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Lee Odden

Connecting Marketing & IT: 5 Tips for Creating a Shared Marketing Agenda with Your CIO

By Lee Odden     B2B, Guest Posts, Online Marketing, Social Business

connect marketing ITOn occasion we connect with smart people and ideas we think are worth sharing as a guest post here at Online Marketing Blog. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Heidi Ambler, Director of Social Business at IBM.  Heidi has over 20 years with IBM where she leads a team responsible for their enterprise social software business.

In a digital world where technology and  consumer behaviors are changing rapidly, Heidi makes the argument for better alignment between IT and marketing as a path towards greater success and competitive advantage.

Heidi Ambler IBM Social BusinessAccording to recent survey results, 60 percent of marketers cite a lack of alignment with the company’s IT department as the biggest obstacle to reaching today’s digitally empowered and social savvy consumers.

This alarming statistic supports additional quantitative research in the market suggesting that the world of marketing, and how consumers interact with companies, is changing. This evolution is forcing companies to make a fundamental shift towards much higher-level customer-centricity which leverages today’s digital and social technology. Twofold, the CIO role is now more important than ever. A CIO can’t stay in the back office anymore. They have to think about their role in the front office, and how together with marketing they can position their company for leadership.

The CMO’s role is expanding from an advertising-centric job description to complete ownership of the company’s brand and reputation. This includes teaming up with the CIO to provide what we (IBM) call “system engagement” to the client. The CMO must be responsible for managing a consistent customer experience and also managing the impact on the brand from social media. In today’s social/digital business world, the role of the CMO is much broader and in order to be successful its imperative to partner with your CIO. This might seem like an impossibility for some, so here are a few tips to help ease into the relationship, leading to a prosperous partnership.

1. Communication is key. This may seem elementary, but the lack of communication between marketers and traditionally “back-office” technologists can cause marketers to become stuck in their own customer engagement systems instead of integrating with their company’s technological advancements. This is especially true with social. As a marketer you may be taking advantage of Facebook and Twitter but are you linked in with your organization’s enterprise social networking tools? These tools may be the key that unlock imperative customer sentiment and analysis.

2. It’s not a competition. With the advancements in technology, whether social, mobile, big data or cloud, these two islands, the CMO and CIO, can no longer live separately. We absolutely need technologists, but we absolutely need strong representation of the voice of the customer, which comes from the marketing teams. Don’t view the roles as playing for different teams, but rather extensions of each other working towards a common goal – providing exceptional experiences and services to your customers.

3. Don’t be afraid of social technology, and I don’t mean Facebook. Sure, your CIO office can be intimidating, but there are easy-to-use, intuitive and social solutions that your CIO office is implementing that can be a vital asset to your marketing objectives. These technologies are helping to address both the CMO and CIO agendas. Typically these solutions help to manage the vast amount of available social data and helps to align teams across IT, marketing and communications to use this social data and insights to better serve employees and customers. A win-win scenario.

4. Focus on strategy vs. projects. You and your CIO office have to figure out how to collaborate on crafting strategies, not just teaming on individual projects. The real task you face is learning how to put today’s technology—analytics, big data, social media–to work to transform your relationships with consumers and reimagine your business. This initial change can start with nuts-and-bolts decisions. For instance, companies need to pull together the bits and pieces of information consumers are telling them across different social channels, but what forward thinking tech and marketing departments understand is that by working together to shore up these basics, they create a new foundation for revealing an entirely new understanding of their customers.

5. Listen. Marketers traditionally credit themselves as being good listeners, especially when it comes to customers, but in today’s overtly digital and social landscape there’s a lot of noise. It’s difficult to know just what to listen to and when. Your CIO, believe it or not, can help here. Imagine if you better understood the broader implications of technology decisions, such as using mobile marketing and social media. So instead of releasing apps haphazardly, or chasing scattered ad hoc social media campaigns in an effort to get to know your customers better, you and your CIO collaborated on mapping out a long-term, integrated approach to collecting data, analyzing it, and sharing lessons learned.

It’s clear that tech and marketing are crucial to the success of companies today. But now what’s also becoming obvious is that as the world gets ever more interconnected, as customers become more digitally and socially active, these two critical departments need to network as well or risk being left behind. The partnership between the CMO and CIO is the exception and not the rule, but it’s clear that if your organization is looking to gain an advantage over the competition, this relationship is the ticket to success. It’s time as a marketer to knock on your IT department’s door and get collaborating!

Connect with Heidi on Twitter (@heidi_ambler) and LinkedIn.


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