Chandar Pattabhiram recently left his position as CMO of Marketo to become the CMO at Coupa, a cloud-based provider of procurement management software. In his new role, Pattabharim will apply his experience as a B2B marketing change agent to accelerate the growth of Coupa.
In advance of the CMO Inflect conference in Silicon Valley at which we both will be speaking, I wanted to get Pattabhiram’s unique perspective as both a B2B marketing leader and someone who has had an inside look at the future of marketing technology. Here are the highlights of our discussion.
John Ellett: What’s your view on the role of AI in B2B marketing and where things are headed?
Chandar Pattabhiram: Using a sports analogy, I feel we’re at the the top of the second inning in terms of AI and marketing. Now, the interesting part is a concept I call micro-AI, which is AI for specific uses. From Watson and chess, or Netflix recommending the right movies for you, or even a funny app that talks about whether what’s on your plate is a hot dog or not. These are micro-AIs. But it’s going from micro to macro.
Ellett: Will AI be a separate application or embedded in existing martech tools?
Pattabhiram: Pretty soon AI and apps will be like color TV. We don’t say ‘color TV’ because all TVs are color TVs. It’s the same concept — AI will be inherent in applications. The level of sophistication of AI is the question. On a basic level, most every reputable software technology with have some form of machine learning and predictiveness to it. It’s how sophisticated they get. And I’m talking from a B2B perspective. Behind all of that, AI can only produce great stuff when the data going into AI is actually good. Because you can have all the intelligence in the world, but intelligence is based on some predictive patterns of data. So I feel that that’s where companies have to do a lot of work — making sure they have the right data to get successful AI . There’s demographic data and there’s psychographic data. But I believe that the one kind of data that matters to making us successful in the world of marketing going forward is behavior data. Because if you’re ultimately trying to get AI to offer that real-time personalized experience in a predictable way, it has to be based on behavior. And that’s where I think the essence of marketing, the future of marketing is headed.
Ellett: So do you think B2B marketers will have an advantage in AI adoption over consumer marketers because of concerns over personal privacy and behavior tracking?
Pattabhiram: No, I don’t want to say advantage. Over the last three years, a great convergence has been happening. B2B and B2C as separate disciplines are coming together. The best practice of personalization in B2C has always been one up on B2B, but that’s getting a lot closer. [On the other hand], the process of nurturing relationships with clients, which B2B has, is getting into B2C also. Because it’s not about the transaction. It’s about the interaction over time and B2C companies are realizing this too.
Ellett: So many parts of the customer experience are managed through different pieces of the technology stack. How soon are marketers going to be able to pull that together and actually have an AI engine optimize experiences across different touch points?
Pattabhiram: It’s a huge challenge. There are 4785 technologies in marketing today. I think Moore’s law is happening in marketing technology, at least half of Moore’s law. It’s going to be 50% higher every two years. There’s going to be a lot of consolidation in the marketing tech stack. The way I look at the text stack holistically is there’s going to be a core engagement hub, which has the main AI technology in it that’s going to orchestrate the engagement. This marketing platform, whatever it is, will about from the big ones today, whether it’s Microsoft, Marketo, Oracle or others. Think of those as the hubs where your AI orchestration intelligence and your personalization intelligence will be. Then you’ll have a set of augmenting technologies around it. Look at our solar system for a mental framework. Whether I’m doing videos, content management, some sort of social outreach or extensive predictive scoring, there will micro apps for those. That’s the way that technology has to be consolidated. There is no such thing as artificial intelligence in one single technology. But the core orchestration artificial intelligence would be in that hub and then you’ll have AI at the edge — a kind of hub and spoke model.
Ellett: Today, marketers are set up in silos to manage each of the channels separately. In a world where AI helps manage the channel orchestration, what will a marketing organization look like?
Pattabhiram: I think you have to organize two things. One is you have to organize around the customer, start outside-in rather than inside-out. Meaning, you have to organize around the customer, not the channels. You’ll have an orchestrating marketing leader who will be responsible for driving a holistic experience for the customer. The second skill is storytelling. If you look at marketing jobs, we think, we feel and we do. There’s strategy and analytics, the thinking. The feeling aspects is storytelling and the doing part is the execution . So AI definitely could replaced two jobs. Guaranteed. All the orchestration and analysis pieces we’ve talked about. The feel jobs are the ones that will be difficult to for AI to replace. My advice to all marketers is to be a specialist to get an early advance in their career. But you have to become a generalist, a storyteller, to get the top jobs. Because those are the skills AI can never replace.