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Fellow marketers, I come to your with one premise: marketing must control its technological destiny.
Now, search marketing is riding a wave of new technology.
Bid management, landing page optimization, web analytics—lots of search marketing technology. Sometimes it can seem a little overwhelming, no? But we’re not just search marketers, we’re marketers…
And marketing overall is riding a killer wave of new technology.
Hundreds of amazing marketing technologies—search, email, video, social, commerce, conversion, multi-channel. Any guess how many companies are here? 141—and that’s just a sample. By the way, anyone who can tell me what each every one of these companies does, I will personally buy your beverage of choice at the bar tonight.
See, industry forces have created a perfect storm for marketing technology. The shift of money from old media is continuing, making digital a larger and larger market. Cloud computing and the inherent trackability of digital initiatives makes it easier to adopt and justify new technologies. And this special moment in time, where disruptive innovation opens doors for everyone—combined with the attractive economics of software—make barriers to entry relatively low. If you’ve got a brilliant idea, and you can prove it, you can launch a marketing technology venture.
The result is predictable: over the next 5 years you will see an explosion of marketing technology. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
It’s not just technology you buy. It’s technology you create. It’s not just applications, but platforms on which technically-proficient marketers can build innovations on the web, Facebook, iPhone, Android, the new iPad, interactive ads, the semantic web, and within your own products.
Digital marketing has grown far beyond the web site, and as marketers we now must manage a vast, extended web that includes landing pages, social media presence, mobile apps, and so on. Every year it’s like a whole new planet joins your solar system. The iPad and tablet computing just entered your gravitational field this year.
So if you take all of these marketing technologies—internal technologies that make us more efficient, external technologies that help us reach and engage our audience, and technologies embedded into our very products and services that now become an active part of marketing dynamics—you’ve got a really big stack of technology on your desk.
And it’s not just individual components—the real question is how all these pieces fit together.
Viewed another way, there’s been an exponential growth in the number of technology decisions that we marketers need to make. Not too long ago, the big issue might have been working with Macs or PCs, PageMaker or Quark Express. Nowadays, we’re inundated with choices: what do we do for marketing automation, attribution management, social media monitoring, conversion optimization, behavioral targeting. And again, every time a new one enters the field, it brings about decisions of how to integrate it with everything else.
At the same time, the impact of these technology decisions is bigger than ever. It’s not just about picking the vendor with the cheapest price. Your choices impact what marketing capabilities you’ll have, what your customers will experience, how efficient your operations will be, where you will gain or cede ground to your competition, and what synergies will blossom between your chosen technologies.
In other words, technology decisions and your marketing strategy are bound together. They’re symbiotic, interdependent on each other. And clearly immensely important.
But who makes these decisions? And on what basis? Marketers have the incentives and vision, but they rarely have the technical depth. IT has technical depth, but their incentives and vision follow a different path. Outside players can help, but their alignment with your business is inherently partial. No one of the groups gives you what you need. Now, you might say, “why not bring them all together?”
Unfortunately, that can be like the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Contention doesn’t always lead to invention. It usually leads to deadlock or the lowest common denominator.
Speaking of contention… let’s talk about the relationship between marketing and IT for a moment. It sometimes feels like this. But having worked on both sides of the divide, I can say that there’s a very logical reason for this tug-of-war. Marketing and IT have different goals and incentives.
IT is focused on stability—making sure things work reliability, security, minimizing costs—after all, IT is a cost center, standardization and reusability, and meeting functional specifications. They’re incentivized to achieve these goals. Marketing, on the other hand, is more concerned with speed and agility, innovation, market impact, differentiation from competitors, and the net customer experience—because those are the things more relevant to marketing’s goals and incentives. It’s not that marketing doesn’t appreciate the things on the left—of course, we do—we just appreciate the things on the right more. And the reverse is true for IT. Now, you might say, tough cookie, IT is the guardian of technology—it’s in their name.
