FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.


Topic: The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist. What will this person need to know? Where will this person come from? What do marketers need to do to keep up?

Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics

Karen Scates, Marketing and PR Manager, GinzaMetrics


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Karen: Hello, and welcome to this edition of FOUND Friday. I’m your host Karen Scates and with me is Erin Robbins O’Brien, our own COO and marketing strategist. She and I will be talking about the arrival of a new person in the C-Suite, the chief marketing technologist.

Good morning, Erin.

Erin: Hey, Karen.

Karen: How’s it going?

Erin: It’s good. I love that our names rhyme. It cracks me up.

Karen: It’s the Karen and Erin show, for sure. If you’re watching, you can join the conversation by posting your questions and comments on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday and we’ll answer them during the show.

So Erin, we’ve been talking about the technical side of marketing for a while in terms of using data to inform decisions about what content to create, where to distribute it, and how to measure it. How is the CMT going to fit into that workflow?

Erin: I really think this role will fit kind of differently into every organization. I’d like to say that I’m actually really thrilled to see this being recognized as a necessary position. As in any new position, there’s likely to be some kind of kinks to work out in terms of jurisdiction, sharing of information, what all everybody owns. I’m hoping that this person really shows value in a couple of places.

First, is the side of understanding the technology that drives marketing today both from an actual channel side like e-mails, social media, display ads, SEO, and also from analytics. Understanding reporting, insights, all of those kind of things that really fit together to making marketing decisions. What we’re really looking for is creating that customer conversion journey because that’s where the gold mine is with marketing data.

The second thing that I’m really hoping that they come to the table with is: come in and across a variety of business units can shed some light on the [2:09 inaudible]. What I’m looking for here is data from Salesforce, Marketo, public relations, customer support, advertising, and using all that data to understand what customers really want, how to message it to them, and then how to inform product roadmaps based on that information so that you’re building the next thing with all of these pieces put in there together.

Karen: That’s a lot to put together. Who’s this person going to be? Do you think they’ll come from the marketing side or the IT side? I don’t know about the IT side. It just seems like they would have to have a pretty deep understanding into the hows and whys of marketing and the unique challenges that marketers face.

Erin: I really think that marketers that have come up through the ranks today have some technological acumen already. So anybody who’s been coming up through the game especially over the last five or ten years should. Of course, it’s almost impossible to know every piece of potentially relevant marketing technology at a deep level. And even if you did, it would change every few months anyway. So being an expert on Marketo, Salesforce, and Google AdWords and all these things, those things have changed so much over the last few years. It’s so hard to know all of it.

On top of that there’s a growing list of marketing channels and distribution options, not just from social media but user-generated content, publishing, native advertising. It’s a real jungle in here. I think the folks who will be able to do well at this position are going to have a strong grasp of statistics, analytics, the overall marketing climate, and a strategic mindset so that they can glue it all together in a big picture sense.

In terms of learning the technology, if you have some of the basics, you can learn whatever new technology is thrown in your way and you have to because we will keep coming up with new technology. If you can’t do that, you’re probably in the wrong position or somebody really built a shitty UI that prevents usability, and we have seen that happen, too. Companies force marketing technologies and new channels onto people that are really cumbersome, hard to use, hard to grasp, difficult to manage and learn, and have a really long ramp up time. To me, that itself is the continuing problem that marketers face. So somebody that’s willing to be smart about working with those challenges and can then work with their teams to address those challenges.

Karen: I know that marketers are really challenged to keep up with the technology. We’ve talked a lot about some of your background. You really came from the statistics and analytics side and then have a lot of other experiences. But can you give us some insight into your journey and how you have melded the two sides – analytics and marketing strategy?

Erin: Yeah. The road I took to get here is similar to what I think a lot of people are facing in the desire to be in a strategic position but may have been raised on more madmen style of advertising or marketing and then saw the rise of e-mail marketing, the explosion of social media, and a host of other things that have changed and continued to change on what seems like a daily basis.

I do have a background on statistics but I also have a degree in communications and I’ve done stints in public relations, marketing agency work, business intelligence, in-house client side things. I think that that kind of breadth of experience has really helped how the exposure to a lot of different things. When we’re talking about building a product to help marketers as the marketing world changes to encompass data from a lot of these places, I like to hope that I can at least empathize with the questions that a lot of different roles have. Honestly, the title COO doesn’t really fit half the time either. I don’t know if CMT would be the right title here at my current position but I think that what we’re really looking at is struggling to find a way to describe a business me that also fits in with a soft side of certain marketing art and science as well as an IT technological perspective.

I think the reason I’ve morphed into where we are now is an understanding of analytics as well as this idea of a marketing discipline. I would say that there’s a real intuition and strategy that goes into taking disparate data and creating a picture in the plan from that and I think that that’ll be a challenge that not just the CMT but a lot of people in the marketing discipline are going to begin to face it. It’s entirely possible that any marketer would need to have this CMT trait to them.

