IT and marketing departments were once clearly separate entities. But with the proliferation of marketing technology, there is a lot more overlap between these two areas, especially as digital marketing has become the most common form of marketing today. 

Martech adoption has expanded at a tremendous rate over the last decade, with no signs of slowing down. According to Statista, the value of the marketing technology industry is currently well over $121 billion, with some 8000 solutions available worldwide. However, a recent survey by Rackspace found only 22% of CMOs have a clear understanding of the importance, use and benefits of technology to the business compared to their other C-Suite counterparts. 

Given the level of involvement that marketing has in the digital space and technology decisions within organizations, we asked marketing experts if there is a gap in tech knowledge. 

Are CMOs Falling Behind In Tech Knowledge?

According to Karl Hughes, founder of Chicago-based, we have a knowledge deficit on our hands. “Marketing is facing a tech-knowledge deficit on the executive and leadership side, but it’s not the only field where that’s happening,” he said. 

Hughes attributes the knowledge deficit in part to the alarming rate at which technology continues to advance. When adoption rates increase, it adds more technical jargon to the CMO lexicon, making it more challenging to catch up. 

Yet everyone doesn’t agree with Hughes. Matt Ramerman, president of Stockholm-based Sinch for Marketing, said CMOs — and marketing in general — being technology laggards couldn’t be farther from the truth. “In fact, in most cases, I would say CMOs have spearheaded the digital revolution inside of American enterprises,” he noted. 

CMOs have been the ones to champion the adoption of new channels, ways to communicate and improve the brand by leveraging technology, explained Ramerman. However, he admitted that “in some cases, the CMO has been slower to build internal expertise to operate these platforms in-house.” This has meant reliance on third-party agencies to assist with technology within organizations.  

Laura Bedrossian, SVP of communications and marketing at Toronto-based Terentia, also doesn’t believe there is necessarily a tech deficit. However, she shared a warning: given how quickly and thoroughly technology continues to change, “if you don’t understand, you will fall behind and ultimately so will your brand.”

Related Article: The Marketing Technologist: A Superhero and an Agent of Change

Keeping Up on Marketing Technology

Marketing leaders who think they may be falling behind or want to avoid falling behind in the future must find ways to close the skills gap. 

Learning Opportunities

“It’s all about learning and being curious,” said Bedrossian. Even though curiosity may be the cliche term for improving knowledge, it rings true, especially when dealing with tech. CMOs should regularly communicate with their C-suite counterparts, particularly the CIO or CTO, to understand ongoing tech issues or interesting things they’re noticing in the market. It’s not enough to read marketing-related content. Instead, they should be “expanding to other publications and books that may be more focused on technology (and beyond martech),” she suggested. 

As with any other role, a wealth of information is available to continue learning and skill-building. “Look into sanctioned martech training and courses,” said Hughes as a way to improve your technical skills, no matter your current level. 

Related Article: Marketing Is Facing Down a Skills Shortage and Capability Gap: Here's How to Fix It

Other Areas for CMOs to Focus

On top of ramping up their technology knowledge, where else should marketers focus their efforts? Here's what our experts suggest. 

Understanding the Data

“CMOs should be focusing on and have a great understanding of data and analytics,” Bedrossian said. In our technology-driven world, making data-driven decisions is essential. Even if they don’t have all of the knowledge, by knowing how to analyze and make assessments, they can still make informed decisions about existing technology and find ways to drive the business forward. 

Building In-House Expertise

If you’re not an expert, the ideal solution is to have the best people around you to help you fill in the gaps. For marketing leaders, this might mean filling their marketing teams with people with a demonstrated knowledge of technology who can contribute to decision making. 

Leveraging Outside Experts

In some cases, it’s hard to find experts who know enough about technology. For situations like this, Ramerman suggested CMOs look outside of their organizations. “Third-party system integrators and agencies have the deep, global cross-industry experience that is often impossible to match in-house,” he said. By leaning on these experts, it’s possible to keep everything on track with the business, even if internal knowledge is somewhat lacking. This allows marketing leaders and internal teams to focus on strategy and other areas where they excel.