Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

LiveBall Post-Click Marketing Technology Platform Interview with Scott Brinker

Scott Brinker needs no introduction as the Chief Marketing Technologist. His widely read blog has been running for over 3 years looking to spread the “marketing technology” meme. Well done Scott, because marketing technology is on fire in 2011.

In 1998 Scott co-founded Ion Interactive that provides enterprise post-click marketing software & services to hundreds of customers worldwide. As President and CTO, Scott is an entrepreneurial executive with broad experience at the intersection of technology and marketing. Today, we ask Scott what his thoughts are on marketing technology platforms and where LiveBall, Ion’s Post-Click marketing platform, fits into the picture.

Scott Brinker, President and CTO, Ion Interactive:

LiveBall is a landing page platform. What do you consider to be the essential characteristics of a marketing technology platform (e.g. integration, user experience, data aggregation, others…)?

Scott Brinker
We call LiveBall a post-click marketing platform, more than a landing page optimization solution per se. You can use it to generate landing pages, of course, and optimize them in a variety of ways. But you can also use the software to create and test more elaborate experiences such as microsites, guided conversion paths, and simple web applications. We think of this as conversion-oriented content, where one size doesn’t fit all circumstances.

Ultimately, any marketing technology platform should help make marketing better — simple, right? — either by improving the efficiency of internal operations or by improving the experience delivered to customers. In our case, we strive for both. Our software is designed to enable marketers to produce and manage dozens, hundreds, even thousands of granular post-click experiences. Fundamentally, that’s a marketing operations capability. However, the quality of those experiences matters tremendously, so we focus a lot on making it easy to produce things that awe and engage.

Another fundamental requirement for marketing technology platforms, at least in my book, is that they “play well with others.” The marketing technology ecosystem is vibrant and diverse — and continuing to expand rapidly. Good platforms should make it easy to connect with other applications, passing data in and out in the appropriate context.

Ultimately, any marketing technology platform should help make marketing better — simple, right? — either by improving the efficiency of internal operations or by improving the experience
delivered to customers. In our case, we strive for both.

Customer experience matters. Can you give me a couple of areas that the LiveBall platform contributes to making this optimal for their customers?

For marketers who use LiveBall to manage post-click experiences, we believe in “separation of powers” — at least at the marketer’s discretion. For example, data collection standards can be configured once, in a centralized place, and then inherited by a variety of creatives that might experiment with very different ways of presenting such data collection to end-users. The marketer building out a particular creative can experiment quite fluidly without having to explicitly worry about those data standards, but behind the scenes, everything converges nicely for reliable export to databases and CRMs.

Another example is the separation of “framework design” from” experience design.” In LiveBall, an HTML/CSS-savvy designer can create and edit a series of page templates and CSS themes that adhere
to brand standards and a common design aesthetic. They they indicate which elements of those pages are dynamic. Now a front-line marketer who wants to build out a landing page or a microsite can pick the appropriate template, populate it with content and flow specific to their needs — no HTML or CSS knowledge required — and have 100% confidence that it’s going to look good and maintain pitch-perfect
branding.

You want to find the right balance of freedom and flexibility to let your imagination go wild with enough control and structure that you have a robust and scalable system underpinning it all.

Can you give us some interesting stats (e.g. users, landing pages, conversions, subscribers, etc.) that communicate the scope, size, use,and reach of the LiveBall landing page platform?

LiveBall has been adopted by hundreds of companies and has served up several hundred million post-click marketing experiences. It’s being used to target markets in over 140 countries worldwide. Leading brands using LiveBall including American Greetings, Dell, DHL, General Mills, Intuit, and more. The typical conversion rate achieved by our customers is more than double industry standards.

LiveBall leverages the power of cloud computing. What were the key drivers for moving into the cloud and have been the main benefits/drawbacks in doing so? Would you consider this a core
element of any marketing technology platform?

I believe that software can embody an incredible range of different concepts and value propositions. In contrast, hardware is essentially a commodity. But without the expert management of hardware, software is hamstrung. Before the cloud, this dependency entwined the two — you couldn’t get the benefit of great software without having to slog through the quagmire of hardware. This was a primary driver for a centralized IT department.

Cloud architectures take this to the next level, aggregating hardware for hundreds, thousands of companies. They can afford the very best infrastructure, management technologies, and IT professionals because they’re sharing those resources collectively across all their customers. In turn, this allows even relatively small companies to “rent” a piece of the very best hardware infrastructure out there to run their applications.

Cloud architectures let software providers focus on software, hardware teams focus on hardware, and companies focus on what they need from a business perspective — without having to become experts in either software or hardware management and maintenance. Everyone focuses on their core competencies, making the whole ecosystem much more efficient.

That’s a long preface to simply saying: yes, I believe that most marketing technology platforms should be cloud-based. In addition to the efficiency boost, the use of web-based interfaces gives people more flexibility in how they access these applications. Not to mention the other benefits of “renting” instead of owning, such as the ability to switch platforms without being tied up in long-term capital investment. And if ever there’s a problem, you simply “call the landlord” — no more finger-pointing between vendors and IT.

I believe that most marketing technology platforms should be cloud-based.

If you could improve one thing in the platform what would it be and why?

In my opinion, there’s an almost unlimited set of possibilities for improving the creative power of post-click marketing platforms such as ours. The bar is continually being raised on the sophistication of web-based experiences, which I think is terrific.

Consider the total amount of effort required to plan, execute and manage a digital campaign. Now do a percent split of that effort between marketers, creatives, content creators, marketing technologists (any others?) and the underlying martec platform, what would your numbers be for both today and say two years into the future?

It would be hard for me to provide a meaningful split in the abstract. I think it depends on the nature of the business, the overall structure of the organization in which marketing sits, the involvement of any third-party agencies or service providers, the talents of the individual participants who may cross several of those categories, and the specifics of the particular martec platform — or platforms — being used.

I think you’re right to suggest that marketing and business leaders should think carefully about that mix. The configuration of intellectual capital — and the tools and incentives we put in place to support it — constitutes one of the key dimensions of modern marketing strategy. There’s probably not one universal answer. But for any given business, this particular choice is critically important.

Wrap Up

Thanks Scott. It’s both fantastic and humbling to hear seasoned practitioners in the field of online marketing technology openly share their war stories, challenges and successes with us. Insightful. We’ll keep an eye out over at www.chiefmartec.com.

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About Cleve Gibbon



I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Cognifide where we are passionate about digital content.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently doing.

This year I plan attend a number of events. Hopefully I'll see you there. I'm easy to find as I'm always laughing. Find out more about me and get in touch!