Today’s CMO #2: Look to IT’s Past to Shape Your MarTech Future

CMOs can learn so much from CIOs. NOT just because they are teaming up to invest in technology to automate, integrate and measure internal (analytics, process management) and external (customer engagement, digital media, social) marketing and customer processes. Rather, because what CMOs are experiencing now is déjà vu for CIOs who were in the same spot just a few short years ago (do you remember CIO equals “Career is Over”?).

CMO and CIO working together


A quick flashback reminds us how Information Technology (IT) became the essential ingredient for every business around the globe. Servers, software, network gear and supply chains became the must-have business shiny objects. The same parallel can now be made for this era of marketing where digital, social, mobile, and marketing automation are the tools of choice.

And with the big IT boom, CIOs were thrust into the spotlight and all the good and bad that comes with it. They made covers of magazines and, at the same time, became villains who wasted millions of dollars and resources on over-budget, big-bang tech projects that added little business value. With the perspective of history, we can look back now and see how important all this work was to infuse tech into business.

I believe that we as CMOs and marketing execs can draw on and learn from this gold rush era (I was reviewing articles from my days as publisher of InformationWeek, the CIO playbook back in the IT boom.). CIOs and CMOs have an unprecedented opportunity to work and invest wisely together to advance their businesses in meaningful ways and provide a unique customer experience. As they work together, CIOs and IT pros who lived through the IT revolution can teach CMOs a thing or five.

So what can we learn from them to avoid their previous pitfalls? Here’s a starter list as we flip back through time:

CMO (marketing) “plus” CIO (IT), not “versus”. “Collaboration” is an over-used term, I realize, but it’s under-used in application. Because we’re in marketing, and the whole business is focused on delivering customer experience across all interactions and channels, gone are the days where one role, department or person can drive success and rule the roost. Just as importantly, marketing technology is being woven into companies’ IT infrastructure and processes. It’s no longer just about collective work within the marketing organization. Collaboration must cross departmental barriers.

It’s all about the Customer. Internal (employees, shareholders) and external (prospects, customers, partners, and influencers) is where our focus should lie. Great outcomes happen more often when we find new ways to delight our customers and create happy advocates. Technology is a more vital piece than ever as we strive to deliver superior customer experiences.

It’s not about technology, sort of. Yes, technology matters, especially in the era of always-on customers who demand a great experience on their terms. The good news here is the consumerization of technology and the arrival of cloud-based solutions provide us with more options and potentially more value (we’ll thank Apple for this because everyone else does J). CMOs will have choices!

Nail the change management and get the “people” part right. You can have the greatest technology, but if the operating team doesn’t buy in, embrace and utilize for business gain, it simply doesn’t matter. Focusing on the process and nuances of bringing in new technology or having a “funeral” for a legacy system is vitally important to helping the team and stakeholders absorb change.

Have an exit strategy. (No, I don’t mean for your company to get acquired or IPO, although that’s smart, too). It’s very ok to dump crappy projects, putting milestones in place where decisions must be made to either abandon or go forth full steam ahead with tech-focused initiatives. In the IT boom, so many companies stayed with projects that were out of control and never going to be successful, simply to save face. Exit stage left, if needed.

As a rule, CMOs are not going to become IT masters and CIOs won’t become digital and social marketing gurus any time soon (despite the hype). But history can teach CMOs (and CIOs) a great deal about capitalizing on technology as we enter the MarTech revolution.

NOTE: Today’s CMO is part of an ongoing series, infused with my own experience as a CMO and feedback from hundreds of CMOs in our customers’ organizations, that tackles the challenges facing CMOs today. The first post in this series, Today’s CMO #1: Simplifying the Chaos, set the stage by discussing CMOs pain points regarding media, marketing and technology.

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