Two iPhones in someone's hand. One of the left says, "Technology is a given" on the screen, the one of the right says, "Not a debate" on the screen
PHOTO: Scott McLeod

According to an August survey, released by Forrester Consulting and Accenture Interactive, CMOs have more technology than they know what to do with, and a simultaneous mandate to drive a sound technology strategy and make their brands more human. It may sound like a paradox, but it’s the reality facing CMOs in 2019. "The opportunity to create emotive and powerful experiences for customers is out there, but only if the CMO collaborator can inspire customer-centric thinking that resonates with a positive brand experience across all lines of business,” researchers at Forrester and Accenture wrote.  

But How? "By creating organizational alignment, a customer-obsessed culture, and a technology suite that enables and encourages innovation and real-time change."

The Evolving Role of the CMO

Technology was not always a focal point for CMOs. Marketing and advertising leaders had to cultivate relationships with people, create advertisements and hoped they would stick, like in the Don Draper days. “For years, the CMO was someone who rose through the ranks of a brand, gaining familiarity with the company’s story while building relationships with agencies and media partners to develop and execute what they felt was a successful strategy,” Impact CEO David Yovanno wrote in an AdWeek piece last year

A 2007 McKinsey report found marketers still had narrowly defined roles that emphasize advertising, brand management and market research. According to McKinsey, CMOs then had to deal with new media beyond traditional television advertising where customers began to conduct their research. Marketers were challenged then by fragmented media spending and “rising costs to generate the desired consumer impact.” 

Four years later, a 2011 IBM study found CMOs’ four biggest challenges included: explosion of data, social media, proliferation of channels and devices, and shifting consumer demographics. 

Related Article: 11 Necessary Skills and Traits for the Modern Chief Marketing Officer

Enter the CIO-CMO Dynamic

The technology paradigm and shift for CMOs becoming more tech-savvy has led to a tighter relationship between the CMO and the organization’s top technology leaders, the CIOs. This week, CMSWire spoke with a New York Times product marketer and VP of engineering who discussed a NYT case study that revealed how product has merged with engineering for a more cohesive strategy leveraging marketing technology.

Integrate CMO Scott Vaughan told CMSWire his relationship with IT has become “consultative and collaborative.” He called them partners. “The IT leaders are experienced, professional buyers of tech vs. marketers who are often acquirers based on immediate needs,” Vaughan said. “They are typically more disciplined about business case evaluation and tech due diligence that we in marketing can learn and benefit from. We also work with the IT team on security and compliance checks with each Martech due diligence and purchase we initiate.”

Related Article: Who Should Take the Lead In Digital Experience Technology Selection?

Challenges Around MarTech: Understanding Use, Creating Culture

The marketing and engineering teams are accountable to each other at Clari, according to CMO Cornelius Willis. He said the company’s market feedback loop is “extremely tight” in a working environment of “short development sprints that are directly responsive to market needs.” 

So where does this leave Willis as the marketing organization’s chief when it comes to technology leadership? “Like most of the CMOs I'm in touch with,” Willis said, “I'm accountable for the Martech stack: what's bought, how it's implemented and what we get out of it.” Understanding how the different teams use technology, how the people and the technology work together to drive demand and how to create the right culture around the tools presents the “real leadership challenges,” Willis said. “Technology is easy,” he added. “People and the culture to work with the technology are the hard parts.”

CMOs need to be technical and understand how to put together the marketing and sales tech stack and the processes it drives, Willis said. “Five years ago we were ‘clients’ of IT, vying for mindshare and trying to get projects prioritized,” he added. “Now organizations realize that Martech and Salestech drive the top line. It's not a nice to have. It's the business.”

Martech Champions Do Better, Gartner Finds

No matter if it's IT or marketing, having a Martech champion only helps organizations with their marketing maturity, according to Gartner’s 2018 Marketing Technology Survey. The survey found that 74 percent of marketers have Martech management responsibilities. 

Organizations such as Infor have the marketing department taking the lead. “My marketing department is the decision-maker on the Martech stack for our company, as well as, the buyer and the co-implementer,” said Infor CMO Ashley Hart. “We work closely with IT to implement some items that we may lack in marketing, such as changes to our Infor CRM product.”

Madison Logic CMO Jenn Steele told CMSWire she is “chief cook and bottle washer for [her company's] Martech stack.” However, Steele added that her 2019 hiring plan doesn’t include someone for marketing operations because she knows she can fill that role herself when needed. “Of course,” she said, “I lean heavily on our COO, director of sales operations and the IT department. But being able to understand technology as well as I do means that I can spend my staffing dollars where they’re going to directly drive revenue. That’s not to say that I’ll never need a marketing ops team, but it means that I can focus on growth first.”

Technological Background Helps CMOs

Steele does have one clear advantage: she’s got a deep technological background. She had an 11-year career in technology, running IT departments at law firms. She also has a degree in biology from MIT. “I’ve never heard a CMO talk about agile scrum and standups so naturally before,” her CTO told her during her interview. From there, they’ve built a collaborative relationship with weekly one-on-ones where they hold each other accountable to their workout schedules. “This isn’t just because I have a heavy technology background,” Steele said. “It’s because he’s a business leader on top of being our technology leader. We get along amazingly well, because we’re both data-driven, we understand resource constraints, and we both put our company’s growth in the No. 1 priority slot.”

Related Article: Forrester Report: CMOs Must Become Technologists + Master Marketing Tools

Technology Enabling Marketing Capabilities

But even the CMOs that don’t have the technological background are becoming more tech savvy. Integrate CMO Vaughan said he considers himself and his colleague marketers technology investors, trying to manage a portfolio of tech to provide efficiency, effectiveness and unique capabilities for the company. “We view technology as an enabler of our strategy and an important part of advancing our marketing capabilities,” Vaughan said. “We have tried to be very disciplined about not buying tech for tech sake, which is not always easy to do today with so many options. We start with the strategy, what we are trying to accomplish and build a roadmap, including ROI and an adoption plan and model for each technology we evaluate.”

No Need to Become a Technology Expert

Vaughan said CMOs should know what is available and at their disposal to differentiate and accelerate their strategy. “This does not mean you have to be a technology expert,” he said. “Rather, you must commit to spending time understanding the possibilities and have the pros on your staff who are committed to identifying, evaluating and adopting tech that best advances your ability to deliver on your goals.”