Reverse Engineered - Kinsta's Business & Tech Podcast

Reverse Engineered - Kinsta's Business & Tech Podcast

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Episode Summary
Twenty years ago, technology and marketing were considered completely separate worlds on opposite ends of the spectrum. Today, we live in a digital world where marketing and technology departments are inextricably linked. The marketing department integrates technology with other departments.
Over the last ten years, we have seen a rapid increase in marketing technology suppliers. But even with all its potential, MarTech presents many challenges for businesses. For example, there are many ways to improve your marketing using technology, but many companies don’t know which technology they really need. Experienced marketers often find it challenging to understand and embrace MarTech’s capabilities and see it as an opportunity.
Scott Brinker, the VP of platform ecosystems at HubSpot and editor at He explains that marketing is still about winning customers, building brands, and driving sales. But with technology and all the innovation that’s happening, there have been some changes in the marketing department, the team structure, and the responsibilities of the people who work there.
In this episode of Reverse Engineered, Scott Brinker and our host Jon Penland get into MarTech and why it’s important to put technology into marketing. They discuss MarTech’s future and the difference between MarTech and ERP. 
Key Insights:
What is MarTech? Scott defines MarTech as “a shorthand for marketing technology, and it’s really about any software product that’s built primarily for marketing teams and marketers. These might be things like marketing automation platforms, advertising management, or social media marketing. But I now think of MarTech a bit more broadly, where it’s not just about marketing technology products; in some ways, it’s almost a mini profession under itself.”
Marketing and technology must be brought together. In the past, it was believed that marketing and technology are separate fields. However, it has now been recognized that both sides have to come together. According to Scott, MarTech is actually based on customer needs, and it’s necessary that marketing and technology intertwine. “Marketing needs to collaborate with professional IT and engineering leaders to be able to make sure that the things that are getting billed and implemented are solid, secure, and compliant. But on the other side, IT can’t just build these things in their own silo either. It has to be integrated with a view of, ‘Okay, what’s the actual customer experience, and how do we look at that experience?’ Frankly, it’s not just a keeping-the-lights-on set of mechanics but also a competitive advantage for how we win customers and build loyalty and advocacy in a highly competitive digital [market].”
Customer expectations are a priority. According to Scott, the most important thing for businesses to be successful is to research customer expectations , see what you need to change, and finally find a way to adapt to the customer’s needs. “If you get really clear on, ‘Oh, we could do a much better job of nurturing people here,’ or ‘Wow, we could do a much better job of optimizing how we’re getting found on these search engines such as Google or Amazon or things like that.’ And once you’ve got that clarity on the things that you wanna improve, then do a bit of research on, ‘Okay, what are the best software tools that will help me achieve that?'”
Today’s Guest: Scott Brinker VP of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot and Editor at
Before becoming the VP of platform ecosystems at HubSpot, Scott was the co-founder and CTO of Ion Interactive, a SaaS company. Since 2008, he has also run the blog,, which has over 50,000 readers. As one of his projects, Scott created the Marketing Technology Landscape by mapping the growth of the marketing technology industry from a few hundred vendors to 8,000. Scott also wrote the best-selling book Hacking Marketing and co-authored the article “The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist.”
Company: HubSpot,
Where to find Aran: LinkedIn | Website  
Episode Highlights
[00:00:00] Intro: This is Reverse Engineered, the podcast where we ask entrepreneurs and industry experts to break down the steps they took to take their company to the next level. If you are aspiring to learn something new and gain insight into how to grow yourself and your business, then you’ve come to the right place. Follow along as entrepreneur share not only their successes but the challenges they had to overcome to get where they are today.
[00:00:32] Jon Penland: Hey everyone. My name is Jon Penland, and Reverse Engineered is brought to you by Kinsta, a premium managed hosting provider. In today’s episode, I’m speaking with Scott Brinker, VP of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot and Editor at Scott, welcome to Reverse Engineered. 
[00:00:48] Scott Brinker: Oh, great to be here with you, Jon.
[00:00:50] Jon Penland: Yeah, Scott, we’re thrilled you could hang out with us today. And to get us started, can you introduce yourself to our audience? 
[00:00:57] Scott Brinker: Sure. So, yeah, from your introduction, I do wear two hats. I’m the VP of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot, where I help manage all of HubSpot’s technology partnerships, where other platforms are building integrations to HubSpot. 
[00:01:13]We’re now up to, oh my goodness, nearly, like, 1200 companies that have built these integrations. Before that, I was actually a co-founder CTO of a SaaS startup myself, called Interactive. And then the other hat I wear is yeah, for 15 years or so here, I’ve been, I don’t know what you’d call it, an advocate, an armchair analyst of the intersecting worlds of marketing and technology MarTech. Yeah. If you’ve ever seen that crazy landscape of thousands and thousands of different MarTech products out there in the world, unfortunately, I’m the person who has assaulted you with that, so I apologize for that.
[00:01:47] Jon Penland: Yeah. Well, I do wanna take a moment here at the beginning and help our audience get a little bit familiar, more familiar with your professional interests and background. So, you kind of touched on it there for a bit, but if you could take just a, another couple of minutes and, and give us a sense for what would you say you are most interested in today, professionally and, how did you get to where you are today? 
[00:02:08] Scott Brinker: To me, it’s fascinating. Where I originally came to what I currently do is that collision between the worlds and technology and marketing, which if we go back, like 20 years, the IT department and the marketing department, we’re about as conceptually opposite ends of the spectrum as you could imagine, you know? 
[00:02:23] In, in the early days, people used to talk about, somehow like they were at war with each other. I don’t even think it was that. I don’t even think it was hostility. It was like, they were just speaking different languages.
[00:02:39] It was like Tower of Babel, you know? But obviously, if we live in a digital world here, you couldn’t imagine two professions, two departments, two industries being more entangled than they are. And so, that journey over these past couple decades has just fascinated me because some of it’s the technology and all this innovation that’s happening around  MarTech, but even more so, quite frankly, it’s how it’s changed the marketing department, sort of people who work in marketing, the team structures, what the responsibilities are. And so, that’s, I’d say a lot of the journey.
