By 2017, marketing will spend more on technology than the IT department.
When Gartner made this dramatic prediction, there was a mixture of panic and excitement among marketers. You could almost hear the keystrokes as the word technologist was added to marketing resumes everywhere. No doubt there were also a few C-level executives who swapped out Chief Marketing Officer for Chief Marketing Technologist on their business cards and email signatures.
But why was there also an air of quiet panic around the Gartner prediction?
According to Forrester Research, 40 percent of marketing leaders rank technology as the No. 1 area for improvement in their departments. So there’s widespread concern that marketing doesn’t yet have the skillset to take over such a large slice of the technology budget.
So how does a savvy marketer genuinely earn the title of marketing technologist under the skills heading of their resume?
We’re attacking this issue on two fronts. Below, we identify five ways to get ahead of the curve. When you get to No. 3 on the list, you’ll be able to take a deeper dive and explore the tech behind everyday marketing tools with an interactive infographic.
1. Understand the Difference Between a Technologist and a Technician
A technician is a doer, someone possessing practical knowledge. Maybe they install and administer marketing automation software. A technologist, on the other hand, possesses knowledge that’s broader and more strategic. They advise on the impact and efficacy of technology adoption. Mason Peck, for example, is the Chief Technologist for NASA. He “serves as the agency’s principal advisor and advocate on matters concerning technology policy and programs.” He’s consulting and advising, not sitting behind a terminal as the Mars Rover combs the surface of the red planet. Technologists in marketing are much the same: trusted advisors who understand the big picture. They know how to use technology to drive results—and revenue—from each and every campaign. They understand emerging tech trends and their effect on the craft of marketing.
2. Get Ahead of the Integration Curve
“When marketing and IT depend on silos of teams, data, processes and software, they run in a very ad hoc fashion, and that makes it extremely difficult to scale, replicate and optimize,” says Lisa Arthur, a contributor to Forbes. “Cross-functional collaboration can solve these problems by enabling a shared view of the customer with IT…”
Imagine a world where IT and marketing share the same view of the customer. It may be closer than you think. Companies like Motorola have created the hybrid role of Vice President of Marketing and IT to more closely align the two areas. As a result, the forward-thinking marketing technologist is already looking for ways to build bridges with IT. As integrated, multi-channel campaigns become standard, it makes sense that not only the back-end technologies but also the people driving them should talk more. In the future, the marketing team will include a lot more technical people—technologists and technicians—than it does today. So you might want to start chatting up the IT guy standing next to you in the morning coffee line.
3. Understand the Technology Behind the Tools
Marketing and IT often speak different languages, even when they’re talking about the same thing. A campaign manager says, “I want landing pages and ecommerce sites that can handle crazy spikes in traffic” and the IT manager thinks: “How do we use the scalability of the public cloud without sacrificing security and exposing our data?”
One thing marketing and IT have in common: we both love acronyms. Marketers lean on gems like CMS, CRM, CTA and B2B, while the IT folks love their LANs, WANs, RAIDs and FTPs. (Click for the mid-blog acronym quiz of your choice: Marketing or IT.)
Understanding the tech behind the acronyms is essential for the technologist. If you’re ready for a deep dive into everyday marketing tools and the tech behind them, your folder awaits…
Why do marketing technologists need to know all this? For one thing, they’ll be increasingly called upon to make decisions about how to adopt new technologies. Some marketing tools are offered multiple ways—via Software-as-a-Service where your data and application live on the vendor’s network, or as licensed software that you need to host somewhere (using your own network or on any combination of public, private or hybrid cloud). Choosing which deployment fits best for a marketing organization is becoming part of the technologist’s mission. (See an example of the kind of flexible hosting Rackspace provides for Adobe’s web content management solutions.)
4. Stay Ahead of Developing Tech Trends
Every technologist should be in the know when it comes to trends that will change the way marketers work. Here are two to keep on your radar:
The question of Big Data looms large. As one “small” example, Walmart handles more than one million customer transactions every hour, the equivalent of 167 times the information contained in all the books in the US Library of Congress. Not only is Big Data, well, big, it’s also hard to access using traditional database management tools or processing applications. Maybe that’s why most companies have put it in the “too hard” basket. That’s beginning to change and every technologist should know why.
The McKinsey Global Institute studied Big Data across healthcare, the public sector, retail and manufacturing and discovered that it can generate real value in each sector. “A retailer using Big Data to the full could increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent,” the study concludes. A number of companies have started using Big Data to good effect, including Macy’s, Netflix and Nokia. Others will follow suit. According to CMO.com’s 13 Major Marketing Trends for 2013, “Organizations that tear down data silos and create more efficient ways to connect all of the dots will unlock exponential gains over the next few years.” Marketing technologists won’t be the ones to build the tools to extract the data, but they certainly will be the ones deciding whether it’s worth doing in the first place.
There’s a reason why Network World called 2013 Year of the Hybrid Cloud. While the public cloud allows massive scalability and pay-as-you-go freedom, the hybrid cloud let’s you keep those benefits while also keeping your customer data securely onsite or on dedicated servers somewhere. Ideally, the hybrid cloud solution glues all the pieces seamlessly together—on-premise, public cloud and remote resources. Hybrid cloud is the middle way: it gives IT the security and control they want while giving the marketers the agility and speed of deployment they need. According to a KMPG benchmarking survey, more than half of enterprises are seeking a hybrid solution that combines internal and cloud resources to effectively deliver and run multi-site data center networks.
5. Read the Right Blogs
There are hundreds of marketing blogs out there. To help tame the chaos check out this curated list. At the top is HubSpot, a company we’re proud to call a Rackspace Hybrid Cloud customer. HubSpot drives its SaaS-based, multi-featured marketing engine from the Rackspace Open Hybrid Cloud to support its comprehensive marketing toolset featuring blogging, analytics, social media, email, automation, keyword research functions and more.