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Five steps to embracing a technology mind-set within marketing

There’s no doubt the marketing function plays a central role within any successful organisation, and the ability for the CMO to be closely aligned with the CEO, CIO, and other leaders is core to that success.

But more than that, digital CMOs must also look to use technology that not only provides a good experience to customers, it must delight them, surprise them, and above all, make them love your brand. Any disconnect between marketing, technology, and business could cost them sales. 

During my 15 years at OpenText, I’ve held positions in engineering, IT, and product management. As CMO, I often tap into my engineering and technology background to help both OpenText and our customers integrate technology into their marketing strategies. Research has shown that companies that embrace digital strategies are more profitable and better prepared to meet the demands of tomorrow’s consumer, and that is especially true when marketing in the age of digital transformation.

Following are five steps to put you on that path to profitability.

Step 1: Always Keep Your Focus On The Customer

Everything you do as a marketer should start and end with the customer. It is vital that the marketing team is embedded across the organisation, but if you’re not focused on exceeding customer expectations, delivering a seamless customer experience, building, planning, and executing around the customer needs–you’re toast.

Your competition knows this and is focused on acquiring customers and delighting them. Technology underpins every element of the customer experience today, and it’s our job as marketers to push the boundaries of what is possible and stretch the technology to its breaking point in order to meet the demands of an increasingly digital-first customer. 

Step 2: Speak The Same Language As The CIO
Today’s CMO and marketing professional has to understand the challenges and the language of the CIO and to be able to talk about this person's needs and requirements at a technology level.

As someone with a background in technology, I understand the frustrations and concerns around so-called shadow IT for the CIO. Just because a CMO can purchase specific marketing solutions–and the rise in cloud-based technology has made this much more common–it doesn’t mean he should! Department-level shadow IT projects can have profound effects on the compliance, performance, and security of an organisation's data, which is why your CIO may sometimes appear to be reluctant to adopt the latest cool tech that will make your jobs so much easier.

Today’s strategic CIO is very different from the CIO of the past. Just like the CMO is tasked with driving business success, so is the CIO. Understanding the business drivers and strategic vision of your CIO partner will enable marketing to not only secure the right technology solutions, but it also means you have the support of the IT organisation.

Invaluable marketing insight can more easily be integrated into other enterprise systems. Irrespective of the industry you are in, it is vital that you understand the technologies that will power your engagement model, your Web properties, your automation systems, and your customer data. And working with, rather than against, your CIO will make this so much more powerful to the whole organisation.

Step 3: Engage With Your Consumers Where They’re Engaged
We all know that the technology sector moves quickly. New platforms are being developed all the time. New business models are shaking up long-established institutions like never before. We now live in a world where you can hire a cab from an app or book a hotel as you step off a plane. Think how differently your life would be without this ability.

This ever-changing landscape demands that marketing stays at the top of its game. Whether your customers are consumers or enterprises, they are actively seeking out new ways to engage, share, buy, and give feedback, and as a marketer you have to understand the platforms on which they engage with your company and be ready to adapt your marketing strategy to take advantage of what’s new. 

It is also vital that marketers are able to assess the impact of these new platforms on their business and explain the significance across the entire organisation. Corporate history is littered with examples of companies being blind-sided by new and emerging business models. The rate of innovation is still accelerating. By truly understanding both the positive and negative impacts of technology on your business, you are on the right path to thinking like a technologist.

Step 4: Don’t Hire A Marketing Technologist; Create A Technologist Culture
In my opinion, the role of marketing technologist is a transitory one, recently emerged, and is still a luxury for many companies. I believe it is more important to create a technology-centric culture within marketing, rather than having all that understanding and insight reside in a single person or team. Hiring a consultant may be an efficient way to get your organisation technically conversant and capable of bridging the marketing and technology gap. But ultimately, technical knowledge and a technology-centric culture must reside within the core of the marketing management team.

Core to a technologist culture is an understanding of data and the value it holds for marketing in businesses of any size. Data is vital for all aspects of marketing–digital and traditional–and technology is the key to understanding and analysing that data. Gone are the days of Mad Men-like intuition. Organisations need to extract meaning, nuance, and context from vast amounts of information and data, often across multiple platforms, channels, and formats.

Technologies like big data analytics, content, and sentiment analysis can help marketers to connect with customers at the right time, in the right format, and in a deeply personalised way. Without an understanding of data and the technology that can help bring insight from that data, the CMO will find it very hard to be successful in a digital-first world. 

Step 5: Make Product Management Your Best Friends
Having worked in the technology industry for my entire career, in both marketing and engineering roles, I’m a huge advocate for product development and product management to work closely with the marketing organisation. In many industries, marketing is something that comes at the end of a development stage: Here’s the product that we developed; let’s go to market. But recent examples show that the impact of product improvements can sometimes have a negative effect on the customer experience.

Take Valve Corporation, for example, which runs Steam, the world’s most popular store for distributing online PC games. The company recently launched a new service for "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" game that only lasted four days.

Valve allowed users to sell customised game modifications they had created to other users, acting much like an app store for the gaming world. Anyone who created and sold modifications received 25 per cent of the revenue. Customers weren’t happy with the revenue split, to say the least, and a tidal wave of disapproval came from every virtual direction.

The service was quickly scrapped, and Valve learned a valuable lesson: Marketers need to be involved with the product team to make sure they are delivering the experiences and products customers want.    

Don’t limit yourself and your marketing organisation to something that happens once the product decisions are made. Integrate your planning and your go-to market strategies with your product development. Be involved, and spend time with the product teams. Make the product management team your best friends. Glean what insight they have and help them to build their products to be marketed effectively and to be competitive in this digital world.