But IT doesn’t actually own all technology in a company.
For example, take Apple. They have a terrific IT department.
But the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad—none of these were IT projects. IT provides some relevant infrastructure, but they don’t drive product development.
I propose to you that the technology in marketing is much more like product development technology than it is IT technology. Why?
Because digital marketing is directly experienced by customers and prospects. It is an engine for new revenue. It’s integral to the brand—your marketing and your products are how the world sees you. This is how people compare you against your competitors. It’s a creative endeavor that must innovate to succeed. And given all this, you can’t outsource marketing—the holistic vision of marketing—to an offshore job shop. Innovation and marketing must be core competency.
So now I’m halfway through my talk, and you may be searching for the answer: how should marketing evolve in this new world?
Of course, we don’t just want to search for that… we want to decide, right?
For asserting your control and accountability—well, good news is, you’re already accountable. Leads, market share — you’re already responsible for outcome, and those outcomes are dependent upon your marketing technology capabilities. The CEO already thinks that digital marketing means marketing is now fully accountable for its performance and ROI.
So if you’re responsible for it, you’d better be in the driver’s seat. Being the concerned passenger who keeps asking, “Are we there yet?” isn’t going to work.
But if you don’t have technical depth—and you’re facing that exponentially growing stack of technology decisions—how do you decide which direction to go?
Marketing needs its own technology leadership firepower, and that is the impetus for a new role in the marketing department—the marketing CTO. The marketing CTO reports directly to the CMO, not the CIO—although he or she will certainly coordinate with IT and, increasingly, with product development. This person is a technologist—they have deep engineering and technical experience. But they are also marketing savvy and are passionate about its mission.
The marketing CTO sits at the intersection of this maelstrom of marketing technologies—and lives to connect the dots.
Now I’m just one marketing technologist waving his hands on stage, but people a lot smarter than me have been saying the same thing. Avi Dan, who was an executive at Young & Rubicam and Saatchi & Saatchi, wrote this editorial in Ad Age earlier this year that CMOs should appoint a marketing-technology czar—czar, you don’t see that too often on a business card—essentially a marketing CTO—to act as a cross-functional facilitator and identify technology that can enhance marketing and brand building.
A team of researchers from MIT Sloan came to similar conclusion, and were written up in the Wall Street Journal, recommending a “marketing technopologist” to head up web 2.0 marketing. Marketing technopologist = strengths in marketing + technology + social interaction. (If we can be as creative with the technology as we are the job titles, we’ll be golden.)
Now, I want to be clear—I am not advocating for another layer of management, I believe we’re increasingly in a flat-organization world. And I’m certainly not advocating for new C-level position—the CMO is the right person to be the unequivocal leader of all marketing.
Instead, I am suggesting that marketing technology become one of the vertical components of the marketing function. Resources that used to be begged, borrowed, or bought, become a native part of the marketing organization. If you don’t ascribe anything mystical to technology, and just treat it as a talent and skill set of the new marketing—part of the natural shift from old media to new media—then this is a completely logical move.
I do think it’s important to think of it holistically as marketing technology—spanning search, social, optimization, automation—all those different pieces of the puzzle. Like the other dimensions of marketing, I think the move away from strict silos such as search or social is important to the synthesis of the new marketing. There may be some specialization within, but it’s the broad fluency to connect the dots that is most important.
This marketing technology branch doesn’t have to implement everything. It will do some—how much depending on the situation. But it will also work with IT, the product team, outside agencies, technology vendors, contractors. The key is for marketing to have “positive control” over these initiatives, not just at a high conceptual level, but at a technology implementation level. Because, as we’ve seen, those implementation decisions do not reside in a vacuum.
And that’s really what a marketing CTO needs to do: manage the landscape a company’s marketing technology at both the 50,000 foot level and the 5-foot level, balance the big picture with the devil in the details.
