When it comes to IT, only the marketing director has the key that solves the puzzle.
Marketing IT is an immensely intricate puzzle that just keeps getting larger and more complicated every year. Not only are new capabilities and programs being constantly developed; there’s also been an explosion of tech companies that offer marketing software as a service.
When you’re putting a jigsaw puzzle together, you start out with a hundred—or maybe even a thousand—little pieces that at first glance look as though they’re completely random shapes and colors. You have the picture on the cover of the box that works as a guide, a map to let you know that all the orange pieces need to be over there on the right side of the puzzle, and the blues ones are on top, and the green ones are along the bottom. Even with that information, though, the jumble of pieces can be overwhelming. You need to build the framework of the edge pieces to give yourself the context you need for the big picture. Once you have the edges connecting all four corners, you’ll be able to tackle the rest of the puzzle more easily.
Solving the IT puzzle requires a similar technique. The “edges of the puzzle” are equivalent to the core pillars of your IT platform—or the “stack.” You need to work with your in-house IT staff to get these big, weight-bearing pillars in place where you need them to support everything you do. After that, your marketing technologists will be able to fill in any gaps with specialized providers. But don’t just sit back and expect them to finish the puzzle for you.
As the director of your department, it’s natural for you to gravitate toward the things you enjoy, which are probably building campaigns and doing marketing in the traditional sense. To push the puzzle analogy further, after you finish the edges, you’ll put together all the pieces for the recognizable central image—the kitten on the lawn or the cottage on the hill—because that’s the fun part that comes easily. Meanwhile, you’ll leave empty the vast expanse that should be filled in with sky-blue or grass-green pieces, because they’re just too hard. Someone else can do that, you tell yourself.
And it’s true, there are a host of vendors out there offering marketing technology solutions. In May 2017, Scott Brinker reported there were 5,000-plus marketing-technology vendors—while just in 2011, there were only around 150 (full article). As vendors proliferate, companies are becoming more and more specialized, in an effort to carve out a niche for themselves apart from all the others. The puzzle keeps getting more intricate with smaller, more detailed pieces.
Building the edges of a puzzle is relatively easy. It takes real commitment and perseverance to fill in the interior image. The same holds true for piecing together the IT your marketing department needs. You can’t possibly know all the technological details that go into filling in the spaces between your stacks. And with so many companies out there, as a marketing director it’s tempting to rely on one of them—or an assortment of them—for IT direction.
Don’t. Each of these companies will only be able to offer you a piece of your IT puzzle. They can’t help you assemble the pieces. The pieces they each contribute may be essential to the picture you’re trying to put together—but they won’t build out the edges of the puzzle; they won’t show you where the corners are; and they won’t be able to identify which are the essential pieces in the overall picture. You’ll have to do that for yourself.
Only you have the key that solves the entire puzzle.