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:

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 🐶🐶🐶 dogs as the proud dog dad of 3 🙂

Bobby, welcome to the show, pumped to chat today.

In-house vs agency

I’d love to start by getting your take on agency vs in-house, pros and cons and maybe get the inside scoop on going from SF to arch-nemesis Marketo a few years ago?

I think the, the easiest way to think about agency versus in-house is when I was at Salesforce and Marketo, you’re really just focused on the specific problem as it relates to the technology. So that might be implementing, you know, Salesforce, Marketing Cloud or implementing Marketo for a particular customer. But when we’re on the consulting side or the consultancy side, you’re really more focused on that customer. So what problem are we trying to solve? It’s much more about business problems and outcomes than it is technology problems and outcomes.

That’s probably the best way to think about it. Or at least the the biggest delineation that I’ve seen over the years, which the consulting side is so much more fun and so much more complex. It has each has its own challenges.

On the SF to Marketo switch, I think I I was so naive at that point I had no clue that it was like moving to their arch nemesis. Now it would be like going from Braze to Iterable or you know something along those lines. And it was interesting because I even remember at the time, once I got to Marketo, there were all these kind of rumblings. You never know if they were founded or not. But you know when Exact Target got acquired by Salesforce, was it, you know, who are the other bidders? And I don’t know if you ever listened to the Acquired Podcast, but there’s an episode of Acquired on Exact Target and Scott Dorsey goes through like that whole process. Which is pretty neat. And then he mentions the SEC filings, they actually have to disclose, they don’t disclose the actual companies, but you can kind of deduce who the other bidders were. It’s kind of neat to go through.

But anyway when I got to Marketo, there was like all this conversation about Salesforce because the Salesforce and Marketo integration (at the time) was market leading as far as market automation platforms were concerned and the Exact Target and Salesforce integration was not all that great at the time. Now obviously that’s totally flipped, but at the time it was interesting because I remember my first two projects on Marketo and Salesforce, I would kind of throw Exact Target under the bus a little bit with the horrible integration they had with Salesforce even though they were part of the same company. But I I had no idea to your point kind of like the political elements of my switch at the time.

Switching platform expertise, from SFMC to Marketo to Braze

So you went from SFMC to Marketo before going back to a SFMC focused agency but now you’ve left both platforms and at Stitch you guys focus on Segment + Braze. Did you play around with Braze before joining?

(At Lev) we had a couple of large enterprise media entertainment customers that were leveraging both Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Braze and so they would use SFMC for journey orchestration and e-mail and then Braze for mobile because it’s the mobile capabilities were so much better. The UI is a little bit better too, especially for marketers. And so that was our first introduction to that platform and then as as we were leaving Lev and trying to figure out what we were going to do next.

Everyone that we talked to, people from Movable Inc, people from Salesforce, you know sales leaders there and other people in the Martech ecosystem, all of them were saying like Braze was really where a lot of the marketers were going because it combined a lot of what we all loved about Martech, which was the advanced use cases, the power of the data. But combined all that with better usability, more real time, better mobile capability. So it just seemed like a perfect marriage of what we had experience in, but then also what was up and coming?

How would you differentiate the companies that use Braze versus Marketo or SFMC?

These are broad strokes, so they’re not specific or like universal comments. But I think the number one thing that we’ve seen for folks who are using Braze is those teams are typically more innovative and fast moving where they’re relying on marketers to build out campaigns and be in the tool every day and where they they understand. I think the other area of that too is they have the best understanding of their data. So what’s really awesome about Braze is this, this real time or event based architecture but also the the ability to to layer in some of those things.

One thing that we always came up against whether it was at Marketo or Salesforce Marketing Cloud was we don’t want to bring in all of our PII into the platform. And so you started to see like Movable Inc does a really good job of this, of being able to combine multiple different data sets and then just put to like push out a piece of content or copy that is personalized. But Movable Inc doesn’t require that PII, It’s just based on these integrations that are happening in real time and with Braze we can do something very similar right where I can call out to my Snowflake instance at the time of an e-mail send and I don’t have to bring that PII into the platform, but I can still populate the PII and the e-mail. So these things that are are really fast-paced and moving.

I think the area where Marketo is great is on the B2B side. We always saw a lot of customers migrate off of Marketo to whether it was SFMC or Braze because they’re trying to use it for B2C campaigns or for high volume campaigns.

Implementating Marketo at Tesla

The one example I always like to use, and this is years ago, but I was on the team that was implementing Tesla at Marketo back in I think it was 2015 and they were launching their Model 3 and it took Marketo about 8 hours to send about 2,000,000 emails. And so obviously I’m sure that’s changed, you know being seven years ago, but at the time was a big deal. It took forever, right? And especially coming from Exact Target, which was this unbelievable sending engine. I couldn’t believe it took that long. So suffice to say that was a bit of an escalation on the Tesla.

