Today’s CMO is faced with some pretty daunting challenges ushered in by the rise of the social web.

The transparency that comes along with digital marketing means you can’t hide behind a lack of data. You’re accountable for showing direct impact on the organization’s performance or you’re out.

Then there’s the emergence of Martech. One more thing to worry about: making some sense out of the proliferation of marketing tools in your house. And putting some structure and purpose around them to drive the business impact you have to deliver.

Worse yet, despite the emergence of a new generation of digital natives, most marketing organizations are arranged around decades-long and obsolete functional silos. PR. Advertising. Events. Digital. Experts at their own game, but not built for horizontal, integrated marketing.

Early Disappointment

To tackle the tiger of technical marketing and keep the CIO off your back about “those rogue Marketers,” savvy CMOs have built Marketing Operations and Demand Centers and anointed a Chief Marketing Technologist (we fondly refer to ourselves as “unicorns”).

After finding all of the little pockets of uncoordinated, non-integrated technologies, a good CMT settles on a rational Martech “stack,” gets their organization humming, makes peace with IT, and all is well.

Until the first annual review with the CMO. Though the technologies are incredibly deep and powerful, the review surfaces that the fact that they’re being used in an elementary fashion. The business impact – sales, growth, followership, advocacy – just isn’t there.

The CMO summarizes: “So, we bought a few Ferraris, and they’re parked in the garage. When am I going to see some ROI?”

The takeaway: Without fuel, your Martech Ferrari will stall.

Martech, Meet Story

Part of the silo problem above is that marketing in the digital era is often segmented between the marketing geeks (Digital, Martech, Analytics) and the content creators (PR, Social, Advertising). Left Brain, Right Brain. It’s all too common to see a lack of understanding of each others’ world.

A common story at the Martech Conference for the past couple of years is the CMT’s discovery that they’re not successful until they engage deeply with the content community.

To succeed, a Martech leader has to find and engage the content creators and story tellers. Without them, the stack falls flat. If you want to build a nonlinear, audience-driven nurture stream, you are nowhere without the content creators. When this happens, the magic begins.

The takeaway: You need tech PLUS content to engage your audience.

Collaboration as a silo-buster

The first step is for the technologists and content creators to understand each others’ world. What are the content requirements and delivery capabilities of the stack? What is the standard output of the storytellers? In an ideal world, how could both groups take each other to a higher level of performance?

As these two traditional functions learn about each other, collaboration naturally emerges. The plain fact is that they’re co-dependent on each other to succeed in their missions. That said, the storytellers can continue to produce one-way, linear stories without too much pressure to change.

But the CMT can’t succeed without the storytellers on the bus. They have to drive the transformation and create a collaborative environment that produces valuable, atomized content that will truly engage the self-directed digital audience.

The takeaway: When you include the storytellers in the Martech universe, magic happens.

People and Methods

All of this takes the right people and the right process. We need multiple roles in the room operating concurrently, and with speed. Sound familiar? It’s called Agile.

Successful collaboration between the marketing geeks and the content creators requires running the operation like a publication. Daily stand-ups, editorial calendars, stories, epic stories, daily content drops all emerge as part of the collaboration. New vocabulary pops up across the team. Things go faster.

And somehow the numbers start going up. The audience is responding.

This only happens with the right people on the bus. You’ll need people with strong learning agility. Comfort with change and the ability to shed old habits. Tech savvy, deeply digital. Great writers and designers. And most importantly the ability to work with others not like them.

Whether you’re a storyteller or a marketing technologist, there is a huge, inescapable and honestly fun opportunity right in front of you to engage with each other. Jump in, the water’s fine!


Duane Schulz