How to strike a balance between marketing and tech

The chief marketing technology officer role is emerging to help businesses find a happy medium between their marketers and technologists.

When Nima Asrar Haghighi, director of digital marketing and analytics at MuleSoft, looked around for a predictive lead scoring, he reached back to his technical roots.

Haghighi, who likes the kind of clarity data-driven technology brings to marketing's intuitive guesswork, researched and identified four vendors. After asking tough technical questions, he eliminated one and ran comparative tests against the remaining three. Part of this due diligence included calling on vendors' customers -- that is, other marketers -- to ask about their experiences.

What he found was startling.

"They didn't do any tests," Haghighi says. "They pretty much selected the first vendor they came across."

Haghighi's reaction lies at the crux of the technologist vs. marketer conflict. Technologists favor conservative decision-making and bring to bear RFPs, comparative testing, technical reviews and peer testimonials. This, of course, puts technologists behind the innovation curve; they're always following in other people's footsteps.

Marketers, on the other hand, take great pride in breaking boundaries and taking risks. They're expected to be on the bleeding-edge of innovation, quickly adopting technology and practices that delight and surprise customers while beating competitors to the punch. Speed is their mantra, as well as failing fast and moving on.

A hybrid role known as a chief marketing technology officer, or CMTO, is emerging inside companies across the country. The CMTO is charged with finding a happy medium between the opposing natures of marketers and technologists. Earlier this year, Gartner reported that four out of five organizations now have the equivalent of a chief marketing technologist.

The marketing technologist: Grant Pattison, IAG Commercial

Keeping marketing and tech together

"You have to hold both interests together," says CTO Sheldon Monteiro at SapientNitro, a global marketing and technology consultancy. "There's tremendous value in being able to really think about building robust, secure, scalable systems... At the same time, you have to have a desire to move fast."

There's a lot riding on this balancing act, too. As a company's revenue and reputation become entwined with digital marketing, a CMTO's ability to make good, fast decisions about marketing tech architecture, marketing automation, ad tech, social marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, customer data and analytics, just might be the difference between a company's success or failure.

While every company needs a CMTO, the vast majority of CMTOs are struggling. Online Marketing Institute surveyed Fortune 500 and ad agency executives and found that only 8 percent have digital teams that are strong across the digital spectrum. Part of the problem is that few, if any, universities and professional training institutes offer CMTO courses.

"It's a very new discipline," Monteiro says.

A symbiotic relationship

In praise of IT, a technologist's due diligence helps marketers avoid the dreaded Frankenstack, redundant tools, and data and system silos. The right marketing tech can also lead to better decision-making. Haghighi, for instance, leans on AB testing to prove or disprove hypotheses and deliver more successful marketing campaigns. He also uses a predictive sales tool from C9 to get a better handle on his marketing budget.

"It was very hard to know how much we could afford to spend in marketing budget or any initiative," Haghighi says. "After using the technology, we have a good understanding of our lead value on what different marketing channels we have."

At the same time, marketers must move fast.

Maureen Duff, managing director and head of global marketing at Pershing, a technology provider and subsidiary of The Bank of New York Mellon, ran into Vestorly's digital content tool at a tech conference. After quickly researching other digital content tools, Duff felt that Vestorly would provide a unique service to Pershing's financial advisory customers.

Duff began plans to integrate Vestorly's software into Pershing's prized NetX360 business management platform, which included meeting complex financial regulations. This was very time consuming. Nevertheless, five months after seeing Vestorly for the first time at the tech conference, the integration was complete.

"I did feel pressure and wanted to move quickly on it," Duff says. "I wanted to be first."

Last year, Monteiro started a CMTO University program within SapientNitro to help a handful of employees navigate the two disciplines of marketing and technology. Students learn how to evaluate marketing tech, drawing a distinction between standard-leaning technology that absolutely requires due diligence and customer-value technology that calls for fast-acting, intuitive decision-making.

"How do you figure out which is which?" Monteiro says. "In some cases, it actually fits both categories. Those are tricky."

Monteiro says CMTO University helps students come up with innovative solutions to these kinds of complex problems. For instance, a CMTO could run concurrent pilots run by the vendors themselves, as a way to do due diligence and reduce costs yet move quickly to see what's working in the real world.

"What you need are people who can fold these two worlds together without going crazy," Monteiro says.

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