[00:03:16] Jon Penland: Yeah. 
[00:03:16] Scott Brinker: And then where I kind of ended up at HubSpot is because of the fact that you have all this amazing technology innovation happening out there in the world, wonderful thing, but the single biggest challenge, marketing and revenue teams have, run into over the past decade is like, “Yeah, it’s great. There’s all these amazing tools out here, but I kind of need them to work together.” And that’s a mission that, yeah, I’m very passionate about. So, I do that at HubSpot, but also just kind of an advocate for other companies who are helping to support that too. 
[00:03:49] Jon Penland: Yeah. So, the listeners to Reverse Engineered tend to cut across a lot of different industries, but what tends to draw them all together is that there, we have a lot of folks who are parts of small to medium-size businesses that are in some way technology-enabled, if I could kind of, in broad   strokes, and there’s a word that I think we need to define early in this conversation because it’s a word that some our audience is gonna be familiar with, but some of it is not gonna be familiar with this word, and that word is MarTech. And you’ve already kind of hinted a little bit at what MarTech is, but if you could take a minute and speak to those who may not have heard that term before, or may have heard it, but not really known what it was referring to, how do you define MarTech? 
[00:04:33] Scott Brinker: Sure. So, MarTech is just a shorthand for marketing technology.
[00:04:38] Scott Brinker: And it’s really about any software product that’s built primarily for marketing teams, marketers, you know? And so, this might be things like marketing automation platforms or advertising management or, social media market.
[00:04:54] I mean whole collections that, actually thousands, of them out there. But I almost think MarTech, I think of it now even a little bit more broadly where it’s not just about marketing technology products, but in some ways, it’s almost a kind of a mini profession on there itself. It’s these people who are working in marketing operations, and sort of marketing technology management to, like, help orchestrate, how companies like to leverage all of these new technologies and capabilities in their marketing.
[00:05:24] And so, the boundaries start to get a little bit fuzzy because increasingly, it’s not just MarTech for marketing, but it’s how does the marketing department integrate more deeply with the rest of the technology that a business has across all of its other departments too. 
[00:05:40] Jon Penland: Yeah. And, and it really can get very complicated because a lot of times, you’ll have a lot of the disciplines that MarTech needs to have a grasp of or mastery of. You’ll see these same disciplines in other parts of the company, right? 
[00:05:57] And so, you might have developers in MarTech working on your website or your application, and then you’ve also got engineers over in your development department, and there’s, it can be really complicated, right, to figure out how do these different departments interact? Where does design live?
[00:06:13] Right? Is design a product function? Is it marketing function? It can get really complicated to think about how these different functions tie together. And, and if you could, kind of speaking to, again, our audience is gonna be mostly small and medium-sized businesses who are technology-enabled in some fashion and I think there could be a tendency to try in silo marketing over here, technology over here. 
[00:06:40] If you could speak to that, the individual in that business who still has this sort of linear thinking about, “I have my marketers here, and they’re focused on creating content and running social media, and I’ve got my technology team over here, and they build stuff.” Right?
[00:06:53] Speak to them a bit. Why do we need to start wrapping those two things together or finding ways to pull technology into that marketing skill set? 
[00:07:04] Scott Brinker: Yeah. It’s a great question. I think the best way to look at it is through the eyes of the customer. And sort of one of the models that, frequently in MarTech, we think a lot about, “Is this idea of the customer journey?”
[00:07:16] Like, you know, “How do customers, like, discover us?” But also, you set expectations, or they come to you with a set of expectations of like, “Okay, what are they gonna be able to do on your website when they start interacting with you?” You know? Like, if they’re subscribing to your emails or they wanna engage with a salesperson, like, how seamless is that flow?
[00:07:36] Do you, you recognize who they are? Are you making sure that you’re respecting their preferences?And as you start to go and then, yeah, I mean, ideally you make a sale, they become a customer, what’s the experience like then? When they have an issue, how does it get resolved? You start to look at these things, they end up crossing so many different teams, so many different channels, technologies inside our company, but from the customer’s perspective, right?
[00:08:03] Scott Brinker: They don’t see any of that, or ideally, they don’t wanna see any of that. They don’t care about the org chart. They don’t care about your tech stack. They just know like, “Hey, is this experience I’m having with this company good? Is it seamless, or is it awkward or just not delivering what I wanted it to?”
[00:08:20] And so, I think that’s why, while there’s definitely specialties within different teams and different departments, the mission increasingly for companies who see themselves as digitally savvy is like, “How do we make sure the hole is greater than the sum of its parts?” 
[00:08:36] Jon Penland: I’m curious how you first started to think about this coming together of marketing and technology because I’m struck that you referenced in a prior answer that you’ve put together a giant map of marketing of MarTech solutions. And the first time you did that was way back in 2011, and that strikes me as being pretty far ahead of the curve in thinking about how technology and marketing were more and more working together. 
[00:09:14] So I’m curious, was there an event or a situation that caused you to see “Something’s different here. Technology needs to come into the picture when we think about marketing, when we talk about marketing, when we plan and strategize.” Was there, was there some point or event?
[00:09:30] What got you thinking about MarTech in the first place, more than a decade ago, which I just wager is quite a few years before a lot of other folks started thinking about actually building organizations in a way to bring these two functions together? 
[00:09:45] Scott Brinker: Yeah, so the work I was doing before I had started that SaaS startup was actually leading the tech group at a web development agency, that would get hired by these Fortune 500 companies to help build out their, websites, and it was fascinating because we would get hired by the marketing department and their vision of how they wanted to engage with the world, but when it came down to the actual functionality that, they wanted the website to have, they didn’t want to just be brochureware, it was then, like, well became my team’s mission to, like, go and work with their IT department because they didn’t talk together.
