In an ever-increasingly connected world this is quite a statement, but bear with me. I haven’t been living as a hermit and so I do realise that everything that surrounds us, from phones to fridges, involves digital devices in one way or another. Instead, what I’m trying to describe is that when marketing to customers, the digital element of a campaign or conversation is not a standalone activity, but instead is part of a much larger web of activities.

There was once a time when TV was the new shiny alternative to print advertising but now it is seen as a “traditional” channel. In the eyes of the customer, the use of digital media reached this point quite a while ago; to them it is a given, and a hygiene factor. In a rapidly changing world of media, customers expect to be engaged and in control of the conversation, with brands listening to what they have to say and acting upon it.

Businesses, however, are finding it difficult to meet this expectation. This is also despite the fact that their employees live and breathe these expectations themselves outside of the office.

The rise of the ‘digital’ team

I’m not suggesting that companies don’t recognise the fact that the use of digital is expected by customers, but the mistake that many make is separating the digital engagement out from “traditional” ones in the minds of their people by physically creating a new digital team or specific, digitally-focused roles.

Marketers already find themselves in a challenging world where they have to create campaigns and conversations that are not only multi-channel but also relevant to a consumer as an individual. By separating out the digital element of how they do this, all that is being achieved is creating a much harder life for themselves.

Ultimately, this approach leads to disjointed content and messages in the eyes of the customer, and, even worse, a disjointed business view of who their customer actually is.

I’ve read many articles focused on how the role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is evolving into something that can be described as the Chief Marketing Technologist, in order to survive in a world where technology and the data it can provide is king.

Harvard Business Review described these individuals as “part strategist, part creative director, part technology leader, and part teacher” and that they “set a technology vision for marketing and champion greater experimentation and more-agile management of that function’s capabilities”. Having the latest technology is all well and good but if you don’t also have the capability and skills to bring valuable insights into your business, you’ll struggle to keep up with the competition.

What I find interesting though is what this also means for the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) role. Marketing functions also need to be involved in technology investment and data collection which was traditionally outside of their scope. They too need to find the insight gems and understand why Mrs Jones is different to Mr Smith. Marketing is no longer just about the pretty creative and eye-catching copy; it’s about information.

The right capability mix

Does this mean that the CTO and CMO roles are effectively converging?

This is a really interesting question and not one that I think I can answer with certainty. I agree with Marketing Magazine when they predict that we will see an increase in a close and previously unnatural partnership between the two. I do also believe that businesses need a very different set of skills from their marketers than they did even 5 years ago.

They need to understand new technologies and how to apply the functionality to their day to day role. People working in IT teams also need to step up and understand that they now play a role in the new product and campaign development processes through the collection of data and insights.

In other words, whether you ultimately report into the CTO or the CMO, you’re increasingly being asked to have a mix of skills across design, technology and data analysis.

Marketers need to ask the right questions to the people who collect data and push them to gather new angled insights. Individuals working in technology teams need to understand why they’re being asked these questions and continuously look for new answers before the questions are asked.

In my view, to survive in our connected world businesses need to:

  • Recognise that digital marketing is now just marketing
  • Organise themselves so that consumer engagement through digital channels is the responsibility of everyone, not a standalone team
  • Up skill their marketers not only to understand power of data but most importantly how they need to use it and how to ask the right questions to the people that collect it
  • Empower and motivate your people to act as the digital customer that they are outside of the office, in the office

Putting the people that do have this capability mix into a separate team is not the answer; they themselves are the solution to the challenge that businesses face. They should instead be used to guide, coach and influence their colleagues so that everyone has the new basics of marketing, as soon there could be an even newer set of basics that they will need to learn and contend with.