Why your marketing chief should lead your IT team

As U2 front man Bono once said, “We thought that we had the answers. It was the questions we had wrong.”

In so many instances, we are seeing companies looking for a tactical solution for questions of structure and strategy. More and more, this is the friction between the technology side and the marketing and sales side. Instead of moving in unison, they are using the tactics that each area possesses to try to solve a strategy problem that only can be solved together.

In organizations, these two entities often wrestle with control. The chief information officer wants to build a cool application or some other technology, while the chief marketing officer needs structured customer relationship management to follow customer flow and better define marketing attribution. The push and pull of these dynamics diminish the customer experience and frustrate internal stakeholders who want to see these technologies ​succeed on both the consumer and company side​.

Digital marketing guru Seth Godin once asked, “Is there a marketing person leading your IT team? ​Marketing used to be advertising.​ ​Now, marketing is everything you do. And what you do either adds to the experience, or takes away from it.”

The marketing department is closest to the consumer, which means it is the most knowledgeable about consumer needs. The marketing team possesses the most consumer information, understands consumer behavior more readily, and communicates to the organization for optimization and better customer experience. This means it should lead and take the initiatives for this change. It needs the right tools. It needs a sophisticated CRM. It needs lead-nurturing platforms. It needs a customer-journey design experience, among other support.

If you have a person in that role who cannot manage these structures well, it is time to replace them for someone who has “martech” or “adtech” skills—terms used to describe the combination of marketing and technology, or advertising and tech, knowledge. That’s someone who can gain the CIO’s confidence and lead.

If you have a CMO continually talking about brand awareness, top-of-mind awareness or other “soft’ metrics, you might have the wrong person for the future. This is an indicator he or she is measuring performance through dated metrics and they might not have the capabilities to deliver digital understandings.

Once you have the right person in place and are able to manage the technology side of the business under the CMO, you have a structure that can identify consumer trends, understand their behavior and now develop an interface through technology that will better compliment the consumer and prospects needs.

Here’s what you need to accomplish:

• Hire a CMO with “martech” and “adtech” experience.

• Make sure the CMO has leadership skills.

• Structure your corporate hierarchy so your CIO reports to your CMO.

• Make sure you know what kind of tech tools CIO and CMO need.   

This will allow the organization to work in harmony to solve the problems for the future. This is not an easy process to accomplish, and some of the world’s biggest brands get it wrong. However, this is a structure to help your organization be a disruptor instead of a disruptee. It allows for a 360-degree view of consumers and the data necessary to make decisions.

Bob McKay founded McKay Advertising & Activation in 2005. He is a fixture at adtech and digital events, and is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, with articles published at forbes.com​. 

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