How Marketing Leaders Learn to Think Like IT

Leverage IT best practices to define solutions that deliver the most value and best fit.

Marketing, not IT, leads the purchase of marketing technology (martech) for nearly two-thirds of marketing leaders surveyed in the Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2016-2017. CMO martech spending is on track to exceed CIO technology spend in the very near future, according to the same survey. To wring the most business impact and value from technology investments, marketing leaders need to build and develop a new skill set.

“Marketing leaders need to think more like IT leaders to define the solutions that offer the best value and fit for their organizations, both today and tomorrow,” said Ewan McIntyre, research director, Gartner for Marketers.

The acquisition of technology is a means to an end, not the end itself.

The acquisition of technology is a means to an end, not the end itself. Martech decisions should be grounded in the business goals and marketing objectives that they support. Marketing leaders should avoid objectives centered on tech’s functionality and deliverables. Instead, marketing strategies should articulate marketing’s goals — the models, programs and activity that deliver value to the organization.

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Use SMART objectives

Sound technology investment decisions should be grounded in solid objectives. Marketing leaders should ensure objectives are SMART: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound. In short, objectives should state clearly what will be delivered and by when.

  • Example of non-SMART objective: Improve our performance in organic search results across key strategic search terms.
  • Example of SMART objective: The digital commerce team will increase conversions via the online store by 5% year over year, delivering 22,000 conversions in 4Q16 compared with 20,000 in 4Q15.

Clearly articulate the strategic fit of martech purchases. Business goals should flow down through the organization to inform martech decisions, and martech investments should flow up the organization to deliver a clear and defined contribution to the marketing strategy and business goals.

Link goals to objectives to martech needs

To illustrate the desired process, consider a B2B software company with twofold business goals to reduce customer acquisition costs and increase existing customer profitability. Their data reveals that prospective customers who attend product demo webinars are more likely to convert and have a higher lifetime value. Evidence indicates that if the company can identify and meet the needs of the most valuable prospective customers, it can increase on-site conversions and drive efficiency in media costs.

The B2B software company’s defined SMART marketing objectives: Marketing will increase qualified leads by 10%, reduce acquisition costs by 8% and increase customer lifetime value by 5%.

Based on these goals, objectives and insights, the company defined its marketing technology needs: Investing in marketing automation and tag management to build personalized experiences for their prospective customers and get them to efficiently register and view the relevant product demo while guiding them to the best next step in the customer journey after attending the webinar.

“Decisions regarding the acquisition of martech must be able to justify themselves against the organization’s strategic context,” said Mr. McIntyre. “Even if the tool is tactical by nature, it should contribute to wider business objectives, no matter how granular its deliverables.”


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