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Are chief marketing technologists key to customer-centricity?

6th Feb 2017

With marketing budgets still rising year-on-year, and the department’s spending on technology accounting for an increasingly large proportion of this, it is little wonder that the role of chief marketing technologist (or equivalent) have become commonplace.

According to Gartner research, in the period 2016-17 the average CMO saw an increase over the previous year’s budget – the third year in a row where there has been a rise.

The report - "CMO Spend Survey 2016-2017” -  surveyed 377 marketing leaders, who reported an average increase of 2%, with marketing budgets equal to 12% of company revenue.

Accounting for 27% of this budget, technology was the second largest expense, just behind labour. And this increasing expenditure on technology is expected to see the marketing department leapfrog the IT department in 2017 to become the single biggest purchaser of technology in the business. 

Reflecting on this growing expenditure, the Gartner report notes: "Marketing is now also responsible for critical customer-facing, revenue-generating systems and applications. They ought to appoint a chief marketing technologist in title or role equivalent to look after this growing technology estate.”

Indeed, according to research, most enterprise marketing teams now have a chief marketing technologist in place, with many others expecting to make an appointment sooner rather than later. The DataXu study, Modernizing the Mix: Transforming Marketing Through Technology and Analytics, estimates that around 70% of marketing teams around the globe have a chief marketing technologist or equivalent dedicated to marketing technology, while a further 26% are hoping to fill the role in the next year.

But as well as 2017 representing the year that the CMO’s spend on technology is expected to overtake that of the CIO, it is also the year that marketers acknowledge that the customer experience will become the key battleground for their discipline. In a Gartner survey of marketing bosses, 89% predict that customer experience would be their primary basis for competitive differentiation by 2017.

This is reflected by the growing influence that the department has for customer experience. With customer behaviour increasingly digital, and with the marketing department managing a growing proportion of digital touchpoints, more than half of respondents in Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey now report that aspects of customer experience reports into the CMO.

So given the significance of these two mega-trends, it begs the question: what role, if any, will the chief marketing technologist have in supporting the marketing department’s chief target of optimising the customer experience? Let’s explore……..

Who is the chief marketing technologist?

Described by Gartner as “part strategist, part creative and part technologist” and “broadly the equivalent of a CTO and a CIO dedicated to marketing”, the most common responsibilities for CMT’s include aligning marketing technology with business goals; selecting, evaluating and choosing marketing technology providers; crafting technology-enabled digital business models; and, arguably most importantly, facilitating projects and communications between the marketing department and internal IT.

“Unlike a traditional CMO role, the CMT role bridges the knowledge gap between marketing and technology by offering expertise in both disciplines,” says Chris Le May, DataXu SVP and managing director of Europe & Emerging Markets. “It also brings, at board level, a new perspective from someone who can advise and lead on areas such as procurement, management of marketing technologies and the team structure required below them.”

Sean Harrison-Smith, CEO and founder of Ceterna, adds: "The CMT typically has two areas of focus. The first is how to reach an ever-changing, ever more tech-savvy audience. The second is how to ‘harvest’ data from these new technologies to create competitive differentiation,” he says.

Unlike a traditional CMO role, the CMT role bridges the knowledge gap between marketing and technology by offering expertise in both disciplines.

"We work with one cutting-edge retail customer whose entire technical strategy is being driven by the CMT rather than the more traditional CTO. The role of this individual is to understand what technologies are available and how marketers can use them to best effect for ‘sow' and ‘harvest' purposes.

"Traditionally, we have always found that CTOs are the ones driving technical decision-making but now it's much more that. The CMT identifies what's out there and what they want, then the CTO makes it happen."

So can this role support the marketing department’s focus on the customer experience in the coming year?

Supporting the drive towards an omnichannel experience

Today’s customer journeys are complex, often involving multiple channels. Customers want to interact with companies on their channel of choice and organisations are increasingly expected to be able to deliver against this.

“Brands can’t deliver a seamless, personalised customer experience without a firm grip on their technology stack and data integration, which is why chief marketing technologists are becoming crucial to the delivery of great customer experiences,” says Jeremy Leonard, COO at Appraise Digital.

Marketing consultant Mark Duke adds: “The CMT has so much to offer in terms of an optimised website, an omnichannel experience that provides the customer with the experience they expect. The challenge is the detail from site design, language used, functional technology and effective internal communications between marketing, sales, support and IT. It’s quite a challenge but any CMT worthy of the title should be able to deliver.”

Sweating more value and insight from customer data

Truly customer-centric brand experiences are built on a deep understanding of the customer, turning consumer and market data into rich insights that are used to tell a compelling and consistent story across all touchpoints. Every part of this process is now technology-based, from Big Data analytics to customer management systems. By straddling the worlds of IT and marketing the chief marketing technologist is in a unique position to help the whole business use customer data to its full advantage.

“They can drive the use of technology to draw the most powerful insights from all available information, while leading the marketing team in creating ‘one truth’ that the entire organisation can reshape itself around,” says Jane Bloomfield, head of UK marketing at Kantar Millward Brown.

“Kantar Millward Brown’s Insights2020 study found that the world’s fastest growing companies have a customer-focused culture that’s embraced by all functions. To build this, a business needs to change the way it thinks about customer data – and the appointment of a CMT elevates its role from something that supports the marketing team to something that informs and guides the entire organisation.

