Speaker Spotlight: Scott Brinker

Innovating experiences at the intersection of marketing & software

Hacking marketing is about bringing a little bit of that inventive hacker spirit to the management and practice of marketing. In a digital world, that proves to be a very good thing.”

— Scott Brinker, Hacking Marketing

Anyone working in marketing or technology knows that both disciplines have undergone revolutionary change. As digital now reaches into virtually every aspect of your customer’s experience, marketers are adapting to new processes and platforms—and adopting many of the agile methods of the software world.

No one understands that better than marketing technologist Scott Brinker, who brings insights from both worlds to the stage at Delight 2016 in his talk, “Hacking Marketing: The Amazing Convergence of Marketing & Software.”

“Software gives marketers a greatly expanded creative palette to design memorable customer experience masterpieces—and the leverage to reach a much broader and more engaged audience with them,” Scott writes in Hacking Marketing. “But the secret to success is not in the technology itself—but in adapting marketing management to this new software-powered environment.”

I talked with Scott about the parallels between software development and modern marketing and how we can take a long view of our digital experience strategy, even as we assess our priorities and performance in more focused sprints.

Marketing and software parallels

Image: ChiefMartec.com

Easing the pain of your ‘too-much-to-do’ list

Agility is an enabler. It gives us the ability to maneuver in a world of fast-moving digital dynamics. But our purpose for that agility is often to achieve greater innovation. We don’t want to simply accelerate our reactions to competitors. We want to take the lead.”

Carmen: For a lot of marketing organizations “agile” is a very different way of approaching the workflow. What has the response been since your book came out? Are marketers resistant to this different way of working, or does it resonate?

Scott: I think the pain point that marketers feel, almost universally, is the number of things they’re asked to do, the speed at which things are expected to happen, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to react to change. Whether it’s external market change, internal change around tools, competitive change—all of these things are coming at marketing at a much faster cadence.

In the software world there was that beautiful shining city on the hill of how the perfect software project would be executed over a year or 18 months. The parallel for marketing was always the marketing plan. We’d have the luxury of mapping out a couple of big campaigns for the year, and we could assemble them carefully over a six-month period.

It just never ended up working that way, because as you get into it, what people wanted would change, the opportunities would change. You’d discover roadblocks that you didn’t expect. Regardless of what our strategic vision is for marketing, the execution—and the operational reality of it—has to react to feedback, to changes, to new information.

The more marketers feel that pain, the more they start looking for ways to deal with it. That’s where you see willingness to look at some of these agile concepts and say, “Yeah, maybe it’s time to change the way we manage marketing to live in this new environment.”

Pursuing big dreams a little bit at a time

Agile management is not about displacing big dreams with small ones. But agile management recognizes that big ideas are often best realized through a series of many small ideas.”

Carmen: A challenge that we’ve talked about within our own team is how you balance an agile process with the longer term strategic foundations of what you’re trying to achieve?

Scott: It’s definitely one of the questions people frequently have when they are first introduced to agile management. They ask, “Hey, I get this notion that there would be benefits to doing things in a more incremental fashion, but isn’t there also benefit to having a grander vision than that? Having a long-term strategy or plan?” The answer is absolutely.

Strategy lives at a level above that iterative, incremental, agile process. In fact, the whole foundation of agile is to say, on any given sprint, that people are demanding that we do more things than there are hours in the day. There’s no way we are going to do all of it, so how do we decide what gets done? With an agile approach someone takes responsibility for prioritizing based on the latest information we have and what is strategically most valuable to us.

Moving from communications to experiences

Marketing has expanded from the design and delivery of communications to the design and delivery of experiences.”

Carmen: How does this new focus on experience change the way that marketing relates to the rest of the organization?

Scott: A classic view of marketing is that we were the people in charge of communications. Whether it was PR or brochures or advertising, the idea was we would decide what our messages were going to be, and then we would craft a really clever and compelling way to share that message across all these different media. And in all fairness, those things are actually a big part of marketing today.

The third dimension is how things actually work. We can have the slickest advertising in the world, an absolutely gorgeous looking website, and if customers’ experiences with us are terrible, it doesn’t matter right? They are just going to slam us on social media. You just can’t survive as a brand today if customers aren’t having a great experience with you. The brand is a direct function of the customer’s experience.

Sprinting toward delight

Marketing culture increasingly champions a customer-centric worldview. Like software, this customer centricity has combined with the adaptability of a digital canvas to encourage greater experimentation.”

Carmen: Where does delight live in this mix? Is it something that can be evaluated in that interlude between sprints or is it part of the strategic vision, or both?

Scott: I think both. It’s the strategic responsibility at the level above the sprints to decide what the priorities of the sprint are and how to evaluate what we did. How do we consider whether this stuff is working or not working? I think you’re right, a lot of those metrics are incredibly transactional in nature, and it’s incredibly easy for them to get divorced from the larger strategic vision for the company of, “How do we find an audience that we really delight?” Getting them to convert on a landing page is not the same thing as having them actually love us.

I think you’ve got challenges there in measuring in delight, but I would argue whatever mechanisms you use to measure delight would absolutely be the sorts of things that you would want to factor into that sprint review process: “Did people seem to find this delightful? Did they love this?” There may be some unquantified metrics there, but it still needs human judgment to determine that.

If our strategic vision is that we are going to create products and services that people love, that are delightful, then yeah, every sprint you would be reprioritizing based on the feedback that you got on the last sprint, giving you some concrete indication of how you’re tracking and actually achieving that.

About Scott Brinker

You really can’t talk about marketing technology without mentioning Scott Brinker, aka “Chief MarTec.” Editor of ChiefMarTec.com, chair of the hugely successful MarTech Conference, and creator of the Marketing Technology Landscape infographic, not to mention co-founder and CTO of Ion Interactive and author of the newly released book Hacking Marketing, Scott leads industry thinking on the evolving role of technology in marketing and brings a much-needed technologist’s perspective to discussions about digital customer experience. Scott is an entrepreneurial executive with broad experience at the intersection of technology and marketing, and he’s passionate about building agile, high-performance teams to bring to market imaginative products and services.