Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to observe David Raab’s introspective approach to marketing technology. He is a well-established thought leader who digs deeper than even the best industry analysts. I interviewed him recently, and I thought you would appreciate what makes David tick and why so many tech leaders listen when David speaks.

(Oh, by the way, David attended both Harvard and Columbia and I forced him to pick a side.)

What inspired you to be one of the first thought leaders to explore the Marketing Automation category?
I’ve been tracking marketing technology for many years, starting with my software review column in DM News in 1994. So Marketing Automation was simply the next thing to come along.

Since your first research in this sector, obviously the market has changed dramatically. What do you believe were/are the drivers that has caused these significant changes in most recent years?
Oh, the usual — the Internet has changed how buyers behave, since they can get information without engaging directly with a company and expect vastly higher levels of personalized service when they do. This, in turn, has raised the need for marketing automation and has led to the massive explosion of marketing automation vendors and marketing technology in general. All that investment money didn’t hurt either.

What are the things currently keeping you up at night regarding the future of marketing technology?
Nothing is really keeping me up at night – the future is very bright. What I do see as pressing issues are the need for ways to create all the content that’s needed for ever-more-targeted marketing and ways to create complex program designs over many interactions and many channels. In both cases, I think the answer will be using machine intelligence to keep up with the expanded workload. Otherwise there just won’t be enough hours in the day or marketers in the world to get everything done.

Which company today is crushing it? Why?
Interesting question. In the small business marketing automation space, there’s a product called Sharpspring, owned by SMTP Inc. that has had an impressive growth spurt. In terms of innovation, I see cool things from people like Amplero and OneSpot, who are doing some of machine learning based automation I just mentioned. But there are really a lot of impressive firms out there – that’s one thing I enjoy about the space.

My guess is that Scott Brinker will claim nearly 4,000 new tech companies in 2016 with his new landscape. How do you stay on top of marketing technology trends and techniques?
I don’t claim to follow every company in the space. Basically I keep an eye out for mentions of interesting firms in the news and social media, take a quick look at pretty much everything, and then dig deeper if something seems seriously innovative. I do have my own ideas about where the industry is headed, and look for firms who seem to be moving in that direction.

Of all of the categories, what marketing technology interests you the most right now, and why?
Beyond the machine learning things, I’m intrigued by predictive modeling for applications such as lead scoring and customer success management; by broader use of intent data to enhance business and consumer leads; by ways to capture efficiently and repurpose user-generated content; and by new media such as virtual and augmented reality.

If you had to do it all over again, what would be the professional path you would have chosen? Why?
Billionaire. I missed school the day they covered that one.

What was the one interview question you would not want me to ask? (And you don’t have to have to answer it)
My life is an open book.

Looking back at your career, was there one accomplishment that sticks out that you are most proud of, and why?
I once did a really cool Sherlock Holmes thing that involved deducting why response rates had fallen based on the fact that a company was doing its sample selection based on top-N rather than Nth selects.

Harvard or Columbia? (Pick your favorite)
Columbia by far. Undergrad is much more exciting than grad school.

If you could be on a TV game show, which one would it be, and why?
I don’t know much about TV game shows.

What’s the one dish you absolutely, positively will never, ever eat?
Well, I’m allergic to shellfish.

Thank you Dave! I know your time is valuable and for any of our readers who want to go well beyond the usual top level research, I suggest you check out David’s well followed blog.