Four people gathered around a laptop.
PHOTO: David Mellis

Organizations say having a dedicated marketing technology (martech) leader and team translates into marketing success. The research firm's Marketing Technology Survey 2018 (fee required) found that 26 percent of marketers reported having a dedicated martech leader and formal team in place. And according to Gartner, those same respondents were more likely to rate their marketing maturity at a higher level than those with cross-functional or leaderless approaches.

“One of the big findings is that almost three quarters of marketers (74 percent) have some level of martech management responsibilities,” said Bryan Yeager, senior director analyst for Gartner and author of the Gartner Martech report. “There are only 3 percent who say that managing martech is done entirely outside of marketing.”

The synopsis from Gartner: Martech leader equals good thing for organizations. So what’s in a martech leader, anyway? What kinds of traits should a martech leader possess?

Data-driven Technologists

For starters, successful martech leaders are those who are data-driven technologists who embrace change and love finding solutions that are customer-first (CX/UX) and innovative, according to Michelle Gudema, whose past roles include senior director of consumer revenue and marketing capabilities for Hearst Newspapers Digital and director of marketing capabilities and digital operations for The New York Times

“These martech leaders use both sides of their brain,” Gudema added. “They’re creative (part art) and technical (part science). They’re also quick learners and often willing to risk the status quo in order to find the best possible solutions."

Related Article: 12 Things Marketers Should Know About Martech's New Categories 

Active Management of the Stack, Integrations

Citing Gartner research, Yeager said martech leaders actively manage the martech stack. This includes inventory, visualizing and evangelizing. It’s having a solid understanding of the current capabilities that are available in the martech stack and helping communicate that and getting buy-in from the rest of the organization, Yeager added. Martech leaders also actively manage the integration of technologies, data and services to support marketing's mandate within the company. 

Good Business Collaborators

In addition to being savvy marketers and technologists, martech leaders need to be good collaborators and business people. “When running a martech project,” Gudema said, “they’re always looking to test new solutions and are often running multiple proof of concept projects until they find the right fit, at the right cost — of time and money.” 

The best martech leaders embrace change and are experts at collaboration. They find solutions that will work for all parts of the business, she said, since marketing and technology now impact everything in a digital world. 

Yeager said martech leaders coordinate with other key business stakeholders, such as IT, which is a critical relationship. “We do find that there is actually, perhaps more than some people think, a lot of collaboration with IT,” Yeager said. “And that is something that we advise clients on. We really see the martech leader as the catalyst to being sort of the connection point between the CMO and the CIO within the organization. There's also coordination, especially in B2B organizations, with sales and other lines of business.”

Related Article: Why Marketing and IT Need to Collaborate on Data Quality

They Need to Have  a Vision

Yeager said martech leaders possess a visionary component. "So they're not only defining the vision," he said, "but building a strategic roadmap for how technology and data will lead to measurable business outcomes."

Relationships Builders

Martech leaders also keep track of the overall landscape. They strike key relationships with vendors. “Especially if you have relationships with some of the larger vendors,” Yeager said, “we see the marketing tech leader as sort of the key point person there.”

Related Article: How to Simplify the Martech Stack

They Create Centralized Stacks, Embrace Change

Scott Brinker, author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, shared three “amazing traits” he sees for a martech leader, stressing the importance of bringing a human touch to automation and embracing change. Brinker’s traits for martech leaders include:

  • The ability to create centralized marketing stack "platforms" that enable guided decentralization; agile and scalable power in the hands of customer-facing teams across the organization.
  • The ability to bring a human dimension to increasing automation, both for internal-teams and external customer touchpoints.
  • The ability to navigate their organizations through continuous change.

Related Article: The 5 Biggest Martech Acquisitions of 2018

They Are Well-Versed in Using Internal Business Tools

A martech leader needs a solid grasp on the internal business tools that ultimately help with marketing outcomes. “It’s really ensuring that the marketing organization is understanding journeys,” Yeager said, “and understanding the technologies that are in place.” 

Consider a Martech Leader

If your marketing team lacks a true martech leader, Yeager said it should consider one. “If organizations are really looking to mature in their approach to marketing technology and in turn become more customer-centric and be more data driven, then instituting a marketing technology leader can help them get there,” Yeager said. “So long as that marketing tech leader has the right resources and has the mandate to be able to be that change agent within the organization.”