CMO interview: Calling bingo on the technology sector

Forrester's global marketing leader shares the strategy shift occurring thanks to technological change and how it's impacting the role of the CMO

As the CMO at a company focused on helping clients make better technology decisions, it’s no surprise to Forrester’s Victor Milligan that much of his time is spent providing that same service to marketers.

Milligan started his career in management consulting, before taking on a variety of marketing roles. For the past three years, he has been chief marketing officer at Forrester, a Boston-based firm that provides technology-focused research, data, custom consulting, peer groups and events to organisations and executives.

Over his career, he has witnessed the evolution of the technology sector not just in terms of its impact on the marketing profession, but on organisational systems and processes.

“The difference between technologies of the past and this current set of technologies is these are a set of technologies which will change the way companies work,” Milligan says. “So the decisions are not technology decisions, they are strategic and operational decisions that are inherently technical.”

Strategy versus technology ownership

Milligan says CMOs are being asked to take a more strategic role in their organisations. Hence he is frequently drawn into conversations with marketers who are expected to not just have a greater appreciation for technology within the marketing function, but also of the technology strategy of their organisation as a whole.

“They are not just driving the go-to-market strategy, but also the internal operational strategy, to ensure the company in its structure and operations can deliver on its commitments to its customers,” Milligan says. “That has not naturally been a comfortable role for some CMOs. And often you have a dissonance or separation between what is being asked of the CMO and the political power they wield within the organisation.”

While he describes the current market for technology as customer-led, Milligan says the market is also unusual in that numerous new technologies are being introduced simultaneously, such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and the Internet of Things.

“The challenge is that the supplier dynamic means that in some cases the technology supplier knows more than the technology buyer,” he says.

Hence marketers in the technology sector are inadvertently making life more complicated for the customers they are trying to service. “There is a universe of buzzword bingo,” says Milligan.

“When marketers don’t understand the clients they serve, they will default down to product attributes. When they do that, they look for the most valuable language possible to describe the same apple or the same banana.

“And so if I can call my banana an ‘AI banana’, that is a more valuable banana at that point in time. But you tend to confuse the market. It might create some short-term gains in leads or sales, but I don’t think in the long run it places you where you want to be, which is as a partner to your clients, helping them solve the harder business problems that will take years to solve.

“The smarter buyers know the difference and they are doing proof-of-concepts to cut through the fog. But I still feel the technology provider market could benefit from pulling back a bit from the buzzword game.”

Embracing the matrix

Milligan’s own role as CMO at Forrester has seen him reorganise the marketing function itself to better take advantage of many of the new technologies at his disposal. His first actions focused on making marketing more consequential and impactful, starting with dismantling the hierarchical nature of the function.

“It was not set up for speed, it was not set up for agility, and it was not set up to make every person in marketing valuable to the outcome,” he continues. “One of the first things I did was move the operation to a matrix structure and away from the silo structures that used to dominate marketing. And it unleashed the talent across the teams and created a premise for other things to be done.”

Changing the structure meant Milligan could get better leverage out of technology investments, to free up people to spend more time thinking about the harder, more complex problems by moving them away from manual processes.

“More and more of our tasks are being leveraged by technology, and more and more of our decisions are being enabled by analytics,” he says. “Marketing shops have tended to have been built on a somewhat manual basis. And you can think of that as technology debt, in that you are really not getting the true value of the technology. What you have done is baked in a set of manual inefficient processes.

“As we head to various forms or personalisation, you really can’t do any form of personalisation at scale without technology. Without it, you move to the cardinal sin of marketing, and move towards unintelligent scale.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu 

 

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

3 marketing mistakes to overcome when courting prospective customers

Marketing that urges respondents to ‘buy now’ is a little like asking someone to marry you on your first date. At any time, only 3 per cent of the market is looking for what you’re selling, so the chances of your date randomly being ‘The One’ is pretty slim.

Sabri Suby

Founder, King Kong

Why are we dubious about deep learning?

The prospect of deep learning gives those of us in the industry something to get really excited about, and something to be nervous about, at the same time.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Why you can’t afford to fail at CX in 2019

In 1976 Apple launched. The business would go on to change the game, setting the bar for customer experience (CX). Seamless customer experience and intuitive designs gave customers exactly what they wanted, making other service experiences pale in comparison.

Damian Kernahan

Founder and CEO, Proto Partners

Red Agency YouGov Galaxy Report, February 2019 Predictors Study. https://redagency.com.au/re...

Vanessa Skye Mitchell

DNA-based marketing: The next big thing?

Read more

RIP holden

Max Polding

Marketing professor: For Holden, brand nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

Read more

Where does the claim that 2 million Australians have tested come from ? Anecdotal information suggests that this is way off the mark.

David Andersen

DNA-based marketing: The next big thing?

Read more

Thank you for the info , being part of a digital marketing agency in kerala , this proved handy and get to know with upcoming trends. htt...

Dotz Web Technologies

Predictions: 9 digital marketing trends for 2019

Read more

So who then is correct? The Research or The skilled Digital people.

Anene

Report reveals Australia faces digital skills shortage

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in