alignmentAs more and more people engage with their suppliers in the digital, rather than the physical world, companies are finding digital marketing strategies increasingly important. And it follows that marketers and IT need to work together to deliver these, so it’s interesting to find a report from the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA), 1+1 = 3: CMO & CIO Collaboration Best Practices that Drive Growth, and a follow-up series of executive discussions, that discuss these trends.

Key findings

Although CMOs and CIOs felt that it was crucial for them to work in partnership, such collaboration was not common. Both groups felt that a shift in mindset was necessary for change to happen, and that the move needed to be both top-down, making digital central to the enterprise, and bottom up, starting small to build momentum and credibility with staff and customers alike.

Organisations generally lag behind consumers in engaging with the digital economy, which puts them at a relative disadvantage. However, as employees are the very consumers who have leapt ahead, harnessing internal knowledge will provide some basis for accelerating initiatives.

Companies work best when marketing and IT have worked together to develop and resource a project to engage with customers digitally. It’s no good having one in the lead, and the other involved later in the process.In may ways, this flies in the face of conventional management approaches where there is a single point of accountability.

Collecting customer data is easy. The difficult bit is analysing and using the data well, but senior executives have not made big data a priority.

Thriving in the digital jungle

Companies need to adopt a customer-centric culture, preferably driven from the top by the CEO. This will drive other changes, including investing in big data capability in the longer term, which will make using data much easier. Even though full involvement of both marketing and IT was necessary, the customer interface should be managed predominantly by marketing, supported by IT. A senior marketing person in charge of establishing clear links between customer behaviour and marketing campaigns is seen as critical. These links need to be in both directions, so that customer behaviour drives marketing, and marketing campaigns can be shown to affect behaviour. Marketing and IT need to be brought closer together, so that they could innovate together, and one key way to do that would be to hire marketing people who understand technology, and IT people who understand business, with good interpersonal skills.

The analytics challenge

The challenge is to derive meaning from it for customers. However, analytics create new opportunities to tailor marketing to the individual consumer, whether end-user or B2B, and big data offers huge opportunities to learn about and engage with customers

The challenges are not necessarily technical. Some may relate more to organisational culture, and particularly willingness to embrace change. In particular, the culture of the whole organisation needs to be customer-focused, if organisations are to get the most out of digital opportunities, which means that this change has to be driven by the CEO. However, top-down is not enough. Cultural change also needs to spread from the bottom up, with small teams working together on particular projects, with a customer focus in mind.

In practical terms, CMOs and CIOs need to collaborate, working together on all aspects of digital marketing. Creating new positions alongside CMO and CIO to oversee digital marketing can improve collaboration between marketing and IT. Organisations can make the transition easier by changing the way that they hire both marketing and IT people. Improved technical knowledge among marketers needs to be matched with improved business and interpersonal skills among IT staff.

Cost of inertia

Much of this will be familiar territory, but it is helpful to aggregate sentiment – digital engagement is breaking new ground. Individuals are often better at it than organisations, and organisations need to change the way they work to improve the way they engage with customers. If companies don’t change, customers will go elsewhere, to those who will engage with them digitally, thought multiple channels.

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