Scott Brinker is the co-founder and CTO of Ion Interactive, a marketing software company offering a service platform that lets marketers build interactive content—such as assessment tools, configurators and calculators—from static content. He is also founder of, a blog focusing intensely on the intersection of marketing and technology.

Q: With marketing automation in mind, what has been technology’s greatest contribution to marketing in the last five years?

A: It has interfaced marketers directly with their customers. Previously, the customer was an abstract persona on the wall. Aside from the occasional focus group, marketing didn’t actually get to interact with them very often. Now, marketing is, on a daily basis, interacting with real customers, often through social channels in real time; and it’s really deepened marketing’s understanding of who their audience is.

Q: In your presentation on marketing meta-trends, you talk about digital, converged media, experiences over communications, code + data as opposed to art + copy, and agile iterations. Which of these meta-trends has had the greatest influence on the trend of marketing automation?

A: They’ve all contributed. In the context of marketing automation, I feel this shift from marketing being in the business of communications to increasingly being in the business of delivering customer experiences. They have a very powerful synergy with the capabilities of marketing automation. We historically tended to think of communications as moments in time. However, the shift toward customer experiences has required marketers to look more holistically at the lifecycle of the buyer’s journey, and how does the buyer’s need for information, and even functional features from the company, evolve over that journey. I look at marketing automation as being, at a very high level, a tool to help marketers orchestrate that journey.

Q: As you’ve said in your blog, “We could debate for hours what is or isn’t ‘marketing automation’.” How would you define marketing automation?

A: I would define it more broadly. I’d say it’s the conductor in that orchestration of all the different touch points in the buyer’s journey.

Q: Tell me about why today’s CMO should be tomorrow’s CEO.

A: I have enormous respect for CMOs today. I think they’ve got both the most exciting, but also the most challenging, job in the enterprise. They have to balance so many different things, including the traditional responsibility for the brand and the communication of the company’s value proposition to the market. As we said just a moment ago, it’s no longer just about an abstract persona or simply developing communications programs. It’s now about orchestrating all these incredible customer experiences; being able to balance data-driven insights with intuitive judgment; and having good instincts for what the market wants, but being able and willing to balance that with scientific testing and experimentation. It’s about collaborating with many more departments throughout the organization, much more closely. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find another executive outside of the CEO who has such a broad set of responsibilities and interactions with the different facets of the business. CMOs who are really successful at this are going to be well-positioned to be the next generation of CEOs.

Q: How do/can small businesses take advantage of the intersection between technology and marketing?

 A: Digital marketing or technology-powered marketing is an incredible boon for small businesses. So much of it is now available at accessible price points, and this gives small businesses the ability to serve their customers in ways that look like, or even exceed, the capabilities that many larger businesses are able to do. It’s a force multiplier that lets small businesses punch above their weight class, thereby providing more impactful customer experiences.