The Push and Pull of IT and Marketing
I knew of a kid who was constantly fighting with his brother about which way to ride their bikes around the block. Their mother said they had to ride together to be safe, so their only choice was to compromise. One day they would ride around clockwise and the kid got to visit a neighbor’s dog just a few doors down, which is why he wanted to go that way. The next day they would ride around counterclockwise, and the brother got to ride over his favorite sidewalk swell and catch some air, which is why he wanted to go that way.
After doing this for awhile, they realized it didn’t matter which way they went. They would both get to do what they wanted to do—just in a different order depending on which way they were going.
I think about this story when my marketing colleagues and I talk about the push and pull of technology and marketing in today’s marketing world. This is often reflected in the question whether a modern CMO (especially going forward as things change even more) should have MORE of a technology background or MORE of a marketing background.
If you are from the marketing world, you are likely to say a CMO should have more of a marketing background, and there are solid grounds to say it. Technology is everywhere, and people in all fields are learning to use it as a tool to get things done. But not everyone with a technology background has been exposed to marketing processes. So, one would think we should lean toward the CMO with the specialized skill of marketing.
There’s more to this discussion, though, and it lies within the very nature of marketing technology. Where exactly do we categorize it? Is it a tool? Or maybe it’s a channel. To be honest, I think it’s too big to fit in either category. Here’s why:
Technology is more than a marketing operations tool or marketing channel
Maybe you believe marketing technology is just another tool. A CRM program is a tool, after all, and so is a PC. But marketing technology as a whole is much more than that because it’s embedded in strategy. It’s also embedded with strategy.
Automated marketing software, for example, presents ideas to marketers that they haven’t thought of yet. The software makes decisions about customer behaviors, then signals marketing and sales staff. Here’s another example: Triggered responses are, in effect, a channel. Marketing technology is much more than just a tool.
Maybe you believe marketing technology is just another channel. Social media, email campaigns, automated responses and other technology-based marketing initiatives make it seem so. It is a channel (or channels), but it is much more than that.
How many channels can measure themselves? Or analyze data? Or integrate with sales software to give a lifecycle picture of an individual customer? Or store, automatically organize and control assets? No, marketing technology is much more than a channel.
Maybe we can agree that, in a way, marketing technology IS marketing these days. As an industry, we are designing all kinds of organic, dynamic, agile, adaptive processes to reflect this role of technology and the multi-channel marketing world. It will be interesting to see how it evolves.
So…Who should head up Marketing: A technician or a marketer?
Because marketing technology is so integrated with the foundational aspects of marketing, there is a movement toward equalizing technology and marketing theory in a CMO’s skillset. I’ve seen educational opportunities designed to train marketing managers with both skillsets. But it’s not instinctual to have both in the same person. Technology is left brained, and needs to be. Marketing is right brained, and needs to be.
So, maybe either answer is correct. Maybe CMOs can get where they want to go (more customers and more profit) no matter which way they go around the block. If you are mostly tech savvy, you can fill in the marketing blanks with other staff, outsourced services and education about marketing. If you are mostly marketing savvy, you can fill in the tech blanks with other staff, outsourced services and education about technology.
The key, no matter which way you approach it, is to end up in the same spot: with technology as much as part of the DNA of marketing as marketing strategy.
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