Align Marketing and Technology to Improve Your Firm

By Eric Benson, Boomer Consulting

Marketing and internal technology have, in the past, been two departments that were adversarial in many companies. The gap was easy to define. Marketing was full of art professionals who used feel to improve the image of the firm. Technology was full of logic-minded, security- and data-focused professionals who were concerned about keeping compliance high. Many times, the marketing professional would make choices with company data that compromised that data's integrity. The marketing department wouldn't see it this way, though - they were trying to build niches and increase prospects.
 
While these stereotypes do have a grain of truth (don't all stereotypes?), it's increasingly necessary that the two areas work closely together. Marketing has transitioned into a highly sophisticated business intelligence endeavor with a technology profile that's complex. In fact, Gartner's Laura McClellan suggested that marketing may spend more on technology than IT by the year 2017.
 
Technology professionals are in the midst of a transition from hardware maintenance to service delivery. This requires more interpersonal communication and targeted messaging to key stakeholders in the firm.
 
Why marketing should look to technology for help
 
The marketing industry has experienced a considerable shift in the past ten years. Social media, blogs, collaboration, and other methods are used to engage prospects in a conversation. With this shift, marketing has increasingly taken over the selection and purchasing of the software to accomplish these tasks. 
 
Many of these products were the first introduction of Cloud, or hosted, products into the firm. This was often driven by two factors: speed and requirements. The speed to implement a solution if a campaign needed large-scale e-mail or social management skills is much faster with a hosted solution. In addition, sending out high-volume e-mail campaigns needs special care and maintenance that many IT departments were ill equipped to support.
 
However, as this portfolio of products increased, two things happened:
 
1. The technology portfolio wasn't managed well. Marketing professionals often select products to do the job, but don't regularly evaluate the solutions used to see if the licensing is correct or if other products may do the job that are already owned. In many cases, costs are high because they're not evaluated by someone who is trained to make sure that technology costs are in line.
 
2. The amount of data generated exceeds marketing's ability to manage. Many marketing solutions are excellent at generating data. They even provide proper funnels for this data to be used to increase the number of opportunities a firm has for new business. However, there are two areas where it may not be managed effectively. The first relates to the client and prospect lists. The solutions implemented may have been put in place without proper integration to other systems, creating a silo of valuable information to the firm. Also, moving opportunities from marketing to sales (or production) may be difficult because of this silo. In addition, much of the information that's generated may be useful in business intelligence platforms to evaluate performance of the entire sales cycle.
 
In both instances, IT has a central role for the firm. The alignment of business analysts or technology professionals in both areas could help marketing manage two areas they were not trained for.
 
Why technology should look to marketing for help
 
IT professionals are in the midst of a shift from hardware to services. This doesn't mean that hard technology skills will go away in every firm. However, over time, many of the break and fix jobs will be outsourced for the same reasons that marketing shifted to the Cloud - speed of implementation and requirements that exceed the current capacity.
 
As this shift happens, the value of IT must transition from the hardware used to managing the data that's produced. Although the common practice in this area is to look at security and compliance, the shift beyond these to value-added services will keep technology skills in demand in the firm.
 
One of the best ways to communicate this shift in services and the value to the firm is a positive, educational campaign. If done correctly, this can open IT's doors to working with all departments to improve processes, help with effective project management, and use the evaluation methods honed by software and hardware selection to evaluate many business aspects. These are valuable skills that are underutilized in many firms. 
 
Most IT professionals only communicate when the status quo is restored. This is a net zero communication approach and marketing can help. In fact, it would be a pretty simple project for a department that often conducts multiple campaigns to thousands of potential prospects. 
 
Marketing can help IT:
  • Define the value of IT to the firm.
  • Use key marketing concepts to develop a campaign of education.
  • Segment the firm for maximum impact.
  • Use the very tools used to communicate outside the firm to maximize the value of IT within the firm.
  • Raise the perception of IT from hardware to high-value service provider.
In closing, this alliance may take some time to hammer out. Each department will need to understand what the other side can provide, and this means laying your cards on the table. What do you need help with? What can you help the other side with? The continuation of this relationship in the firm will benefit both sides. However, it does come with sacrifice. There's a reason tensions have existed between technology and marketing. Make sure to acknowledge this and work on the next steps together. Keep diligent in future decisions to involve the other side. It may have rough bumps, but you can build alliances with practice and trust. The results will benefit both sides and, most importantly, the firm.
 
Reprinted with permission from Boomer Consulting, Inc.
 

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