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5/27/2014
07:06 AM
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IT Leaders Must Assume New Role: Marketers

Marketing isn't just the CMO's job. Getting directly involved with customer engagement is necessary for your IT career and your company's success, experts at Authority 2014 explained.

When it comes to finding, serving, and retaining customers, it's a scary time. So many of the things that used to work don't anymore. Even with so much information at customers' fingertips -- maybe because of that info overload -- it's hard for them to learn who we are, understand how we're different, and realize why they should stick with us. If our organizations can't create genuine connections with customers, we're in serious trouble.

Content marketing, permission-based marketing, and community building combine conventional marketing practices with content creation and data analytics to help businesses maintain and build connections with customers, boosting sales and producing applicable data. But none of it fits well into the traditional organizational stovepipes. Is it tech? Is it marketing? Is it sales? Is it finance? Is it data science/analytics? Yes on all counts.

As IT executives and managers, we have conversations about how technology creates business value -- not just cutting costs but also driving revenue. Then we worry about CMOs encroaching on CIO turf, as if our two organizations are Venus and Mars. This is stupid. What we should be focusing on is how the world has changed, how customers are pickier than ever, what the business and revenue dangers are, who is dealing with these changes successfully, and what we can learn from those successful approaches.

I can be as guilty as anyone in overlooking new answers to new problems. I just returned from the Authority Copyblogger conference, which I attended as a hobbyist blogger and essayist, not as a marketer or CIO. I thought that what I would learn wouldn't be relevant to my job as a CIO. Boy, was I wrong.

[What makes a great CIO? Hint: It has nothing to do with technology. Read 5 Skills CEOs Prize In CIOs.]

At Authority, I learned more about a new model of customer engagement. Whether you call it permission-based marketing, content marketing, community marketing, or something else, it doesn't pit the CMO against the CIO. This new model requires us to cooperate, think differently about the scope of our big-org jobs, and not worry so much about who's in charge. It requires us to reshape and even redefine how we do business. Scary, yes, but absolutely necessary.

Ann Handley, chief content officer of MarketingProfs, declared: "We are all publishers and we are all media companies." The corollary and first scary truth? We are all marketers. Why is your company creating online content? To get people to pay attention and take action, hopefully to buy your product. Why does your IT organization send out change notifications or provide intranet training? To get people to pay attention to your messages and take action. We call that marketing.

There's a second, related scary truth: IT must become more integral to the revenue equation by building customer trust and positioning the company as an authority. Seth Godin, one of the world's best known marketers, discussed at the conference what it takes to become an authority -- someone customers listen to.

Big organizations have tended to create marketing "factories," he said, using templates or maps that succeeded before. "I can't work with a map, because if I do someone else will use it and polish and perfect it." Those organizations that stick to the map end up in a "race to the bottom," where everyone is doing the same thing and competing on price. "The problem with a race to the bottom,” he said, "is that you might win."

The alternative? Create something new, something that people participate in. He compared travel site TripAdvisor to American Airlines. "You'll easily switch from AA to something else. It's just a big bus company in the sky," Godin said. But the community -- the authority, the relationships, the trust -- that TripAdvisor has built aren't easily replicable.

Building and marshaling new techniques and technologies is what IT is stellar at, and we must push more of that expertise

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Jonathan Feldman is Chief Information Officer for the City of Asheville, North Carolina, where his business background and work as an InformationWeek columnist have helped him to innovate in government through better practices in business technology, process, and human ... View Full Bio
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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
5/30/2014 | 11:03:05 AM
Re: We're all marketers now
Two great tips, JF. I am also a believer in writing as a way to find your speaking voice, if you are unsure of that speaking voice.
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2014 | 10:09:49 AM
Re: We're all marketers now
What!? There are IT folks who are introverts?

:-D

I actually know several marketing GENIUSES who are introverts. "Famous guy" case in point: Darren Rowse, founder of Problogger (he also gave some FANTASTIC advice at the conference about how to do meaningful work, btw.) But I remember that he tweeted something like, "ok, I've been chatting with you extroverts for a while, time for me to retreat into my introvert cave now," as a reason why he wasn't joining yet another extroverted party/event. So, Protip #1, let the extroverts know that you're an introvert so that they forgive you.

Protip #2: find other introverts who happen to be good at communication and marketing and figure out how they're dealing with it. My suspicion is that they rely more on writing and non-in-person tools, but that's just a guess. If I was an introvert, I could confirm. But as you know, I AM A FLAMING EXTROVERT. :-)

 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
5/30/2014 | 8:54:10 AM
Re: We're all marketers now
Jonathan, what is your advice to IT introverts who don't like this new be-a-marketer dynamic?
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2014 | 8:40:06 AM
Re: We're all marketers now
Sure, there will always be a place for those technologists who can't deal with customers -- but that pool will become increasingly smaller as time goes on, IMO.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
5/28/2014 | 3:30:59 PM
We're all marketers now
Jonathan, I imagine there will be challenges with getting rank-and-file IT folks to suddenly put on a marketing hat. Many in IT didn't sign up for this. What if they're just not cut out for customer engagement but are brilliant technologists? Will they, like many of us in various lines of work, come to accept that marketing is all our jobs now, and adapt?
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
5/28/2014 | 9:17:27 AM
Tell Your Story
Some of the best CIOs in the business -- those who are most in touch with their organization's needs and consistently get buy-in for sometimes sweeping tech changes -- are those who do the best job of communicating with customers: the end-users within their organization. You can call it marketing, but this communication via internal (and external) social media; user and executive groups; departmental workgroups, and more increases IT's visibility and creates a reputation as a partner, as a team that works with other departments and individuals to get things done, as opposed to the group that says 'no.' 
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
5/28/2014 | 8:29:15 AM
Re: Merging of IT and Marketing
I couldn't agree more about Analytics - that is Marketing's domain, not really IT invovlement (other than support for the required hardware/software). I've always thought of business data analysis as a marketing function, but that may just be me.

I definitely agree that Shadow IT is a monster of IT's own making, usually due to lack of responsiveness or cooperation. It still boggles my mind that there are IT leaders out there who think they work in a silo of servers where they can hand down edicts from on high. To me, the job of IT is to support the business and OTHER departments, not their own. Sadly, I can tell from forums and articles that this just isn't the case.
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Ninja
5/28/2014 | 8:01:39 AM
Re: Merging of IT and Marketing

Actually, there ARE people telling Marketing that they need to become better at tech and analytics. A lot of the marketing content at Authority was surrounding responsive web design, metadata / schema, and so on. And yes, shadow/rogue IT happens when peoples' needs aren't getting met through the normal channels. (I wrote something about the shadow IT misnomer the other day, actually: Shadow IT Is Over (If You Want It)

mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2014 | 10:16:50 PM
Re: Merging of IT and Marketing
@GAProgrammer


Funny how no one ever tells Marketing that they need to become more IT focused. While I certainly understand the need to cooperate between departments, for IT to become markters seems a bit short sighted.

As much as I would like to agree with you on this, you can't really expect marketers to create "engaging content: webinars, blog posts, community comments, "ask me anything" chats, tutorial videos", etc. Right? Perhaps we need to create a new department. We can call it MarkIT.

 

 
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2014 | 2:37:38 PM
Merging of IT and Marketing
I have seen tons of articles in the tech press lately about how IT needs to become markters. Do you think it is because Marketing had to resort to Shadow IT to get things done and made great strides? Or is this just the latest in tech buzz, like DevOps and the 100 other words out there?

Funny how no one ever tells Marketing that they need to become more IT focused. While I certainly understand the need to cooperate between departments, for IT to become markters seems a bit short sighted.
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