Where marketing execs are spending all those tech dollars

Gartner says marketing may spend more on tech than IT, but for what?

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What's pushing marketing as the new technology lead
Why is marketing so invested in technology? Because today, marketers must lead with data and insight -- and that is completely technology-driven, says Liz Miller, vice president of marketing programs and operations at the CMO Council, a worldwide network of marketing decision makers. It's the same reason that 20 years ago, IT was closely aligned to the CFO, who at the time was challenged with creating financial systems that were transparent, consistent, analyzable, and scalable in a globalizing world.

In a world where customers are increasingly found in digital venues, such as social media, websites, and apps, marketers are focused on how customers interact with companies, what companies can learn from those interactions through analytics, how businesses can better integrate and participate in those digital contexts, and how businesses can innovate the customer experience to add more value and thus increase sales and lower turnover.

Accomplishing these four goals means using technology across the board, both within the company and to interact with customers -- what marketers call "customer touchpoints." The technologies need to work together or at least let the information flow across the technology mix, whether owned by marketing or IT (it's usually a mix).

How one marketing chief's tech strategy works
At four-year-old data-storage startup Actifio, the marketing technology investment -- all cloud-based -- is two to three times that of internal IT spending. The company's investment in marketing tech is all about increasing both sales and employee productivity.

As part of that effort, Actifio uses Jive social networking software to create a living knowledge management system across its employees, which helps the sales- and support-heavy company better serve customers. "We all know what each of us know," says chief markerting officer Mike Troiano.

As its other core marketing tech, Actifio uses Cisco Systems' WebEx service for conferencing and Salesforce.com for its sales-force automation and CRM.

Actifio has also invested in HubSpot for inbound marketing, primarily for lead management automation. If you're not in marketing, that means collecting data about potential customers (leads), then segmenting them for targeted communication, personalization, relationship building, and inquiry and sales management. With some lightweight scripting, HubSpot connects the company's blog to the Salesforce.com CRM software; this way, potential customers who come to the blog are linked to the CRM system for sales and marketers to use. As a result, Troiano saw its Web leads rise from one to two per month to 60 per month.

Still, despite realizing productivity gains his marketing technology investments, Troiano says data integration and unified user experience are both lacking across the pieces he's assembled. This year, he hopes to improve integration for the reporting and tracking function across products to better monitor the customer journey at all touchpoints, so he can measure what and who works effectively.

IT's new opportunity comes from its historical strength
For most companies, systems integration is very complex, involving existing back-end operations such as supply chain management, inventory management, and order management; customer-facing interactions such as marketing campaigns, customer support, and company websites; and the analytics that marketing uses to understand and tune all the pieces in that whole customer experience, notes Paul Papas, head of global e-commerce at IBM.

Because of the complexity involved, marketing can't do it alone -- it needs IT.

IT's focus is typically on the so-called back-end infrastructure, so companies that have in-house IT integration skills can help marketing meet its complex integration challenges. This, according to Accenture, means providing a unified network and data infrastructure that link data housed across the organization, often in different forms, as well as information held outside the company so they can be tracked and analyzed. As you'd expect, the traditional IT systems vendors -- such as Adobe Systems, BMC, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce.com, and SAP -- are working to retune their offerings for the new types of data and customer interactions.

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