72: Bobby Tichy: AI and the future of Martech, a deep dive from SFMC to Braze

What’s up folks, today we’re joined by Bobby Tichy, he’s Co-Founder and Chief Solutions Officer at Stitch. Bobby’s a highly respected Martech veteran having spent over a decade working in technical roles for some of the biggest names in martech.

Summary: In this enlightening episode with Bobby, we traverse the dynamic terrain of the martech industry. The discussion journeys through Bobby’s transition from in-house roles to consultancy, his experiences with diverse platforms like Salesforce, Marketo, and Braze, and the implications of these tools on marketing operations. A common thread in the conversation is the importance of aligning technology with specific business needs and the necessity for marketers to be agile and adaptable. Bobby’s insights into the increasing influence of AI in martech and the potential for its harmonious coexistence with human creativity provide a compelling perspective on the future of the industry. This episode encapsulates an exciting intersection of technology, strategy, and the art of marketing, making it an enriching listen for anyone navigating the ever-evolving martech landscape.

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About Bobby

  • He spent a combined 6.5 years working on the Professional services teams at arguably 2 of the most well known companies in martech, Salesforce and Marketo where he was able to lead and support countless implementation projects for some of the biggest brands in the world.
  • At Salesforce he focused on Marketing Cloud technical and functional architecture. At Marketo he focused on project and program management.
  • In 2016, he left the in-house world and jumped to the agency side of martech working at Lev (a premier Salesforce consultancy) for 6+ years where he focused on Marketing and Enterprise architecture solutions. He also co-founded the In the Clouds Podcast, a show about Salesforce Marketing Cloud
  • Last year, after Lev was acquired by Cognizant, he co-founded Stitch leading their solutions team. Stitch is a new martech consultancy that specializes in Segment and Braze tech stacks.
  • Bobby’s an expert in all things marketing technology architecture, customer data platforms, customer journeys and Dachshund (dak-sund) dogs as the proud dog dad of 3 🙂

In-house vs Consultancy and The Unexpected Shift from Salesforce to Marketo

When asked about the distinct differences and trade-offs between working in-house and consulting, Bobby framed his perspective through his experience in both settings. At his time in Salesforce and Marketo, his work was primarily centered on technology-specific problems. Essentially, it meant implementing Salesforce marketing cloud or Marketo for a particular client. However, switching to the consultant side brought a shift in his focus. Instead of technology, he was suddenly more engrossed in the customer’s needs and the business problem at hand.

According to Bobby, the consulting side presented an intricate, enjoyable challenge. It encompassed an array of complexities, as it pivoted more on business problems and outcomes rather than technological ones. This pivot, he noted, brought a refreshing change from his in-house work and underscored the primary delineation between the two realms.

His transition from Salesforce to Marketo, seen by some as a shift to an ‘arch-nemesis’, presented its own interesting dynamics. Bobby confessed to his naivety at that juncture. Once at Marketo, he observed an intriguing conversation around Salesforce, particularly given the Salesforce and Marketo integration was leading the market in terms of marketing automation platforms. This scenario contrasted with ExactTarget and Salesforce integration, which wasn’t quite as seamless at that time. As he executed his first projects on Marketo and Salesforce, he admitted to his occasional jabs at ExactTarget’s disappointing integration with Salesforce, despite them being a part of the same company.

However, these unique experiences gave Bobby a deeper insight into the political nuances within the tech industry, expanding his perspective and understanding of the landscape. He had not anticipated this aspect, making his journey all the more interesting.

Takeaway: A transition from in-house to consultancy can present a fulfilling yet intricate challenge, shifting the focus from technology problems to customer-centric business issues. Moreover, shifting between ‘rival’ companies like Salesforce and Marketo can offer unforeseen lessons in industry politics and corporate dynamics.

The Interesting Learning Curve of Plunging into Marketo

When questioned about his initial experience with Marketo, Bobby reflected on the time he decided to switch from ExactTarget. Having dedicated the early years of his career to ExactTarget, Bobby had not played with Marketo before the switch. The change, therefore, was marked by an interesting learning curve, mostly due to Marketo’s unique naming conventions and nomenclature. Elements like smart campaigns and revenue cycle analytics (RCA) presented a fresh set of challenges for him.

