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Profiling Scott Brinker, The Accidental Influencer

Scott Brinker, chiefmartec.com

Scott Brinker, chiefmartec.com

At Tuesday’s CMO Confessions event hosted by Daniel Glickman, the Chief Marketing Technologist himself Scott Brinker took stage with a Q&A format that invited 90 minutes of deep questioning from the audience – Daniel equated it to a discovery process for a trial.

Scott came equipped to handle every question large and small and drop serious MarTech insight for the audience.

Along the way he shared his story of how a side hobby has turned, accidentally, into a hit blog with nearly 30,000 Twitter followers – and how he’s resisted the push to turn it into something more.

Here what Scott shared:

Where did the idea for chiefmartec.com come from?

Scott began his career in web development and his company was hired by marketing teams to build out websites. These marketing teams, Scott’s customers, often made the decision without engaging their IT teams.

Scott’s job was go talk to the customer’s IT team, let them know about the project, and engage them.

“I was an ambassador for marketing with IT,” Scott recounted.

Along the way he realized that there was a massive disconnect between the two organizations – cultures were different; incentives were different; and they didn’t have a common language to use together.

These experiences led Scott to see the need for a marketing technologist, or MarTech role, to bridge the gap between marketing and technology.

When did the chiefmartec.com blog start?

Scott started the blog in 2008, as a forum to share his insights around marketing technology.

“I had no ambition whatsoever to create a personal brand,” Scott shared. “There weren’t a lot of people at that point talking about marketing technology. And I can tell you that for sure because the blog languished in obscurity for years.”

Where did the Marketing Technology supergraphic originate?

In 2011, Scott was preparing to speak at a search industry conference, and he was looking for evidence that marketing was becoming dependent on technology.

He built the slide (the 2011 MarTech infographic), which at that point featured 150 marketing technology vendors. And he remembers the reaction, “Wow, how do we deal with it all?”

The numbers of vendors grew from that original 150 to 350 in 2012, 1,000 in 2014, 2,000 in 2015 and a whopping 3,874 in 2016

And now people are really asking, “How, how do we deal with it all?”

How does Scott manage it all? (teaser: it’s not super technical)

Scott got asked, “Scott, you’re a really innovative technologist. You must have some super advanced tools to scrape the web and identify all of the martech vendors in your landscape.”

Scott’s answer – “No!”   Unfortunately, the entire process is managed manually. Scott uses Google, Crunchbase, Angel List, and conference vendor and speaker lists to identify the companies. Scott strongly relies on the clarity of messaging on the vendor’s website to guide their categorization.

“I’m a software guy,” Scott told the audience, “but I have probably the least automated process for managing this.”

When did Scott’s blog chiefmartec.com hit an inflection point of growth?

It was the 2014 landscape hitting 1,000 vendors where a much broader audience really started to take notice, and traffic to his website spiked. At that point there was exponential growth in the chart and the blog.

Why does he think the landscape supergraphic took off?

People related to it and like to use it, because it helps back up the message ‘It’s a complicated time to be a marketer. And this graphic helps lets people, in a glance, get a sense of just how complex the modern marketing environment is.’

“A lot of people are saying to their peers,” Scott said, “that ‘we’re working on figuring out our MarTech stack, but it’s not easy.’ ”

Does Scott have any ‘commercial ambitions’ around the blog?

He doesn’t and he’s resisted those.  Many companies reach out to Scott for advice on vendor selection, and there would certainly be a market there for Scott – but he’s decided to refer that business to others so that he can continue to focus his working hours on his role as Co-Founder and CTO of ion interactive.

“For now, the blog remains a labor of love,” Scott explained, “And any recognition I’ve gotten as a result of it in the industry is gratifying, but largely accidental.”

How does Scott see consolidation around the MarTech space?

Scott posits that there is a strong likelihood that there is significant consolidation in the space over the next five years. But he also notes that there is a possible scenario where it doesn’t consolidate.

Scott equates it to the software development landscape, where the number of software languages, library and frameworks continues to explode. Marketing technology could continue along in a similar way, with both major and minor players, and without ever really consolidating.

Has Scott crossed the line on the blog in talking directly about ion?

Scott emphasized that it’s critical for him to remain true to his audience whom come to chiefmartec.com for MarTech insights, and not for ion’s interactive content offering.

He shared a story that he’s written two posts in the history of the blog that directly spoke about ion interactive.

The first one came at a time when ion was pivoting from a sophisticated landing page platform to a tool to build interactive content, and he wanted to talk about the relevant marketing lessons from his experience. He titled the post, “Why we bet our whole company on marketing apps.”

Scott went out of his way in the post to provide an introductory disclaimer around the content of the post, and went as far as to highlight ion’s competitors as part of the article.

“The post generated a lot of traffic and demand for ion,” Scott shared. “But if I was trying to write something like that every week, I think it would quickly lose its impact.”

Quick hits with Scott

Scott was full of great soundbites all evening.  These were some of the other highlights.

On how to get noticed in your industry

“The reality is 2/3 of my Blog traffic is to the landscape. So the cynical viewpoint could say it’s not about the content I’m creating every week, it’s actually about this one single visual that I created that people are in to. So think about how you create the reference graphic for your category or what you do. It just happens to be incidental that it came from my personal brand.”

On the effectiveness of infographics today

“Sadly most infographics are crap. They aren’t even visual.”

On why he doesn’t listen to vendor pitches

“I don’t listen to vendor pitches. I want to go to their website, and if I can’t figure out what you do and if you’re not telling a great story on your website, then that’sa problem. And the reality is the majority of B2B websites are terrible at telling their story.”

Do software vendors request to get added to more categories

“Yes. but if the categories I’m told they belong in don’t match the narrative on their website, I think that’s something they need to resolve outside of my landscape.”

On the role of Gartner and Forrester in today’s crowded MarTech landscape

“I think their work is becoming more challenging, just because the landscape is so chaotic. One of the difficulties for the analyst firms is how they categorize and evaluate vendors. Often, they are looking at vendors from multiple categories — a multi-channel campaign management lens, or a digital marketing hub lens, or a lead-to-revenue management lens — and the evaluation of the same vendor could be completely different. There’s so much overlap between vendors and categories, it’s hard to give easy answers for which horses to bet on."

On the “separation of church and state” between his role at ion and his chiefmartec.com blog

“If I weren’t a co-founder of ion, I could see it being a lot more uncomfortable for both parties. I wouldn’t ever want to feel pressured into turning my personal blog into shilling for the company, and the company wouldn’t necessarily want someone outside the formal marketing hierarchy presenting his opinions in a way that could be interpreted as official brand messaging."

On what he would say if he were a non-technical CMO asked about MarTech strategy

[joking] 

“I’d say ‘I don’t know but I’m going to hire a heck of a VP of Marketing Operations to figure it out. ”

When asked if he had permission on each of the logos in the landscape

“I don’t think I could face filling out 4,000 permission requests. But I’ll remove anyone who doesn’t want to be on it.”