Are marketing technologists held back by the marketing technology stack?

Profile picture for user barb.mosher By Barb Mosher Zinck November 16, 2016
Is the role of the marketing technologist in trouble? That's one conclusion to ponder from reports on the state of martech. Barb Mosher Zinck assesses the data. One big issue: the marketing technologist without the breadth of skills needed for digital transformation.

Two things I learned this week trying to catch up with my martech reading. First, most organizations are adopting a best of breed marketing technology stack, but are struggling to keep up with the changing landscape. The second is that the role of the marketing technologist may be in trouble. In my opinion, the first is strongly influencing the second.

Keeping up with the stack

Walker Sands State of Marketing Technology 2017 - Closing the Gap Between Martech Innovation and Adoption (free registration required) is a good look at how organizations are handling their marketing technology stacks. It’s a survey of 300 marketing professionals that shows most organizations are building stacks by putting together best of breed solutions.

With over 3800 vendors and growing in the martech space that’s probably a pretty challenging thing to do - decide which solutions will work best in the organization’s stack. And it’s not just the emergence of new vendors in the market, it’s also all the mergers and acquisitions, and the solution updates. It’s all moving very quickly.

Still, in this study, only a small portion implement a suite solution - 21%. But let’s be honest, there is no “suite” that does everything you could possibly do. Of the 48% that have a best of breed stack however, 42% say it’s fragmented or piecemeal. Three percent say they are getting the full value of their tools, citing lack of technology strategy, analytics, and training as reasons why this is the case.

Over 70% of respondents said that technology takes up between 1 and 25% of their marketing budget. They acknowledge that budget is growing, and resistance is shrinking, but there are still challenges to adoption such as budget, resourcing, difficulties implementing and integrating technologies and a lack of information (I know, I said budget twice).

When asked who manages the marketing stack only 13% said it’s IT, while 40% said they had a dedicated senior person. Others mentioned included marketing, marketing operations, customer experience and digital strategy. The survey also found that 71% of marketers lead purchase decisions, depending on the technology purchased. The more complex, backend solutions don’t tend to be led by marketing.

The biggest takeaway here is that the technology is changing so rapidly it’s dictating how the marketing technology stack is built. Hang on to that thought.

Marketing technologists are at a crossroads

The role of marketing technologist is at a crossroads. This is the biggest takeaway from SapientNitro’s second annual study of the role of the marketing technologist. In its study of over 250 practicing marketing technologists, it found some troublesome things.

First, let’s remember that SapientNitro sees the role of the CMTO (Chief Marketing Technologist Officer) as that of a leader or key driver of digital business transformation. And that does make a lot of sense when you think of the role as an integrator of business, marketing, and technology. The marketing technologist understands the angles and can bring them together to build a cohesive technology framework upon which transformation can happen.

Here’s the catch. In this survey, 55% of marketing technologists have a marketing background. Only 21% have a technology-related degree. There’s also a good-sized gap between the technology skills that these marketing technologists see as important and how they rate their capabilities with these technologies.

But there’s more. There’s also a gap related to the marketing and business skills considered important to the role.

The SapientNitro study noted that the marketing technologist is involved in digital business transformation much of the time, but has limited responsibility for organizational performance or key metrics such as Customer Lifetime Value or Net Promoter Score. Even those involved in the transformation process don’t feel equipped to drive change.

Is the marketing technology role in crisis? That’s the finding of the report. Although it does indicate some good things, it points out that for this role to evolve and play a stronger influential role in an organization’s digital future, something has to change.

My take

I know there are highly experienced marketing technologists out there and some of them are doing great work to move their organizations forward. But it doesn’t take a lot of work to scan through the list of marketing technologists on LinkedIn to see that there is a wide variance in both marketing and technology skill sets in this profession.

The number of “chief marketing technologists” vs. “marketing technologists” is likely extremely small. The marketing technologists, the ones who sit in the marketing team, have a focus - making all these best of breed solutions play nicely together. It’s a sole focus, one that does not necessarily look at the bigger picture.

If marketing uses on average between two and seven technologies, that’s a full-time job for any technologist to deal with. And let’s remember something; many of these technologies don’t require a developer or IT person to set up or work with. Many are cloud-based. So the marketing technologist doesn’t really have to be tech-savvy - they have to be configuration savvy. There’s a big difference between the two.

You can liken this to the difference between an enterprise architect and a department architect. One understands the whole picture, the other the picture within their department. The department architects report up to the enterprise architect.

Seeing the picture here? The CMO might be involved in leading digital business transformation, along with the CIO and possibly the CMTO (if there is one), but the marketing technologist who spends his or her time working on getting that martech stack to work? She’s not going to play a key role.

The role of the marketing technologist will live on, but it will evolve and I think will split into two levels. Most will slide into the bottom level where they will focus on managing the martech stack because they won’t have the time, experience or ability to master the triad of skills required for a senior position that knows how to drive forward a transformation strategy.

In my opinion, and I’m curious to hear yours, that best of breed of marketing technology stack is a blessing for marketing and curse for ambitious marketing technologists.