Marketing Technology and its Role in Demand Generation Strategy

Who Should Own the Marketing Technology Stack?

In 2012, Laura McClellan from Gartner predicted that in five years, “…the CMO will spend more on technology than the CIO.”1 This statement both rocked the marketing space and spawned a tremendous amount of analysis … with Forbes contributor Lisa Arthur perhaps summing things up best by stating that:

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. 2

While very true, it also presents some significant problems related to the role of strategy in Demand Generation.

Technology as a Tool

Consider the first point on how marketing is becoming increasingly technology-based. It is absolutely true, but fraught with potential problems. The fact of the matter is that most failed marketing automation implementations, for example, 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?

Compare it to a paint-by-numbers project … sometimes you get a decent copy of someone else’s work, but most often it’s just a copy that has no real relevance to you, your talents, or your needs. It shouldn’t be surprising when a by-the-numbers deployment hits some bumps when applied to your company, because every company’s needs are unique.

Technology is an enablement tool, not a solution, and in the wrong hands or without buyer-centric strategy it is probably not worth the investment.

There is a strategic level of expertise here across the C-Suite that the CMO needs to own, and one of the most important signs of leadership is knowing when to ask for help and when to delegate authority.

A Mountain of Data

This has not slowed the marketing technology tide, as Marketing Automation was simply one of the first waves of marketing technology investment. Predictive tools, content management solutions, account-based marketing, email, social media monitoring, web analytics, business intelligence and more have all 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 or how all of this behavior is part of a larger Buyer’s Journey. A factor that is often compounded further by the fact that these buyers are not acting alone, with large buying committees often involved in every significant B2B buying decision.

Buyer behaviors have changed, contributing to the technology boom but also catching B2B marketing and sales departments 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 2018 Demand Gen Report B2B Buyers Survey Report, 61% of buyers are spending more time researching vendors than last year and 45% are using more sources to research potential vendors. Buyer research and interactions create a lot of data about countless different (often fleeting) interactions, that is practically never applied to anything useful. Marketers don’t know how to use it, and/or 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.

Length of the B2B Buying Cycle
Source:  DemandGen Report – 2018 B2B Buyers Survey Report

The DIY Myth

Part of the problem is that with the rise of Software as a Service and Cloud-Based Applications, both agency and software 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 program to optimally leverage the functionality of the systems, which is knowledge that IT typically does not have.

It’s no wonder that CEOs are disillusioned with the performance of their marketing departments, as according to a 2012 study by the Fournaise Marketing Group 80% of CEOs admit they do not trust their marketers (compared to a 90% positive rating for CFOs and CIOs). Even more importantly, 71% of these CEOs believe that marketing technologies are still failing to deliver the level on promises of increased Demand Generation performance.

“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.” 3

Who Owns The Marketing Technology Stack?

Most business departments allow for IT to own and run their technology stacks, but in the case of Marketing it is clear that there has traditionally been a desire to be more self-contained. And marketing has been traditionally managing their own technology projects — or at least significant portions of them. But how have they been doing?

Referring back to the Fournaise Group study it’s clear that the C-Suite has not been impressed, “…CEOs feel Marketers…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.”3

So what is the answer? Should marketing continue to own the Marketing Technology stack, or should IT become more involved in making sure the implementations, integrations and day-to-day requirements are running properly?

The answer to both of these questions is going to be different for each company, and will be largely dependent on the experience and skills of the players in both IT and in Marketing. The problem, however, is that both
of these questions fail to address the more significant issue of whether there was a documented strategy in place for how these technology tools were going to be leveraged in support of the strategic goals and thus enable organizations to gain better insights into their customers and buyers.

Marketers need to spend more time:

  • Building and owning the buyer-centric strategy for the usage of these technology tools before deployment
  • Understanding the depth and breadth of these offerings and how they work together (and how they integrate with other technologies in the stack)
  • Giving credence to the expertise of the IT team when it comes to the more tactical concerns associated installing technology that touches on/integrates with technologies being leveraged across other departments in addition to marketing (like CRM, financials, business analytics or Web)

Personal and professional development, training and experience are required — but there is a strategic level of expertise here across the C-Suite that the CMO needs to own, and one of the most important signs of leadership is knowing when to ask for help and when to delegate authority.

The CMO needs to own the strategy, and understand (but delegate) the tactical. Let’s Connect.


1 By 2017 the CMO will Spend More on IT Than the CIO – Gartner Webinar

2 Lisa Arthur, Five Years From Now, CMOs Will Spend More on IT Than CIOs Do (Forbes, February 8, 2012)

3 The Fournaise Group, 80% of CEOs Do Not Really Trust Marketers (July 10, 2012)

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