[00:10:19] You know, and, like, basically doing this, like, shuttle diplomacy to, like, “Okay, well, how do these come together?” And I think one of the things I found fascinating was IT, for a long time, had this phrase of, like, “Shadow IT.” It was this idea of like, “Oh, if people, other than IT folks are doing something with technology, that’s not good. That’s, that’s a shadow IT department.” 
[00:10:46] Jon Penland: Correct. 
[00:10:46] Scott Brinker: And to a very real extent, they weren’t wrong. I mean, like, we, technology, like you can’t have these things like yeah, sprouting up in all these tiny little silos. But it’s interesting that the other side of the equation, and there was never really a phrase for it, but it was almost the exact opposite of that, which is “Shadow Marketing.” Which is to say, when you have a set of technology that impacts the customer experience, that, actually, is a marketing thing. That is impacting your brand – how people feel about working with you, what they’re gonna say about you, whether they’ll do business with you or, come back again,and so is this recognition that actually both sides needed to come together, that marketing needs to collaborate, with, like, professional IT and engineering, um, leaders, to be able to make sure that the things that are getting billed and implemented, are solid, they’re secure, they’re compliant. But on the other side, like, IT can’t just build these things, often their own silo either.
[00:11:50] It has to be, like, integrated with a view of like, “Okay, well, what’s, what’s the actual customer experience with and how do we look at that experience as frankly, not just, keeping the lights on, set of mechanics, but, like, a competitive advantage for how we win, customers and build loyalty and advocacy, in a highly competitive digital world.”
[00:12:14] Jon Penland: Beginning back in 201 and I, I referenced this just a moment ago, you, you put together this map of marketing technologies, right? And back then, and I read the blog post, I think you were trying to convince somebody about the importance of investing in this space. I think, as I recall from the blog post, they were, like, 150 technologies you identified.
[00:12:33] And then just earlier this year, you redid that map, and that number of technologies is up to 9,932. So, just tremendous increase over the past decade-plus in the number of MarTech solutions that are out, out in the, in the market today. Do you think we’re approaching sort of a market saturation in terms of the number of tools that are out there or do you think we’ll continue to see the proliferation of MarTech solutions into the future? 
[00:13:01] Scott Brinker: Yeah, it’s a great question. And, I’m always a little bit hesitant, or I guess I just put a disclaimer that if you had asked me 10 years ago to predict what the MarTech landscape would’ve done, I would’ve totally gotten that wrong.
[00:13:15] In fact, almost every year, if you’re like, “Well, have we reached peak MarTech?” I’m like, “It sure seems like peak MarTech to me.” And so I take it with a grain of salt, but I think one of the things that’s interesting is not all software is equal in scope or scale. 
[00:13:38] Scott Brinker: I mean, again, you have very large public software companies, like HubSpot, like Adobe, like Salesforce, like Oracle that, there’s only so many multi-billion dollar software companies you can fit before. GDP is just completely overrun with them.
[00:13:55] But what’s interesting is while there’s definitely that consolidation and there’s, like, a relatively small set of companies that make it to the head of the tail, when you look at across the long tail of all these little specialized things, part of what we’re seeing is just more and more of this atomization of software that, I mean, if you’re using, like, a no-code tool, like a Bubble or an Airtable or something like this, I mean, even, like, now non-software engineers can create these kind of little mini specialized apps to do this thing or that.
[00:14:30] And if you take this across the whole software industry, I mean, once you’ve just got is, like, millions and millions of apps being developed. I mean, IDC, an analyst firm had made the prediction that by the end of next year, there’ll be like, 500 million apps out in the cloud. Now, again, most of them will probably be these, like, one-off, custom things, but there’ll still be a non-trivial number that, get packaged up or shared with others and so I think we just have to accept that we’re still living in a world where the total span of software is growing, but this gets me back to where you started of like, yeah, where my current mission is and what I’m thinking about. In this world where the number of different individual software pieces continues to grow, it absolutely requires there to be some sort of strategy to be able to make these things work together.
[00:15:20] And I mean, the vision I always have in my head that is oversimplified, but hey, if we’re gonna dream, let’s aspire. It’s like the iPhone or, like, Android. I mean, there are millions of apps available for the iPhone, but you have very few people who, like, are losing sleep overnight of “Oh man, I’ve got too many apps on my iPhone.” And, “Do I get this one?”
[00:15:41] Scott Brinker: It’s like, it’s just so easy to get one and plug it in. Yeah. If it works for what you’re doing, great, if not, you pull something else in. And so, while it’s this enormous scale and variety, it hasn’t created this, the sort of negative challenges that we feel in B2B software. 
[00:15:58] Scott Brinker: And I think this is the goal. It’s like B2B software, maybe it won’t get that simple, I, B2B is a more complex environment, but I think we could aspire to get as close to that as possible and I, I think we can get a lot further than we are today.
[00:16:10] Jon Penland: Yeah. Thinking about the space, though, from the perspective of the business that’s using the software to market their services, to whoever their customers are, whether they’re other businesses or customers,
[00:16:23] I was struck by that, that graphic, how, how daunting it could be if you’re in charge of marketing or MarTech at a company and you don’t feel like you have your full stack established and you’re trying to figure out, “What else do we need to do?” Right? And you bring up this graphic and see, “Well, there are 9,932 different potential ways, right, that we could try and tackle this challenge, solutions we could bring to bear.” 
[00:16:53] So, as you think about just that sprawl and, and a business that’s trying to figure out how to best position itself in front of its clients, how do you think companies can do that most effectively? How can they approach that space and make sure that they’re making the most effective use of the MarTech solutions that are out there on the market?
[00:17:09] Scott Brinker:Yeah, I mean, I feel a little bit schizophrenic saying this, but I would probably recommend not looking at that graphic. I mean, seriously, like, I mean, the graphic is, I think from an industry perspective, it’s useful because it doesn’t empirically capture the scale of what’s happening, and I think there is a level at which we, as an industry, need to recognize it and figure out like, “Okay, how are we, how are we adapting in this environment?”
