The Rise of the Marketing Technologist

Dec 19, 2013


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While no one may be waiting for the business version of West Side Story with the Sharks played by the marketing department and IT as the Jets, it's definitely no secret that these two groups are often at odds. Artists and engineers are at opposite ends of the spectrum. These business divisions will never see eye-to-eye. But are they really that different? At this year's Gilbane Conference in Boston, Massachusetts one of the prominent ideas raised was the concept of a marketing technologist. This hybrid individual is on the rise in organizations big and small. But is your company ready for someone to bridge the digital divide? And are companies really ready for this shift in business? Basically, do we need a marketing technologist?

One of the opening keynotes at the Gilbane Conference was given by Scott Brinker, co-founder and CTO of ion interactive and author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog. His presentation asked the question, "Do we really need a marketing technologist?"and answered that with an emphatic, "Yes!"

"The world is changing so rapidly and it's dragging marketing along with it," Brinker said. His analysis of a very technical world we now live in supports his theory that we now live in "the golden age of marketing software." But most companies use the "King Solomon approach to dividing marketing and technology." Separating these groups is effectively killing the very thing you are trying to grow. But the problem can not be solved by simply having the CIO and CMO communicating more. A good Chief Marketing Technologist should report to a CMO but have accountability to the CIO.

While the title may be fairly new, Gartner Research reports that 70% of large companies have a position that fits this job description. And in small to medium sized businesses there have always been individuals who have to wear multiple hats covering marketing and technology. So is this attraction to a new job title just a renaming of something that has always been there? Panelists Mayur Gupta, global head of marketing and technology for Kimberly Clark and Sheldon Monteiro, CTO for SapientNitro are two examples of this new role. Their opinion on the Marketing Technologist role was that this is simply a response to the speed of business. "Agile development (a recent technology trend) is no longer an option, it's a necessity," Monteiro stated. And the speed at which technology moves is now driving how we market and sell products to everyone.

And while the processes like agile development and lean startup from software development leaking over into marketing may be transformative, the real change is happening in the structure of companies. "The culture in a company needs to be setup for change," Monteiro encouraged those at the Gilbane conference. Both the panelists echoed the value of showing the C-suite the vision. But Mayur warned, "You must think beyond organizational shift, and think about customers. The winning recipe is a mindset change where everyone is focusing on customer experience."

So are you ready for a marketing technologist? Chances are, you already have individuals that fit this shift in job titles. The two most important things to focus on when looking at the blend of marketing and technology in your organization are the people and the passion. When looking at the people ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have buy in from the top down and the bottom up?
  • Is the person taking on this new role being setup for success?
  • Can your marketing technologist effectively communicate with both sides of the company?

Finally, the passion is most important. Why are you doing this? If it is a genuine push to solve customer issues, then you are on the right track. Adding a new job title because everyone else in the industry is doing it is a recipe for failure. But a sincere desire to help your customers as your compass will steer you in the correct direction.

The struggles between IT and Marketing departments may continue to exist but as the lines blur between these two groups there is a massive opportunity to innovate and help customers. While it may not always be a happy ending with singing and dancing in the streets, the rise of the Marketing Technologist is a leap forward for both companies and customers.