We recently caught up with Drift’s new CEO Scott Ernst for a quick chat on everything martech. Catch the complete Q&A:
Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Scott, exciting time taking over as CEO at Drift…tell us more about your journey and how that led you here…
I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of great people and companies. Two of the more transformative experiences I’ve had were serving as CEO of Macromill and before that Millward Brown Digital. At both of these companies, I learned how to expand business on a global scale, specifically for companies that are going through exponential growth—like Drift is right now.
That hyper-growth mentality is a big part of what drew me to Drift. On top of that, I’ve been fortunate to know and work with Drift’s co-founder and now Executive Chairman David Cancel for 20 years. As both an early advisor and customer of Drift, I’ve experienced the transformative power of Drift’s technology firsthand. Drift has truly revolutionized B2B marketing and sales for today’s digital-first reality, and I’m excited to join a company that is helping businesses adapt to the future.
As someone who has spent a significant amount of time in the martech industry: we’d love a few thoughts on how you view this segment today and what immediate predictions you have for the near-future when it comes to global martech?
The pandemic completely upended traditional B2B sales as trade shows and in-person meetings vanished overnight and more people began gravitating toward digital and self-service sales channels than ever before. In fact, today’s digital-first B2B sales landscape has fundamentally changed buyer behavior with modern B2B buyers expecting seamless, personalized digital experiences.
Given these seismic changes within the global B2B marketplace, AI-backed technologies that deliver conversational engagements will be even more of a must-have in the modern marketing arsenal. These technologies bridge the gap between in-person buyer experiences of the past and increasingly digital customer journeys of the future by helping marketing and sales professionals engage with website visitors, understand their needs and recommend the next best action 24/7/365 days of the year. Marketers themselves recognize that AI is now critical to their success. Drift recently released a report with data from 600+ marketers, which revealed that 74% of marketers believe they will be intelligently automating more than a quarter of their tasks in the next five years.
On the flip side, marketers who don’t adopt new technologies will miss out on opportunities to engage their buyers in exciting new ways, including demoing products virtually and interacting with clients online in the same personalized way they would in person. From press conferences to massive trade shows, new technologies and the metaverse will play a crucial role in making large, virtual events truly immersive for enterprises—and marketers need to adapt accordingly.
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A pressing question that we’d love to know your thoughts on: is there a martech bubble waiting to burst? With the growing number of martech innovations still entering this niche, what do you feel smaller players and new entrants need to do to make a mark?
I think there’s still a lot of room for growth in the martech space, especially as companies continue to explore solutions that help them adapt to and thrive in the new world of B2B sales and think, stepping back a bit, we are actually pretty early in the race. One of the challenges businesses are grappling with is an increasingly complex buying journey. Not only are more people involved in the now-digital sales process, but sales professionals are getting less time with potential buyers. Gartner found that sales reps have just 5% of a customer’s time throughout the entire buying journey. What that means is that every second and every conversation matters—especially when buyers have endless options to choose from.
I think companies whose technology and services help businesses provide a personalized digital experience and streamline the online buying journey for both buyers and sellers will always have a place in this quickly evolving martech space.
Closer home, at Drift, we’d love to chat about your new role as CEO and what you have in mind for the rest of 2022…
My number one priority is to integrate myself into the company and build upon the great foundation Drift co-founders David Cancel and Elias Torres have already created. It’s no accident that Drift has grown to 550 employees worldwide serving over 5,000 customers.
Drift’s vision also remains the same. We are still focused on transforming the way businesses buy from businesses by harnessing the power of conversation and human connection. I want to honor Drift’s impressive legacy and continue scaling the business and the team.
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Five thoughts on what it takes for B2B brands and teams today to stand out in what’s fast becoming a very crowded space…
First and foremost, B2B brands need to meet today’s buyers where they are and deliver the customized, white-glove online experience they’ve come to expect. For that, conversation is king. Businesses need to meaningfully connect with their website visitors and provide them the information they need—whether through intelligent chatbots or meetings with a real-life human being.
The digital-first sales environment has also made for a more complex buying journey. According to Gartner, the number of stakeholders involved in B2B deals has increased by over 30% from an average of 5.4 decision-makers in 2015 to an average of six to 10 people in 2022. Knowing this, businesses need to make sure they’re engaging the right person at the right time in the buying journey. That’s where emerging technologies like AI come in. AI has the power to help marketers better understand their buyers and connect them to the right information at any time of the day.
Some last thoughts, takeaways, before we wrap up!
I would encourage businesses to think of this new era of B2B sales as an opportunity. It’s now time to invest in new technologies that meet buyers where they are with the right customer experience that’s relevant and personalized for that buyer. Thanks in large part to technology, marketers have so much more of an opportunity to build relationships with their customers in entirely new ways—and that’s really exciting!
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