• When it comes to marketing technology, B2B CMOs are overwhelmed, inundated and outnumbered
  • CMOs should link technology categories to core marketing jobs in order to simplify their view of the tech landscape
  • Strong evaluation processes and partnering with technology leaders is a wise move for even the most tech-savvy CMOs

When it comes to B2B marketing technology, chief marketing officers (CMOs) are overwhelmed (by the constant proliferation of new technologies), inundated (by increasingly aggressive sales tactics by tech vendors) and outnumbered (by internal staff who want to know why the latest and greatest technologies aren’t all being purchased and used immediately).

What’s a CMO to do?

In my work with dozens of top marketing leaders over the past several years, it has become clear that the answer is to clarify and simplify how technology categories are viewed, and establish a controlled process for assessing new technologies. Here’s a step-by-step guide for making sense of marketing technology mayhem:

  • One: Simplify by linking technology categories to marketing jobs. SiriusDecisions defines marketing’s core jobs in terms of six mission-critical processes: seed (communications that seed demand), create (demand), nurture (demand), enable (the sales force), accelerate (deals) and engage (customers). When evaluating a technology solution, always consider its ability to act as a catalyst for one or more of these core processes.
  • Two: Establish a focused process for evaluating relevant, new technologies. Set up a formal marketing technology lab or R&D function within marketing operations to facilitate testing and evaluation of technologies in collaboration with other marketing functions (and sales). For larger organizations, this may take the form of a dedicated function; for smaller organizations, it may be an internal process run by existing teams. Setting aside a small budget on a regular basis (e.g. monthly, quarterly) enables new technologies to be tested or piloted. Vendors often allow a proof-of-concept or trial period, so financial commitment might be needed only when there is evidence that the technology delivers on the business need.
  • Three: Partner with the CIO/CTO. While CMOs should own and understand the business requirements for acquiring marketing technology, responsibility for establishing evaluation processes and actually making purchase decisions must be shared. The fact is that technology leaders still typically have far more experience in the area of technology acquisition than CMOs – especially in the areas of vendor negotiations, integration with existing technologies and information security – so it makes sense to engage with and learn from them.
  • Four: Measure (of course!). To measure effectiveness, use pilot programs with pre-defined success goals and the ability to test outcomes against a control. Nominate and select technologies based on business strategy alignment, enablement of core jobs/processes and the organization’s readiness to use the technology at full scale if the pilot is successful (e.g. budget, skills, program integration). Review results at a regular operations meeting with predetermined success thresholds, so that the go or no-go decision can be easily made based on outcomes.

The bottom line is that without a simplifying construct, strong process and collaborative attitude, even the most technology-savvy CMO can’t possibly make sense of the current B2B technology landscape. So, how do you make good technology acquisition decisions?