However, as he gradually understood the data model, things started falling into place. Marketo, initially designed as an SMB platform for B2B marketing, began moving upmarket during Bobby’s tenure, aiming to secure big-league clients like Microsoft. This shift offered him an intriguing vantage point on the services side.

Bobby found that while half of their customers loved the platform for its niche offerings, the other half, consisting of large enterprises, struggled with data challenges. Although he acknowledged improvements in backend infrastructure that have eased these issues, he emphasized that like any martech platform, Marketo has its strengths and weaknesses.
As Bobby concluded, he reflected on the pervasive industry issue of vendors trying to sell or push functionalities that might not always be the perfect fit for a customer’s needs – the classic ‘square peg in a round hole’ situation.

Takeaway: Venturing into unfamiliar martech territory, such as Marketo, can be both challenging and enlightening. It reminds us that comprehending and adapting to a platform’s unique data model and nomenclature is essential. Moreover, witnessing a platform’s evolution from serving niche markets to accommodating large enterprises underscores the importance of understanding customer needs and limitations before implementing tech solutions. It isn’t always about fitting into the industry’s mold but about carving out a space that complements the specific business requirements.

Embracing Braze: An Exploration Beyond the Marketing Cloud

When Bobby was questioned about his initial experiences with Braze, he detailed the fascinating journey that led him to co-found Stitch. He began by recalling his exposure to Braze via large enterprise Media Entertainment clients who used both Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Braze. Salesforce took charge of journey orchestration and email, while Braze showcased superior mobile capabilities and a more marketer-friendly UI.

As Bobby and his team contemplated their next venture after leaving Live, they sought advice from industry insiders, including sales leaders at Salesforce and personnel at Moveable Inc. An intriguing commonality surfaced: many pointed towards Braze as a rising star in the martech realm.

The appeal of Braze, according to Bobby, lies in its seamless blend of powerful data, advanced use cases, and enhanced usability. It offers a real-time marketing solution with superior mobile capabilities – all key factors that have enamored marketers. While it may seem peculiar to label Braze as ‘up and coming’ given its enormous stature, Bobby underscored that its ongoing advancements continue to keep it at the forefront of the martech landscape.

Takeaway: The introduction to new martech platforms like Braze underscores the dynamic nature of the industry. By combining powerful data handling, enhanced usability, and strong mobile capabilities, Braze encapsulates what many marketers seek in a tool. Its continuous evolution suggests a promising future and highlights the importance of staying attuned to such ‘up and coming’ platforms.

The Contrast of Teams that Different Martech and an Unforgettable Tesla Story

When asked about his experience with varying companies and their utilization of martech tools, Bobby had no shortage of fascinating insights to share. With a distinctive focus on Braze and Marketo, he unveiled a stark contrast in the profiles of firms that employ these tools.

Bobby emphasized that teams using Braze are typically innovative and agile, often demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of their data. Braze’s real-time or event-based architecture, coupled with its ability to handle different data sets without necessarily importing all Personally Identifiable Information (PII) into the platform, makes it a hit among these data-conscious teams.

On the other side of the spectrum, Bobby acknowledged that Marketo often shines in B2B settings. However, it’s not uncommon for companies to transition from Marketo to Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Braze, especially when they attempt to execute high-volume B2C campaigns. This observation led Bobby to recount a significant event from his tenure at Marketo, illuminating Marketo’s limitations – a captivating story involving none other than the powerhouse, Tesla.

In an episode that underscored the potential pitfalls of using a tool not designed for high-volume campaigns, Bobby shared how the launch of Tesla’s Model 3 became a stark reality check. Tasked with dispatching around 2 million emails, Marketo took an astonishing eight hours to complete the job. This pacing, as Bobby recollects, seemed glacial, particularly when compared with platforms like Exact Target that are known for their high-speed sending engine.

This particular experience offered a vital lesson, not only for the team at Tesla but also for anyone who aims to launch a large-scale B2C campaign. Tools designed for B2B contexts might struggle to meet the high demands of such campaigns, potentially hindering the desired momentum of important product launches.

Takeaway: The choice of martech tools can significantly impact a company’s marketing operations, as illustrated by Bobby’s memorable experience with Tesla. While tools like Braze and Marketo have their unique strengths, it’s vital to match a tool’s capabilities with the company’s needs, especially when executing high-volume B2C campaigns.

