Marketers are no longer Don Draper-esque artistes, focusing solely on a creative and not giving data and measurement the time of day. Likewise, IT crowds and technology professionals are no longer confined to the basements, “de-magnetising” the internet like Stephen Hawking himself.
In my previous blog, I explored the battles between marketing managers and designers that have been going on for decades, and how the two teams can get on the same page. This time, I’ll be looking at a relationship that’s relatively new within most companies: the blossoming marriage between marketing managers and their IT/technology teams.
So just why is the relationship between marketing and IT flourishing? Is it a fad or is it this the real deal? And how can the two speak each other’s languages? Let’s ask the experts.
The rise of martech
Either you’ll have noticed a surge in the use of data and technology in marketing, or you’ll have been living under a rock. ‘Big Data’ might be an overused term, but what it really means isn’t going anywhere: Data from everything, anywhere, any time. From common search queries to page visits, email opens to PDF downloads, it’s what informs marketing these days; but that doesn’t mean that instinctual creativity is out of the window in favour of strict mechanical and automated techniques.
Marketing teams are combining their creative chops with tools like Google Analytics and SEMrush to try and improve their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and websites, while also working with their own IT and technology teams to build higher-quality marketing materials. Or they’re working with companies like us who have both specialist marketing experts and the most advanced marketing technology and algorithmic analysis available (check out Apollo Insights).
“The marketing landscape has changed beyond recognition,” says Andrea Wilcox, head of marketing at Vertical Leap. “Most marketers have gone from communicating with their audience unsupported by any kind of real data, to a landscape that has a data overload and is controlled by the always-on, forever demanding customer.”
All companies have data available to them telling them the who, what, when, where and why of every single interaction with their brand, and the bar for delivering exceptional customer experience is always going up. However, a lot of companies are yet to invest in ways of accessing this data.
“Analytics tools and CRM’s are getting smarter and more powerful, especially with the likes of Marketing Automation,” says James Lale, Vertical Leap’s web application developer. “With this in mind, it’s becoming more important for marketing to invest and take advantage of this leap.”
In fact, the use of IT and technology in marketing has become so commonplace that new job roles are springing up all the time; for proof, look out for titles like ‘chief marketing technologist’ and ‘martech manager’ on recruitment sites in the future. It’s the offspring of marketing managers and technology developers.
Marketing managers who have yet to realise that technology and data is playing an increasingly massive role in their jobs are missing out in a big way. Not every company is in a position to have its own in-house martech professional, so your marketing team and IT crowd (whether they’re in-house or at an agency) need to be working together and put any differences – creative vs techy – aside.
How will the relationship between marketing and technology move forward?
Trying to collate every piece of data on your customers and website in one place without the appropriate technology is like trying to carry a lifetime’s amount of shopping home using your body alone; impossible, and rather hilarious.
“Marketers NEED technology innovations that are not only designed to help us conquer this deluge of data but also help us respond and stay connected with customers, at any time, on any device, on any platform at every stage of the buying cycle,” Andrea explains.
And how do they get this technology? By working with their IT/tech professionals, or hiring an external development team to tailor the way in which their data is processed and used. Of course, it would also be beneficial if that external team came with the most advanced data analytics software on the market.
“Web app developers and other people working in IT are brought in to put infrastructure in place, but also to provide training to the marketers where necessary in the more technical aspects of marketing platforms,” says James.
“It’s great for marketers to understand the programming and development side of things, but they also have to focus on being creative – it’s what they’re best at. That’s why there’s often a separation of concern between the two departments (marketing and IT), but with a bridge between them (the martech manager). The martech manager can speak for both sides in ways both will understand.”
Common requests and realistic outcomes
Marketers became marketers because of their ability to think outside of the box and present information in new ways so that it connects with an audience. IT professionals are experts in technology and the science behind making things work. Needless to say, sometimes these different personalities can butt heads!
There’s often an enormous amount of work required from an IT team to complete a request from the marketing manager which, to them, seems quite simple.
“Sometimes I’ll ask our IT team ‘can we add an extra button here in the system?’ or ‘can we present this data in this way?’, and to me it seems like it would be a five minute job. Of course, they’re quick to inform me that this could sometimes take hours of work!” says Michelle Hill, our marketing manager.
When marketing managers come up with innovative, off-the-wall ideas, they often think that IT can just flick a switch and make it happen. However, this could require hours of programming and systems work.
“This is easily the biggest misunderstanding between developers and marketers,” James notes. “They have a great vision, and fantastic new ideas all the time; but things that seem simple often take a lot of time and resources.”
The question, then, is to determine whether or not the job is worth those IT hours. All decisions have to be thought through; is it a one off or will this function be useful in the future? If yes, it makes sense to speculate to accumulate. Then you have to consider the overall business rewards you’ll gain from having something developed, and what isn’t happening because of it.
When this has all been considered, you can brief your developer with the task. There’s just one problem – learning to speak each other’s language.
Breaking the marketing/technology language barrier
Just as it was proved to be in our marketing managers vs designers piece, the relationship between marketing and IT requires negotiation and clear communication. But as the two have been separate entities for so long, there are still some ‘lost in translation’ issues that need to be eradicated.
“Jargon isn’t good for either party,” Andrea stresses. “Marketers and IT pros should find a middle ground. You’re all working for the same team and ultimately the same goal.
“I’ve found that a productive way to speak to developers is to explain why I’d like the software to do something – in other words, explain the marketing objectives – rather than simply saying what I’d like. When the developer knows this, they usually come up with a much better solution than what I thought I needed in the first place.”
This means that, as a by-product of doing their jobs well, technology developers are actually thinking and acting as marketing professionals themselves. They’re still developing, but also solving marketing problems that most marketers only realise they had later.
“I think this is why we’ll see more IT professionals becoming marketing technology managers in the future,” James says. “It all depends on the size of the business and setup, but a marketing technology manager almost acts as project manager, communicating between the departments and managing what’s happens on each side.”
Without someone in this role, however, what’s the best thing a marketing manager can do? In Andrea’s opinion, the first thing any marketing manager should do is make friends with the IT crowd.
“I’m not sure this is echoed throughout the marketing world, but we cannot do our jobs without support from IT,” says Andrea. “Marketers tend to think in steps when it comes to technology; we say ‘we need to do this…and now this…and now something else’. However, if we explain the entire process to a technology developer, they can come up with solutions that sort all of the potential issues at once. They build for the end game.”
A martech manager won’t be necessary for every company, but what is necessary for every marketing manager is a technology solution to conquer the data deluge.
Let our team of experts take care of it for you by introducing you to Apollo Insights – get in touch and we’ll arrange a demo.