B2B marketers and IT can get along

Tequia Burt

Remember the good old days when all you needed to worry about was aligning with sales? Now, not only do we need to be synced up with the sales department, but B2B marketers have to make nice with the IT folks as well.

Last year, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan made a bold prediction about tech spending that shook up a lot of people—by 2017, she projected, CMOs will outspend CIOs. That's right—marketing will spend more on IT than the IT department.

While for me that's certainly a head-scratcher, the statement does encapsulate the fact that technological advances are most definitely changing the role of marketers in their organizations. Social media, mobile, Big Data and the rise of marketing automation have all contributed to the evolution of marketing in the past few years. So now what?

The CMO Council recently released a study that found while most marketing and IT execs think their relationship is critical, less than half of marketers (41 percent) and even fewer IT executives (39 percent) said they are aligned with one another and admit there are still challenges to executing priority projects.

The question is, why can't we connect and how can we just all get along?

Well, first things first. The CEO must make everyone a stakeholder in organizational goals. In order for CMO/CIO alignment to truly happen, they both have to be clear on company-wide objectives. If both are on the same page, then marketing and IT can work together on delivering the same business outcome. If the customer is a priority, then they must be at the heart of all business decisions. And the CEO has to make that happen by ensuring departments are not siloed but working cooperatively toward that end.

Second, we need to begin to treat our IT counterparts less like order takers and more like full-fledged partners.

"For so long, we have been asking marketing what's wrong with the marketing/IT relationship," said Liz Miller, VP of the CMO Council. "No one has actually asked IT… [With our survey] We wanted to make sure we got both sides of the story."

Yes, IT probably does understand the technology better, but we understand the customer better. A true collaboration will yield better results for our organizations. Only then will both be able to exert influence, in terms of customer needs, on what IT priorities should be and what technology can enable.

"We'll bring the data, and you tell us what the data means," Miller said. "Luckily, our survey shows marketing and IT agrees on this."

So let's bring IT in from the very beginning. Rather than presenting them with a laundry list of items we want them to tackle, let IT be a part of the decision-making process. If you need to develop a plan, for example, for extracting customer information from the website to drive revenue, rather than just giving IT marching orders after the plan has been developed, let them help you decide what will work in the initial talks. IT can provide help with vendor selection and management guidance on capabilities you may have overlooked, and best practices and support services that can help you focus on what you do best: marketing.

"From marketing's perspective, they believe to their core that they are bringing IT in at the beginning of the conversation, but the reality is that they're not," Miller said.

Marketing should resist being order takers as well, and actively collaborate with IT and the CEO on prioritizing both marketing IT projects and non-marketing IT initiatives that can differentiate your company from the competition.

Maybe it is possible that we can all just get along. Marketing and IT professionals have to realize that we'll both have to transform how we do things. Marketers are going to have to treat their IT counterparts as true partners and IT professionals must evolve to become less rigid when it comes to technology and traditional methods of implementing infrastructure.

"It's going to take both parties understanding that they are not 100 percent right," Miller said. "And that's the hardest thing to do in any relationship." --Tequia

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CMO Council study finds despite challenges, CMO/CIO alignment critical to business success