Tech’s 2017 Slide of the Year

Suddenly it’s in everyone’s decks—including mine.

Last summer, I was invited to give a keynote presentation to leaders at a Fortune 50 technology company. My presentation was titled “How Your Strategic Story Powers Success.”

Preparing for the talk, I searched for an image to express “why now?” Meaning, what has changed that makes getting the strategic story right so critical for success today?

The slide I chose captured what I hear from CEOs when they reach out to me for help. The pace of innovation has accelerated, they say, to where competitors can copy your better/faster/cheaper features virtually instantly. If a typical category had 4 or 5 competitors a few years ago, now it has 10, 20 or more. Differentiating on a clear strategic story is more critical now because whether you’re selling marketing technology or any technology, your customers see this:

The slide, Chiefmartec.com’s Martech 5000, was so well received that I used it again, a few weeks later, in a presentation to portfolio leaders at OpenView, the Boston-based venture firm. To my surprise, two other presenters who spoke that day—including Drift marketing director David Gerhardt—also used it in their presentations, and both did so to illustrate the positioning challenge faced by all teams, not just those selling marketing technology. In fact, Gerhardt now displays it in a tweet pinned to the top of his Twitter profile:

I was the last speaker that day at OpenView, so to call out the awkwardness of presenting an image my audience had already seen twice, I said, “I hereby nominate this for slide of the day!”

I upgraded that to slide of the year when, a few weeks later, Redpoint Ventures partner Tom Tunguz published “The Risking Stakes of SaaS,” in which he used the slide to make the point that “the most important force shaping the industry today is competition”:

From Tomas Tunguz’s The Rising Stakes of SaaS

I love Tunguz’s observation that the slide is so dense that its only real utility is expressing that density. In fact, that’s how Salesforce Chief Strategy Officer John Suarez-Davis used it at the recently concluded Dreamforce conference:

Of course, if the Martech 5000 really did win slide of the year, Chiefmartec.com creator Scott Brinker would give the acceptance speech. Brinker began publishing the slide back in 2011, when there were just 150 vendors on it.

“I started the slide as a labor of love,” Brinker said when I reached him by phone. “I wanted to make the point that marketing teams needed technical expertise to make sense of all these great solutions. But these days I see the slide in all kinds of presentations—marketing technology pitches, of course, but also VCs using it to talk about barriers to entry and the difficulty of differentiating yourself, as you’ve pointed out.”

Today the slide is so ubiquitous that DMNews.com editor-in-chief Kim Davis calls it “dropping the Scott Brinker” when he sees it in a presentation.

Any companies Brinker thinks are successfully standing out by telling a great strategic story?

“One of my favorite examples is Terminus,” he told me. (Terminus announced a $10.3 million Series B round back in March.) “They were one of the first to talk about account-based marketing, and they were tiny, coming out of Atlanta no less. But they really told this story they called “Flip My Funnel” — through their content, mini-conferences. They’ve had an enormous influence in shaping the discussion around ABM, and I’m sure that’s reflected in their growth.”

Brinker recently became HubSpot’s VP of Platform Ecosystem, and he’s about to start work on the 2018 slide. He wonders whether this will be the year when the number of companies that disappear through exits and failures finally overwhelms the number of new entrants.

“Actually I wonder that every year,” he says, “yet I’m always amazed by how many new companies are launched. I’ll be surprised if it shrinks, but it really doesn’t matter whether there are 1,000 or 5,000. Now, it’s all about how do you stand out and reach the top 5 percent?”


About Andy Raskin
I help CEOs and leadership teams align around a strategic story — to power sales, marketing, fundraising, product, and recruiting. My clients include teams backed by Andreessen Horowitz, KPCB, GV, and other top venture firms. I’ve also led strategic narrative training at Salesforce, Square, Uber, Yelp, VMware and General Assembly. To learn more, visit
http://andyraskin.com.