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Marketing Tools as Mirrors Reflecting the Teams that Use Them

Bobby brought up an intriguing analogy for illustrating the relationship between marketing teams and the tools they employ. He recounted a comedic observation made by Jerry Seinfeld, which could be amusingly applied to this context: just like dogs often resemble their owners, marketing teams often embody the platforms they’re using. 

Essentially, Bobby suggested that the character of a marketing team might be inferred from the software tools they are enthusiastic about. For instance, a team that advocates for Adobe Campaign is likely to be more rigid, having multiple data silos, reminiscent of the inflexible character from Office Space clutching tightly onto his stapler.

However, marketing teams that lean towards innovative, faster-moving platforms are generally more nimble and flexible. Bobby elaborated this point with a comparison of clients. One, with a 14-day email Service Level Agreement (SLA) for a campaign, may not be the quickest but isn’t slow either. Meanwhile, other clients work with a swift 3-day SLA, showcasing the diversity of operational styles associated with different platforms.

Another interesting dimension that Bobby touched upon was the loyalty that some teams develop for their tools, using the example of Salesforce. He acknowledged that Salesforce’s gamified approach has successfully made die-hard fans out of many of its users. However, he also pointed out that it could become challenging for teams that want to leverage different tools such as Braze but feel tied to Salesforce due to brand loyalty or job security concerns.

Takeaway: The choice of martech tools can often reflect the nature and agility of the marketing teams using them. While some teams adhere strictly to traditional systems, others are more fluid, embracing innovative platforms that enable quicker turnarounds. It’s important for marketing professionals to balance personal comfort with these tools and the necessity to evolve and push their teams forward.

Is AI in Martech An Accelerating Revolution or a Pause Button Needed?

When Bobby was asked about the accelerating advancements in AI and their potential implications on the martech industry, he candidly expressed his support for a temporary pause. He pointed to the rapid pace of innovation, which at times can seem somewhat intimidating, especially when we witness AI systems beginning to display sentient-like behaviors.

However, Bobby also underscored the global competitive implications that such a pause could have. He raised valid concerns about whether nations like China or Russia would follow suit and what it could mean for the technological progress of those who chose to pause.

Delving into the impact on martech, Bobby presented a positive perspective. He believed that AI holds exciting prospects for both technical and non-technical marketers. For the technical ones, tasks like A/B testing and campaign optimization, which historically have been challenging due to inadequate tools, could be significantly improved with AI. 

Similarly, the attribution issue in marketing, often termed as a pipe dream, might see some light at the end of the tunnel with AI. AI’s capacity to consider multiple variables—like the type of business, industry, presence of mobile infrastructure, etc.—could offer more precise and adaptable attribution models.

Furthermore, for non-technical marketers, AI could potentially simplify tasks like code snippets generation. However, Bobby reiterated that the core of all AI algorithms is original content, suggesting a continued need for organic content creation despite the AI advancements.

Lastly, Bobby expressed his hope for AI to help democratize various marketing platforms by diving into deeper technical aspects, akin to the insights offered by podcasts. This could allow marketers to make more informed decisions, especially when evaluating tools or planning for RFPs.

Takeaway: AI’s meteoric rise could have both opportunities and challenges for martech. While a pause to assess the ethical and societal implications may be prudent, the potential benefits AI offers in enhancing various marketing tasks and democratizing the use of marketing platforms cannot be overlooked. Despite these advancements, the importance of organic content remains, signaling a harmonious coexistence of AI and human creativity in the future of martech.

Future-Proofing Martech Careers Amidst the AI Revolution

When Bobby was asked about the advice he would offer to marketers who are attempting to future-proof their careers amidst the AI takeover, his immediate response emphasized the importance of learning. He detailed his personal experience with AI platforms like ChatGPT, lauding their abilities to facilitate condensed learning. These tools can efficiently decipher a wealth of publicly available information, transforming it into easily digestible insights for marketers. 

