Marketing is rapidly becoming one of the most technology-dependent functions in business. In 2012 the research and consulting firm Gartner predicted that by 2017, a company’s chief marketing officer would be spending more on technology than its chief information officer was. That oft-quoted claim seems more credible every day.
A new type of executive is emerging at the center of the transformation: the chief marketing technologist. CMTs are part strategist, part creative director, part technology leader, and part teacher. Although they have an array of titles—Kimberly-Clark has a “global head of marketing technology,” while SAP has a “business information officer for global marketing,” for example—they have a common job: aligning marketing technology with business goals, serving as a liaison to IT, and evaluating and choosing technology providers. About half are charged with helping craft new digital business models as well.
Regardless of what they’re called, the best CMTs set a technology vision for marketing. They champion greater experimentation and more-agile management of that function’s capabilities. And they are change agents, working within the function and across the company to create competitive advantage.
Before we describe the role in detail, let’s consider the forces that gave rise to it.
In a digital world, software is the chief means of engaging prospects and customers. A marketing team’s choice of software and how to configure and operate it, along with how creatively the team applies it, materially affects how the firm perceives and influences its audience and how the audience sees the firm.
As digital marketing and e-commerce increasingly augment or replace traditional touchpoints, the importance of mastering those capabilities grows. Digital marketing budgets are expanding annually at double-digit rates, and CEOs say that digital marketing is now the most important technology-powered investment their firms can make.
This rise in digital budgets is not merely a migration of spending from traditional to digital media. A growing portion of marketing’s budget is now allocated to the technology itself. A recent Gartner study found that 67% of marketing departments plan to increase their spending on technology-related activities over the next two years. In addition, 61% are increasing capital expenditures on technology, and 65% are increasing budgets for service providers that have technology-related offerings.
The challenge of effectively managing all this technology is daunting. There are now well over 1,000 marketing software providers worldwide, with offerings ranging from major platforms for CRM, content management, and marketing automation to specialized solutions for social media management, content marketing, and customer-facing apps. Relationships with agencies and service providers now include technical interfaces for the exchange and integration of code and data. And bespoke software projects to develop unique customer experiences and new sources of advantage are proliferating under marketing’s umbrella.