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  • Writer's pictureDave Yeates

Chasing unicorns

To the CMO and the CIO, meet the Marketing Technologist

In 2012, Gartner predicted that by 2017, the CMO will spend more time on Technology than the CIO. And here I was, talking with my friend about how her Marketing office should own and govern the digital assets and technology, plucking it from the hands of the Head of Information Systems.

It’s an interesting concept, that Digital should live in the hands of the marketing team. Consider this, if Jim Blasinglame is correct and 75% of the purchasing power now lies with the customer- which I would agree with based on Google’s work with the Zero Moment of Truth then mission critical decisions need to be made with the customer in the centre, without governance structures, enterprise limitations or system scalability issues at first. The critical path for a customer needs to be enabled, not the enterprise system and all its features. There’s now a business case for enterprise improvement and digital transformation.

Considering marketing as something that does more than campaign for additional revenue is the first stop on this journey. It’s a recognition that Marketing, as an office, has the customer lens on 24/7 and in a customer obsessed world, they are the best equipped and empowered to influence the customer lifecycle and the product value chain using the digital assets in front of them.

But that’s surface-level, allow me to dive a little deeper.

In 2014, the Harvard Business Review addressed Gartner’s research, stating a new type of executive is emerging: the Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT). “CMTs are part strategist, part creative director, part technology leader, and part teacher” explains the article, illustrating that while the position comes in an array of titles—they have a common job: “aligning marketing technology with business goals, serving as a liaison to IT, and evaluating and choosing technology providers.”

It’s this role, with the customer at the centre, that makes the marketing function in ‘The Age of the Customer’ a transformational department and mission-critical to get it right.

Making sense of it all

As a consultant, we’ve spent time talking to active marketers and spectators over the last 12 months, learning where the pain points are, what the next 5 years of marketing will look like and where opportunities live for us to make a sizeable difference. And I can tell you this:

  • CIOs and Heads of Information Systems/ Technology are concerned about their relevance to a fluid, SAAS and cloud-based infrastructure

  • The information systems and technology function is potentially (I stress, potentially) evolving to become a support service of a bigger office

  • Business leadership wants to see more actionable insights from their systems and they want to see them integrated in real-time

  • CMOs, Heads of Marketing and even some CEOs are leaning on the digital prowess of marketers to align digital platforms with business goals

What we’ve seen is a lot of confusion and a lack of formality in the role of digital, its governance and its ownership in today’s business.

  • What’s ok to put in the cloud?

  • What are the risks? how are they managed?

  • Where does governance lie?

  • Is there a way to do it cheaper?

  • Is all our data available to us?

  • Can we get more?

  • What insights does our data give us?

  • How can we drive down costs and increase revenues by spending money on this?

Searching for the silver bullet

The hardest part in all of this discovery journey is that there is no “one-size-fits-all”.

Each business has a different customer obsession, digital appetite and value chain. What cannot be avoided, however, is the prolific nature of the technology space and the growing options business has to do better work.

The scale at which technology companies have grown in the past decade is astonishing.

CB Insights has a great illustration of what’s called ‘the unicorn club’, a group of privately held technology companies, that have each reached a billion-dollar valuation.

What’s clear-as-day here is the exponential creation of new, innovative, viable, disruptive and/or profitable technology companies. Big companies, with over 60 ‘unicorn’ companies born in 2015 alone.

There are two ways a business can navigate the opportunities, risks and critical paths in an exponential environment like this;

  1. Ignore it,and deal with the opportunity cost and transformation change risk down the line.

  2. Get on board,keep and finger on the pulse and ensure that your business is in pole position with the best insights and customer lenses possible. Ensuring the opportunity costs don’t begin to sink revenues later on.

There are two fundamental reasons this is important:

  1. There are economies of scale here: More businesses mean more competition, which creates competitive pricing. This trickles down into business decision making and specifically the affordability of scalable digital solutions. It’s evident that the saturation of ‘unicorn’ enterprises has only really been in effect since January 2014, but there are a plethora of sub-billion dollar companies underneath all of these that could equally provide value to an organisation’s business objectives.

  2. We have to understand that silicon valley is relevant to the rest of the world Whilst not all the businesses above are born in America, a large portion of these businesses have been created, funded or accelerated in a suburb south of San Francisco. Palo Alto, or “Silicon Valley” means more to marketers now than it ever has and the above image illustrates the rapid growth of new businesses, but it also illustrates viable service creations as they hit valuations most entrepreneurs only dream of. This is innovation. And innovation equals options. Lots of options.

Start Chasing

In addition to the important reasons why the ‘Unicorn Club’ is relevant to this discussion, it is also important to note businesses are going to have to search for at a different kind of unicorn. A rare, highly valuable talent that is both technically proficient, deliberately agnostic, and can navigate the business with ease.

It’s important to note that most businesses will start this journey with only one or two people. Whether the C-suite needs the talent or it’s simply a functional manager or department head it doesn’t matter, the call action here is to start thinking about your opportunities to innovate, differentiate and scale effectively.

This is your Marketing Technologist. Part strategist, part Creative Director, part Technology leader, and part Teacher. Ensuring one eye is on the customer, one eye is on the business and all ears are tuned to the enablement opportunities granted by technology.

Start chasing.

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