[00:17:38] But for most businesses that are, earlier in their stage of building out these capabilities, I think that’s the wrong place to go shopping. I think first and foremost, even setting aside the software acquisition, and really going back to this, like, “Okay, what, for our business and the customers we’re trying to serve, what are their expectations, in how they find us, how they first interact with us, how we end up converting them into customers, how we retain them, moving forward?”
[00:18:09] And if you sort of get really clear on that and you can look at your competitors and understand, “Where do we sit relative to, the competitive set?” and just sort of understand like, “Okay, what do we wanna do that we’re not able to do now from a functionality, from a capability perspective?” And I think if you get really clear on like, “Oh wow, we could do a much better job of nurturing people here” or, “Wow. We could do a much better job of, like, optimizing how we’re getting found in, these search engines, in Google or Amazon or things like that.”
[00:18:42] And then once you’ve got that clarity of the things that you want to improve, then start to, like, be able to do a little bit of research on like, “Okay, what are the best software tools that will help me achieve that?” And some of that is, I mean Googling and, things like that, but I think the best cases are often when you can participate in some of these peer groups, either formally or informally, with other marketers that other businesses and get some of that just like personal recommendation, personal experience.
[00:19:14] Because I mean, again, like I love software vendors, I’m the best software vendor myself still, but there’s something about, like, the peer-to-peer discussions, the community discussions that frankly just have an authenticity that no vendor is ever able to quite, that comes from my me at the end of the day, the vendor is still trying to sell you something.
[00:19:35] Jon Penland: Right. 
[00:19:35] Scott Brinker: And so, I think if you can, like, build up a peer group, they would probably be the first resource I would turn to in, like, considering what I might take advantage of, and maybe my landscape is somewhere way down the line of like, “Oh, yeah. Now we’re really good at this. Hmm. What, what else is out there?” But, don’t start there, please. 
[00:19:55] Jon Penland: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s a great point, right? That graphic is really not for the small business that’s trying to figure out how to set up their marketing. It’s really an industry snapshot. And I’m curious as you were talking about, how a small business might approach this or somebody who’s getting started might, reach out to a peer group.
[00:20:13] I’m really just curious to bounce off how I’ve thought about our approach internally to this same question, and I’m just curious to get your reaction to how I think about it and, and see if you think that’s a useful way of thinking about it. 
[00:20:30] So, at Kinsta, what Kinsta did early on, and this was prior to my time, is they picked a single channel that they were going to get really good at and that channel was content, right? And they said, “We are going to be as good as anybody else in our space at producing content. SEO, organic search is where is where we’re going to prioritize.” And so, they pushed out content, and they were like, “We’re gonna have one conversion method, which is gonna be the contact form on our website, which is gonna feed into Intercom and that’s it.” Right? 
[00:21:01] And so, it was like, “Content, contact form, and then we’re communicating with folks via Intercom.” And it was very super simple, and that was it for, like, the first three years, maybe. I mean, that was it. There was some social media stuff happening on the side, but that was really very ancillary and very much secondary to that core of, “We’re gonna do the content right and then we’re going to have a very clear path to a contact us form, and that’s gonna lead to Intercom, and we’re gonna do a really good job of consultative interaction with folks who are interested in what we’re doing.” 
[00:21:38] And then when you pick up other things over time and amplify what we’re doing, and now we’re doing everything, right?
[00:21:39] We’re doing podcasts, and we have a super active YouTube channel, and we have online courses and, like, we have, so many newsletters and 10 languages on our website, and so now we’re doing tons of stuff, but we didn’t start there. We started with one specific format, one specific path, one specific line between the person we’re trying to reach and them becoming our customer and just finding the tools that made that work.
[00:22:07] Scott Brinker: I love that. I mean, the number one challenge marketers face today is noise. It just, there is in every industry and every segment, it is just this massive, like, there’s, there’s no geographical boundaries on any of this stuff, no industry, I just, like, noise. And so, it is so hard to break through on any one particular thing because you kind of need to really be excellent, at that thing you do. And so, given that as a small business, there’s only so many resources, so many hours in the day – I think picking one thing and being really excellent at that as a way to break through and win and build from there and then layer things on afterwards, to me, seems like, yeah, a much better strategy than the, like, “Oh, well, we’re gonna do a dozen different things and we’ll kind of do ’em all, like, pseudo mediocre and then, like, we’ll try.” It just, it’s really hard to break through the noise with that doing-too-many-things-at-once strategy. 
[00:23:10] Jon Penland: Yeah, and I think it can be really scary as a business to look at what your competitors are doing. And you’re looking at an established competitor, right, that has a marketing team of 10 or 15 people and they’re doing everything, right?
[00:23:24] They’re on YouTube, and they have 15 different social media profiles and they’re doing blog content and they’re appearing on podcasts and they’re having ebook out and a bunch of different lead capture magnet things going on. And you’re sitting here going, “How do we compete with that?” And I think the answer is you really can’t try. Right?
[00:23:42] Like, if you’re a brand new company, maybe you’re a solopreneur or a small team, you can’t try to compete with all of that. You, you have to pick one thing or ORP two things, but you’ve gotta focus and say, “These are the things that we think matter most for our potential customers. These are the ways that we can get in front of them taking into account the skills that we have on our team, the resources we have available, this is gonna be our area of focus, and we’re just, we’re gonna push all the rest of that stuff aside, and maybe someday we’ll do it, but that’s not core to what we’re doing. This is what we’re doing.” 
[00:24:17] Scott Brinker: Right? Yep. A hundred percent agree with that. That’s a great thing too now from the MarTech side is. Whatever one thing you pick, again, because the upside of having, like, 10,000 MarTech tools out there is I guarantee for the one thing you pick there are dozens of companies that are trying to come up with really innovative tools and technologies to help you be really great at that one thing.
[00:24:41] Jon Penland: Right. 
