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Episode 13

(Part 1) 2021 Lead Generation: Apps & Platforms That Matter Most

Scott Brinker
VP of Platform Ecosystem at Hubspot

This year, marketers were inundated with unexpected, hard-to-manage challenges. There’s no doubt that 2021 will bring more economic, technology and competitive landscape changes that demand even more from marketers.

As 2020 comes to a close, this episode of the Lead(er) Generation podcast offers the “Zen” you need to recenter and redefine your purpose as a marketer. Plus, ideas on how to tap into technology to increase lead generation in the year to come.

Guest Scott Brinker joins us to discuss how B2B marketing leaders can evaluate marketing technology. Plus, he’ll provide tips on how to select the best martech to complement existing CRM, CMS and marketing automation systems to elevate lead generation.

Get ready to embrace your passion for data. The creative and strategic use of data is what marketers will need to improve lead generation and engage prospects to create business value in 2021.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • The evolution of the martech landscape
  • Martech trends for 2021 and beyond
  • Effective apps and technologies for automating B2B marketing
  • Benefits of “no code” platforms for marketers and IT teams
  • Tips on which digital transformation projects to prioritize in 2021

Watch the Live Recording

Full Episode Transcripts

Announcer: Welcome to another episode of Lead(er) Generation by Tenlo Radio, a show where we help B2B and CPG marketers generate data that turns into money. And our host, Tessa Burg is the VP of UX and Technology Strategy at Tenlo. Tessa and her team at Tenlo have collaborated with data science, software and marketing experts in the last 10 years to develop and continuously evolve how a test and learn approach can effectively and efficiently help clients bring new products to market, accelerate leads through the funnel, and test new communication and sales channels.

Tessa Burg: Welcome to another episode of Lead(er) Generation, brought to you by Tenlo Radio. Our guest today is the VP of Platforms and Ecosystems at HubSpot, Scott Brinker. He’s also the editor of chiefmartech.com and the chair of the MarTech Conference. Scott, thank you so much for joining us.

Scott Brinker: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Tessa Burg: We’re excited to have you as a guest today.

Scott Brinker: Great to be here with you, Tessa.

Tessa Burg: We recently read your white paper titled Five Trends in Marketing Technology for the Decade of the Augmented Marketer, and just that title itself is a lot that we’d like to break down. But before we start, we’d love to hear a little bit about your background in sort of the MarTech landscape that brought you to fame. I don’t know, was it 10 years ago?

Scott Brinker: Yeah, it’s coming up on that. 2011. Yeah.

Tessa Burg: Oh wow.

Scott Brinker: I’ve always kind of worn two hats. Professionally for many years I was running a SAS startup, Ion Interactive, made a platform for interactive content like quizzes and assessment tools. And then after that company was acquired, I joined HubSpot to help them with their platform ecosystem and how HubSpot integrates with other apps. But sort of in parallel to that for yeah, boy, 12 years now or so, I’ve been writing this blog, chiefmartech.com, really just driven by my own personal fascination with this intermingling between the cultures and the professions of marketers and technologists.

Scott Brinker: And so yeah, one of the projects I had done with that Chief MarTech hat on was trying to just map out all the different marketing technologies. And when I did that in 2011, there were like 150 of them, which seemed like a lot. And then we kept going back to it year over year, and it would go 300, and then a thousand, and then 2000, and then 4000, and the one we published this year had 8000. And it just like, yeah, kind of took on a life of its own, so yeah, between what I do for my living and what I do with the blog, it’s like marketing tech 24/7.

Tessa Burg: Yeah! This past year was 8000 platforms.

Scott Brinker: Well, so 8000 marketing applications.

Tessa Burg: Okay.

Scott Brinker: And while some of them are really big platforms, like Adobe, and Salesforce, and HubSpot. Most of them are actually these much more specialized apps, if you use something to script, to edit a podcast, like Descript is a MarTech app, it’s a really cool one.

Tessa Burg: Oh, yeah.

Scott Brinker: But it’s not going to be a billion dollar… Well, I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t say, maybe they will be a billion dollar project some day, but it’s a long tail.

Tessa Burg: What are the different types of categories? Like if people are going to go and look at this massive landscape, what kinds of categories or applications would they find?

Scott Brinker: Yeah, so we have a couple levels of categories. We have some really big categories for things like advertising, all the different advertising and PR technologies, and then things around sales and eCommerce, things for content and experience, data, and all the things we’re doing with data management and data analysis these days. And then you drill down into those large categories, and there’s subcategories within them. For instance, like in advertising, you can be talking about search advertising versus display advertising. There’s tools for video marketing. I mean, it just turns out there’s a lot of marketing tech in the world.

