Marrying IT and Marketing

You don't need me to tell you that there is a huge chasm between Marketing and IT.

Concerning Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain once said "Between us, we cover all knowledge; he knows all that can be known, and I know the rest."

This, in my view, so aptly describes the relationship between Marketing and IT. Alone, they are only pieces of a puzzle. Together, they are a completed business powerhouse that can do extraordinary things. Together they encompass the skills and technology to create marketing excellence.

Together, Marketing and IT Serve Business
The core of successful business is serving the marketplace in a way that is profitable to the enterprise.
Marketing and IT are, by nature and by discipline, incapable of doing that alone.

IT alone, so process oriented, so internally focused, so perpetually tuned into ROI, can only shave the bottom line. Which far too often means not success, but reduced failure—spending less means losing less, not earning more. This is in my view the real explanation for the state of the airline industry today.

Marketing alone, so results oriented, so externally focused, so perpetually tuned into statistical increases in marketshare and competitive position, can only increase (in conjunction with Sales) the top line. Which far too often means not success, but increased revenue—earning more but spending (and so often losing) more to do it. This is in my view the real explanation for the dot com collapse.

But together, this alliance of process and results, of bottom line and top line, of technology and creativity, can harness and deploy an unstoppable powerhouse of market success.

Marketing and IT—The Perfect Combination
IT is the master of information. Marketing is the master of exploiting information. But the two groups behave like a couple of kids each holding one half of a dollar bill, and neither willing to show theirs for fear the other will steal it and run away.

These two organizations, traditionally mongoose and cobra, are at perpetual odds with each other. Chronically battling for budget share, chronically fighting to do things their way. Chronically misunderstanding that they have the same goals.

The answer is obvious. They have to work together. But they don't. They talk about it. They say they're going to. But then they go back to their conference rooms and return to sharpening their political knives.

Maybe it's not the case at your company, but it is very common in my experience. In fact, it is the rule not the exception.

More Pollyanna Marketing?
I realize this sounds like just another chorus of "can't we all get along."

Working as distinct organizations, the answer will forever be: No, we can't. The structure of the enterprise itself is designed to prevent it.

In the blue corner, weighing in at 30% of the annual budget is IT. In the red corner, weighing in at 20% of the annual budget is Marketing.

What else can they do but duke it out for more of what the other has?

But consider what, together, the two organizations might do. Lord, the things I could devise if I had IT at my disposal. And the things IT could accomplish, if they had me as a resource. Positioning strategies that developed unique positions for every discrete market segment, and changed effortlessly to adjust to the results of the strategy and to changing market conditions. Customer retention programs controlled entirely by the customers themselves. Trade shows that qualified a visitor on the spot and presented such focused information to them that they left the booth five steps farther along the sales cycle than ever before. Online collateral creation systems that were so focused that they almost presented pictures of the prospect's family.

This is not pie in the sky. And it's far beyond anything available through CRM technologies, or simple profile-based MyAcme web initiatives, whose sole purpose so often seems to be to cram self service down a customer's throat.

A Time For Leadership
But, in today's organizational climate, such utopia is not possible.

So what I suggest is a change in that climate. A new—maybe even radical—view of how IT and Marketing work together. Not just collaborate—consolidate.

What I suggest is the creation of a new organization within the enterprise. What I suggest is that the best and the brightest of Marketing and IT be brought together to create an organization I'll call Marketing Technology, driven by a Chief Marketing Technologist (or Technological Marketing, driven by a Chief Technology Marketer). And I mean the best and the brightest. Not the pocket protector technologists who don't see the point of marketing in the first place. And not the marketers whose focus is immovably on creating the next great brochure or web site and who couldn't care less how it gets done. But the visionaries and farseeing practitioners within each organization: the people within your organization that want to excel. The strategists and tacticians who see how, together, Marketing and IT can lift a company to levels of excellence and success that promote market leadership.

The goal of this organization is simple. Take the best strategic marketing has to offer, couple that with the best that technology can provide, and together do something magnificent.

What will it take to do this? It will take Leadership. Vision. Courage. Money. Planning. And Caution.

But building this organization is a big topic. And one I'll address next time.