Marketing teams represent the platforms they’re using just like Dogs look like their owners

This is probably not a very nice thing to say, but, I’ve heard comedians say that dogs look like their owners. I think Jerry Seinfeld actually mentioned that on one of his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episodes. I think you could say that same analogy for marketing teams, they represent the platforms they’re using.

Whenever you talk to a team that absolutely loves, you know, Adobe campaign. You know, it’s most likely going to be a pretty rigid team that has very a lot of different data silos and it’s kind of like the my stapler type of thing from Office Space, right?

And then you have people who are using more innovative or faster moving platforms and they’re much more nimble and flexible. It was just last week I was talking with a client of ours and they have a 14 day email SLA for a campaign, which is not horrible, but it’s not fast by any means, right? And then we’ll have other clients who have a three day SLA from beginning to end of that email campaign. So it’s it’s just interesting the different types of teams you see using different types of platforms.

AI tools

The other big topic these days and not just in martech is AI. Maybe we can spend the rest of our time here, there’s plenty to cover.

Job replacement and pausing AI

Do you think AI will take over martech jobs, in 10-15 years? What are your thoughts on the current pace of advancements, should there be a pause?

I definitely think there should be a pause. Not related to anything regarding Martech, but I just think that at the rate that innovation is happening, it becomes a little bit scary, especially when some of these AI systems start to get sentient feelings like what we saw come out of Silicon Valley a few months back. So I’m definitely on board for just you know, taking a brief pause. I think the hard part is globally do we fall behind if we take that pause? Do we think that China’s going to take a pause? Do we think Russia’s going to take a pause? There’s all kinds of other implications to that.

AI implications in Martech

I think on the Martech side it’s really exciting for technical marketers. And even for non-technical marketers, I think things that marketers always aspire to do like like A/B/N testing or optimizing campaigns, historically marketers are really bad at that and it’s not necessarily their fault. They just don’t have the tools to do it.

It’s kind of like how I feel about attribution. I’ll never forget I was in a in a meeting with a client with one of our senior leaders at Lev and someone at the client asked about attribution and how we solve for that. And he piped in right away and said attribution’s a pipe dream, which I just thought was hilarious, but also a little bit true, right? You can do first touch, you could do last touch, you could do equal touch. Like there’s there’s different ways of looking at it. But I think in my hope is that AI I will be able to help with that, that we’ll be able to be a little bit smarter.

And based on the business you’re in, the industry you have do I have a mobile presence on my more brick and mortar like all these different things. In addition to integrations, AI will be able to help with building out snippets of code that those things like attribution will become much easier.

I think that on the non-technical side you know everything that AI is pulling from is original content, right? Everything that is these, these algorithms or these machines are being fed is all things that that they’re picking up from either the web or from libraries or whatever that might look like. And so I think there will always be a need for organic content. One of my hopes is, and I don’t know if this is an AI solve, but my hope is that more marketing becomes more technical. Not self fulfilling, but we just get a notch deeper into the weeds, whether it’s a blog article or things like that.

Advice for adapting to AI

For marketers listening today, what advice do you have in terms of what they should be learning or doubling down on to future proof their careers in a AI-first marketing world… 

Yeah, I think the first portion of it is using it as an ability to learn. I’ve learned a lot about whether it’s a platform or different types of marketing strategies through like having conversations with ChatGPT. So I think those things are helpful where it’s condensed learning where it’s doing a really good job of taking all these things that are are publicly available and then deciphering that in a way that’s easy to digest.

Propensity modeling

The area where there’s a lot of opportunity is in propensity modeling, where marketers a lot of times are reliant on a data science team. If you don’t have a data science team or something like that, I think they can be incredibly helpful. There’s at least from what I’ve seen across any of the, you know, the MAP’s or CEP’s, there hasn’t been a platform that’s done this extremely well yet.

And I I imagine that over the next three to five years will become much better of not only like propensity to buy or propensity to engage, but also you know, channel optimization. I mean there’s still all kinds of companies out there that are sending emails three times a day because they think it drives more revenue than if they send one a day, which is probably a whole other podcast that we could dive into.

And then also too I think the on the data front. Being able to actually understand your data in a in a more functional way without the need for a data science team, that’s probably where I see the biggest opportunities for marketers. And then also embracing it, don’t don’t push back on it like there’s not, it’s you know, we’re not we’re not going back in time. You know, how can you leverage it to make yourself more efficient but then also make your campaigns or your strategy more effective as well.

Happiness question: how do you balance everything and remain happy in your career and personal life?

I spend a lot of time with my wife. We we walk together every morning. We go on trips together. We hang out a lot. Young people say like they may married their best friend. I don’t think most people think that, but I did and it’s awesome and she like knows just a just as much about Stitch as I do. So she’s like she’s like the combination of like friend, spouse and like manager all in one, which is awesome.

Like I think some people would have a hard time with that, but it’s like someone that constantly is pushing you, but then also the source of your happiness to your point as well. That’s pretty cool.


Intro music by Wowa via Unminus
Cover art created with Midjourney

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