CMOs: It’s time to take your seat at the tech table

Published December 18, 2018 by

Categories: Blog, Featured posts, The business of marketing

In many organizations, the authority of marketing leaders and CMOs in technology purchasing decisions can be, well, murky.

Cison CMO Chris Lynch points out that the common question on the minds of many marketing leaders is: “How involved or uninvolved should CMOs be in the decision-making process for new technology?”

Of course, the answer will depend on the industry and vertical, and may look different between B2B and B2C companies. As Lynch puts it, “Some CMOs sign all the major contracts for new martech, but might have little to do with the purchase process. In other cases, they’re involved the whole way.”

However, when it comes to larger technology purchases and implementations as a whole—like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer-relationship management (CRM), marketing leaders must demand a seat at the table—after all, it’s all part of rocking the role of CMO.

In previous installments of our CMO blog series, we’ve discussed how the role of the CMO is changing, and what it takes to stay in the C-suite. In this third installment, we’ll discuss how marketing leaders can get involved in major organizational technology decisions. 

Word to the wise: knock down those silos

Think about it this way: decisions that a COO might make about ERPs—an implementation that spans and impacts the entire company—will ultimately affect how successful marketing programs will be, from measurement, integration of outside programs, marketing automation and more. If the CMO isn’t aware and tracking with capabilities of technology implementations—and does not have a voice in whether or not that will work in terms of the martech stack—then she is setting marketing and the company up for failure.

Another common occurrence: IT decisions related to an organization’s website platform. Say the IT team is spearheading the move to a single website platform for global integration purposes: Without input from the CMO and marketing team, it’s impossible to know if the CMS enables key programs like content marketing in an easy, efficient and turnkey way.

Succeed by being a student of technology

As part of the evolution of the role over the past few years, CMOs need to not only take their seat at the table of major tech decisions; they also need to understand what different data tools do. Which, Lynch says, may mean “being OK to let your guard down to ask basic questions, even at the risk of sounding uninformed.”

Fortunately, there are a couple easy ways to do this:

  • Keep a steady diet of tech news from major publications (Martech Advisor, AdWeek, CMO.com, Digiday.)
  • Create a “to read” folder in your email to save research and whitepapers sent from your direct reports.

CMOs must also be smart about martech purchases. For Lynch, one good way to do this is to get involved with negotiations with the vendor for larger-ticket items to ensure the company is getting a strong deal. Another pointer? Take meetings judiciously, Lynch says. There are two reasons, he says, a CMO should take a meeting:

  1. If she truly feels the product would support the company’s strategy and the vendor has already had a successful meeting with one of his lieutenants
  2. If the vendor has successfully demonstrated they can provide a piece of insight the CMO does not already know

In order for CMOs and marketing leaders to be successful in today’s digital world, it is imperative they be involved and effective in influencing operational decisions involving company-wide technology implementations, data management, or other tools and processes that could affect their ability to do their jobs well.

Vet new technology to support business objectives

In addition to being a part of all major technology integration decisions, CMOs should ensure any and all new martech stays true to their organization’s objectives. And the vetting of any marketing technology should be in support of an existing set of business objectives. While it’s easy to get swept up in the razzle-dazzle and sales pitches of martech marketers or distracted by an abundance of cool tools, the truth is there tends to be a lot of redundancy between features.
So instead of focusing on everything that you could do with the market’s mega-tools, think about what you want to do:

  • Do you want to send emails to different audiences?
  • Follow up after physical purchases at a store?
  • Do complex, automated branching of communications based on prospect/customer interactions?
  • Etc.

When it comes to the oftentimes overwhelming world of martech, it’s always best to start with your goal and work backwards from there.

Another way to champion the marketing department in big tech decisions? Enlist the help of experts—whether they’re inside your organization or hired as outside consultants. And remember: you don’t need to head up a big martech project integration to drive higher revenue and better results; you just need to have an idea of what you want to do and start from that.

Bonus: Step up cross-collaboration with martech

For as many external opportunities as martech presents, there are just as many internal opportunities to tighten up your marketing team and create a well-oiled machine, as IBM’s Michelle Peluso has done.

Plus, today’s technology can help eliminate long-standing problems with silos. As Olenski of Forbes puts it, “Leveraging technology that makes each department’s data available to the other can deepen understanding of what each department does and generates.” This type of technology can largely improve cross-functional collaboration, like allowing sales and marketing to work together more effectively through a common platform like HubSpot.

“While CMOs might be tech budget holders, they need other stakeholders to help integrate their martech with the broader organization,” Lynch points out. “For example, when we purchased Adobe Experience Manager to power all of our websites, my organization partnered closely with our CIO and IT organization under him to ensure we had the security and integration plan in place to bring it to life.”

As a marketing leader, you already know you must keep the lens of simplicity and focus on everything you do—and that includes the technology you choose to harness to ramp up your marketing efforts.

Don’t be a stranger! Check in with us for our next post about where we see the future of marketing going in our 2019 marketing predictions post.

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