Marketing and IT have never been a match made in heaven. Extrovert creative communicators and geeky analytical techies rarely choose to passionately embrace. However, corporate needs, rather than partner choices, will take precedence in 2012.
Corporate confidence has been rocked by the ferocity and intensity of competition encountered during the current global economic downturn. Key clients and deals have been lost, salespeople are omitted from the early stages of procurements as customers research possible solutions online, and many products increasingly look undifferentiated and 'me-too'.
Many highly profitable companies are now 'looking down the gun barrel' of commoditisation and low margins caused by global competition. Senior management wants Marketing to make their companies more presentable, attractive, and relevant in order to restore premium pricing.
Marketing is now expected to take a central user role in selecting new customer-centric technologies. These include creating a Single Customer View (SCV) and involvement in customer-oriented uses and applications for 'big data'. Marketing needs to report on customer insights and analytics, better manage the customer experience, and to embrace new social media and mobility. Even 75% of marketers identify these latter elements as 'important' says a recent Marketing Week / SAS study. Little wonder then that 'familiarity with marketing technologies' is the most desirable attribute for new hires in marketing, according to an eConsultancy / Eloqua report.
To date, many digital marketing technology investments have been piecemeal and low cost, and funded out of general discretionary marketing budgets. Often marketers outsource digital marketing to ESPs (Email Service Providers) and creative agencies to manage customer and sales prospect databases, email campaign execution, search and online advertising, and web site management.
In 2012 marketers will take back some control of digital assets from external agencies. Digital marketing will emerge as an enterprise mission-critical core competence, managed in-house and supplemented with specialist agency skills, not the other way around. More techie analyst / statistician types will be recruited into marketing. Digital marketing investment will need to ratchet up a gear in 2012 as data-driven Marketing takes centre stage.
"So what has this got to do with the IT Department?" you might ask. Well, Marketing mostly will not have the line-item budget to support the level of digital marketing investment required. Secondly, marketers may be gaining desktop IT skills, but have a limited understanding of enterprise IT architectures and the constraints and complexities associated with managing and controlling enterprise data. Marketers rarely have the attention to detail, the numerical and statistical disciplines, and the procedural rigour that is commonplace in the IT Department.
Marketing needs financial help and technical support from the IT Department to make digital marketing happen in the all-embracing manner envisioned by corporate management. New scalable digital marketing technologies, common platforms, and open standards will be required to ensure interoperability with cloud services. Legacy digital marketing systems will be migrated or replaced. 'Proper' IT management and support is required from the IT Department. Marketers need to get on with the day job of being professional marketers, rather than tactical amateur technologists with the resultant risks to data integrity, security, and compliance, as has been happening recently.
In summary, IT and Marketing will need to create a close and harmonious relationship to produce the customer-centric end-result demanded by corporate management. The passionate embrace required may take some humbleness from both sides. However, such a business-IT partnership has a great opportunity to deliver against corporate goals, and enhance the image of two much-maligned departments that often suffer from a lack of corporate credence and credibility.