Put strategy and creative ahead of marketing technology

marketing technology stack

Where should marketing technology live in the marketing organization?

I agree with Forrester’s recommendation of creating an office of marketing technology within the department — headed by a marketing CTO or chief marketing technologist, reporting to the CMO. (For smaller companies, that “office” might consist of a single marketing technologist with many hats.)

But what should be marketing technology’s relationship to the rest of the marketing team?

The above diagram proposes one possible structure:

  1. Leadership
  2. Marketing Strategy
  3. Creative
  4. Marketing Technology
  5. Marketing Operations & Tactics
  6. IT Protocols & Policies

In practice, modern marketing is far less “top down” than this diagram suggests. But the prioritization of these components is important.

Technology does not generate leadership, strategy, or creative. While it certainly can inspire and enable brilliant new ideas — and a good marketing technologist should continually feed such possibilities up to those levels — technology will not fix bad strategy or creative.

However, once it’s properly aligned with strategy and creative, technology should have dominant influence over marketing operations and tactics. Much of the power of marketing technology is its ability to efficiently automate and optimize marketing processes, accelerating them and making them more agile. You want to minimize grunt work and free up marketing’s human resources for more meaningful contributions.

Finally, even though marketing should take control of its domain-specific technology, it still must adhere to IT governance policies, especially with regard to security and data compliance regulations. Ideally, this layer should not unduly constrain the mission of marketing above it, but it’s prudent to respect its checks and balances.

What is the domain of marketing technology?

I see the domain of marketing technology as the intersection of three capabilities:

  • Application software built for marketing, often highly configurable
  • Programming, such as customer-facing apps/web sites and integration “glue”
  • Data collection, analysis, and deployment in personalized experiences

Applications are now mostly cloud-based, including software such as PPC bid management, marketing automation, social media monitoring, post-click marketing platforms, SEO auditing and automation, and web content management.

Programming can be as simple as a little bit of scripting to “glue” together several different applications. It can be as sophisticated as customized data mining and parallel processing on “big data.” But the heart of programming in marketing is the development of customer-facing applications, be they mobile apps or web-based experiences.

Data is the input and output of all marketing technology. Unlike some of my colleagues, I don’t believe that the blossoming field of “data science” in marketing should be treated separately from other marketing technology. Data and the applications that generate it and use it are inexorably tied together. While some marketing technologists may specialize in data management and analysis, they should be distanced from the engines of that data.

(For more details on the specialties of marketing technology, see 8 things every marketing technologist should know.)

What do you think of this structure? Would you arrange it differently?

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7 thoughts on “Put strategy and creative ahead of marketing technology”

  1. Nice post, I agree with you technology should perhaps come below Marketing Opps as well. To often we limit ourselves by planning, creating and working with technology. Technology is a tool to be used and molded to fit a need, not the other way around.

  2. Scott-
    I like this framework and perspective on technology as the tool, not the driver. I wonder if there is some way to create a loop or cycle with the data, which over time should hopefully be able to inform and help refresh the strategy in a customer-focused marketing environment.

  3. Thanks Scott, like the structure you’ve created. Although, if I understand it right, I agree with Roanne – can’t the technologist drive, inspire and refine the strategy and the creative too?

  4. I have to agree with Roanne as well, I see marketing technology as the enabler of your marketing operations.
    You can’t have your operations and tactics come after the technology, it’s the opposite. Based on your strategy, how you plan on executing it, you should use the appropriate technology.
    Another thing to consider is marketing technology being spread out at multiple levels, not a single block like you depict. At the lower level you would have technology related to customer/prospect data (usually a CRM), but at the top you would want some kind of analytics and measurement technology to feed info that might impact change or tactics and tell your team the strategy is working.
    Your post provides some good food for thought.

  5. Scott – good post. You’ve diagrammed how I’ve seen Marketing Technology work well.
    What I struggle with though is the analytics piece. It’s in a technologist’s skill set to write code, develop applications, connect systems, and collect, manage and deliver data. However, the actual “analysis” of data – that is, to truly uncover insights – isn’t a native skill of a technologist. (Although in the absence of a true data analyst, this responsibility seems to fall to the technology unit by default).
    I’m wondering if people think Marketing Technology is an appropriate organizational home for analytics? and if so, why?

  6. Thanks, @Iamdougo.
    Great question about analytics. In my mind, there are two dimensions to analytics — the analysis and the technical implementation. They’re intertwined, of course, but one can understand how the plumbing works (marketing technology) without being the best analyst, and vice versa, a brilliant analyst may not have the clearest idea of how to manipulate multiple Javascript files to achieve their intended measurement.
    I like keeping both in marketing — rather than having to bridge to a different department, such as IT. My sense is that EVERYONE in marketing should be getting better at the analysis of analytics. But a small contingent of marketing technologists is sufficient to do the plumbing in support of those analytics.
    Would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this too.

  7. Agreed on the two dimensions of analytics and that marketing technology owns the plumbing and plumbing strategy – which is part of the reason why I think marketing technology sits on top of operations instead of the other way around.
    I too think the Marketing department needs its own analytics team – for many of the same reasons marketing needs its own technology team, but I think it’s a distinct unit within Marketing (Marketing Analytics) and not within Marketing Technology. The two groups partner very closely much like technology and creative.
    Because “analytics” sits in the overlap of the application and data circles (rather than something like “tracking”), I interpreted your diagram as Marketing Technology owning the activity of “Analytics” (as statistical analysis). Is that the intention?

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