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Marketing Smarts Podcast: Why You Need a Marketing Technologist

by Matthew Grant  |  
November 9, 2011

When I talked with Scott Brinker of ion interactive about marketing technology for this week's episode of MarketingSmarts, he emphasized what he called "two truths."

These are:

  1. IT needs to move further out of the business of managing and implementing all technology in the organization.

  2. Marketing needs to lead its own technology, and part of the department has to be technologists.

As far as the first point goes, Scott envisions a role for IT focused on technology governance—ensuring that the organization is using technology wisely with an eye to efficiency, stability, and security.

On the second point, in Scott's view, marketing needs to lead its own technology because technology has become core to what we do as marketers. Indeed, as he has written elsewhere, "Software is now the interface by which marketing sees and touches the world."

I asked Scott what he meant by that last statement. He drew an analogy to science.

While science originally relied on first-person observation to understand and interpret the world, technological progress as led to a situation where, increasingly, scientists understand the world, especially those parts that are too small or too far away to be directly observed, via the data provided by their instruments.

The modern marketer is in a similar position, trying to understand the behavior of customers and prospects by looking at the dashboard—a dashboard that gets more and more complex and rich in data as the tools improve and as more customer behavior becomes trackable.

There is a problem inherent in this development, however. Sometimes, as Scott put it, we can get "so caught up in the data that we de-prioritize human interaction."

I believe that this is one reason that Scott didn't say that marketing needs more technology, but, rather, more technologists. As the technology becomes more useful and more powerful, we need more humans who not only have a deep appreciation and even intuition for how we may best employ it, but also know how to "configure, alter or create" it.

Indeed, human intervention is required at many levels. "Optimization software helps us test," Scott points out, "but there's nothing about software that's going to generate useful tests!"

Similarly, when it comes content marketing, Scott opines, "Technology can help with production, analysis, testing, etc., but the technology can't generate meaningful content for us."

In other words, the technologization of marketing, if I may call it that, doesn't and can't mean that marketing becomes truly automated. (Scott calls "marketing automation" an oxymoron.) Instead, it means that marketers adept at using technology are and will continue to be at a distinct advantage.

And the real leaders will be those who understand how technology can help create the most rich and compelling customer experiences.

If you'd like to hear the entire conversation with Scott, you may do so here:

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Of course, you can also subscribe to Marketing Smarts in iTunes and never miss an episode!

Transcript: Marketing Smarts - Episode 7 - Scott Brinker

If you'd like to learn more about Scott and the work he and his company do with landing page optimization, check out his upcoming PRO Seminar, "The Next Generation of Landing Pages: What's New, What's Hot, What's Working."

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My name is Matthew T. Grant, PhD. I'm Managing Editor here at MarketingProfs. I divide my time between designing courses for MarketingProfs University and hosting/producing our podcast, Marketing Smarts. You can follow me on Twitter (@MatttGrant) or read my personal musings on my blog here.

If you'd like to get in touch with me about being a guest on Marketing Smarts or teaching as part of MarketingProfs University or, frankly, anything else at all, drop me a line.

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  • by Dan Soschin Wed Nov 9, 2011 via blog

    Those two truths are reverberating in my office as I sit here pondering the future of the relationship between IT groups and marketing teams. This is dead-on accurate in my opinion. I have always focused on hiring and training tech savvy marketers and then focused on developing analytic skills. You cannot succeed on technology alone, you must have the skills to master it and channel its power while not tripping over its symptoms.

  • by Matthew T. Grant Mon Nov 14, 2011 via blog

    True, Dan.

    I think that many (all?) organizations are struggling with this.

    Marketers are not only becoming more tech savvy, the technology is getting easier to access and implement. Involving IT in the selection and deployment of marketing technology thus becomes less necessary, in many cases, can actually slow things down (thus unintentionally encouraging departments to make an end-run around IT).

    I like Scott's notion that IT should let departments make their own technology decisions and focus instead on enterprise-wide technology governance: providing guidelines and support but also focusing on ensuring overall security and maximizing efficiencies where possible.

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