CMTs can drive the use of technology to draw the most powerful insights from all available information, while leading the marketing team in creating ‘one truth’.

“The CMT has the seniority to drive customer focus from the front, and influence all kinds of business processes and decisions, ensuring the Voice of the Customer is always heard. They can contextualise insights in the wider business strategy, compelling people to do things differently. And by modelling the right customer-centric behaviours, mindset and approach they will help these to permeate the organisation.”

A chief marketing technologist’s presence also solves a headache for the marketing team – how to handle the volume of customer data that they are confronted with.

Iain Lovatt, chairman at BlueVenn, notes: “Day-to-day marketers themselves don’t necessarily need to be technologists, but they must be able to understand the data they collect. As it stands however, marketers are wasting enormous amounts of time (as much as 80% of their day) just trying to get their heads around this data. The role of the chief marketing technologist can fill this gap, providing better strategy to support both marketers and the end customer.”

Stephan Thun, CEO Europe at MaritzCX, adds: “The CMT will hold the key responsibility of turning Big Data into Smart Data. This will involve harnessing modern software to filter and analyse relevant information from the customer data volumes received and translating these into specific recommendations for action that can be shared across the organisation, turning reactive customer feedback collection into proactive customer experience management with measurable targets.”

Personalising experiences

“One area that I think CMTs can have a greater impact is around personalisation – putting Big Data services in place to help deliver engaging customer experiences and increase customer acquisition and retention to drive revenue and business growth,” suggests Andrea Cross, Senior EMEA marketing Director at DataStax.

Nick McCarthy, managing director, UK and EMEA at Signal, adds: “To meet the demands of the modern customer who wants relevant experiences, marketers must master data and technology to resolve customer identity, the foundation for delivering one-to-one marketing. A dedicated chief marketing technologist can help brands break down organisational barriers, overcome technological challenges, and harness customer data to build this identity asset that can be used across the enterprise to deliver engaging experiences, drive customer loyalty — and result in profitable business growth.

“Chief marketing technologists will help CMOs achieve success in the digital age, delivering on the brand promise at every stage of the customer journey by implementing the solutions needed to fully understand customer identity. With identity, brands have a connective tissue that links all customer interactions, enabling them to deliver the highly contextualised, highly personalised and highly relevant experiences required to gain, serve and retain customers in today’s ultra-competitive landscape.”

Championing CX

There are even suggestions that the chief marketing technologist should take an active role in championing CX within the organisation, and uniting IT and marketing to deliver improved customer experiences.

Stephen Morgan, co-founder of digital transformation business at Squiz, says: “A recent report from Verint and IDC highlighted the struggle that brands are having with holding on to customers as digital consumers become less loyal. This is yet another indication of how important the customer journey is in driving retention and loyalty.”

In order to truly emphasise the importance of customer experience, the chief marketing technologist needs to be the voice that carries this message up to the boardroom.

“The chief marketing technologist must stand up and be the driving force behind driving better customer experiences. Whilst marketing and IT departments have a good idea of what they should be doing online to enhance the customer journey, the chief marketing technologist can be the figure that unites these teams and champions this message to the whole business.

“Often, altering the company culture is the biggest challenge in driving change. Therefore, in order to truly emphasise the importance of customer experience, the chief marketing technologist needs to be the voice that carries this message up to the boardroom and spreads it across the rest of the business so that real and effective improvements can be made.”

But be warned……

However, chief marketing technologists could also unwittingly be a disruptive agent in the marketing department’s efforts to tackle the customer experience. Some experts warn that there is a danger that chief marketing technologists could contribute to a fragmentation of strategic thinking around customer experience.

Chris Daly, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) warns: “Marketing departments are ideally placed to lead across the business as the champions of customer engagement, but to achieve that marketing itself must retain an absolute and integrated focus on the customer. Specialist figureheads can be effective, so long as their appointment doesn’t result in marketing becoming siloed, with different parts of the department heading in separate directions.  

“From our experience, one of the biggest organisational skills gaps in marketing is at the strategic level. There is a danger if we continue too far down the specialist route at senior levels with chief digital officer, chief customer officer and now chief marketing technologist, that organisations could fragment and lose sight of the bigger unified customer-centred picture.

"It’s never a bad thing to have experts as part of your team, in fact it is increasingly essential, but for the sake of business performance, incorporating an overall marketing strategy must remain the key focus at senior levels.”

Replies (4)

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By kidwell23100
03rd Apr 2018 23:04

Neil, how exactly does a chief marketing technologist and a CMO coexist? Should a moderately sized company have both or do you recommend one over the other?


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Replying to kidwell23100:
By Neil Davey
04th Apr 2018 09:53

That's a great question, Shery.

There are a few schools of thought on this.

Some models suggest that the role of CMT replaces the CMO - it's effectively a CMO with bells on:

Alternatively, other models suggest that rather than replacing the CMO, the role should be swapped into the organisation in place of the CTO:

There are probably pros and cons with either model, and ultimately the most appropriate fit will depend on the specific requirements of the organisation in question.

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By kidwell23100
03rd May 2018 02:10

Thank you Neil. I think the best route for us (a smaller business) would be to go with a CMT. Efficiency is key for us so having a position that effectively covers more seems more beneficial to us.


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By DarcWal
30th Jun 2018 03:08

This is some great information, I will consider this for my own company and future builds as well.

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