The Next Web Recap: Bridging the marketing & tech divide
Every company has been going through this digital transformation within the last 2 - 3 years that ultimately is speeding up with the interconnectedness and fluidity of consumers to brands and internally amongst organizations.
Together at The Next Web Conference 2021 with Dominik Angerer (CEO & Co-Founder at Storyblok), Ian Truscott (Founder at Rockstar CMO), Stephan Grad (Strategic Director at OVERDOSE), and panel moderator Louis Doom (CEO & Founder at HelloMaaS), their collective experience in such technological industries, we explore the prerequisites and different competencies that champion cross-collaboration between tech and marketing, as they share their insights into unlocking the potential in an organization’s growth and marketing strategies.
The Expert’s Panel: Organizational design
The panel kicked off by exploring the convergence and digital transformation of the Chief Digital Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, CIO, and CTO roles. Dominik Angerer starts off with his experience navigating the sails between the intersection of marketing and technology - While you have the design, marketing, sales, and technical people that all work with their own set of KPIs and goals to achieve internally amongst their teams, you also have to keep in mind parallel the company goals. Such teams then need to find this interconnection in communication that resonates on the same level to ensure a common understanding of those interconnected company goals or cross-over projects amongst teams.
For example, this can be seen with the term ‘eCommerce’ that applies to a smaller scale resonance. In contrast, on a larger enterprise scale, your discussions delve into ‘digital commerce’, which essentially are the same things but used with different wordings around different teams. Such different nuances in the exact wording make a big difference between marketing, tech teams, and CIO level. Yet, with the right tools, this can open up discussions and innovation that can make and create new pathways and ideas into the topic with different perspectives and unique experiences.
Stephan Grad at OVERDOSE brings to the table experience in implementing large-scale programs within organizations as a Strategy Director at global agency, OVERDOSE. The question that was asked here is - “What is the one thing, as a Strategy Director, would you want marketing and tech teams to take as a starting point when starting on such collaborative projects for digital transformation? “
From his experience, he leans towards the route of storytelling, the undivided goal between marketing and tech teams. For B2B or B2C cases, telling that story across digital platforms in online marketing can be difficult. While telling a story is not an easy feat, with the right tools and messaging, you ultimately engage your clients and people. More so, as the convergence between tech and marketing becomes evermore closer, more tools allow for such organizations to tell those stories specifically. At the same time, there are a lot of companies that essentially lack the know-how to operate these tools, which is one of the main reasons why organizations may not be aware of how to tell stories.
Stephan Grad further demonstrates how metaphorically, organizations can achieve storytelling across teams and from organization to the audience - take, for example, a room of individuals who turn to one another and give a high-five. That level of engagement is contagious that lends to the audience smiling and laughing. As Stephan Grad explains it, organizations and their C-Level executives must understand that it is not simply by just selling a story but engaging the audience with the story.
From Ian Truscott’s experience, he cites the rise and growing importance of the role of the Chief Growth Officer. C-Suite level executives are increasingly looking instead at the ground level with various teams. Such action looks towards the facts and numbers, to the bigger picture of things in how projects align with company goals, growth, and innovation internally. Arguably, there is a shift in communication in how C-Suite executives are now connecting across the organization that ultimately connects different departments and teams into the company’s growth.
The Growing Presence of MarTech - Adding MarTech to empower your business
Today, there are over 8000 MarTech tools that run and power organizations forward.
Starting from Dominik, from Storyblok’s beginnings, the company looked towards a best-of-breed solution that would work cross-functionally and cross-team when it came to technologies like MarTech. Combining these with automation tools and simple integrations that Storyblok built internally, then allowed the company to take the step forwards to grow.
A piece of advice that Dominik leaves is that organizations should focus on the essentials of the task or project at hand, such as the next big goal to undertake, and from there, look for tools that complement the tasks and only that rather than taking on an all-in-one-suite solution. That way, you have a very specific tool that is near-perfect in the task that needs to be done, rather than a generic tool that although can complete various tasks, won’t be at the cutting edge level that a specialized best-of-breed solution can bring.
From Ian’s experience in organizational design in implementing such tools, he cites the behaviorism of marketers being keen on getting on the latest trends and technologies. The issue with the overwhelming increasing rate of new technologies is the need to refocus on the actual needs and goals of the team and company. Too often, it is seen that tools are picked up as marketers go along when really, they need to refocus and take a step back to ask ‘What am I trying to achieve?’ or ‘What are my requirements?’ is an essential value that marketers must have when adopting new technologies and commuting that across C-Level executives. Ian concludes that at times, requirements are then made around the tool, rather than the requirements being made by the needs of the company, team, or project, and then finding a tool that accommodates that to avoid losing hindsight of the ultimate goal.