Tessa Burg: Yes. When I went there the last time, I used it as sort of an inspiration, as a starting point, just to research something that could help me kind of make logos or supplement [Kreative 00:04:19] on the fly. And I was amazed that there were dozens of solutions for that. And then I started on the road, well what criteria should I be using? For a lot of our clients, they’ve already invested in that CRM platform or a large CMS. How do they evaluate which applications will best fit in their ecosystem?

Scott Brinker: Yeah. That’s one of the things I’ve become very passionate about. And full disclosure, this is the work I do with HubSpot, is there are so many great apps out there, and there’s so much innovation, but the challenge for most normal marketers is “Okay, how do I get this stuff to work together? Because I’m not a technologist, I’m not going to integrate these things myself. I really do need these things to work together, kind of out of the box.” And so what you’ve seen with a lot of the major platforms like Salesforce, Adobe, HubSpot, is they’ve really invested in opening up their APIs and working with these app developers to do the integration between the app developer and the platform, so that when the customer comes and says, “Oh yeah, I want to pick this app, I have this platform,” it kind of just works.

Scott Brinker: And so one of the other advantages that gives you is if you’ve already made a decision on what CRM platform you’re using for instance, then a really great place to start is almost all of these major CRM platforms have app marketplaces that you can go to, and you can see the apps that are certified, that integrate out of the box. In some cases you can actually see the ratings and reviews from other customers on that platform. And it just becomes a really helpful way to narrow the field of the choices that are going to be easiest for you to adopt.

Tessa Burg: I love that. That makes selecting technology applications way less intimidating, when you’re able to at least have this starting point that the platforms have done some vetting for you. Are there any skills or any kind of experience that you think marketers should have, or the person they delegate to, to select these applications? Like what should the profile of that marketing/marketing technologist look like?

Scott Brinker: Yeah. These days the technology is getting… Particularly if you’re selecting something that’s already got an integration out of the box, it’s becoming less about the technical skills, and frankly, it’s more about the business case.

Tessa Burg: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Brinker: I think probably the most important thing is like, okay, what is the problem, the business problem, or the business opportunity you’re trying to solve? And really just being able to understand how that app is going to do that for you or help you do that. And I think, yeah, this is something where you don’t have to be super technical, but I think you want to be pretty skeptical. You want to bring like a skepticism [inaudible 00:07:19] “Okay, no, show me how this is going to work. Who else are you doing this for? What are the case studies of other customers similar to the use cases I’m looking at?” And I think anyone who really wants to do the work to like map out, what are the use cases that are relevant to your business? Yeah, then you can be in a pretty good position to evaluate these vendors.

Tessa Burg: I really like that suggestion, because I think it prevents marketers from falling into a common trap that we see, which is prioritizing or sort of falling in love with the bells, and whistles, and features of the technology before really solidifying what the problem is that they’re trying to solve or what experience they want to give their customers. Are there any other sort of pitfalls or mistakes that you see marketers commonly make when they are selecting technology?

Scott Brinker: I mean, I think that’s the main one. One of the shortcuts I like to use is find a metric that matters to you. However you’re going to frame the problem or the opportunity you’re going after, it probably relates to some quantitative business metric at some point, right? It’s either going to increase our conversion rates, the close ratio or the average deal value. I mean, whatever those metrics are, there should be some set of hypotheses about how adding this new capability is going to help contribute to moving that needle.

Scott Brinker: And then very often, so many of these software solutions, they either have free trials, or freemiums, or you can do a limited pilot. And I think that can be very helpful to say, “Okay, well, if we do start to implement this, the expectation is it will have an impact on this business metric.” And yeah, you basically try that out, and if ultimately the hypothesis is wrong, which is okay. Sometimes we try the hypotheses that doesn’t work, that’s fine. But at least before you’ve committed to do the five-year deal with someone and you’re like, “All right, well, let’s try this out. If it works, bring it on.” Yeah. That sort of staged adoption can be very helpful just to make sure you don’t go too far down a rabbit hole before you know it’s going to give you the results you want.

Tessa Burg: Yes. Yeah, I think that, that’s another benefit of selecting technologies that are already within your existing ecosystem. Is you can stand up those tests more efficiently than having to go through the internal process of getting IT buy-in and going through a lot of different hoops to leverage APIs for an application external to your existing platform. This kind of brings us to the next topic that was in your paper, the very long 54-page white paper.

Scott Brinker: Thank you for reading through it.

Tessa Burg: Yeah. It was extremely interesting. I mean, it went fast. It’s The Five Trends in Marketing Technology for the Decade of the Augmented Marketer. And one of those trends is the proliferation of networks and platforms.

