The New Executive Role That’s Powering Fortune 500s’ Marketing Tech

Chief Marketing Technologist Executive Search

Fortune 500s and smart, forward-looking enterprises are quickly hopping on the Chief Marketing Technologist bandwagon and reaping the benefits. Are you among them, or is your business one of those that’s getting left behind?

Until relatively recently, technology leadership was not a critical aspect of marketing management—and marketing certainly isn’t at the top of the list of requirements for most tech hires at any level.

But in today’s world, marketing and technology are irreversibly intertwined. That’s for the better, but it also brings a lot of uncertainty; especially in this current period of “growing pains” where the marketing function is still struggling adopting a digital mindset.  Just take a look at this snapshot of 2015’s marketing technology landscape:

Chief marketing technologist executive search chart

Click to see the full version.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How can any organization be expected to keep up with all that?

Enter the Chief Marketing Technologist. This role is specifically designed to ensure  you are effectively leveraging the latest technology and tools to maximize ROI from marketing spend.

Smart companies, especially larger ones, have finally started catching on and snapping up the few qualified individuals for this kind of leadership role. Roughly 4 in 5 “big” firms (more than $500 million in annual revenue) have conducted a Chief Marketing Technologist executive search and now employ someone in that capacity. But that still leaves plenty of organizations large and small without that critical guidance. And even those big companies that do have a CMT aren’t always organized in the best way to make use of them.

Breaking Down the ROI

Chief Marketing Technologist Executive Search Chart

image from Harvard Business Review

A good CMT is worth their weight in gold for any large organization (and many smaller ones) active in marketing.  The exact value will vary from company to company of course, depending on your structure and how well you’re already handling your digital transformation.

But the vast majority of businesses of all sizes are not effectively structured for digital right now, and only about 25% are making satisfactory progress through their transformation. Regardless of industry, digital adoption or size, here are some things nearly every organization can get from a CMT.

  • Competitive edge: Marketing organizations under the guidance of a CMT respond better and faster to changes in technology and the way society interacts with it than those without. When you have one dedicated executive to marketing tech, and marketing tech only, you’ll have the insight and leadership required to make critical decisions about strategy and resource allocation.
  • Forecast the future: While IT can help marketing react to shifts in the digital landscape, a CMT allows you to anticipate those changes ahead of time and plan accordingly. Instead of playing catchup like most organizations have been doing for the last decade, you’ll  finally have an opportunity to get ahead of the game. And when you’re proactive, your quality and production improve across the board.
  • Company-wide value: It’s the job of all senior management to serve as leaders not only within their own silos but across the organization as a whole. But the CMT can provide even more value as an example-setter and pioneer than most others. As the closest person in your organization to the modern digital consumer, they’re the first to detect new customer needs and can identify technologies that streamline processes company-wide.
  • Superior tech partnerships and purchases: The sheer volume of possible technology tools (both hard and soft) and the amount of “cutting edge” marketing technology vendors is staggering. These acquisitions are not only expensive on their own, but will directly impact your overall efficiency over time. The wrong choice will likely lead to upfront and long-term costs. Decisions like this are too important to put in the hands of anyone other than an experienced executive who can consider the options from all angles.

Why a Head of IT Isn’t Enough

Chief Marketing Technologist executive search

With the rise of the CIO and similar counterparts as a standard for many large and growing companies, some make the mistake of assuming a dedicated head of marketing tech is redundant.

However, IT serves the entire company, not just on behalf of marketing. As such, marketing rarely gets the dedicated resources or technological leadership it needs to remain competitive and ahead of the digital game. Though Marketing and IT leaders can and certainly should collaborate for the overall good of the company, their goals don’t always overlap. Marketing needs its own dedicated executive to make quick decisions and offer leadership on-demand.

Similarly, it’s important that this role has the right spot in the org chart, ultimately reporting to the CMO. However, 30% of organizations with a Chief Marketing Technologist mistakenly put them under the direction of a CIO or the equivalent. Collaboration with the head of technology should happen, but the CMT needs to prioritize the sustained growth of the organization through marketing first and foremost.

At a time where agility is everything and new digital growth opportunities come and go in an instant, having to rely on IT’s processes can cripple a marketing department. If your company is to succeed and grow, marketing needs to be able to respond and act on its own.

TWEET THIS: At a time where agility is everything and new digital growth opportunities come and go in an instant, having to rely on IT’s processes can cripple a marketing department.

What’s in a Name?

The title Chief Marketing Technologist might itself be part of the reason the role hasn’t seen ubiquitous adoption yet. The C-Suite is getting crowded enough as it is, and in most cases there’s no need for the CMT to join it. Instead, an executive chair as a peer to other marketing VPs is usually right where it belongs.

CMTs’ value lies in their experience and expertise, not in what’s printed on their business card.

So why the “Chief?” There’s no particularly meaningful reason; that’s just been one of the most common titles for the role since it was first gaining popularity a few years ago.

Indeed, if it helps to improve organizational buy-in or to reduce confusion in the layers of your leadership, it’s perfectly fine to change the title to something else. Call it a VP or Sr. Director of Marketing Technology, a Business Information Officer, or anything similar. CMTs’ greatest value lies in their experience and expertise, not in what’s printed on their business card. As long as the role has executive responsibility and authority, the title itself is secondary in importance.

That executive authority is a critical aspect of the marketing technologist’s success. The ability to make high-level decisions on their own and direct company resources effectively is what separates a theoretical technologist from an acting one.

However, there may be some practical use to preserving the Chief Marketing Technologist name if possible:

  • It helps ensure you attract the absolute top talent in the field when beginning your Chief Marketing Technologist executive search. The most qualified and experienced individuals are going to be looking for the most interesting, challenging and prestigious roles. Having that “C” before the title will draw the attention of the most ambitious and highest-quality candidates for Chief Marketing Technologist recruitment.
  • It sounds important. Marketers understand how valuable keeping up appearances is. Knowing that someone with such a futuristic title as “Chief Marketing Technologist” is on the case of your toughest growth challenges might very well assuage concerned shareholders and staff alike about your company’s ability to keep up in an evolving marketplace.
  • It gives them better political capital to make changes to the company, collaborate with other executives, and engage external entities. The “Chief” title cements that individual’s image as a thought leader within and without. It makes their voice louder on social networks, various digital and traditional media, at conferences and more, raising your brand profile. And that level of authority may give them more sway in updating corporate policies, adjusting its culture and bringing the organization as a whole forward.

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