At last week’s MarTech conference, we learned that the difference between a marketing stack and a marketing pile comes down to two things: architecture and strategy.
The same could be true for careers. Marketing technologists who architect their careers — curating experiences and gathering skills in a purposeful, deliberate way — will have their pick of plum opportunities.
As I attended the MarTech sessions, I identified five capabilities that will help marketing technologists to advance and get noticed.
1. Foresight — looking beyond the now to the next. Take a page from Aetna, which has a marketing technology innovation czar looking 12-18 months out. Or from Dun & Bradstreet’s marketing tech team, which regularly meets with venture capitalists to keep a finger on the marketing technology pulse.
2. Sales. Cynthia Gumbert of CA Technologies made a strong case that as a marketing technologist, “Your job of selling is never done.” This makes sense, since the technology changes, the business problems change, and the people change. Good marketing technologists will sell their initiatives up and across the organization. Don’t forget to sell your peers on the value of your work, because once they are bought in they will often help you sell up.
And Corey Craig from Dell echoed the importance of internal education: “We’re doing something so new that we owe it to our organizations to explain what we’re doing. Become a great explainer.”
On the other hand, beware of an unhealthy balance between doing your work and selling your work. Rishi Dave of Dun & Bradstreet has attracted fresh talent by pitching the fact that the organization, starting with the CEO, has entirely bought into data-driven marketing, fueled by technology. He pointed out that “Nothing kills motivation more than feeling like you have to sell stuff all the time.”
3. Prioritization. One look at any martech landscape shows how marketing technology options have bloomed like wildflowers. To be a strong marketing technologist, become a ruthless and efficient prioritizer. You’ll need to figure out which part of the marketing funnel deserves investment and why, which parts of the tech stack to build first, and how much time to spend optimizing existing investments versus scanning the market for shiny new toys.
4. Alignment. This word came up again and again. The most successful marketing technologists will achieve alignment between marketing and IT, between strategy and tactics, and between internal groups and external partners. For those with “slash careers” (marketing/tech), the ability to build these win-win partnerships is essential.
5. Customer experience. One speaker remarked that “the gap between marketing technology and marketing is closing.” This is good news for marketing technologists who ultimately want to advance to a CMO role. It also means that marketing technologists should have a vision for the customer journey and how marketing technology supports it.
So how do you go about building these skills?
First, acknowledge that it’s not all about proving technical competence. These other experiences can help:
1. Spending time in a customer-facing role. You could do a rotation in a “front of house” function. You could periodically get out and interview customers to understand their journey. You could regularly sit in on customer service calls.
2. Adding sales skills to your repertoire. Whether you are leading change as an individual contributor or as an executive, look for ways to nurture your inner salesperson. Can you pick up a sales book, take a class in persuasive communication, do a sales rotation, or shadow a sales rep? At the very least, expect not just to execute but also to educate. And realize that education takes time.
3. Taking a course in lean product design. The lean movement is all about continuous learning, experimentation, and evidence-based decision-making. These perspectives and approaches map very nicely to the martech world.
Erica Seidel leads product marketing for Resonate, a marketing technology company. Previously, Erica founded The Connective Good, an executive search practice focusing at the intersection of marketing and technology. She also authored the report “The Talent Land Grab In Marketing Technology: How To Win.”