Why B2B Marketers Need to Start Watching Star Trek


by Kevin Miller

As marketing becomes more technology-based, marketing and IT teams need to having a better understanding of what makes each other tick.

As marketing continues a steady transformation to a technology-based discipline, particularly with the explosive growth and usage of marketing automation platforms, marketers are finding strange bedfellows with the IT teams of their respective companies. But marketing and IT are not two groups who have a long history of working closely together to deploy systems that impact the enterprise (not the starship).

Marketers need to begin to understand the language and rationale for how and why IT makes purchase decisions. While you don’t need to go toe-to-toe on Star Trek trivia or understand what a tribble or dilythium crystal is, marketers will need to understand API, web services and basic synchronization routines.

For a long time, marketing was working on the periphery of the core IT infrastructure – procuring low-cost point solutions on a departmental credit card and patching these tools together with excel spreadsheets – but those days are long gone. Marketing automation is the driver for the shift from point solutions to enterprise-class IT for the marketing department. In particular, the ability and importance for marketing automation platforms to integrate into other front-office systems, such as CRM and website, is forcing marketing and IT to work closely together on evaluating and implementing these systems. More often than not, though, marketing and IT don’t know how to work together in a productive, cohesive manner. IT and sales, by comparison, have been at it since the early ’90s with the advent of enterprise CRM systems. At the time, the two departments were forced to collaborate due to the need to integrate CRM with ERP. Now it’s marketing’s turn.

To highlight a key difference between how marketing thinks differently than IT, consider how buying decisions for marketing automation differ. Marketing will, more often than not, select the tool that has specific features that match exactly with how they are accustomed to working. Looking more specifically at email design, marketers will almost always gravitate to a MAP that presents an email designer that looks, feels and behaves like the designer they had been using in the lower cost email tool. IT, on the other hand, will be concerned with how well the MAP integrates with CRM. Is the integration pre-built by the vendor, does it leverage common API language, does it leverage middleware?

For lack of better terms, marketing wants easy, pretty and friendly, while IT wants flexible, secure, and expandable. More often than not, these requirement preferences in tools can be at odds with each other. To further compound the problem, marketing has grown up, using overly simplistic point solutions that focus on one specific functional area, such as email, social, or publishing. Because these tools are so narrow in scope, they are often self-installing, self-taught apps that anyone can figure out how to use in 60 minutes. Not so for enterprise class marketing platforms. They require the discipline of IT project management skills not found in marketing.

So how can marketing and IT get along better? Marketing can start by understanding the nature of how IT buys, understand their language, and what makes them tick. Maybe being able to discuss the differences between Captain Kirk and Piccard is not necessary but the point is, to get along better, and work more productively, marketing should understand more about why IT’s role is critical in marketing tech purchases.

Before a marketing department embarks on a project to purchase and implement a marketing automation system, I would recommend having a sit down with the CIO and members of the IT team to understand some of their key criteria for purchasing and implementing an integrated software package. Integrating with CRM being a critical requirement for most MAPs today, it would behoove marketing to involve IT early, as they are likely more in tune with peripheral systems that are certified to work with the core CRM. Many IT pros attend the CRM shows and know which apps have spent the time and money to certify themselves to work with the CRM.

The simple point is, marketing cannot expect to run a marketing automation evaluation the same way they’ve purchased point solutions in the past. Open up to IT, involve them early and often. If it means binge watching the original Star Trek series to help bridge the gap, then so be it, because a well integrated MAP/CRM will lead to increased efficiency, and happier sales people – which is always a good thing