sort of started from us. And I think a lot of companies have similar issues. 

Does the CMO need to become a tech expert?

Scott Brinker: [00:11:37] part of my argument was always, no, no, that’s let’s let’s not. I mean, what the CMO does need is the CMO needs someone on his or her team who is going to be that translation, you know, from their brand strategy, their marketing strategy vision into the technology. Yeah. How we actually implement this in the digital world.

Chris Casale: [00:11:57] So with all the growth we’ve seen in Martech, you’ve been talking recently or I guess it’s probably over the last year or so about how we’re sort of hitting that end of the first golden age of Martech. And there’s a little bit of contraction happening and you see a potential second golden age of Martech. 

Is it possible that as some of these companies are consumed, that the features will just grow into other things and it will continue to boom? Or do you see that trend sort of lasting?

Scott Brinker: [00:12:25] Yeah, it’s a really interesting question with some somewhat subtle dynamics. So I think a couple of things are simultaneously true that sound like they’re opposites of each other, but when you peel a few layers back, they’re not. So one thing is the large Martech companies are getting larger. 

I mean, you know, Salesforce, Adobe, HubSpot. You know, I mean, there is actually a really strong consolidation for these primary platforms in the marketing industry today. But at the same time, a couple things are sort of feeding you the explosion, the other direction. 

One is all of these major platforms have really leaned into opening up their APIs, you know, creating like explicit app ecosystems around their platforms because they realize out of all the customers using these products. I mean, that’s just incredible variance of the demands of what an individual customer wants to do in the context of their particular business with particular channels and particular audiences. And how’s this tie into their particular product or service? 

I mean, there’s a lot, you know. And so no one company can, like, build all of that for all those use cases. So they’re trying to, like, use a bit of a judo move, move to say, OK, well, you know, listen, use our platform as the foundation to facilitate those more specialized apps. 

And then on the other side of things, you know, point creating software now between Amazon and Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure and then all like all the open source projects that are out there. I mean, the software has like almost no barriers to entry at this point, you know? And so you get this combination of these platforms that are now providing a mechanism to sell specialized, you know, app products from third parties to very large customer bases. 

And any of these folks who want to be a third party app developer has the ability to leverage this world class infrastructure in the cloud for just, you know, pennies. I think what you’re seeing today and we’ll continue to see for the rest of the 2020s is just going to be an explosion of highly specialized apps across every vertical and, you know, particular emerging channel or use case you can imagine. 

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How big of a role does budget play in successfully implementing MarTech in their business? 

Scott Brinker: [00:22:18] I think it can play less of a role today than ever. You know, I mean, part of the process of examining the Martech landscape every year, we end up like visiting every website, every one of those. I think that just part of the validation of, you know, making sure these folks are real and what they’re doing, you know. 

And so as part of that exercise, I’m always looking for, you know, praising pages have become a lot more common, which is a great thing for transparency in the industry. And the truth is, it’s just amazing technology here in Martech today. That’s just not that expensive. 

In fact, if anything, this is why I feel, frankly, I think SMBs are getting to a place where they have some real advantage over their larger competitors in Martech because they can now afford, you know, some stuff that’s truly state of the art. 

But the advantage they have over their larger competitors is they’re able to actually adjust their, you know, like strategy and implementation and operation around those much more quickly and experiment with it versus, you know, on a larger company anytime you want to, you know, change the way things, you know, are connected or you know, who’s doing what, you know, it just it gets a little bit more complicated. 

And so, yeah, I think there’s a lot of money spent on Martech, but I don’t feel like budget is the bottleneck now for people doing great things in this space. 

Ryan Smith: [00:23:40] What is the bottleneck then? 

Scott Brinker: [00:23:41] I think it’s the investment and the talent. 

What does “No Code” mean?

Scott Brinker: [00:33:14] So no code is this set of tools that just philosophically are about giving general business users the ability to create things that they would have had to wait for some sort of specialist to do for them.

No code is a really fuzzy term because you could say things like, you know, Squarespace or Wick’s, you know, for building a Website. I mean, that’s a no code app. If you consider HTML, CSS and stuff like that to be code, you don’t need to know HTML now to create a really stunning website. 

What’s next for HubSpot? 

Scott Brinker: [00:41:26] Yeah, I probably can actually answer that. 

HubSpot’s a really big believer in trying to connect the different facets of the front office organization around a common platform, you know, and one of the reasons we have all the open API in this app ecosystem is we don’t want to force people into having to use all HubSpot. 

Like, hey, listen, if you want to use a different tool for your service desk, you know, a different tool for your email marketing. Listen, we’re happy to have you pick whichever tools you want to work with this platform. That being said, the vision is we really do believe if you have one underlying platform crossing all of these different departments, you’re really going to be in a much easier position to orchestrate. 

Ryan Smith: [00:45:00] So, Scott, if there was one takeaway that you could leave with our audience, what would that be? 

Scott Brinker: [00:45:07] Oh, wow. You are living in an amazing time to be an entrepreneur and to be a marketer. I mean, the tools that you have at your disposal, you know, are just it’s incredible. And all those crazy benders is the, you know, the downside of, you know, having to choose among, you know, so many options. The flip side of that coin is all those companies are competing for your business. They’re trying to compete, too. Can they do it better? Can they do it cheaper? Can they, you know, be more helpful to you? Yeah, it’s it’s a wonderful time to be working in marketing. 

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