The marketing technologist: Grant Pattison, IAG Commercial

The first marketing and sales technology chief for the commercial division of Australian insurance group, IAG, shares what it takes to fill the marketing technology/IT gap

Grant Pattison
Grant Pattison

The marketing technologist is increasingly touted as the solution to bridging the knowledge gap between marketing and IT departments. Positioned as a role that brings together both business acumen and technology know-how, it’s also being positioned as the answer for organisations trying to gain a much-needed strategic approach to the marketing and customer-focused technologies being introduced in businesses today.

Grant Pattison was appointed senior manager, marketing and sales technology, at Australian insurance Group, IAG Commercial, last November. As the group’s first marketing technologist, he’s creating strategy around business technology purchasing as well as some much-needed delivery and execution capabilities around marketing and digital technologies.

Here, he talks with CMO about what it takes to be a marketing technologist, his priorities, what technology and cultural frameworks he’s investing in to work with the rest of the business, and friction with the IT department.

Tell us about your career history at IAG.

I had been at CGU Insurance for nine years and recently moved into parent company, IAG, last November to take a broader look at marketing and sales technology in particular. I’ve been through a myriad roles – I started in the call centre as an underwriter, moved into workforce planning and became a business analyst and then trusted advisor to one of the executives.

An opportunity arose to lead a sales transformation activity using our CRM platform, Salesforce.com. There had been a few cracks had at it in the past, so I thought I couldn’t do any worse. I was quite successful, creating a niche around CRM, mobile, lead generation.

In the most recent transformation we’ve gone through, I spent a lot of time building on our lead generation, quick quote and quote combined capabilities. The executives wanted to front-end a lot of our technology strategy, and that’s where the marketing component came in.

Did you study IT?

I studied film and photography at university but I did a sneaky software applications certificate during my tertiary studies. But I have no formal qualifications in terms of IT or marketing. The film and photography kept me in good stead, however, because I approach this role as a creative role. There is a lot of design, optimisation, A/B testing, and making sure the desirability of customers are taken into account. That is what appeals to me about my role – the creative and innovation side.

What’s your current priority list look like?

My current task is to set up a marketing technology stack. This composes of a data platform, Salesforce.com; and a visualisation component for that data, which is a mobile application called RoamBi. On top of that sits the marketing automation component, which is ExactTarget. We have a lot of other marketing functions across the group so I have a marketing orchestration platform called Simple, which makes sure all internal folk are aware of what’s happening in the marketing space. It’s also where all approvals and workflows are pushed through. We use a lot of different agencies as well, so that platform gives them a lens into our marketing progress. The icing on top is a decision engine, which starts to build out the playbooks and recipes using data triggers.

Why is the role of marketing technologist so important in business today?

There’s a quote from the marketing technologist from Kimberly-Clark, Mayur Gupta, who says: ‘Marketers with grand aspirations of becoming buyer-centric struggle when faced with the internal reality'. According to SiriusDecisions research, 83 per cent of marketers say creating a buyer-centric marketing function is a priority, but only 23 per cent claim to be advanced in its implementation.

My function is that execution and delivery. When you get sucked up into the traditional IT world, you have to go through the standard IT process and governance; and when you speak to people in the business or other marketing functions, they’re not quite sure how to translate their business strategy into technology. That’s where my team plays a role.

What was the catalyst for your role being created at IAG?

We recently won a Customer Experience Award through Fifth Quadrant off the back of creating a digital direct SME platform for CGU. A lot of the progress in this [marketing technology and digital] space has been brought in as a result of that. As a group, we’re looking to make scalable investments into the technology space while much bigger transformation activities are occurring.

Read more: How CGU is personalising SME services

I work in the chief commercial office, and a lot of what I do is getting leads in the door, more conversions and sales. In contrast, the traditional IT function is about making sure the lights are on, that everything is tested and secure, and that we are taking costs out of our technology spend. It doesn’t lend itself to that business-facing function, or thought leadership and innovation.

We haven’t necessarily cracked our digital strategy and all the beams that come with that. Being a large enterprise means it can be quite difficult – you have a lot of stakeholders, divisions and brands you need to manage. I have quite a defined scope I need to deliver on. Most importantly, I have a good track record of delivery and I’ve built up trust and confidence with my executive team – they know if they want something done in a special project kind of way, they can come to me and it’ll be executed against.

What are the first steps you need to take as a first-time marketing technologist?

It starts with defining the marketing and sales technology strategy, and the marketing stack is a large part of it. Insurance is very data led, and we have a lot of data, but we’re not utilising it to the best extent. So coming up with a wider data strategy is important as well. Getting that base foundation, then running campaigns to fill in gaps in our business, is also part of that.

In addition, we’re looking to fuse marketing technology into the business. I’m running awareness sessions about what our function done, so they can sell my service out in the field as well is a priority.

Who suggested you as the right person for the role at IAG?

The role was something my manager brought to me – I wasn’t aware of it. There isn’t a lot of difference between a chief digital officer and marketing technologist (at first glance). I’ve always thought about this space in a digital context. But we are a member of the Corporate Executive Board, which had identified a number of new roles, including marketing technologist.

How do you position yourself in that junction between CMO and CIO?

I collaborate closely with the brand teams – we have 15 brands in the commercial space, and I’m working with them to ensure we’re aligning to the brand strategy.

We also have an enterprise operations function that has three CIOs working to a plan, build and run model. I work with those different stakeholders too, but I sit in the business so my number one stakeholders are the distribution units – our broker business, niche and direct business, and our agency business. When I get time, I like to go into claims and workers compensation areas as well. I have that de facto digital responsibility as well.

UP next: What it takes to be a marketing technologist and that friction with IT

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