Tessa Burg: We’re going to pause here for a quick word from our sponsor.

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Tessa Burg: We’ve talked about some of the big ones like Salesforce and HubSpot. Are there any other industries or niches that you think are going to start gravitating toward this trend in becoming more network and platform centric?

Scott Brinker: Yeah. That’s one of the reasons we included it is these patterns, particularly networks and marketplaces, seem to be crossing all sorts of industries. The examples that easily come to mind certainly are some of the consumer ones, like Airbnb as a marketplace is a huge success, but if you look at almost any industry or a specific vertical at this point, odds are you’re going to see some startups or even some well-established companies that are trying to create marketplace dynamics or trying to create ecosystem dynamics around their particular business, because the digital technology makes this incredibly easy to make these connections. And we’re starting to recognize that there is a lot of value to be unlocked by sort of simplifying the way these companies jointly work together to discover new customers, to facilitate the transactions, to help customers within an industry feel a sense of community amongst themselves so they can learn from each other, so I would say almost whatever industry you’re in, I would be very surprised if there isn’t some sort of network or marketplace starting to happen.

Scott Brinker: And I think one of the things you can look at is, well, one, are there networks and marketplaces you can take advantage of, like you can participate in them as a way to win customers, or depending on the nature of your business, are you in a position to actually be the network or the marketplace within your particular segment of a particular industry? Yeah, there’s a lot of interesting opportunities out there right now.

Tessa Burg: Yeah, there really are. A lot of the clients we serve are in industries like construction services, and food manufacturing or food service, and traditionally their routes to market are through large wholesalers, or distributors, or companies that sort of act as the professional consultant or the professional place to go to get specific types of tooling and equipment. Have you seen any industries like that start to move more digital or start to use digital tools in new ways that sort of move towards this marketplace network trend?

Scott Brinker: Yes. And this starts to get outside of my area of… I spent all my time focused on the marketing tech companies, but yeah, so I don’t look as closely at the platforms and marketplaces in other industries, but I hear them anecdotally. And yeah, it’s almost like this universal model where for decades, we thought of these things as chains. We had our supply chain that was very well fixed. And then we had a distribution chain and it was very well fixed. And generally speaking the vision behind more of these platforms and marketplaces is to instead of having these rigid supply chains or rigid distribution chains. Are there opportunities to make those more open-ended and fluid and competitive in some ways so that you might actually have a network of potential suppliers and your ability to pick the particular supplier to contribute to a particular job has a lot more freedom than perhaps a more rigid supply chain would of looked like. And where the digital technology makes this possible is the information of those participants in your supply network, right?

Scott Brinker: That can now all be online. And so you can algorithmically be able to negotiate, “Okay, well, who can get me these supplies fastest under these specifications at this geographic location.” And the ability to, if you’ve got a large enough network in that supply network. Yeah. You can very often then optimize pieces of the supply network. Yeah. Just much more fluidly than you could have before. And same thing from like a sales perspective is you might have a certain distribution channel that’s well-established, but now depending on your market, there might be all these other potential participants who could be in an environment where they might be able to also use your products, or services, or help distributors sell them. And if you’re giving them these mechanisms to access that through, yeah, digital networks. Yeah. It sort of opens up new channel opportunities for you as well.

Tessa Burg: Yeah. You mentioned something really interesting and it’s kind of the change in people behavior. People have always asked the question who can get me this, and who can get it to me most efficiently, at this quality, and these specs. But now we’re starting to use digital channels to answer that question. And these marketplaces and networks make accessing the right people more efficient. And sort of with those levels of credibility. Have you seen any other sort of changes in people behavior that is driving the popularity or even the need for more networks?

Scott Brinker: Yeah. Well, I mean, again this is one of these cases where what we see in our lives as consumers, it doesn’t end up being that big of a leap to say like, “Hey, I wonder if this same sort of thing could work for me in my business.” And so if we look at the success of things like Amazon from a marketplace, or yeah, Airbnb, or Uber. I mean, there’s just a ton of these where you’re like, wow, this unlocked a whole easier way for people to participate and do these transactions that previously the transaction costs, the discovery costs, the search costs were just far too high to make it practical. And the digital models for networks and marketplaces.

Scott Brinker: Yeah. Just can dramatically change the costs there. I will give a shout out. There’s a great book called Platform Revolution that was written by Marshall Van Alstyne, and then a couple other folks. And it’s all about platform models for businesses. And most of the examples are not software like at SalesForce, most of them are more traditional industries and how they are now starting to adopt these platform models in the work they do.

Tessa Burg: I will definitely check that out. Now that you just said that I realized I downloaded that, I have it on-

Scott Brinker: Awesome, you’re ahead of me.

