Just a few years ago, the world's top marketing minds—the Steve Jobs, Seth Godins, and David Ogilvys of corporate America—were known for having the best strategic perspectives driven by their forward-thinking and highly focused mindsets. They weren't necessarily technical people, but were instead "renassiance men" who had an innate sense of their audience and the products they were selling.
Today, however, there are noticeable indicators that many top marketing leaders are not only highly skilled polymaths with an ability to translate complex ideas into simple sellable concepts; they are also more-often-than-not technological trendsetters that have a mind for invention. In other words, in today's market, we're seeing true marketing Da Vincis—leaders who have an inborn understanding of the people they're selling to, and the ability to build the technology to reach that audience in increasingly intimate ways.
As first called out by the Harvard Business Review, these "Chief Marketing Technologists" (CMTs) have the power to use new technology and data analysis to learn about their customers and prospects, while inventing groundbreaking strategy to address buyer needs. Of course, many have pioneered their way to the top in large companies tied to software and other tech-friendly industries, but even in smaller companies, the choice of hiring digitally savvy marketing thought leaders has become critical to success.
Growth hacking, inbound marketing, and data-targeted advertising: All of these rising marketing strategies depend on a marketing technologist-like mind in your organization, so take a look at what early, successful CMTs are doing. We've put together insights from some of these pioneers to help you learn from their success and lead your business into the new age of marketing.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled "The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist," Mayur Gupta was profiled as the epitome of the new position of corporate marketing technology. After several years as a strategist at SapientNitro (a leader in content marketing and brand experience creation) Gupta was offered the job as Kimberly-Clark's Global Head of Marketing Technology. He now oversees all of Kimberly-Clark's brands' B2B and B2C marketing technology department.
Gupta believes we must become π shaped rather than T shaped marketers. The traditional "T" shaped marketer approaches their job from one angle: be it a writer, an artst, or a programmer. The next generation of π shaped marketers will approach their job from multiple angles to engage their customer on a variety of levels and accomplish the array of tasks their company requires.
In 2007, Scott Brinker co-founded and became CTO of ion interactive, a technology-marketing agency. After a year of creating interfaces for data and consumer engagement for a variety of businesses, Brinker was convinced that over the next few years every major company would need to embrace the marriage of data and marketing. He created the blog chiefmartec.com that serves as a hub for tech-marketing news and innovation, as well as interviews with leaders in the industry.
Brinkler believes that modern businesses need marketers that can translate strategy into technology. Of course, it is important to create an in-depth marketing strategy, but now most strategies need a tech support to come to fruition. Brinkler says the best marketers are those that not only create the strategy, but can make it come to life.
After co-founding and managing Pyramid Digital Solutions, a software company helping financal services companies, Dharmesh Shah teamed up with Brian Halligan to build a marketing software company based on a new marketing philosophy. His history of software development allowed them to build a platform that embodied this philosophy. Their vision became HubSpot and their philosophy became inbound marketing.
Shah has built both a company and his own reputation by preaching the value of creating a company culture that, first and foremost, respects the customer. To help other companies achieve their marketing goals while respecting the customer, he used this software background to build HubSpot. This marketing platform helps users create content, attract visitors, and convert leads into customers – with analytics at every step of the way. Helping, teaching, and engaging the customer is at the core of Shah's company culture code.
While this marketing leader may never have actually been a marketer per se, Neeraj Agrawal has essentially funded the marketing technology movement. He began working for Battery Ventures in 2000 and, since then, has helped to contribute 39 separate large investments into marketing technology companies. These investments make Battery Ventures the world's leading marketing technology investment firm. His investments have gone to build Marketo, BlueKai, Omniture, and many more.
When asked by Scott Brinkler what trends the future of marketing technology holds, Agrawal replied –
I’ve noticed a few trends amongst our fast-growing marketing tech companies. First, they empower marketing agility — marketers can get things done without constantly involving or begging IT. Second, they harness the power of the real-time web, such as real-time response to social media mentions or website personalization based on real-time actions. And third, they leverage big data to drive decision making.
Of course, Kevin Spacey is not a "marketer" but he sure had a lot of great ideas at SapientNitro's Idea Exchange. SapientNitro helps huge B2C companies connect with their customers via internet content creation. They build the platforms that allow the creative energy of these companies to shine on the internet.
At SapientNitro's Idea Exchange, Spacey makes the argument that companies, just like actors, can better engage their customers through better storytelling and better content creation. The biggest question is how to get the customer's attention? Spacey answers that, "it is and always will be and always has been about having a great story to tell."
At the end of the day, that's really what it is all about. The technology is just one more tool marketers have to engage their audiences and make an impact. Marketing superstars (and actors) know that the customer is looking for the best content and the best company. As a marketer, you simply need to show the customer why they should care about your company. Only when you combine great content with the necessary technology, will your marketing efforts thrive.
Technology simply helps today's marketer do what they were already doing: researching the customer, testing marketing techniques, and engaging the prospective customers. Technology just lets you do all those tasks faster and more effectively. If you haven't adapted a marketing software program into your strategy, the time is now.