It used to be that most marketers were pretty clueless when it came to understanding the technologies that powered their advertising and other marketing efforts. They were beholden to outside agencies or their IT departments to recommend and manage the platforms and tools that ran their websites, ad campaigns, email programs and social media efforts, and frankly there was often an attitude that technology was an implementation issue, not a strategic imperative.
That’s all changing with the rise of data driven marketing, marketing automation tools and a new generation of more technically savvy Millennials becoming the key decision makers in many corporate marketing departments. Digital marketing strategies depend on making the right technology choices, so marketers see a tremendous upside in building strong relationships with IT. The problem is that not all IT departments feel the same way about marketing.
eMarketer recently reported on findings that show a significant gap between the two departments in taking the initiative to work together more closely.
The exploding number of digital marketing platforms, tools and technologies can be a nightmare for IT. Many of these options are cloud-based and might be low enough cost to fit in as a line item in a project budget, so marketing teams can be tempted to try them out on a project and not worry about approvals from IT. I can’t tell you how many times a desperate client has asked if there was a way around involving their IT department knowing that to try to innovate and get something new adopted, or even just get something simple enabled, meant weeks of frustrations and trouble ticket limbo.
Getting other departments to see the value of marketing is a problem as old as marketing itself. Unfortunately, the onus still falls to marketing to push to make the partnership work, but here are a few simple steps marketers can take to help their cause.
Tip 1: Start by knowing what you want.
Be disciplined about creating business requirements documents and functional specifications. You need to speak the language of your IT department and that means communicating more like an engineer than Don Draper. Use a standard BRD or FS format to outline what functionality you need, what metrics are to be tracked, what channels need to be supported. If you don’t have an appropriate template, ask IT if they have one they prefer, or find one online.
Tip 2: Take the time to consider what you have.
You are probably well aware of the limitations of your existing technology solutions, but if you aren’t educate yourself before approaching IT. If there is an existing solution that will handle 80% of your needs, you will have a very hard time convincing them to do something new unless that 20% is mission critical and has a potentially compelling ROI. Maybe you can’t quantify the ROI on something new because, well, it’s new, but you can make a business case for increased efficiency, better customer service or even innovation if your need aligns with overall company goals. If you can’t make a business case, maybe you don’t need that extra 20% after all.
Tip 3: Make some new friends.
Get to know your IT contacts. Take them to lunch. Ask them to participate in a focus group to find out what issues plague them. Treat them like a customer. You might feel like IT is in a supporting role to your program, and therefore you approach them like a vendor, but if you think of them as another customer you need to persuade by communicating with them on their terms, it can change the dynamic enough to win them over to your side. Empathy is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have – so use it to your advantage.
The more you can cultivate relationships with strategically minded colleagues in IT before you need their help the better, so also consider doing your own little bit of content marketing to them on an ongoing basis. Every so often forward articles, studies, interesting products and services, or examples of what competitors are doing and ask them what they think. You’ll not only learn what their preferences and biases might be, you’ll be keeping your own needs top of mind. And being top of mind is just good marketing!