In its 2011 global survey of nearly 200 CMOs, “The Evolved CMO, 2012,” Forrester and Heidrick & Struggles report that one of the greatest opportunities CMOs see to improve their game is to become more tech savvy.

With every customer touch point contributing to the brand and every contact monitored by software, it’s no surprise that technology is figuring prominently in the minds of CMOs. A quick glance at today’s marketing technology landscape can overwhelm even the most sophisticated marketer.  Here’s a sampling of technology solutions that now fall under marketing:

  • External Promotion Software:  Mobile marketing, targeting, SEO tools, creative organizations, ad management, social media monitoring, and management.
  • Customer Experience Software:  Ecommerce, APIs, community management, landing page optimization, virtual events, Facebook, and mobile app software.
  • Marketing Management Software:  CRM, sales and marketing automation, digital asset management, business intelligence, and multi-channel management

The array of marketing solutions makes it easy to see why Forbes and Gartner are predicting that IT purchases by the CMO will exceed those by the CIO by 2017.

How do marketers stay on top of this rapidly changing tech landscape?   I consulted my tech savvy marketing friends for ideas and distilled their recommendations into six steps to help today’s marketer evolve sensibly:

  1. Keep your eye on the big picture, says David Dalka, Ecommerce Business Strategist. “Before you invest in technology, you need to ask if your marketing department is focused on the right activities for the right business reasons.”
  2. Read IBM’s report on their 2011 Global CMO Study, says Julie Means, Channel Marketing Manager at IBM. IBM notes that four out of five CMOs anticipate a high or very high level of complexity over the next five years.  A Q & A on the Global CMO Study report page will help you compare your organization’s current capabilities with those of the 1800 CMOs surveyed by IBM.
  3. Familiarize yourself with today’s marketing technologies and become conversant on the basics.  If you’re just getting started, Sima Dahl, CEO of Parlay Communications, suggests prioritizing marketing automation along with sales automation and social media fundamentals.  “Too many leaders still see social as an afterthought; it always was and continues to be about integration.”
  4. Surround yourself with experts.  As we read in last week’s MENG Blend post by Mark Vigoroso, it’s imperative that marketers maintain open communications with IT, sales, product development and customer service.  Involving cross functional experts within and outside your organization will help you address questions and get buy-in.
  5. Consider hiring a Chief Marketing Technologist to help your CMO fulfill strategy with technology and to infuse technology into marketing’s DNA.  See Mashable article from 2010 on this topic: Should Your Company Have a Chief Marketing Technologist?
  6. Stay current on marketing technology by following marketing technology blogs.  Steve Susina, an engineer turned marketer and early adopter of marketing automation, recommends Scott Brinker’s Chief Marketing Technologist blog or, for insights on the tools and tactics, Doug Karr’s Marketing Technology blog.

You may not have signed on for an IT role but having a firm grasp of marketing technology is no longer optional.  That doesn’t mean you have to know the bits and bytes yourself, but someone on your team does.  You also have to know enough to make decisions on which technologies will help you achieve your organization’s business goals.

The marriage of marketing and technology has created a tremendous opportunity for today’s marketers.  If you’re going to be successful going forward, evolution is essential.

What will you do to fulfill that challenge?  And, how can MENG help you get there?