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Marketing Leadership in the Age of Martech

By Chris Ross | November 22, 2017 | 1 Comment

Breaking News…marketing technology (martech) is no longer a discrete and separate “thing.” Martech is a layer in the integrated composite of marketing disciplines every marketing leader and their teams must possess. Martech acumen is table stakes, but establishing those capabilities is far from easy.

If you’re struggling with martech, you’re in good company. Our recent Gartner Marketing Organization Capabilities Survey 2017 (subscription required)  identified martech as the most important functional group within the marketing organization and placed martech as one of the top three capabilities most difficult to recruit and hire. Other Gartner surveys and research make clear that marketing leaders are frequently frustrated with underutilization of existing martech solutions, and many feel they are missing substantial business opportunities based on lack of martech capability.

Martech capability is essential, what can you do as a marketing leader to assure you and your team have adequate martech chops?

Look in the mirror – It’s difficult to lead a martech-centric team without being proficient yourself. What does “martech proficient” look like for a marketing leader? You should understand all the elements of your current stack, the general capabilities and roles of each technology and at a high level what each solution can do. You don’t need to know every bell and whistle feature of every martech solution; it means understanding the tools you have to work with and generally what those tools can do.

Know what your team can do – Helping your team begins with an accurate assessment of where they are now relative to martech expertise. Good leaders know the strengths, gaps, and opportunities for their teams.

Be proactive about development – Building on the knowledge of where your team’s martech skills are today; a good marketing leader is proactive about developing martech skills. Development may mean driving the team to take advantage of currently available training and resources from existing vendors, supporting specialized training in other areas or simply encouraging the sharing of tribal knowledge and education within members of the team.

Practice continuous calibration –  All the previous points are in constant motion. New vendors and team members entering the mix, skills within the team are evolving, and the needs of the business continue to shift. Effective marketing leaders are highly-tuned to all these changes and commit to creating a culture where everyone is continuing to enhance skills, educate others and see where new martech-related opportunities exist.

Being a martech-savvy marketing leader does not require:

Developer level skills and expertise – Yes, there is value in a deeper level of technical understanding, but it’s not required to be effective. Just like it might be useful to understand how to use video editing software or be an expert creative writer, knowing how to code is a fantastic skill, but far from a core skill for a marketing leader.

The newest, shiniest martech – The quality of your martech stack is not always tightly correlated to the value you and your team get from your martech solutions. Great martech-focused marketing leaders focus on making sure their team becomes power users of the tools they have. There is always new martech gadgetry coming along; great leaders make sure they are maximizing the value of what they already have.

Congratulations, martech is now a core part of your role as a marketing leader! It’s an amazing, exciting and often overwhelming area, but is fundamentally changing the way we all think about and execute modern marketing. Your role as a leader is to stay martech sharp yourself, be highly tuned into the capabilities of your team and create a culture where martech understanding is woven into the fabric of everyday operation. Martech is just a jargony way of talking about the new tools of the marketing trade, make sure you and your team know how to use them.

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1 Comment

  • I’m hopeful that we’ll see significant martech progress in 2018. In particular, for content marketing practitioner applications. Most of the SaaS tools today have a ‘content calendar’ focal point that’s designed around the process of content creation within marketing teams. But there’s many other areas of the CM function that could be enhanced or automated by software.