In the previous article, I recommended the creation of an Office of Marketing Technology, led by a Chief Marketing Technologist—which can be a tech-savvy marketer or a marketing-savvy technologist.
This may be an organization with a staff, or it may be a single executive advisory position. Whatever makes business sense for you—whatever’s leanest.
Its charter is to identify, define, specify and implement technologies that help develop new markets and grow existing ones.
At the risk of violating in spirit my “no-pitch” promise, the best way to describe what the OMT and its CMTwould do is through a case study where I was, in essence, a virtual CMT.
The Case Study
Markitek was hired by a $300 million division of an $8 billion manufacturer of construction materials—its marketplace included the Bechtels and Halliburtons of the world. Our mandate was to define how to use the web to get them to name this company’s product in their work specifications more often.
I visited a lot of customers. One persistent theme emerged. When engineers specified materials, they went to their bookshelves and pulled out a binder of company’s data sheets provided by one or another competitor, located potential product matches from a table of contents, and then turned to those pages. When they found the correct product, they copied its description and specifications into the work specification (minus the manufacturer’s name). And when it came time to select a vendor, only one company exactly fit the description—the company that wrote it. Too often, that was the company awarded the contract.
The company’s IT department had built a product Extranet, integrated with SAP. Customers would enter a product description and get a list of 20 or 30 possible products that matched it. They then had to click on each link. Print the subset of products that matched. Organize them into a manageable document, until they matched the binders provided by the competitor.
The disconnect between customer want and Extranet deliverable was clear. The customer wanted to walk two steps, pull out a binder, read a table of contents and turn to the right pages. IT had built a navigation system that presented one discrete, non-organized, potentially irrelevant page after another. Offline was easy. Online was not. The customer wanted easy.
Goal of the Virtual CMT
We specified an Extranet that allowed someone to come online and specify intensely detailed product characteristics. We would then deliver not a list of web pages, but a single document. This document would contain only those products that the customer specified, and only the information about those products the customer wanted to see. To me, “single document” pointed not to the web, but to PDF.
I found a group of programmers in Detroit that had a simple engine that took data from a database and created a fine looking PDF file from it (I liked it so much that we formed a partnership). Their engine was able to incorporate all functional elements of the latest Adobe product specification so we had full online functionality, full link capability, and so on: everything, that was possible within Acrobat Reader. (You can view that prototype here if you’re so inclined.)
So now I had the three functional elements I needed. The data. The format. And a way to get the one to the other.
Soon we had a fully functional, live-data prototype. The customer could come to a web wizard, specify the product they wanted, and the information about that product that they wanted, and within a couple of minutes start downloading a complete, full formatted, fully organized, fully functional PDF product catalog exactly matching the specification. Printing was one click. Binding was simply punching holes in paper. All changes to the catalog would happen within the catalog itself: new products added, wrong products deleted, ordering—even downloading a copy of the product description for incorporation into the specification. And on and on.
But It Was Killed
1. We showed it to the sales staff. They loved it.
2. We showed it to the customers. They loved it.
3. We showed it to the IT department. They killed it.
It was a low-level IT manager that killed it. Why? She didn’t get it. When I showed it to her she said, “we have an ordering Extranet. Why do we need this?” The answer “because your customers want it” simply didn’t make sense to her. She was not prepared to act as a Marketing Technologist or a Technological Marketer. She was an IT Manager, whose scope of reference began and ended with IT. The customers could learn to do it her way—this whole notion of “people want what they do” was for her pure marketing malarkey. (Let me quickly add that a marketer without a solid technological foundation would have put up a commensurate level of objection, and killed the project just as quickly—I’m not indicting IT here.)
The Importance of the CMT
This is why companies need a CMT. I was powerless within the organization—just another consultant pitching ideas. So powerless that even that level of manager could with a single blow destroy this effort. But a CMT, with budget and authority and the ear of the board, could have implemented this effortlessly.
The question of whether this manager, or any manager like her, would even be brought into the issue would be eliminated. By empowering a CMT, that customized product, adhering to the needs of the customer not to the constraints of packaged product, would have been built.
By putting that kind of role into play within the organization my client would have delivered the perfect marriage of IT and Marketing to serve the marketplace and the customers. And that’s a recipe for success.