The Rise of the Marketing Technologist – Part 1

Things really started to get serious when Laura McClellan from Gartner said that thing about marketing technology. You know what I’m talking about…it’s the quote that launched a thousand venture money pitch decks.

By 2017 the CMO will spend more on technology than the CIO.

 Forbes columnist Lisa Arthur summed it up really well in her article analyzing the prediction; “1) … marketing is becoming increasingly technology-based 2) Harnessing and mastering Big Data is now key to achieving competitive advantage, and 3) Many marketing budgets already are larger –and faster growing –than IT budgets.”

Big Data Driven by Marketing Technology

It’s all so very, very true. And also so very, very problematic.

Consider her first point on how marketing is becoming increasingly technology-based … absolutely true, but not necessarily a good thing. It reminds me of a post I wrote while at Demandbase called Marketing is a Mix Tape which still stands up and speaks to the problem of the perceived “ease” of marketing automation and other marketing technologies. The fact of the matter is that most failed marketing automation implementations we have seen share a striking set of similarities, as both do-it-yourselfers and agency-led deployments are technology-led rather than strategy-led. When you let the architecture of the technology outline the strategy of the program, well, it’s not really a strategy is it? When you paint by the numbers you can sometimes get a decent copy of someone else’s work, but most often it’s just that — a copy that has no real relevance to you, your talents, your needs or most importantly customized to your buyer. It shouldn’t be surprising when a by-the-numbers deployment hits some bumps when applied to your company, because every company’s needs and buyers are unique.

Technology is not the answer, it’s a tool that can be used to enable a successful program. In the wrong hands however, that tool is not worth the investment.

This has not slowed the marketing technology tide, as Marketing Automation Solutions (MAS) was simply one of the most visible waves of serious technology investment, following on the heels of CRM, Web Analytics and Email Marketing technology. Social media monitoring, business intelligence and more have also established a presence at the table, and we now know more than ever before about the behaviors and interests of our prospects. The volume of information we are collecting across all of our technologies and systems is staggering, and is likely the impetus behind Ms. Arthur’s second point on ‘harnessing and mastering Big Data.’ While we know more about what our prospects are clicking on, downloading, and sharing we are still at a loss as to understanding who they are. A factor that is often compounded further by the fact that these buyers are not acting alone, with committees of 3,4, 5 or more people involved in every significant buying decision. Buyer behaviors have changed, contributing to the technology boom but also catching B2Bs off guard as our prospects are also leveraging technology. They are researching and evaluating our products and services in stealth mode, biding their time before (maybe) inviting us to sell to them.

According to the latest Demand Gen Report Buyer Behavior Survey, 46% of buyers make their short list of vendors before inviting contact with a vendor and 58% are spending more time researching vendors than last year. And after they do make contact, more than 30% of them still require at least 8 vendor contacts before they buy — which has remained consistent over the past three years of the study.

That’s a lot of data, about a lot of different (often fleeting) interactions, that is practically never applied to anything useful. It’s all about context and in reality marketers don’t know how to use this data within the proper context.  Furthermore, many of  their systems are not properly integrated, and/or their strategy did not plan for it. We know both more and less about our prospects than ever before, all because of technology.

Part of the problem is that with the rise of Software as a Service and Cloud-Based Applications, vendors have been doing an absolutely fantastic job at convincing marketers that deployments are fast, integrations are easy, and we don’t need to deal with IT any more. More often than not, however, the CMO has absolutely no experience in software deployment, doesn’t fully understand the enterprise-wide implications involved in software decisions, has no idea how to integrate systems with data or functional parity, and relies too heavily on the vendor’s assurances that it will be quick and easy and painless. On the other hand, many of these systems require a depth of knowledge regarding the inner workings of a marketing campaign or program to optimally leverage the functionality of the systems, and IT typically does not have this skill set.

It’s no wonder that CEO’s are disillusioned with the performance of their marketing departments.

According to a recent study by the Fournaise Marketing Group  “80% of CEOs admit they do not really trust and are not very impressed by the work done by Marketers – while in comparison, 90% of the same CEOs do trust and value the opinion and work of CFOs and CIOs.” Even more importantly, “…71% of these CEOs believe that while B2B Marketers are focused on the latest marketing technologies (such as marketing automation, lead management and CRM) supposedly to generate customer demand, they are still failing to deliver the level of incremental customer demand expected of them.” And perhaps my favorite quote from the study:

“These CEOs feel Marketers are too distracted and sucked into the technological flurry (and jargon) related to system integration, funnels, processes and scores, and have forgotten that technology is only a support tool that does not create demand per se – only accurate strategies and campaigns pushing the right products, product benefits, content and customer value propositions do.”

It is no surprise that there has been growing interest in a new “Marketing Technologist” role, one that straddles the technical expertise of the IT department and the process-driven program development and deployment of the marketing team. Indeed, this is the sort of role I have played at a few companies, with my technical know-how (CRM, MAS, ESP, Web Analytics) helping me to execute the programs I was creating, running and measuring. Ms. Arthur pointed out that “…many marketing budgets already are larger –and faster growing –than IT budgets” but is a Marketing Technologist role really the approach we should be taking? Should the marketing technology stack be led across the business, and should marketing technology be strategically managed across marketing, IT, and the C-Suite?

Who is the Marketing Technologist, do we need this role, and what does it really mean? I’ll continue this examination of the Marketing Technologist in part two (Who Owns The Marketing Technology Stack?) and finish with part three (People, Process and Content … then Technology).

Related Reading:

Scott Brinker from Ion Interactive is fast becoming the ‘expert’ on the role of the marketing technologist at his ChiefMarTec blog.

Lattice Engines and The Funnelholic just released a fantastic eBook called The CMO’s Guide to Technology.

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 Vice President, Demand Generation, ANNUITAS


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