Bobby also highlighted the enormous potential in the realm of propensity modeling, where AI could fill the gap for marketers who lack access to a dedicated data science team. Despite the current market not having a platform that excels in this regard, he anticipated notable improvements over the next three to five years. The hope is for AI to refine its understanding of consumer behavior, predicting not just the propensity to buy or engage, but also enhancing channel optimization.

Bobby also expressed concern over the dated practices some companies still employ, like the overuse of emails, highlighting the need for AI’s assistance in fostering better engagement strategies. 

In addition to propensity modeling, Bobby also noted the significant opportunities in data analysis. By leveraging AI, marketers could gain a functional understanding of their data without the need for a dedicated data science team.

Finally, Bobby stressed the importance of embracing, not resisting, AI. He encouraged marketers to leverage AI not just for efficiency but also to make their strategies more effective.

Takeaway: In the face of AI’s growing role in martech, embracing the technology and harnessing it for continuous learning, propensity modeling, and data analysis can be instrumental in future-proofing one’s career. AI is not a substitute but a tool that can significantly enhance a marketer’s efficiency and the effectiveness of their strategies.

Achieving Work-Life Balance in the Martech Industry

In the spontaneous final question of the podcast, Bobby was asked about his personal strategies for maintaining happiness while juggling multiple roles in his career and personal life. Responding candidly, he attributed his equilibrium and happiness to his relationship with his wife, highlighting their quality time spent together as a major support system.

They start each day with a shared morning walk, go on trips together, and spend a substantial amount of their time together. His wife is not just his best friend but also an informed partner, equally knowledgeable about Stitch, the agency he co-founded. Bobby described her as a unique amalgamation of a friend, spouse, and manager, all rolled into one.

Despite the complexities this multifaceted relationship could pose for some, Bobby embraced it. He cherished the constant push it provided for growth while also being the source of his happiness.

Takeaway: Balancing the pressures of a high-intensity career in martech with personal life can be achieved by finding joy, support, and motivation in close relationships. For Bobby, his spouse offers a unique mix of companionship, shared interests, and constructive feedback, underlining the significance of personal relationships in maintaining happiness and balance in life.

Episode Recap

Venturing into the martech landscape can be an intricate yet fulfilling endeavor, as Bobby’s journey from an in-house role to consultancy beautifully illustrates. This transition can often involve a significant shift, refocusing from insular tech problems to broader customer-centric issues. It’s an intricate dance, with each step providing unique insights into industry politics and corporate dynamics, as highlighted by Bobby’s experiences with ‘rival’ companies Salesforce and Marketo.

One crucial lesson from these ventures into unknown territories, like Marketo, is the realization that understanding a platform’s unique data model is paramount. Each new platform brings with it a fresh set of challenges, but also an opportunity to learn, adapt and even carve out a space that complements the business’s specific needs rather than merely conforming to industry norms.

The industry’s dynamic nature is exemplified by the emergence of platforms like Braze, a promising martech tool. This powerful tool, with its enhanced usability, robust data handling, and exceptional mobile capabilities, embodies what many marketers seek. As Bobby highlights, these ‘up and coming’ platforms underscore the importance of staying abreast of the industry’s evolution, reminding marketers to be prepared for constant change and adaptation.

Moreover, the selection of martech tools can profoundly impact marketing operations. Bobby’s memorable experience with Tesla emphasized this point, demonstrating that tools must be chosen with the company’s needs at the forefront, especially in high-volume B2C campaigns. This balance extends to the marketing team’s agility as well; innovative and adaptable teams often mirror the cutting-edge platforms they embrace, achieving quicker turnarounds and pushing the industry forward.

In the face of AI’s growing influence in martech, Bobby’s advice is to embrace this technology. His insights highlight the importance of harnessing AI for continuous learning, propensity modeling, and data analysis, all critical to future-proofing a marketer’s career. As AI and human creativity begin to harmoniously coexist, it becomes clear that AI isn’t a substitute, but a powerful tool that can enhance a marketer’s efficiency and the effectiveness of their strategies. This shift promises an exciting future where technology and human insight meld, opening new horizons for the world of martech.

This episode encapsulates an exciting intersection of technology, strategy, and the art of marketing, making it an enriching listen for anyone navigating the ever-evolving martech landscape. Tune in for the full episode 🎧👇

Bobby’s links:


Intro music by Wowa via Unminus
Cover art created with Midjourney

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