The Monday Stack: Catching Up With Scott Brinker

You already know Scott Brinker (HubSpot):

If you’ve been paying attention to marketing technology any time over the last four or five years, you surely know Scott as the moving spirit behind the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, or Chief Martec as everyone calls it; doyen of the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic. For around 18 months now, he’s also been evangelizing for HubSpot as their VP of platform. In retrospect, has it been a problem fulfilling the dual roles of neutral commentator and vendor executive?

“I was never actually truly neutral, because before I joined HubSpot I was leading the product initiative at Ion Interactive. To me, when I think about the blog, what really matters to me is that I’m providing value to readers – and if I wasn’t, they’d just stop reading. I have no problem sharing content that is related to HubSpot that I think would be relevant to readers; but it’s all through the lens of, even if you’re never going to be a HubSpot customer, is this still interesting to you? Anyway, that’s the lens I’ve been using.”

HubSpot has recently been placing emphasis on its shift to platform. It added 94 additional official apps to its eco-system last year, bringing the total to 229 integrations across 17 categories, with a total of 355 APIs. Personally, I’ve been seeing the gradual drift to platform across the industry, resolving the old dilemma of comprehensive marketing cloud versus bodged-together Frankenstack.

Scott agreed: “It’s happening throughout the industry. At HubSpot we’ve gone through that transition. Initially we had one product, then we expanded it into a suite with tools for marketers and sales and service people. Now, as we were starting along that journey, we were opening up new APIs to let other companies integrate with HubSpot, but it wasn’t really the focus of the solution – that was on the things we ourselves had built. The transition to becoming a platform company is first and foremost a philosophical change. Companies aren’t going to have software from just one vendor; they’re going to have a ton of vendors. They are going to have hundreds of apps, and they need to work together.” Becoming a platform, he said, is about wanting to make all those things “work really well with HubSpot.”

Is platform going to win out over suite for other big players in the space? “Yes, I think that’s a transition you can now see across all the major martech vendors in particular. Adobe has a very thriving eco-system; obviously Marketo has that; Oracle, Eloqua, Salesforce. But even some of the smaller companies out there – like Shopify, at a slightly different angle from martech, and tools like Slack which have become so much a part of how people work. So everyone is kind of realizing that it’s not going to be one ring to rule them all. There’s value to certain tent-pole solutions to provide cohesion and coordination across all the different tools, but what makes those solutions successful is that they are truly embracing the idea of being open,  and making it easy for these other capabilities to get plugged in.”

Is all this good news for the consultancy/agency hybrids like Accenture, Isobar, and Merkle, who in addition to providing strategic and creative advice to clients now have very significant tech deployment practices? “It’s funny, ” said Scott. “Even though on one hand you’d say the better these platforms get at integration, there’d be less bespoke integration work. But the truth is that being a platform isn’t just about integrating other off-the-shelf solutions; it is truly about having openness for businesses to build custom capabilities of their own, getting the benefit of cohesion and coordination, but with their own bespoke extensions on top of it (particularly when you get up to midmarket and enterprise companies). So I suspect the Accentures and the Merkles are in no danger of running out of business opportunities.”

I asked Scott if he shared my sense that there was a shift in the space from creating new last mile solutions to solving problems from the bottom up; in particular, a renewed emphasis on driving insights from good data. “That’s a variation of a question I often get asked – which are the hot categories in the space? I always struggle with it, because it’s hard to find a category where there isn’t innovation and change happening.” While he agreed that there was renewed emphasis on improving data and making it available for execution, he also pointed elsewhere. “Interactive content.  Not just chatbots, but also voice assistants – marketers are working on experiences for these new channels. I also see a lot of innovation happening in the back office, but it’s not just the data – it’s how do we manage the team, how do we manage the process?” He also mentioned robotic process automation (RPA): “A really fancy label for a chatbot-like interface which allows a marketer to access all these capabilities that used to be locked up in different systems.”

I had to ask him about the landscape too. There seems to be a new one every month. Does it surprise him that they’ve taken off in this way? “I am amazed, and I always have to give credit to Terence Kawaja of LUMA Partners, way back in 2009 when he did that very first adtech LUMAscape. I thought, this is so cool. I am very surprised that logo landscaping has become a cottage industry unto itself.” And when can we expect to see the next edition of the Martech 5,000 (or 7,000 or 10,000)? “We try to release it at the MarTech conference we do in the Bay area in April, so I’m kind of working on deadline to that, and it was a whole lot easier when it was only a few hundred companies.”


A couple of additional pieces of news from HubSpot. It announced a $30 million fund, HubSpot Ventures, to invest in start-ups aligned with the main company mission. It’s also partnering with AWS, which will co-invest in building an eco-system for HubSpot partners, a move which in turn supports the transition described above.



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