Three Ways Marketing and Technology Can Collaborate on Digital Transformation

Posted on by Maggie Lower and Jeff Dirks

If ever two teams needed to be close enough to share DNA, it’s marketing and technology.

Gone are the days when the technology team looked at marketing as the team that does the hoo-ha—slick advertisements, flashy websites, and puts logos on t-shirts and water bottles—and marketing saw technology as the team in the basement that does laptops and stuff.

Today, you are either embracing or getting kicked by digital transformation. With much of the buying journey complete before a customer engages a live person from your company, your technology and your brand are indistinguishable to your customers. That is pushing CMOs and CTOs from backstage roles supporting sales and operations to starring roles in revenue growth. A 2016 study by Deloitte and the CMO Council found that 68% of CMOs say their boards and CEOs expect them to lead revenue growth. And according to CIO’s 2019 State of the CIO research, 62% of CIOs say creating new products or services that drive revenue is part of their job responsibilities.

If your CMO and CTO only see each other at board meetings, you may be missing revenue opportunities and letting your customers down. Here are three best practices that will have you finishing each other’s sentences in no time:

1. Work backward to move forward
Change is a feature of modern business—and so is the transformative tension that comes with it and pressures performance. While boards eagerly await ROI for in-flight changes, leaders face the new normal of pitching the board on even more change to remain relevant. Every leader in the c-suite has a wish list of projects that can move margins and missions. By forming an alliance, the CMO and CTO can approach the CEO and board with a single wish list.

It sounds easy, but finding common ground can mean carving it out of protected territories—a chance to use those “healthy conflict” skills your life coach taught you. For us, that alignment came quickly (and painlessly) by collaborating on a common vision for our customers before we started talking about initiatives. That gave us the shared perspective we needed to step back and survey what was working and what to change to move forward.

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2. Hire for harmony
Building good team chemistry is hard enough within a department but can feel more like alchemy when mixing talent across siloed subcultures. One way to make it a more exact science is to include leaders from both technology and marketing in the interview process when hiring roles with frequent inter-team interaction. These are not courtesy interviews. The interviewers have an equal vote on the final hiring decision.

This practice helps ensure we get the right cultural fit for both teams as well as the skills we need. With large corporate centers in Tacoma, Chicago, and India, TrueBlue competes for talent with the biggest companies on the planet. We used to view that as a disadvantage. But in working together on hires we found that marketers and technology pros want to be part of a company that makes a difference in the world. Our purpose is simple: Everyone understands the importance of having a job. During the interview process, marketing and technology leadership show applicants how what they will do everyday changes lives by connecting people with work. Add in the opportunity to use their talents to transform the industry and we have a pretty compelling story to tell recruits.

3. Team up on transformation
CMOs report a 27% increase in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning over 2018 levels. This buzziest of hi-tech buzz powers content personalization, predictive analytics for customer insights, and targeting decisions, among other marketing goodness. And marketers want more: CMOs expect to increase their marketing analytics spend 61% in the next three years.

They are not alone. IDC forecasts worldwide AI spending to hit $35.8 billion this year, up 44% over 2018. Your CTO no doubt has CFOs and other chiefs who want to be his or her BFF, too, with AI needs of their own. (They are important friendships: 91% of CFOs say it’s their job to ensure tech benefits happen).

This is where the CTO seat at the corporate crossroads becomes a forcing function. When a vendor invited our CTO to an AI/Machine Learning envisioning exercise, he brought the CMO and sales leaders to the exercise, but also brought detailed requirements from other company divisions. This 360-degree view means no blind spots and ensures a clear-eyed decision that delivers the best ROI.

With digital dependence soaring for brands, marketing and technology teams frequently find themselves in the same lane. Rather than swapping paint in a battle for the lead, CMOs and CTOs who forge a tight bond can team up to draft their way past the competition.

By Maggie Lower, CMO, and Jeff Dirks, CTO, for TrueBlue, Inc.


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