[00:24:42] Scott Brinker: And so, yeah, if you’ve got that focus, that then also becomes a really nice way to, like, not looking at that whole MarTech landscape, you’re, like, looking at a very narrow subset of like, “What’s sort of state of the art in this one thing I’m trying to do?” And yeah, it’s got a scope that you can get your head around.
[00:24:59] Jon Penland: Yeah, absolutely. Something that you wrote, actually way back in 2012, you wrote an article about how marketing software will never be like ERP, right? And I’m struck, just the fact that we have over 9,000 MarTech tools is a pretty clear vindication of that idea that you put forward back in 2011 or 2012, that marketing software would never be like ERP.
[00:25:26] But I’m curious if you could expand on that idea. Why do you think the MarTech space will not consolidate and stagnate, or stagnate might be too strong of a word, but be much more stable like the ERP market is? Why is that not gonna happen? 
[00:25:43] Scott Brinker: Yeah. Wow. Thanks for bringing that up. I haven’t thought about that article in quite some time. But yeah, I think to me the key of it is the variability in marketing. Basically, with ERP, I mean, again, I’m oversimplifying a bit, but not too much, right, the goal is to essentially have a very controllable, very deterministic supply chain. And even if you have options for. 
[00:26:10] You’re sort of also controlling what those contingencies are and, “Oh, okay. Well, if this shuts down here, we’ll take this alternate route and, you know,” gets very complex, it’s very sophisticated, but it’s very deterministic. With marketing, the reality is half of the participants, like, sure, you can be as deterministic as you want with what you do inside your business, but you can’t dictate to your customers, your prospects, like, “Okay, here’s the algorithm we need you to follow.”
[00:26:38] Like, customers are just gonna do what they want to do, and smart marketers are constantly in a mode of, like, adapting to how their customer behaviors evolve, how customer expectations evolve, and as a result, because that whole domain in which you’re working is evolving outside of your control, you have to take, like, your approach with the technology that you’re using to do that, to be like, “Well, we need to adapt, and maybe there’ll be a new tool that helps us adapt with this new thing this way or maybe the old tool we had will also recognize this and up level their capability.”
[00:27:16] But you can’t just predetermine the whole system algorithmically and be like, “Up. Optimize perfectly.” 
[00:27:28] Jon Penland: Right. Yeah. And I think the thing is if you just look at content strategies over the last, I would say six, seven years, so before I was at Kinsta, I was a freelance writer. I was writing content, actually, for Kinsta, and for some other blogs around the technology or software space, and at that time, six, seven years ago, written content really was where it was at and, and written content is still certainly extremely important, but podcasts, video were not important the way that they are today. Right? 
[00:28:06]  And so, if you have that deterministic marketing stack built that isn’t gonna flex as the moods of consumers change or the way that people interact with information as that changes, you can’t have a deterministic approach to how you reach out to your customers because the way that they want to consume information changes.
[00:28:23] Right? And so, and so your, your marketing stack has to be flexible to flex into those new ways that, “Hey, folks are, are consuming information in this new way and we’re, we’re gonna have to be able to flex into that, and that means that we can’t be totally locked to this one way that we’ve done things in the past.” Right? 
[00:28:45] Scott Brinker: Yeah. I mean and again, it’s like, it’s a balance because it’s not, like, it’s the complete antithesis of ERP in the sense of like, “Oh, well, it’s just the Wild West. Just there are no rules. Go for it.” It’s like, you’re trying to balance two sides of essentially the audience that you can’t control.
[00:29:03] In fact, they control you, right? You’re adapting to what the audience wants. Marketers go where the audience is. But at the same time, right, to be efficient and effective and do this at scale, you are looking to operationalize internally, like, how you serve that ever-adapting and shifting audience.
[00:29:24] And so, this is why marketing operations and marketing technologies, like, a pretty big deal is ’cause there are some of that DNA of ERP, like, from an optimization perspective, we’re trying to bring into how we actually run marketing, but it’s with that big asterisk that’s very different than ERP of like, “Well, okay, what happens when all of a sudden Mark Zuckerberg says like, “Well, everybody, let’s go to the Metaverse,” and you’re like, “Wait, what?'” So.
[00:29:50] Jon Penland: Right. And I do think you’re hitting at something that I wanted to ask about, which is you’ve emphasized in the past the need for MarTech solutions to think of an open API as a first-class feature.
[00:30:08] And I’m struck, is a part of the reason for that it allows this, I think you said to operationalize marketing processes while retaining the ability to be nimble and to pull new solutions into the fold, is that, is that a part of why that open API you, you view it as such a critical first-class feature for MarTech solutions?
[00:30:31] Scott Brinker: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. And I mean, part of it too is just even I am in the camp of simplify your MarTech stack as much as you can. Like, simpler is better. There’s like an Occam’s razor. That being said, it is highly unlikely you’re a business that has one software product that does everything for your entire business.
[00:30:51] We’re just not in that world at this point. And so, you have to recognize that even if you have a very simplified and rationalized tech stack, you almost certainly have multiple different things, and new stuff will come in from time to time. And so, what you want is the ability for these things to talk to each other, to work together. You want the ability for your business is you get more and more sophisticated.
[00:31:17] You’re not just doing things that are out of the box from these products, but you start to, like, layer on little bits of custom things of like, “Okay, well, what can we do that’s unique to our business, whether it’s an internal process or an external customer experience?” And to be able to put those things together, again, you need to be able to access through an API the foundational systems that you’re working with. And so, yeah, it’s this journey we’re on where just the world has more and more software, more and more of that software is just in the cloud, it has the potential to be orchestrated together in very, very novel ways and we’re still early, early, early, early in really harnessing that. 
[00:32:03] But to even get down that journey, the software you work with needs to at least have an API. Even if you personally aren’t consuming that API, it might be that other products that you would have in your tech stack would consume that API to make those two things work together better, so I think it’s a very important yardstick to measure vendors against when you’re considering what products to adopt. 