Tessa Burg: Now I just need to read it.

Scott Brinker: Details.

Tessa Burg: Yes, so another trend that’s mentioned in your white paper that goes along with this is no-code platforms. And I think this is a phrase that’s really new to me and really new to our audience. What do you mean by no-code?

Scott Brinker: There’s a narrow definition of this, and then there’s a much broader concept that’s happening. And they’re both pretty exciting. The narrow definition of no-code is like a tool that lets just a general business user in a very visual way, build a simple app, like a real easy example in marketing is landing pages. Odds are, you’ve got a bunch of landing pages you want for your business. Your web developer does not want to spend their days building landing pages for the marketing team, so there’s become these tools out there that make it really, really easy for a non web developer marketer to say, “Oh yeah, here’s a landing page. It fits in this template. I want this content. I want to maybe AB test this offer, publish it. And I’m done.” And so what’s happened is there is now a universe of hundreds of these tools that they sometimes get called no-code, but it’s not just about building apps. It can be things like building landing pages, your websites, it can be things like Canva for doing graphic design.

Scott Brinker: I’m not a graphic designer, but I can use Canva and I can produce a bunch of stuff that actually looks really good. I mean, then there’s tools for video editing and machine learning and all these sorts of things that you used to have, to have an expert to do anything. And now this whole category of no-code tools is basically empowering general business users to at least self-service a lot of the low-end cases.

Tessa Burg: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Brinker: I mean, don’t get me wrong. You still, as a business user, you’re not going to go off and like build a whole new eCommerce site on your own, you still want a professional developer for that. But yeah, when you have these smaller things you need that it would be a waste of time, it would be a waste of money to have like a high end developer do it for you. To have the ability to just put together a little workflow or a simple little app, this is incredibly empowering. And so, yeah, we are still at the early stages of this, but I think you can see just hundreds of examples now of these new tools. And I think over the next 10 years, yeah. It’s just going to be incredible, the superpowers that pretty much all of us are going to have at our fingertips.

Tessa Burg: I think it’s interesting that you said it’s going to give us super powers where when you first hear, “Oh, well now you can be creating design assets.” Did you ever run into a situation where a designer or maybe even someone in IT, if you’re talking about workflow, automation is like, “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. That’s my job.”

Scott Brinker: Yeah. There’s two levels to this. And the first level I think is like really important to recognize is most of the things that people are going to do with these no-code tools are things that frankly simply would not have been done. Because trying get someone in IT to like build out this custom app. When it’s a little workflow that’s only going to affect maybe like five people on your team, IT is going to be like “This isn’t worth it. We’ll schedule it three years from now, piss off.” But like for you to then like say, “Oh, I want this little workflow, so when we’re checking things off in this air table thing here, it will automatically trigger this thing here. Because it just makes our job easier.” These sorts of low end cases. I mean, there are millions of them.

Scott Brinker: I mean, throughout everything we do every day, there’s all these things of like, “Oh yeah, I’d really like a custom little banner I could put in my email.” Now. Yes I could in theory, try and track down a graphic designer and spend $2,000 to build a custom banner for my email. But come on, it’s like a limited email to like a thousand people. For some limited… It would not be worth spending that money. And so what you got to keep in mind here is most of these things that no-code tools are going to be used for are net new things to be created. They just simply wouldn’t have been created. And then the other side of the equation here is like, when you actually talk about sophisticated things, that paper you downloaded a mine. All right, so there was that team at WPP that did the graphic design of that paper. And it’s frigging amazing, if I’d tried to do that, even with Canva. Yeah. Let’s say it would not look that nice.

Tessa Burg: Yeah.

Scott Brinker: But there you go. You’ve got something like, okay, well that’s a major project and that’s a major release. And those designers, they probably felt it was a good use of their talents to create something that meaningful. And so I think it’s that same thing. I mean, IT they want to build meaningful stuff, they want to build the complex sophisticated stuff that you would never want to touch even with a no-code tool. And so I actually think these things are more compatible than it might sound at first blush.

Tessa Burg: Yeah. That is really exciting because there are like you said, moments in your day where you sort of have a wish, “Oh, I wish this would work this way.” And now you can do a little bit of research, look at the applications in your existing networks or platforms and perhaps get an answer and move on.

Scott Brinker: Yeah. And this is why I say it’s like, it’s super powers. But I love the way you phrase that too. It’s like you have this wish. And for years we’ve probably trained ourselves to like the moment that wish comes up, you’re like, “Oh, that’d be nice. All right. That’s not going to happen.” and you move on. And then to be in a mode where you’re like, well wait actually now I could make that wish come true. It’s pretty cool.

