Technology & Marketing – Strange Bedfellows

It is no secret that the reputation of marketing has endured a fearful battering in the last few years. Marketing Directors have become increasingly beleaguered. Their reputation in the eyes of their boardroom colleagues has plummeted.

Despite their best efforts, Marketing Directors have been unable to shake the perception of Marketing as being an unreliable dilettante younger sibling; profligate, fun to be with, great when all is good but about as much help as a fish on a bicycle during the current arctic economic climate.

Some of this bad press is undoubtedly self-inflicted through an ingrained inability or unwillingness to engage in the language that businesses and particularly their finance colleagues understand. This, allied with a perceived reluctance to provide any solid measures of ROI beyond vaguely referencing largely notional measures such as propensity to purchase, loyalty and brand equity.  But a large measure of their unpopularity stems from the fact that, unlike other key corporate disciplines, senior marketers do not “do” much.  Instead the majority of their time and value is devoted to hiring, managing and coordinating a complex web of external suppliers; ad agencies, media, digital specialists, branding experts, PR, research and a mass of others.  It is not wholly surprising that the complex challenges and management skills required for the job are not immediately recognised by other senior colleagues, given the fragmented marketing supplier landscape and absence of concise and businesslike reporting.

But the reputation of marketing is due to receive a much-needed boost through that most unlikely of saviours – technology. According to a recent Gartner webinar, “By 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.” Fundamental to this seismic shift is the increased deployment of SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud-based applications accompanied by the now widely recognised view that the usability and widespread adoption of a technology is at least as important as its functionality.  The penny has finally dropped that all the technological “bells and whistles” in the world are of precious little value if marketing teams are not using the system.

So the often derided marketing skills of managing complex partnerships have suddenly acquired a new and vital relevance.  For at least the last 5 years, there has been a widespread agreement that first-class technology is an inevitable component to effective marketing management. But until more recently, the provision (or absence) of such tools had been thought to be the sole responsibility of IT, jostling amongst other priorities such as the latest SAP upgrade for attention– and usually coming off badly.

Laura McClellan, VP of Gartner’s Marketing Strategy practice is convinced that that the Marketing Director (or VP, or whatever) will increasingly lead the charge for those systems (i.e. most of them) that reside outside of the company’s own servers.

Fortunately, marketers are already well equipped to develop the brief and specification; to evaluate, select and eventually manage the technology provider as another integrated member of the “inner circle” of outsourced marketing partners.

A happy by-product will be the final nail in the coffin of the lazy stereotype of marketers as feckless, technophobic and more interested in their marketing peers than how they are perceived within their own organisation.  And not a moment too soon.

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