[00:32:28] Jon Penland: Yeah. And I think HubSpot has really led the charge, I think, on the integration of different marketing solutions. I think recently it was announced that HubSpot has over a thousand different potential integrations with different applications.
[00:32:44] I’m curious why a company like HubSpot, well, maybe you are, is HubSpot concerned about integrating with a different solution that has overlap, right? Is there concern that, “Hey, we’re gonna allow this integration, and that’s gonna slowly cause the customer to shift using that tool instead of our own and that’s not good for us in the long run?” How do companies in that space think about that apparent threat to the use of their own software that might be posed by integration?
[00:33:10] Scott Brinker: That’s, by the way, it’s a two-way thread. HubSpot would be concerned about folks in ecosystem competing with HubSpot, but it goes the other direction too, where people in our ecosystem are concerned about HubSpot competing with them.
[00:33:24] This is kind of the nature of open platforms. There’s gonna be overlap. And I think one of the things that Dharmesh Shah, who’s the CTO, the co-founder of HubSpot, very early on, and this is what attracted me to joining HubSpot, felt very passionately, “Let the customer decide. Let’s not be in this business of playing games of ‘ Oh, well, if we think you’re competing with us in this place, we’re gonna exclude you from the marketplace, or we’re gonna like shut down your API.'”
[00:33:54] It’s just like, at the end of the day, the people you end up harming there are customers. And really, in an ideal open ecosystem, first and foremost, if you have the reputation of being the open platform that’s not gonna play games with other people, even when they’re competing with you, that actually is a competitive advantage because it helps assure customers that like, “Listen, if I go with HubSpot at the center of my stack, even if I have other things I want to use because for whatever reason, the particular functionality and that piece of HubSpot, I prefer something, that I have that choice that I can go and do that, and HubSpot’s gonna work great with it.”
[00:34:33 I just feel like that puts everyone in a position where the, the focus is on what’s best for the customer and where there are overlaps, we’ll compete for the segment we think we can best serve. 
[00:34:45] You know, a partner who’s competing in that will, like, have their strategy and their best segment and some customers will choose one, some customers will choose another, but the fact that they’re all participating in this common ecosystem, I think it’s actually a benefit to, well, first and foremost, the customer, but also quite frankly, both HubSpot and the partner, it’s just, we’re making it easier for people to not get so stressed out about these choices.
[00:35:09] Jon Penland: Well, and I think you’re right though, because let’s say that I had developed a chat tool, right? So, a tool that you could install on a website and it would allow you to chat with folks visiting that website. And there’s a lot of folks who have done that, and I believe that HubSpot has a built-in feature for that, but if I was using HubSpot and if for some reason there was something about that feature that I wanted to be slightly differently, right?
[00:35:32]  The fact that they’re all of my existing marketing data is already in HubSpot, if there’s another chat tool out there that integrates with HubSpot, I’m far more likely to consider that as opposed to one that doesn’t because this is where my data already is.
[00:35:48] Right? So, the relationship isn’t just, “Hey, HubSpot’s gonna cannibalize all of the chat platforms that are out there.” It actually works the other way as well, where if somebody wants something slightly differently, the fact that that other tool does integrate with HubSpot becomes a selling feature of that other tool because now, I don’t have to, I can keep my data where it is, and I can use this tool that has this little wrinkle in the functionality that I prefer in whatever fashion so that I get my data where I want it, where it already exists, all my customer data and interactions and all of that stuff.
[00:36:21] But I can bring in this other tool, and I can even bring it in and try it out and whatever data transfers during that process is still there, and I can go to another tool. Right? So, it really does enable almost, again, a nimbleness, a tinkering within the marketing team to say, “What works best for our potential clients, the folks we’re trying to reach out to?”
[00:36:43] Scott Brinker: Yep. I think it’s on my iPhone, I’ve chosen to use Safari for my web browsing, but I use Gmail for my email. I’m using a Microsoft app, to get access to you. Apple could say like, “No, if it’s any kind of thing that we build this software, your only choice is to use ours,” and people would hate it. I mean, the iPhone is, like, this massive success, in my opinion, in no small part because they’ve been really committed to this open platform, “It doesn’t have to be all our software.” 
[00:37:29] Scott Brinker: Now, that being said, we do wanna make sure the software that plugs in works well, it meets certain compliance standards, like, that’s part of the benefit we’re actually giving customers is, “Hey, anything you buy from this app store, you can assume it meets a certain bar.”
[00:37:39] I think there’s still that dimension that you wanna have, but from a competitive perspective, I don’t think you can both be a, “Dominate the world. It’s all gotta be our software and a platform.” Like, these are mutually exclusive world-use mindsets. 
[00:37:56] Jon Penland: Shifting back to another topic, every year on your website,, you run this contest called “The Stackies” and companies submit visualizations of their own MarTech stack. Why do you think that this is a valuable exercise for the companies that participate, and how do you recommend that a company go about approaching that exercise? 
[00:38:19] Scott Brinker: Yeah. I love The Stackies. Yeah. So, there’s kind of a serious layer to it and a fun layer to it. The serious layer is actually, I mean, forget about the visualization, mapping out your stack is just really important. Like, what do I have? What are the different tools? How do I think of them working together? What are the responsibilities?
[00:38:39] What’s the sort of flow of data or the workflow of how people are working with it? Like, if you’re in marketing operations, marketing tech, like, you just, you need this picture, so you understand it, and you can also explain it to others in your company. But that being said, because we’re in a world where, there’s so much change in so many different products and so many different configurations that actually there isn’t one approach you can take that’s like, “Oh, that’s the best practice.”
[00:39:10] And so, you really do actually want a mechanism if you’re in marketing ops and marketing, you kind of, like, to see like, “Oh, well, what are other people, how are other people think about this? Which tools are they using? How do they think about them fitting together?”