Marketers, as Stephan explains, are likely to fall victim to the ‘shiny things’ of new technologies that although can aid them along their process in the present, won’t be justifiable in the long run. His rule of thumb is to get the tool that is easiest to handle on a daily basis and easy to understand from the user adoption perspective, and one that does exactly what you need to get done on a high level with a best-of-breed approach in the long run.
Looking to the future - Will there be the need for roles such as a Chief Digital Officer?
The fact is that you cannot do marketing without technology, and in the future, there will arguably be the merge of the CMO and CTO positions because there will be a need in time for someone to understand the ins-and-outs of the industry, while technologies come and go as they are replaced by new capabilities and abilities, someone that has the breadth of knowledge in the intersection of technology and marketing will be needed that would form the merge between such CMO and CTO positions to drive an organization’s growth to the future.
It depends on what kind of company we are talking about - whether that is a small company or start-up that is led by their founders or enterprises. Often with a small company, you have the founders who are driving the vision and goals of the organization. With an enterprise, however, this becomes more complex as while there is arguably an open and seamless communication amongst C-Level individuals, there is a fine line between how CEOs are able to engage with their people or teams, and between the person who is responsible for driving marketing both externally but also internally that pushes that growth marketing-wise.
Amongst C-Level individuals, the question to ask is who really is driving the vision of the organization? Who is the person who tells the story of your organization and acts as the main character within your business? While a company might have a very visionary CEO for example, it is the marketer’s job to tell that story to the world. Therefore, the person sitting a bit back is the CMO, who would act as the execution CMO.
On the contrary, you have founders who have more of a technical background, who may have created something but are not sure who exactly the story is for, or how to get it out to their audience. These types of cases will need a more visionary CMO to come in who would be able to tell that story. Nowadays, the role between the CMO and technology - the CMO will need to figure out what strengths exist amongst the organization, and form the appropriate team to ‘fill in the gaps’. You cannot have a marketing team that ignores the technology but you can have a marketing team that ignores the data or content because ultimately, you will find people who specialize in those specific points to join the team and perfect that storytelling process
Learnings from implementing marketing technologies inside organizations
Whether it comes to implementing MarTech internally within your organization or hiring an external consultant to implement such technologies, there is a lot that can go wrong.
Dominik Angerer - Co-Founder and CEO at Storyblok
5 years ago when Storyblok was still at its beginnings with founders, Dominik and Alex, working at an agency, were using a data-driven ‘almost’ headless CMS and an enterprise content management system that was slow.
Dominik sent a feature request, knowing it would only take an hour of development time, and 20 hours of management, resulting in an email coming back from the CMS saying they would shut down the system for all their clients for six months. Having just transitioned one of the agency’s biggest clients to the system, it was later discovered that the system just did not have the ability to migrate their customers with the complete rewrite of their system they wanted to do based on the feature request. This was the catalyst for creating Storyblok as the leading headless CMS.
Ian Truscott - Founder at Rockstar CMO
From Ian’s experience in his early days as a pre-sale vendor, sometimes when large organizations become frustrated with the overall user experience of a technology, they seek another technology to replace it. At times, the two technologies can do exactly the same thing, but it is just the way it is implemented and onboarded to the organization that makes the lasting difference. The key lesson here is that enterprises and organizations must be properly onboarded and understand the key features and their implementation to avoid wasting their money on finding a new technology that would exactly put them in the same cycle of having to be re-onboarded and implemented to their organization.
Stephan Grad - Strategic Director at OVERDOSE
From the perspective of the eCommerce industry, marketing automation is seen as one of the biggest trends currently in Europe. Yet there are some companies that while specializing in the specific technology rank highly in their industry, the tool is too expensive or incredibly complex to use from the user experience (UX) perspective. Increasingly nowadays, you now find competitive tools which are Software as a Service (SaaS) that are cost-effective and have an excellent user experience tailored to the specific needs of each company. Whichever tool you create, you need to build something that is catered to your user’s needs, that is easy to use, and has a neat onboarding process.
How do we bridge the gap between marketing and technology - is it a bridge that can be connected or should stay separate?
Marketing and technology need to come closer together for success because, in the end, marketing is trying to sell something that the tech department is building. Marketing has gone beyond the reach of just content on your website, and with the help and knowledge of technology, allows marketing teams to tap into new channels and devices in an omnichannel strategy, and therefore solidifies the importance of cross-team communication and learning to achieve and innovate the next goals and steps a company can take together in selling their story.