Ultimately, the goal of the marketing CTO is to enable the CMO to wield technology as a strategic marketing capability. Analogous to relationship between a less-technical CIO and his or her CTO, or between a product CTO and the CEO. If the chemistry is right, this is a powerhouse combination.
But while the marketing CTO can be a great change agent, catalyst, and leader for this new dimension of marketing, integrating technology more deeply into the marketing function isn’t a one-person show. The future of marketing is having technologists seamlessly integrated throughout the marketing department, collaborating in synchronized harmony across many teams.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone in the marketing department has to be a technologist.
Just like not everyone in marketing is a “creative.” But even though not all marketers have background or talent in graphic design or art direction, such creative capabilities are part of the culture of marketing. We appreciate them and collaborate with them. A CMO doesn’t have to have been a Chief Creative Officer. But he or she must know how to wield and lead such resources.
And that’s how we must embrace technology, as one of the fundamental building blocks of marketing’s new DNA. It must become part of the culture. Let’s talk about some of the benefits of doing that.
Arthur C. Clarke, the guy who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey, once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And if you cut-and-paste lots mysterious analytics code or optimization scripts into your web pages, you know how that feels first hand. But the problem with a completely black box approach is that it obscures risks and opportunities, breeds superstition, and makes it difficult to reveal and leverage interdependencies. By proactively cultivating a technology culture, marketing can go from being in the audience to being the magician—performing feats that cause your customers to ooh and ahh.
Speed and agility are increasingly at the heart of marketing’s competitiveness. A key benefit to imbuing marketing with technical talent is an acceleration of the clockspeed in implementing technology-based features. Part of this speed is purely organizational—having someone directly on your team, sitting right next to you, aligned perfectly with your mission is faster than crossing organizational boundaries and trying to get the attention of people who are not 100% focused on your mission. To talk tech: reduce switching costs and communication latencies.
But I think it will be even better than that. See, bringing technology culture into marketing will also import some of the operational paradigms that have powered rapid development in the Internet age. For instance, the methodologies of agile software development—a huge improvement over the rigid and time-consuming “waterfall” approach that preceded it—with a few tweaks, can provide the inspiration for “agile marketing” management approaches.
Similarly, software developers have years of experience perfecting the art of test-driven development, the underlying concepts of which can forge a kind of test-driven marketing methodology that leverages the malleable and trackable nature of our digital environment to systematically expand the reach and effectiveness of programs.
Which leads me to a culminating point—making marketing technology and official part of the marketing organization is ultimately a mandate because its scale and scope are only growing. One of those most fascinating fields of research is at the intersection of computer science and marketing—leveraging that tsunami of data and real-time experimentation and optimization, intertwined with human marketing expertise, to enable computational marketing, somewhat analogous to the revolution of computational finance. Thanks to cloud computing, these capabilities will not be limited to a handful of the Fortune 500—everyone will be able to leverage them. As long as you know how.
If I’ve persuaded you of the glorious potential of that future, the obvious question is: but where does one find these mythical marketing technologists?
More like product development than
IT because:<br />• What customers experience<br />• Engine for new revenue<br />• Integral to the brand<br />• Creative endeavor<br />• Visible competitive positioning<br />• Must innovate to succeed<br />• Must be core competency<br />
Why Brands Should Embrace Technological
Change<br />“CMOs must… recognize that technology is no less a marketing tool than, say, market research, and appoint a marketing-technology czar to champion it… to act as a cross-functional facilitator and identify technology that can enhance marketing activity and brand building.”<br />– Avi Dan, January 19, 2010<br />
The Secrets of Marketing in
a Web 2.0 World<br />“Who should direct… Web 2.0 marketing? [An executive with skills] beyond those of a typical MBA holder or tech expert. We coined the term marketing technopologist for a person who brings together strengths in marketing, technology and social interaction.”<br />– Salvatore Parise, Patricia Guinan, Bruce Weinberg<br />