Why (And How!) A CTO Can Develop A Marketing Mindset

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Traditionally, there has been a chasm between development and marketing. This rather significant divide is created as a result of multiple reasons but one of the biggest is the speed at which change needs to happen. Marketing needs change to happen extremely fast while developers need to focus on building high-quality deliverables that will be capable of evolving over a long period of time. And these types of efforts may require significant amounts of commitment. So it is a constant struggle between these teams to work with each other because their notions of execution times seem at odds. The critical takeaway here is that a CTO who can leverage existing tools, and design and deliver very agile systems, will be able to bridge the gap between the teams.

“Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated; you can't cross a chasm in two small jumps.”~ David Lloyd George

The great connector between these teams is user experiences (UX) - for both your customers and your staff. As a CTO, you’re focused on technology and making sure all systems fit together well. When designing systems, you also are trained to take into account user interfaces (UI). When you get into UX, your focus broadens beyond UIs because you are then trying to deal with the overall experience users have with all the systems they interact with vs. just that single UI.  

What this means is that, as you’re trying to understand UX and what you want it to be, you may want to test your designs with focus groups to see how people react and if the software can get them through the proper journey. And now you likely see the point… it is at this moment when you are coming very close to marketing-type thinking. Why? Because marketers are interested in how to reach your audiences in the most targeted and focused way. And there’s the beauty of it - you can leverage what you know about UX to work with and improve marketing efficiency.

A Marketing Focus Is Naturally a UX Focus

CTOs (and CIOs) and CMOs must understand each other, given the overlap from their different fields. If you can learn more about what the other struggles with to deliver great user experiences, you can help each other through what you know. You - the CTO - can make marketing more efficient and less painful for the marketers as well as leverage technology that integrates with other systems better. And the CMO can help you understand the intricacies of the optimal customer journey so you can design better, more frictionless ways of achieving them.

Companies have complex technology stacks - integrating them can be challenging for both IT and Marketing. By addressing Marketing’s needs, you will naturally focus more on the overall UX, which is a benefit - and a by-product - of your work.

Marketing likes to think about audiences as personas. Personas are usually abstractions of the audience you want to target, while UX is typically focused on the journey of a single real person. So marketing can also benefit from learning about UX management and the tools to make it easier to design and deliver great experiences.

If a CTO comes to work with the Marketing team with knowledge about the marketing mindset, then s/he can probably understand the benefit of UX management tools. One of the tools that I have been very close to is the Apache Unomi Project, that is focused on integrating user contexts to help build more seamless UXs; if you have not yet considered data protection and privacy, that needs to be a vital focus for you as imminent legislation will impact the way Marketing can collect, store and use customer data.

Expanding Roles

In any case, the expanding role of the CMO was, originally, to handle the public-facing brand to attract and convert the person into being a customer - but not about what happened afterward. Throughout that time, the CTO had to contend with the whole customer lifecycle once the visitor became a customer. However, the CMO is now responsible for all facets of the customer journey, from attraction to acquisition to post-login experiences, while the CTO can now support the initial stages of that customer relationship. With digital transformation, it is clear that customer acquisition is no longer a function of manual campaign development but more about automation and other aspects of technology involved in digital marketing.

By learning marketing skills, the CTO also has the opportunity to educate marketers about the constraints and issues that CTOs and their teams face. The CTO must work with the CIO and the CMO equally to facilitate marketing campaigns.  

Once the customer is acquired, and by understanding how marketing works, the CTO can also provide suggestions based on available technologies to smooth or extend marketing campaigns. Marketers may not be aware of available potential solutions, such as the latest in mobile marketing or how the Internet of Things (IoT) can be tapped for marketing initiatives. Naturally, the CTO can tell the marketers about such things but first needs an understanding of what marketing does and how they do it so he can actually help them by offering suggestions and providing new tools.

Three Things You Can Do

In my previous post, I shared some of the characteristics that the new ‘Transformer CIO’ needs to have for maximum success in today’s business landscape. If you haven’t read that, you’ll want to do so because that is now our role - to help lead enterprise-wide digital transformation.

Meanwhile, here are three things you can do to develop a marketing mindset starting right away.

1.  Ask the CMO for the customer journey maps that exist and, even more, help plan them together. It is critical that each of you sees the journeys that a customer may experience in the same way so that you can plan for it accordingly.

2.  Attend Marketing team meetings. This can be an invaluable way to start bridging the two teams because you are stepping into the world of marketing from where the marketers ‘live’. Simply by being present, you will learn and, even more, the conversations that happen afterward can be very revealing about organizational challenges that you can help resolve.

3.   Create a simple presentation to educate the CMO and the marketing team what they need to know about technology. Communication is the key to any relationship; clarity is the key to creating results. Remember that this presentation should be something your mother would understand! The idea is to help marketers understand all that you are managing in your role and generate dialogue.

You may not think about it this way as you go through your daily work but you - the CTO - has the ability to change lives. Technology is the new economy. Technology is prevalent in the majority of people’s lives every day. When you - the person who understands technology - has a marketing mindset to understand how people think and how your brand can reach them more successfully, you hold the key to transforming the way your organization does business.

So take the leap across the chasm in a single bound - and let me know what you think about these ideas by leaving me a comment below.

Serge Huber
Serge Huber

Serge Huber est co-fondateur et directeur technique de Jahia. Il est membre de l'Apache Software Foundation et président du comité de gestion du projet Apache Unomi, ainsi que co-président de l'OASIS Customer Data Platform Specification.