6 Questions with ChiefMartec.com’s Scott Brinker

Editor’s Note: If there’s anyone who’s been at the forefront of the trend regarding technology’s increasingly important role in today’s digital marketing environment, it’s been Scott Brinker, a leading authority on marketing technology and the editor of ChiefMartec.com. Scott, who is also the co-founder and CTO of Ion Interactive, started his influential blog in 2008, and has long advocated the creation of a new hybrid marketing-technology professional called the “marketing technologist.” The idea has grown so popular that it prompted Scott to launch his own conference, Martech: The Marketing Technology Conference, scheduled for Aug. 19-20 in Boston. With his sold-out conference looming next week, Scott graciously agreed to answer a few questions.

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The Rise of MarTech — Scott Brinker has taken a lead role in advocating for the smarter management of marketing technology.

1. Tell us about your background and how you became “ChiefMartec“?

I’ve been a software entrepreneur for my entire career. I have a background as an engineer and a couple of degrees in computer science, but I’ve always been equally fascinated by marketing — how to orchestrate the match between a product and its audience. My parents ran an ad agency, so that’s no doubt where the appreciation for the craft of marketing was embedded in my psyche.

Ten years ago, I ran the technology practice for a boutique web development firm. Our clients were CMOs, but much of the success of our projects relied on building great relationships with their IT departments to implement and operate the right solutions. It was in that period that I was struck by how dependent marketing was becoming on technology — a trend that was only going to accelerate — yet how foreign technology management was to most marketing teams at the time. Something would have to change.

I started my blog in 2008 around the crazy idea of engineers working natively in the marketing department – marketing technologists. And as Niels Bohr would have remarked, it ended up being crazy enough to be true.

2. Congratulations on your first conference, “MarTech: Marketing Technology Conference.” What made you want to create your own conference, and what can attendees expect? Any surprises you can tell us about?

There are many great marketing conferences out there. But there wasn’t a conference focused specifically on marketing technology management — not just the technologies themselves, of which there are plenty, but integrating technology into the very heart of marketing strategy and operations.

As the field of hybrid “marketing technologists” has grown over the past couple of years, I really wanted a venue where they could come together to learn from each other and develop a stronger sense of community. Marketing technology leadership is a new discipline, but it’s become absolutely indispensable to the practice of marketing in a software-mediated world.

I think attendees will be surprised by how many peers they actually have.

3. I know they will all be good, but what sessions are you most excited about?

Which of my children is my favorite?

I’m excited about each in its own context. For instance, when it comes to the big picture of how technology is changing business and work and life — far beyond just marketing — Erik Brynjolfsson is the world’s leading expert. Research on the profession of marketing technologists? Laura McLellan is the authority. Perspective on marketing technology leadership from someone who is doing it at a Fortune 500 company? Mayur Gupta is the epitome of a chief marketing technologist. And so on.

I’m biased, of course, but I don’t think there’s a single speaker who isn’t at the top of their game on their topic.

4. What makes this the “Golden Age of Marketing Software”?

Marketers have more software vendors catering to them today than any other profession in the history of computing.

While it is sometimes overwhelming to look at the landscape of all the products and platforms that are available for marketing out there, it is actually an embarrassment of riches. There’s so much innovation that enables marketers to transform the way they engage with customers and operate their businesses.

All this is happening in a time when marketing is ascending in power. Marketing has moved from the periphery of most businesses to the very core. The digital world has catalyzed that change. And everything digital is inherently controlled by software. Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — these are all software programs. So we’re in both a golden age of marketing and a golden age of marketing software. They’re feeding each other in a virtuous cycle.

5. What are the biggest mistakes marketers are making when it comes to choosing, implementing and using technology? What can they do to both simplify and maximize their use of marketing technology?

The most common mistake is underestimating the organizational changes required to get value from these technology investments. It’s not just about using new tools to do what we did before, just a little more efficiently. It’s about using new tools to reinvent our approach to marketing, sales, and customer service in entirely new ways that let us disrupt our market — before we’re disrupted by somebody else.

To maximize your use of marketing technology, you want three things: a commitment to cross-silo digital transformation from the company’s leadership, a marketing technology point person — a chief marketing technologist, even if that role is one of several hats an individual wears — and company-wide clarity about your business strategy. The “simplification” is forcing the first two to always be in the service of the last one.

6. Get your crystal ball — what are the top martech trends you see for the rest of 2014 and into 2015?

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

But in broad strokes, I believe we’ll continue to see an explosion of innovation in marketing software; ongoing advancements in the architecture of how these different software systems can be connected together; and further growth of marketing technologists as a recognized professional community within the ranks of marketing.

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