[00:39:21] And so sort of the genesis of The Stackies was just this idea of like, it’s not that competitively sensitive, as far as which vendors you’re working with. So, for companies who are willing to be open and share this, that community, now it’s up to like several hundred of these, that we published, it just become a source of people looking at what others are doing, “What can I learn from?”
[00:39:45] And so, I think that’s actually legitimately a very useful community project. And that being said, marketers being marketers, over time, the Stackies the way in which they visualize them has gotten, more and more produced.
[00:40:03] Scott Brinker: And, like, people will often, like, produce the stacky in some sort of metaphor, like, Sargento, foods like, how does this whole thing of, like, the conveyor belt of, stuff being assembled for the grocery store and that. 
[00:40:12] And that’s fun, it’s enjoyable, to me, while that’s the fun element of it, if you strip away the sort of high-production value trappings that people tend to do and you just get down to, “Well, wait, what’s the model you’re actually sharing with me and what are the tools you’re using?”
[00:40:34] Wow. To have a few hundred different versions of that and from major companies now, I mean Microsoft and Phillips and Cisco and, like, all the, it’s, I think it’s just been really helpful for us as an industry to, like, get a view into how these things are evolving.
[00:40:49] Jon Penland: Yeah. It’s really interesting to look at them because I, I was looking at some preparing for this call and the thought that kept coming to mind is like, “Somebody spent a week on this,” right? 
[00:40:58] And somebody figured out the flow and, and that may have been in some kind of a simple visualization or even just written down, but then a designer was put on task to pull this thing together and they spent some time on this, and there were some meetings, right?
[00:41:13] Like, I feel like I’m sitting there looking at these going, “All right. What are, who are they marketing to with this visualization?” I guess, I feel like this is some, some employer branding at work right here where these folks are trying to say, “Hey, If you wanna work in a marketing company that, or marketing team that knows what they’re doing, hey, check us out.
[00:41:30] Like, look at this thing that we pulled together and how we operate and the tools we are using.” So, I almost feel as like some companies are using it as a marketing tool in and of itself, right, at this point. 
[00:41:41] Scott Brinker: Absolutely. And I think it works both ways. I mean, certainly, from a recruiting perspective, they also use it as a nice way to reward vendors. Like, basically when a company like Cisco is recognizing which vendors they’re using, that’s a big endorsement of those vendors.
[00:41:59] Scott Brinker:  But the other thing about it too is, I mean, I’ll just be honest, marketing ops, marketing tech people, it’s a tough job. It’s not a job quite frankly, that even until very recently got a lot of executive visibility. It was kind of like down in the boiler room of like, “Okay, well, we’re actually the ones who, like, make all this stuff work ’cause if we don’t make it work, this fails, these leads don’t get, it’s disasters.” So, everybody knows when marketing ops isn’t working, but when marketing ops is actually working perfectly, it almost becomes invisible of like, “Yeah, all this stuff magically happens.”
[00:42:35] And so, I feel like marketing ops both it’s hard work, it isn’t always well-recognized and appreciated, certainly externally. And so I kind of feel like The Stackies have become one of those things where, I had a designer invest a week in coming up with this.
[00:42:55] What was the value of that? Well, one of the things that is my art, marketing ops and marketing ops team is like really proud of this. They’re like, “Yes, this is the thing we built, and we can share it, and it’s being recognized, by this broader community that we’re a part of.” And yeah, I think that’s work, worth a week of a designer’s time.
[00:43:17] Jon Penland: Absolutely. 
[00:43:17] Scott Brinker: Particularly given, this competitive market where if your marketing ops people aren’t happy, they’ve got at least 10 different job offers that you can take at this point.
[00:43:26] Jon Penland: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I do wanna shift you talked about the folks on your marketing team having other job offers.
[00:43:33] I did for the end of our conversation here, I do wanna shift sort of in a career orientation and thinking about what a modern marketing professional looks like. So, in this MarTech landscape, as companies are building out marketing teams, should they be focused on hiring these hybrid marketing technology professionals or should they be thinking about hiring different skill sets into different positions within the same team? How do you think about talent in this, in this new, MarTech space? 
[00:44:04] Scott Brinker: Yeah. I mean, some of it comes down to just scale. I think if you have even a relatively small team, but it’s like a multi-person team, having sort of one person who’s taking responsibility for, like marketing tech and operations is probably a good thing ’cause there’s enough specialization that one develops there. And then you have other folks who are, perhaps leading your demand generation process or creative and content and so on.
[00:44:31] And as you get larger people, like, create whole marketing ops teams, and they have different specialists within that. When you’re just getting started, and it’s, like, one marketer or two marketers or even three marketers, then yeah, it becomes a little bit more of like, Jack of many trades.
[00:44:47] Like, you want someone who’s comfortable, with some of these MarTech tools so they can use them, but they don’t really have to be experts in any of them. Because again, at that stage taking your strategy, hopefully, they’re actually just picking, one or two things like, “Well, let’s make sure we can get this really, really right.”
[00:45:04] And while some of that will probably involve technology, more likely the majority of the work is still actually gonna be on, “Well, what’s being created? What’s the strategy? How’s this being matched up with the particular persona we’re going after that?” I mean, there is that whole world of marketing outside of technology that has not gone away, it’s only gotten bigger. The scope of responsibility is only expanded. And so, yes, marketing TechOps is an important piece, but it’s still, in endless scheme of things, just one piece. 
[00:45:35] Jon Penland: So, what advice then would you give to somebody who’s embarking on a career and, and they’re hoping to move into this MarTech space, right?
[00:45:43] They’re really interested in marketing, but they wanna focus on technology as opposed to maybe content creation or something in that direction. What advice do you give to that, that new professional moving into the MarTech space? How do they, how do they get their feet planted and launched into that space?
[00:45:58] Scott Brinker: Yeah. I mean, the great thing is a lot of the major vendors like HubSpot, like a Salesforce, they all have these training and certification programs. I know the HubSpot one is all three. And so, you can get the certification that can demonstrate that there’s a clear demand for hiring people who have that certification and so that’s a good way to get started. 
