Martech 2015: Who is a Marketing Technologist?

After last week’s MarTech conference in San Francisco, Let’s take a closer look at the role of the Marketing Technologist.

The Martech 2015 conference was an exposé of tools, techniques, predictions, and assessments of how technology is changing the mission of marketing departments around the globe.  The tech itself gets most of the attention, for sure.  But one of the more interesting themes explored by many of the speakers is just who is leading this revolution.  The answer is closer to home than one might think.

An Emerging Landscape

One look at Scott Brinker’s dizzying marketing technology landscape graphic and its easy to see just how dynamic this market really is. 1,876 vendors are profiled in the 2015 version, and Brinker expects 10x growth over the next 10 years.  Investment banking firm LUMA partners profiles more than 2500 vendors across all their LUMAScape landscape maps, 150 of which partner Brian Anderson expects to ultimately exceed 100 million dollars in revenue.

Who can keep up?

Enter the Marketing Technologist

As markets become more automated and consumers more connected, the role of enterprise Marketing is changing.  No longer are CMOs expected to simply drive leads through the funnel.  Today, CMOs are responsible for the entire buyer’s journey – from prospect to advocate.  This puts tremendous pressure on CMOs to lead multi-discipline teams across the enterprise, towards a so-called digital transformation.

In order to do this, CMOs are relying on a new category of marketing professional – the marketing technologist.  But what exactly, does a marketing technologist do?  And what are the right kinds of skills to have?  As Laura Ramos of Forrester Research explained, only 43% of organizations say they are ready and able to hire for this role.  For organizations ready to hire a Marketing Technologist, what are the specific skills and qualities they should seek?

A Marketing Technologist is a Pioneer

I was struck just how often the term pioneer was raised among the speakers at Martech.  Why does that label seem so apt?  Maybe it’s because what makes one a marketing technologist is a willingness to stray out of personal and corporate comfort zones to add business value in ways that have never before have been attempted, let alone conceived.

A Marketing Technologist is in a sense an early adopter.  This means there is no blueprint, or guarantee of success.  First and foremost, a marketing technologist is energized to pursue insights and possess a willingness to risk failure in the process.

A Marketing Technologist is a Diplomat

While the Marketing Technologist may be a pioneer, they do not work alone.  Marketing tech may tout self-service as a key capability to work around the IT bottleneck but partnership with IT remains a critical success factor.  Marketing needs to respond quickly.  IT needs to respond safely, and to consider scale.  A Marketing Technologist must find ways to bridge gaps with the vested interests of IT, despite having different, and potentially opposing, areas of accountability.

And while a lot of this pioneering happens below the C-Suite, no significant progress is achievable without executive sponsorship.  Of course, budget is necessary.  But equally important are business process changes that will not happen without demonstrable alignment with corporate strategy. 

Ensuring executive buy-in requires the ability to convincingly make the case for change.  As exciting as these new tools are, Marketing Technologists must look beyond the hype and connect initiatives back to corporate goals.  Even a small lift in marketing effectiveness can result in a significant impact.  A Marketing Technologist needs the skills to make these benefits clear.

A Marketing Technologist is Agile

“Failing fast” is a tenet of Agile software development that seeks to eliminate time and effort spent on initiatives that won’t work.  Some ideas work, some don’t – that’s part of being Agile.  This means that metrics must be clearly defined, and tracking and analytics must quickly reveal what’s working and what’s not.

Gerry Murray, Research Manager at IDC, pointed out that data-driven projects must give way to data-driven culture.  Failing, in an agile sense, must not be seen as such, and instead must be seen as learning.  This mind-shift is easier said than done.  No one wants to be part of a failed project, and especially to have lead one.

A/B and Multivariate Testing can help identify optimal messaging alternatives, but Murray pointed out how experimentation and analytics support higher-level creative initiatives as well.  Using Dominos’ Pizza Mogul App and Pantene’s #WantThatHair campaigns as examples, he described how creativity and measurable effectiveness are not mutually exclusive. 

Investment in measurable creativity and a corporate culture that supports experimentation leads to higher ROI and helps to avoid time spent on marginal activities.

A Marketing Technologist is Collaborative

Finally, a Marketing Technologist establishes partnerships.  Cynthia Gumbert, VP of Marketing Technology and Demand Analytics candidly observed that enterprises often don’t know what they don’t know.  Are tools that are already in house being used properly?  Are key capabilities even being used at all?  Are strengths applied in organizational pockets instead of in coordinated, global scale?