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The Making of a Marketing Technologist

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Making of a Marketing Technologist

Digital marketing, in fact all of marketing, shifted dramatically in the past decade. If you look closely, you can probably trace this disruption back to Don Peppers and Martha Rogers and their 1996 book, “The One to One Future.” It outlines a marketing approach where companies sell to individuals rather than to a mass market.

For nearly two decades, one-to-one marketing remained a castle in the air, a pipe dream. No one knew how to do it. Or, maybe more charitably, no one had the tools to do it. Developers worked hard to develop products that would finally bring one-to-one marketing to the table. “Contact managers” and “sales force automation” software from companies like Brock Control Systems became best sellers. In fact, those early efforts birthed the CRM industry, finally promising the holy grail that might deliver the promises of real one-to-one marketing.

But hey! There’s so much more we needed to really market to people on a one-to-one basis. We needed Salesforce.com. And Pardot.com, which Salesforce.com eventually bought. We needed ubiquitous broadband and mobile technology so retailers can track us through their stores and reach us any time, anywhere. We needed predictive analytics so marketers can learn our individual preferences and sell more product. We even needed to begin processing big data so marketers can tease out the organic data each of us produce every day on social media and elsewhere. Those and hundreds of other tools and technologies are what have finally given the one-to-one paradigm wings. They're what gives us the word “martech” in job descriptions and titles.

So, You Want to be in Martech?

It's a discipline bristling with opportunity. And excitement…because it's in its infancy and will continue to evolve and mature for years to come. To begin, you might want to consider these issues if you're working toward the chief martech officer (MTO) position.

Where Martech Lives

Assigning martech to the IT department is, let's face it, probably a mistake. As Joseph Kurian, Head of Marketing Technology & Innovation at Aetna points out, martech people need to report to the Marketing department. If assigned to IT, they're obligated to keep part of their focus on IT issues. They don't need to dedicate time to software budgets, upgrades, infrastructure maintenance, and such issues. Those are the proper domain of IT staff. Instead, as Kurian points out, the MTO should play the role of “CIO to the CMO” — a hybrid person with tech and marketing skills who advises the chief marketing officer on all things tech that impact marketing.

The MTO's Role with IT…and Everyone Else

IT departments may feel defensive, insecure, or threatened with an MTO who reports to Marketing but who makes demands on IT resources. Just as the manufacturing division would collaborate with IT over, say, an ERP initiative, it's the MTO's responsibility to communicate with IT and build a team mentality focused on the company's core business objectives.

Large companies with many lines of business often have digital marketing assets spread throughout the organization, each with teams who own or are responsible for those assets. For instance, a product management group in Division A may have a marketing tool in its silo that's not available to others. It's the MTO's job to deliver a value proposition to all players that shows the benefits of collaboration, teamwork, and the elimination of silos. Answering the “What's in it for me?” question right up front will give you traction.

In short, the MTO needs to be an ambassador to business units throughout the company which might include customer service, HR, software development, finance, and others. Communicating marketing goals, strategies, and initiatives to departments throughout the organization allows colleagues to understand and appreciate what marketing is doing and why.

What the MTO Needs (More Than Anything)

If the MTO is to be effective in helping the company meet or exceed its goals, the MTO must own and control these:

  1. Strategy. Allowing IT or another department involved in the initiative to own and control the overall strategy for the initiative leaves the MTO empty handed. He or she simply becomes a technical advisor. However, owning and controlling the strategy makes the MTO responsible for success or failure. Whether the initiative fails or succeeds, there will be little doubt about who to blame or congratulate.
  2. Budget. In justifying the need for a martech initiative, the MTO will have worked with finance to establish the necessary budget. Putting budget control in the hands of another department leaves the initiative open to cancellation if, for instance, funds were transferred to another project due to changed priorities.
  3. Execution. The implementation, rollout, and execution of a martech initiative needs to be kept under control of the MTO who has brought the initiative from concept to reality. Like strategy and budget, execution needs to remain in the hands of the party responsible for its success or failure.


As a marketing technologist, you're in a perfect position to help your company capitalize on the powerful tools available today that automate marketing and bring it to the vaunted one-to-one goal we've all been chasing for so many years. In the meantime, if you'd like to take a much deeper dive into the role of a marketing technologist, check out our blog post that explores Widen's martech competency framework.

Topics: Marketing

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