How to make it work: the marriage of Marketing and IT

How to make it work: the marriage of Marketing and IT

Marketing – like the rest of the world – is getting more and more technological. This means that the creative spirits of marketing are being told to get into bed with the logical engineering minds of IT.

As marketing becomes technology and technology becomes marketing, both are equally key to a successful customer experience – they need to work together. But this marriage of Marketing & IT looks like it is doomed to end up in counselling.

Econsultancy surveyed 100 marketing and 110 IT professionals to find that 78% of IT people think they work collaboratively with marketing. The bad news is that only 58% of marketers agree that’s the case.

Often it seems that the IT department is from Mars, and the marketing department from Venus. Different species from different planets, and like any sci-fi film, interplanetary peace is never certain…

The view from Venus

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Marketing people say: “We all know that anything is possible in the always-on, super-fast-paced world we live in. We must innovate to survive – if we aren’t disrupting then our competitors will be. But IT is always putting the brakes on our cool new creative-tech ideas!

It’s critical that we always create new experiences that have never been experienced before. Fresh ideas are what makes us stand out. Plus we need these customer experiences to be consistent across all channels. If we can’t act quickly and implement the latest tech, we’ll fall behind….Twitter only launched Periscope last week, and we STILL haven’t launched our live-stream channel yet!!!

Our new product launch event is coming up (we booked Taylor Swift to DJ!!!!!) and we want to make sure that our new protoype Beacon app pulls all our customer data in, so we can give our customers a powerful and integrated personalised app experience while on-site. We could win awards for this (or so our agency tells us, they’ve already booked their tickets to Cannes!)”

The view from Mars

marketing vs it

IT people say: “So on top of all the maintenance of our legacy systems – which need some serious upgrading – I’ve got these denim-wearing-bearded-guys from the digital agency trying to get me to pump all our customer data into some app they’ve made for our conference. They didn’t even know what PEN testing was when I brought it up.

If we let these people connect to our systems, all hell could break loose. And I don’t want to get hacked, and then fired, because some glory seekers in marketing want to win a gong. Anyway – why spend all that money on a party in the first place? All they seem to do is spend…

None of these ideas have been properly tested ( why do we need half this stuff?!), and no-one seems to know what the Return On Investment is. Rather than trying to do everything ‘world first’ why dont they get the basics right.

Anyway, I can’t talk right now, the EPOS system is down!”

A marriage of inconvenience?

In any cliche there is a seed of truth. Marketers want “the new”, IT guys want “the most robust”. Yet both want to support the success of their company.

Despite the subject matter being technical, it seems some more human problems are the root cause of many inter-departmental problems: communication, relationships, empathy.

What if those departments, and the people within them just don’t seem to speak each other’s language? Marketers are being told every day that tech is the future, and are looking for technology that can help them deliver a better customer experience. They’re used to doing things that are new, and live in the fast paced world of campaigns – which often need changing at the last minute.

IT teams have been buying and implementing technology a little longer, and view the world more as ‘investments’ than campaigns. They know there are considerations that have to be made before diving in headfirst, such as security and integration issues. And that getting the thinking right upfront, and sticking to it, saves money and reduces risk.

Joining the dots

People that can ‘join the dots’ between Marketing and IT – translating from Martian into Venetian – is what’s required. Perhaps even to give a bit of ‘marriage counselling’ so that each party feels that their needs are met, and concerns heard.

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The person that can do this, a ‘marketing technologist’, needs to blend the innovation and agility of marketing, with the rigour and technical knowledge of IT. A technically skilled, creative marketer who can successfully combine these two seemingly opposing forces.

In Harvard Business Review’s “Rise Of The Chief Marketing Technologist” Scott Brinker and Laura McLellan highlight how these skills need to blend:

“A company can’t simply split marketing technology down the middle, and declare that the CMO gets the marketing half and the CIO gets the technology half. Such a neat division might look good on paper, but it leaves yawning knowledge gaps in practice. Marketing might not understand how to fully leverage what IT can offer, and IT might not understand how to accurately translate marketing requirements into technical capabilities.”

The only solution is to open yourself up to the idea that people with seemingly opposing world views may actually have the answer to your problems. That a technical fix may support your brand vision, and a creative idea may solve your engineering problem.

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How we do it

At Techdept we often act as the ‘glue’ that links a marketing department and an IT department, or a creative concept with a successful reality. This is where we live, a weirdly harmonious middle ground! A lot of this comes down to the DNA of the business – our founders come from diverse backgrounds.

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Take me – I’m Techdept’s CEO (my name’s Dan). I started out in art school, and dropped out to do a history degree. My first company was a brand design agency (working for the likes of BAFTA and Playstation). I take photos, mix music, and write. I’m creative. Yet I’ve been making web sites since 1997, and really know my way around what works technically.

My business partner Rick is our CTO. He studied chemical process engineering, and funded his university life by writing operational software for oil rigs. He ran a global IT team for an oil industry startup in Texas which is now worth $billions. He writes software as straightforwardly as people write status updates. He’s technical. Yet he is one of the most creative people I know.

We’ve been lucky that the particular skillsets of myself and my co-founder match what – we believe – is necessary to thrive in the modern marketing world. We’ve taken the best bits of each others skill sets to create something new – a ‘marketing technology’ agency.

Our team has been built to support this particular world-view.

“Maybe They’re Right”

So what can you learn from our experience over the last 11 years in ‘marketing technology’? How can you make marketing and IT work better at your company?

Our main lesson is that you have to have an equitable balance of skills, and importantly, a culture which allows each to be seen as important, and for anyone (at any level) to feel they can contribute.

The cornerstone of our working culture is to “Be Collaborative”, to Consult, Discuss, Listen, Suggest.

This allows all perspectives to be heard in a way which encourages new ideas from any source – whether “creative” or “coder”. For more on how we run things take a look at our Culture Book. 

A big inspiration for this way of thinking was a story I read about Jay Chiat, the founder of legendary ad agency Chiat Day (they came up with Apple’s “Think Different” campaign).

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He used to carry around a piece of paper in his pocket, and when he got into arguments he’d pull it out. It read: “Maybe They’re Right”.

This is such a great insight for anyone wanting to make marketing work better with IT, building a collaborative culture. Maybe they’re right.

Open up your thinking, and ask yourself if maybe – just maybe – there are other ways of thinking that may better build your customer experiences and brand. Remember that a strong marriage is built on great communication…

How are you building bridges in your company? How are you approaching collaboration between marketing and IT?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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