Marketers: Why You Need To Look Beyond The IT Guys

One of the more infamous predictions that Gartner has made in recent years was the off-quoted comment published in 2012 that suggested by 2017 the CMO will spend more on technology than the CIO within an organisation.

The closer we get to 2017 the more that prediction is one worth challenging, but that’s a discussion for another day. What’s pertinent is that even if technology budgets are not shifted wholesale to marketing initiatives and the dynamic between marketing and technology is not changed completely, what’s undeniable is the idea that technology is playing a more significant role in the marketing department.

However, worryingly many marketing teams still lack the right skills to take on this growing accountability. Relying on IT and marketing to collaborate together effectively within an organisation can be risky, as there are no guarantees that they’ll be speaking the same language when they do. The technology skills that the IT and marketing teams have an interest in are often fundamentally different.

In organisations with a lean IT capability IT’s focus is going to be around ‘keeping the lights on’ for critical business systems, for example keeping servers healthy, managing the organisation’s BYOD policy, running security checks and upgrading devices. They’re not necessarily going to have the capacity or the skills to orchestrate the kind of marketing technology capability that leading marketing organisations demand.

By contrast, leading marketers will be demanding a single view of their customer that enables a real time dialogue across multiple channels, advanced analytics capabilities to predict consumer behaviour and advanced digital skills including SEO, social media and video.

This means IT and marketing are looking for very different technology skillsets when recruiting and developing talent, and for many organisations each team will be left under equipped to respond to the technology demands of the other. Invariably the reality is for organisations to go out and actively recruit people with specific skills in marketing technology.

Some organisations have been aware of this need for years, but the challenge has been how to find the right people where there is a rapidly growing skills shortage. Digital marketing resources provider, Mondo, found that 50 per cent of all marketing hires will have a technical background in 2014. The sharp demand for technology marketing skills has a meant a lot of people are currently training themselves up in these fields to grab their piece of the action. But it has also made talent acquisition expensive with employees knowing the raw demand for these skillsets within the organisation, and the value they’ll bring into the organisation.

For highly commoditised skills, an inexpensive and relatively easy solution can be found in the likes of Freelancer.com, though that comes with the usual caveat emptor warning. The wealth of training and information that is available on effective technology marketing also makes it possible to bring in someone and train them from scratch, though this requires patience on the part of the organisation, and a strong mentor to oversee the development of raw talent.

When it comes to recruiting, the tried and tested strategy of placing an advertisement on a recruitment website or the like is still worthwhile, but there are more proactive means to identify and target talent with specific skills through digital channels. Typically a talented technology marketer will be an experienced user of social media and is likely to be engaged in digital forums, user groups, blogs, networking communities that relate to specific technologies. This is where you are likely to come across the most motivated and skilled advocates for what you’re looking to do within your own organisation.

For those marketers on the leading edge importing skills from overseas is another option. With new technologies emerging at a rapid rate, there’s not always going to be a local support team that you can access. This doesn’t always have to mean sponsoring a foreign national, as there may be the option to place a local returning from a stint overseas.

If you do recruit from overseas, be sure to have a plan to knowledge share and build up the capability of your wider team. It’s an additional investment up-front but there’s little substitute for on-the-job training, and you’ll end up with a competitive advantage in developing skills that are hard to come by locally.

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