Tessa Burg: Yeah, it is pretty cool. And I liked that it’s accessible. You don’t have to be a developer. You don’t have to have a computer science or data background in order to start realizing the benefits of the really, really smart people who created some of these no-code applications with that technology already built in. This gets us to the subject of what’s in the title of your paper, which is the augmented marketer.

Scott Brinker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tessa Burg: Tell us a little bit about the different sort of components of what makes up and what’s the definition of the augmented marketer.

Scott Brinker: Yeah. I mean the idea behind the augmented marketer is that the tools that the average marketer will have at their disposal just lets them do things that five years ago even were just like the realm of science fiction. Like the no-code tools are a really big example of that. Networks and marketplaces, there’s marketplaces for creative services, so let’s say I need something creative. It’s more advanced than what I feel comfortable doing with a no-code tool, but I don’t want to have to go out and find a whole agency just to do this one-off thing. But if I go to a site like Fiverr or Upwork and I’m like, Hey, this is the spec of what I need. This is what I’m willing to pay for it. All of a sudden you get like three bids on this. Someone does it, turns it around in 24 hours.

Scott Brinker: I mean, this is amazing the way in which marketers can go from idea to execution. And then like one of the things we closed the paper with was looking at some of these AI related technologies. That again, they’re not taking jobs away from marketers. What they’re doing is they’re finding these tasks that were so tedious or just by the scale of the analysis, like inaccessible for a human being to do and applying machine learning algorithms to do that grunt work for us so that we, as marketers, we can think at the level above that of what’s the big idea? What’s the integrated approach we want to take to this? How do we want to collaborate with our customers, and our partners, and our organization to make this happen. Marketers are like anyone else it’s like, we want to focus on meaningful, meaty, challenging, fun stuff.

Scott Brinker: We don’t want to be doing the drudgery of, okay, I have to crop out this picture this way. And I just want to throw it up to a machine learning thing and say like, get rid of the background and it pops back and it’s perfect and I’m like, all right, moved on to the next task. And so I think you just look across all these innovations and you’re like, yeah, as a marketer, the capabilities you’re going to have over this next decade. I mean, I think it’s the golden age of marketing. You will be able to do far more than any of your predecessors could have ever even dreamed of, so yeah, that’s the age of the augmented marketer.

Tessa Burg: That is exciting. And you gave a really interesting example of taking an image and getting the background zapped out, because the application knows what the background is. Do you have any other examples of where you’re seeing machine learning and AI play a role in addressing those tedious activities?

Scott Brinker: Oh, sure. Well, I mean a great example would be like segmentation, right? Segmentation has always been really important to marketing, but to be honest, the way in which we’ve manually tried to identify segments and pull them apart. A, it’s a lot of work and B, it doesn’t always… There’s a bunch of trade-offs you start to make of like, well, it kind of is this segment or it’s kind of that segment. And when you think about it, this is a perfect task for machine learning, where you can look at all the data of all your customers, historically over time, the characteristics they have, the success they had with your products or services, you can pull in other general market data. And the machine learning algorithms can actually go through this and they can help identify the clusters and the characteristics.

Scott Brinker: It still requires the talent of the marketer, like once you’ve seen those clusters in that segmentation, like how you will want to craft your story, and your narrative, and your strategy for each of those segments is still really huge part of marketing leadership. But you’re now leveraging machine learning to really look at the data to understand what are the actual segments within your… and very often people were surprised. There’s like segments we discovered that we didn’t even really realize where a segment until then, the machine pulls out the cluster and you’re like, “Well, wait a second. Now that you show it to me. Yeah. That makes sense. Of course it does. Wow, what an incredible discovery.”

Announcer: You’ve been listening to another episode of Lead(er) Generation by Tenlo Radio. Be sure to subscribe on tenloradio.com.

Scott Brinker

VP of Platform Ecosystem at Hubspot

Scott Brinker is fascinated by the intersection of technology platforms and ecosystems as well as marketing strategy and operations. He has extensive experience and holds several titles in these areas.

First, Scott serves as the VP of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot. In this role, he helps grow and nurture the community of technology partners building on the HubSpot platform.

Since 2008, he’s also run the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, which has more than 50,000 readers. One of his well-known projects is a map of the  Marketing Technology Landscape.

In 2014, Scott launched the MarTech conference. As the event’s Program Chair, he brings together a community of senior marketing operations and technology professionals.

Scott also wrote the best-selling book “Hacking Marketing,” published by Wiley in 2016. Plus, he’s a frequent keynote speaker at conferences around the world on topics of marketing technology and agile marketing.