[00:46:20] Get your foot in the doors and start doing the work. The other thing I often recommend for marketing tech people who really wanna grow is do a side project. Because almost inevitably, the scope of what you’re gonna do with the company you’re working for, as we were talking earlier, pick one thing, do it really, really well.
[00:46:43] Scott Brinker: And it’s not about like, “How do I get 50 different MarTech tools?” It’s like, “How do I get one or two and use ’em really, really well?” And so, that’s great. You wanna get really good and demonstrate that, but at the same time, if you’re gonna make your career in this technology, it’s almost like you want to have some sort of sandbox that you can play with.
[00:47:01] “No, well, no, let me see what that thing does and I’m curious about it.” And again, maybe this is a side project in your company, maybe it’s a side project to do at home, but basically, find some sort of sandbox where you can experiment and do because this is an industry where there’s just not a lot of book learning.
[00:47:17] It is like all hands-on experiential learning and, just making sure you have like, vehicles to keep doing that. 
[00:47:27] Jon Penland: I actually have stories for both of those ideas that I have to share quickly. So, the first is that back when I was a freelance writer back in the 2014, 2015 period of time, I was writing for very technical websites, and I was having a conversation with a marketer that I just, a digital marketer that I just happened to meet by chance, and he said something about long-tail keyword. Right? And I, and I just kind of gave him a blank stare ’cause I had no idea what he was talking about. Right? 
[00:47:58] And that was, like, shot across the bow, “Okay, Jon, you can write, and you know your content, but you actually have no idea about SEO, about, about the strategy here.” And so, actually, way back in, I guess, probably it was 2015, don’t quote me on the dates that I have to go check, but I actually went through HubSpot’s inbound certified training at that, and it was free, and it did give me a sense for what’s the big picture.
[00:48:21] Like, what is, what is the goal? What does inbound mean? What are some of these keywords and terms and it, it allowed me to be conversant with a digital marketer and, and to at least, understand the beginning of some of that strategy around content. So, I can vouch for the value if you’re early in your career, in that space and in doing some of that stuff that’s free, that’s out there, that does demonstrate a certain body of knowledge and if you don’t quite have that body of knowledge, helps you to start developing it.
[00:48:50] And then the second story I have to tell is again about HubSpot, which is our chief sales officer, when he was looking for a job a few years ago,  before he came to work for Kinsta, he actually used HubSpot to manage his job search. Right? I think there’s, like, a free tier for HubSpot. And he was like, “All right, that’s awesome. If I’m gonna be looking for a job, I wanna go through the process of setting HubSpot up for the first time ’cause this is an important tool and I really like it.”
[00:49:20] He had used it at a prior location, but it had been set up for him. So, he’s like, “I wanna go through the entire process from signing up, setting it up, and getting to learn the product and actually using it. I’m looking for a job, you know what? I can use HubSpot to organize my job search.”
[00:49:33] So, that was an example of a side project, right, that was necessary, something he was going through, and he used it to get a sense for how to use this tool that’s important in his space and, and we use it today in no small part because of his appreciation for the power of the tool.
[00:49:51] Scott Brinker: Okay. That’s awesome. 
[00:49:52] Jon Penland: I love it. Yeah. Yeah. So, as we come to a close, I do have two wrap-up questions that I always ask all of our guests on Reverse Engineered. So, the first is, what’s one resource that you would recommend to our listeners? It could be a book, a blog, a newsletter, anything that you find value in that you would wanna recommend to the listeners of Reverse Engineered.
[00:50:13] Scott Brinker: Wow. I suppose it’s ghost to like, you know, promote Let’s see. 
[00:50:20] Jon Penland: No, that’s totally valid. Yeah. 
[00:50:22] Scott Brinker: You’re catching me a moment where just something’s popping into my mind that I’ll recommend, which isn’t a MarTech book, but I would say it was absolutely transformational for me in how I think about this stuff.
[00:50:34] And it’s a book by a fellow called Nassim Nicholas Taleb, he’d written “Fooled by Randomness,” he’d written “Black Swan” and the third book he wrote after Black Swan was a book called “Antifragile.” And it’s basically this whole thing of, like fragile things break when change happen. Robust things don’t break when change happens, but what you really want is this stuff that’s Antifragile, that actually gets stronger when changes and shocks, come to it.
[00:51:08] So, it’s a little bit wonky, but to me, this is the vision of, like, modern marketing, modern marketing tech, and ops in particular. It’s like, how do you create these both strategic and technical approaches that actually allow you to get stronger with the world that is just going through, like, tremendous change and disruption.
[00:51:27] Jon Penland: All right. So, we’ll make sure that that recommendation makes it into the show notes. And then last question for you, Scott, where can people learn more about HubSpot or about the work you’re doing, and how can they connect with you?
[00:51:39] Scott Brinker: Yeah, so, and actually out of the menu in the software, you can make your way to our app marketplace, which is the 1100 some odd partners we have there now doing great stuff.
[00:51:50] And then, of course, yeah, for the stuff I do on the MarTech side. And yeah, just @chiefmartec on Twitter or LinkedIn, feel free to just reach out. Happy to chat with people.
[00:52:00] Jon Penland: All right. Great deal. Well, Scott, thank you so much for hanging out with me today on Reverse Engineered. 
[00:52:06] Scott Brinker: Hey, thanks for having me. Have a great rest of your day.
[00:52:08] Jon Penland: Yeah. And thank you to our listeners. That’s all for today’s podcast. You can access the episode show notes at That’s K I N S T If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to Reverse Engineered and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or the platform you’re listening on right now.
[00:52:29] See you next time. [00:52:31] Outro: Thanks for joining us on this episode of Reverse Engineered, the podcast on all things business and tech. Reverse Engineered is brought to you by Kinsta. Kinsta’s premium WordPress hosting can speed up your website by up to 200%, and you’ll get 24/7 support from our expert WordPress engineers. Let us show you the Kinsta difference at
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