Q&A with Kobie Fuller, Investor and Marketer: Navigating the Martech Landscape

kobie fullerThere’s a lot of activity, expansion and noise within the marketing technology universe. From marketing automation to customer experience, content marketing, data analytics, acquisition and categories in between, it’s a complicated ecosystem made up of thousands of software companies. Customer behavior is changing and technology is increasingly central to the marketer’s role.

Kobie Fuller, principal at Accel and a marketing expert with CMO chops, knows first hand how challenging this can be. He recently launched Growthverse, an interactive visualization built for marketers, in collaboration with Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, 100 CMOs around the world, and digital agency Beutler Ink.

We talked to Kobie about building Growthverse, his advice for marketers, and the marketing tech categories he considers most promising. Read on for his thoughts.

Q: You’ve been a CMO and understand the challenges marketers face. Which of these challenges do you find particularly interesting?

I love trying to strike the appropriate balance between data and creativity — knowing when to trust machine learning algorithms and when to throw that out the door in favor of a crazy idea that came out of a team brainstorm. Technology plays a part in both of those activities. There are a lot of vendors making clear plays on the data side. There isn’t quite as much on the creative side, but collaboration and workflow tools could help bring more order to the chaos and collect qualitative feedback that can incite some of that disruptive thinking.

Q: What methods did you use to come up with the Growthverse taxonomy?

Jascha and I started from scratch and iterated multiple times to get the overall taxonomy. We based the structure on a few things: Our firsthand experience as marketers, my experience as an investor in the category, and surveys of CMOs. We started slotting the tools in based on how we thought they fit and how people told us they were using the technology.

We underestimated how hard it would be. We thought it would be pretty difficult, but it’s a bear trying to bring structure to this overall ecosystem. There are so many categories and subcategories that only become clear as you map everything out. It’s complex and it takes time. It will continue to be a work in progress.

Q: The pace of change within marketing technology is staggering. How do you hope Growthverse will evolve with it?

It’s a living platform. We want Growthverse to reflect what people are actually using now and keep it relevant by getting ongoing feedback. We encourage people to submit companies through a form on the website. That’s the primary method by which companies will be added. We hope to make it more community-driven and interactive over time.

Q: What advice do you have for marketers who are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of technology solutions?

My first recommendation is to have an overall marketing strategy in place before getting pressured into adopting technology at a rapid scale. Tech is something that should help bring your strategy to life, amplifying and automating your marketing. Don’t get lost diving into the technology without the right direction behind it. Secondly, understand what to prioritize within the marketing ecosystem. Keep testing and learning what works. Look to your peers at other organizations and get feedback about what’s worked for them.

Q: Which categories in the Growthverse do you find particularly promising, as a marketer and as an investor?

There are three areas — if you look at the visualization, they’re the categories in blue. The first is collaboration and workflows. No one is yet doing for marketers what Atlassian did for developers: combining creativity and process management in one easy to use tool. It remains to be seen who can best do it for companies at scale and across channels.

The second category is marketing orchestration platforms. As a marketer, you need a central brain that ties into multiple channels for customer data — email, push notifications, social, custom targeting — and one console that orchestrates your campaigns. A number of vendors are focusing on this, but it’s to be determined who will create the solution that can manage all these quantifiable aspects of marketing.

The third is data and analytics. Marketers need a next-generation analytics platform that makes sense of data, visualizes it, and helps them make informed decisions. This next-gen platform needs to incorporate multi-channel attribution, customer analytics and true engagement metrics. As brand dollars move from offline to online, we need a new way to understand ROI.

A number of companies have plays in these buckets, but we’re still in early innings.

Banner image courtesy of Growthverse, © Accel Partners.