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Why Marketing Needs to Play Nice With IT

  |  December 1, 2011   |  Comments

Digital marketers need to know how technology plays in defining the customer experience, in delivering strategic customer insight, and in the digital engagement itself.

You're probably reading this column because you're either researching how to integrate marketing into your entire organization, or you've already done it and need ideas to keep it running smoothly. It's probably also true that in your organization, marketing and development aren't aligned as tightly as they need to be to make your company run smoothly, and you're looking for solutions.

I never intended to become an intermediary between marketing and IT, but somehow, even from my early days of Internet marketing consulting back in the '90s, I ended up there. There were times when I wasn't sure whether I was a marketing consultant or a technology consultant, but that blurring was the exact balance needed at the moment.

The field that needed this blurring became digital marketing. To function, a digital marketer needs to know how technology plays in defining the customer experience, in delivering strategic customer insight, and in the digital engagement itself. Technology is, quite simply, inherent in digital marketing.

The danger that comes with this is falling in love with technology, and forgetting that technology must always be subservient to purpose.

Two Problems Working With IT Solves

One example is that marketing will often take on a technology project in the name of it being a "marketing project," when they would be better off collaborating with the IT department. Marketing doesn't have the technical expertise to do it well, so they end up in various sorts of trouble, often with scaling or security. These are particularly problems with mobile and social technologies. Either the company ends up in trouble, or IT has to come in and fix up the mess, both of which aggravate the relations between the two departments.

The worst result, from a corporate perspective, is that marketers spend their valuable time tinkering with tools rather than engaging with customers. (You've heard of the social media black hole, haven't you?)

A second example is the use of analytics tools. Marketing people all too often fall in love with their analytics tools, as if the tool will replace thinking, empathy, and insight. The result is motion, commotion, and much action, but not progress. What is missing is the human-to-human connection that comes when people read past the data into the lives of their customers, and then adjust the marketing campaigns in ways that result in more conversions.

Oddly, the problem in this case is simply information overload, and that is where collaborating with IT would help.

Marketing needs to communicate KPIs and other marketing goals to IT, and let the tech department tune the analytics system to them. Then the marketing people can spend their time doing what is most important - adjusting the campaigns to meet the KPIs, not sifting through mountains of confusing and largely irrelevant data.

Finally, taking the reverse relationship, I found in my organizations that tech didn't hate marketing as much as lore would indicate. They just wanted a little respect. They really appreciated it, for instance, when I involved them in our website technology analysis work instead of only calling them when there was a crisis. The analysis was for marketing purposes, but the request showed respect for the expertise and capabilities of the people in the IT department.

I could give you more stories, but the moral of each is that the two working together can do more to create kick-ass customer relevance than either working separately.

Take a fresh look at your organization and see where the two departments can seamlessly work together. See how much better things will go when they do. See if you can get the collaboration started.

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Ghennipher Weeks

Ghennipher Weeks has spent the past 13 years as a marketer working closely with IT teams to increase cross-functional collaboration, and helps teams excel in delivering great results quickly.

With deep expertise in creating conversion-driven and insightful search engine marketing and social media strategies for national and regional brands since the late 1990s, Ms. Weeks has increased online revenue for Philips, Wells Fargo, The Women's Information Network, The Allegis Group, TotalGym, Overstock.com, TigerDirect, LeoSchachter Diamonds, and others. She excels in formulating SEO, conversion, social marketing, and value-creation strategies. Ms. Weeks says, "Integrated marketing strategies are more effective, but much more difficult. Agility in execution requires measurement, accountability, and an unwavering customer focus to deliver value that makes both customers and business stakeholders happy. This raises customer, as well as shareholder value, or in relevant corporate terms: increases profits."

She actively contributes her expertise and thoughts through presentations, industry appearances, articles, and her upcoming book on integrated digital marketing.

Ms. Weeks has spoken at SES, Webmaster World's PubCon, EVO, WITI, Blissdom, Social Media Club, Agile Roots, Blogilicious, and other conferences. Notably, she is also certified in Agile methodologies as a CSM and CSPO. You can find Ms. Weeks online on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or on her blog, and a myriad of other social media sites.

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