Marketing has become about smart technology. And the winners and losers will be defined by those who evolve their MarTech stack strategically.

CMOs are on track to spend as much as CIOs this year on technology, and most are willing to invest big money to get the results that are being demanded by their bosses. When talking with a group of CMOs it can be like talking about sports teams. It is common to have them trade “tips” on which software solutions each other are using or considering.

Evolving marketing technology stacks are common among the best marketers, but most are finding that there is a disconnect between the promise of results and their actual results. Some of this failure is because CMOs have chosen the wrong tool for the job, which is another conversation. Most is due to a lack of tool level strategy integration.

Wrong hiring focus

With the glut of money being poured into technology acquisitions, the focus has been on hiring marketing technologists (tool-level specialists), not marketing strategists, to manage and implement. Compounding this is most marketing technologists have worked in marketing, but are not actually marketers themselves.

Understandable, but for brands to stay ahead of the curve and win they need to invest in strategy closer to the tool. Not just from the top-down as it usually is, which often fails to meaningly make it to any level of granularity.

A Kitewheel study discovered that 72% of agencies use less than 40% of their software tools every week. It’s hard to imagine that B2B companies are doing much better. This begs the question, how much sales revenue is being left on the table?

Here’s why we have this problem: CMOs hire marketing technologists the same way they hired every other technologist they have needed. Need a website? Order a website. A website is delivered. Very transaction based.

However, marketing automation and technology follows the new reality that successful marketing is constantly evolving. A campaign mindset is not only dead, it’s dangerous. Our activity need to be smart missiles that adjust its trajectory to hit our constantly moving target. Not old school one and done. Point and shoot, and hope for the best.

What’s a CMO to do?

Build teams more holistically and place strategy and marketing as equally important as tech skills.

Yes, I get that is in the realm of Unicorn hunting, but it is still achievable. People can learn software, but a strategic brain is a little harder to come by. It’s hard to get recommendations and insights until your hire has the opportunity to get their hands dirty working with your MarTech stack, but you can start probing for how they think and approach the MarTech challenges.

For instance, here are three questions I would ask:

How would determine if we’re fully utilizing our current technology?

You are looking for how this person is going to eat the elephant. If they say they can eat it in one sitting, they are not a fit. Their answer should include looking at the current KPIs, and then review what is being done at each stage to improve them. Also, they should be meeting with the vendors and internal staff that impact those KPIs. Beyond that they need to have a basic but clear vision on making those reviews part of a process, not ad hoc or one off.

Based on what you understand now, how do you see your marketing strategy and marketing operation philosophy evolving our MarTech stack?

You need managers in this role to constantly look to increase your marketing edge over competitors. Having technology is just keeping up.

Your advantage is by finding and exploiting those small areas that other companies don’t see or are too lethargic to change. If hired they may have a different answer to this question after day one, but you need them to have a thoughtful opinion going in. If they have not given any thought to this by the time you interview them, then they are unlikely to do it after you hire them. Strategists think ahead.

Last, but possibly most interesting is: 

How do you bring these discrete MarTech elements together to create a seamless customer journey?

While the first two questions focus on internal elements, this one is a bit of a trick question. There are no clear “right” answers but you need your candidate to grasp the human elements of the customer journey.

Marketers are predisposed to creating everything in a vacuum because people are messy and complicated. MarTech is about generating more revenue, and that can only happen if we meet and exceed our customers’ needs. I am a fan of website and email surveys, but the cold hard truth is unless you actually meet and talk to real people you are guessing at their true needs and expectations. I want to hear how this person would use data, but equally I want to here how they are going to get to know the customers in real life. Marketers need to see their customers as flesh and blood, not one size fits all widgets.

Having this insight allows you to make smarter choices and helps you see more options with your MarTech stack.

The CMOs who hire with strategy in mind have the edge in the MarTech Arms Race.