Karen: We’ve been talking a lot about how marketers need to get more strategic just in general. Do you think that this new position in the C-Suite will make that easier? For instance, can this person now become the buffer between the CMO and the CEO? When the CEO sees this cool new strategy that the competitors are using or they just see a cool video on YouTube and they say, “Let’s do that. That’s really cool. They got a lot of traffic for that, let’s do that.” Do you think that what would be the CMT will build to sort of buffer that and help marketers to stay on their strategic path?

Erin: It’s really hard because it makes it sound like I’m taking marketers to task. Maybe I am but I’ve seen a lot of shitty marketers and it makes things really suck for everybody. I think the genesis of it might be that marketers had a pretty smooth deal when a lot of these new tactics came out and they were able to drive a lot of traffic and vanity metrics without doing a ton of work. Then again shifted a bit and unfortunately like clients and consumers as well as executives were none the wiser and now we’re getting to a place where consumers are definitely starting to wise up and internal executive teams are starting to wise up as consumers wise up and numbers start to dip.

Some of these marketing tactics – it’s not as easy to create conversions and really drive relevant traffic anymore. So now we’ve got a lot of people who didn’t keep up market or the technology and are still running programs like it’s 2004, and unfortunately this sinks everyone down a bit because it makes marketing look ineffectual or ill-informed or it makes it look like it takes five people to do the job that one correctly informed person could do. This is where engineering and IT actually gained a lot of power as technology really became a way to market brands. As everybody started to have a website, this is where the rise of all that stuff really came in.

Now, certainly this doesn’t represent everybody and I’m really hoping it’s not even the majority but it’s definitely a problem. With this new CMT role, what I’m really hoping happens here is that there’s an awareness brought to the need for education in this area of every organization and with a champion at the top at the CMT level, smart hires will be made, existing employees will get information and education that they need and everybody else step up their game a bit.

Karen: Well, it seems like this person is going to have to be the jack of all trades, not unlike marketers today but even more so with the added responsibilities of IT. What is the one thing you think that’s someone entering this role might want to focus on first?

Erin: I’ll keep this one short, like an honest review of what’s really going on in marketing already coming across the organization, a look at the history over the past year if that’s possible. What tools have been used? What marketing channels are disseminating the messaging? What’s worked? What’s not working? I’d also ask myself: are there holes in the data? Things that we don’t know that we would want to know you know. Is there like a central place where all data across sales, marketing, customer success, PR, etc., is stored so that it can actually be viewed to recognize patterns? If not, is that something that can be put in place like who owns the data, how much of it are you using?

What we talked about – I can’t remember now, maybe a couple of weeks ago – is this idea that if you’re using an agency, are they really telling you the numbers that you need to know? Are you really getting the correct data? I think I’d start there by doing a really honest assessment.

Karen: Whenever anything new comes along, the status quo is threatened and I think that’s particularly true in larger organizations. Smaller organizations might be a little bit more flexible but in the larger organizations, there’s a status quo and there’s a way we’ve always done things. Do you think either the CIO or the CMO or the IT guy or whoever is going to feel like this new position takes away some of the real estate in the organization? If they do, how can organizations best use this new person to enhance our efforts instead of crippling them? How can this person really become the guru that brings everybody together and breaks down those silos?

Erin: Unfortunately, there’s really no way to stop people from having a scarcity mindset. In fact, there’s this book that came out late ‘90s or early 2000s called “Love is the Killer App.” The message there is still as relevant as it was 10-15 years ago, which is there’s really no need to hoard information or intelligence or ideas. It doesn’t help anybody and it actually really hurts you. You’re not going to protect your job by hoarding information because hoarding information eventually makes the company not do as well. When the company doesn’t do as well, everyone sinks.

I think that if you’re coming into an organization, because you know that you can actually prevent this scarcity mindset across all of humanity, if it’s an outside hire especially, you’re going to need to show how data is helping across various aspects of your group. Asking for everybody’s data right off the bat usually just makes you look like you’re digging for dirt on them. So instead, share some good and bad things that are from your team or from your side of the house so that people know that you’re going to be fair and that you’re willing to share success and failures in honest and open way so that what you’re really trying to do that your real goal is to get the best possible strategy for increasing revenue in place, no matter what that means sharing.

Karen: I’m hoping that it will relieve some of the pressure from marketers. I think they’re feeling very overwhelmed at this point – a large majority of them anyway. Some are just having trouble keeping up with the changes that have already taken place – we talked about this when we looked at the CMI report just from last year – are the same as the challenges this year. What advice do you have for marketers who want to still have jobs in five years?

Erin: That’s really tough, and not because I don’t have suggestions but because I really don’t think that there’s a silver bullet to fluctuating changes in markets as well as internal organization changes, as well as consumer behavior changes and technology changes.

I think the first thing to do is to stay informed but not make immediate reactions based on fads or, honestly, loud mouths who like to predict the rise or fall of anything. If we’re being honest, marketing is a really old institution and even the big thing won’t seep into everything in one fell swoop. I think that what we’re really talking about is getting information and my suggestion is to get your information from a variety of sources because I think a lot of people are incentivized to make these predictions and say things like, “Oh, this is going to be the end of this,” or “This channel is completely irrelevant and this channel is super relevant.”

I say maybe not for every organization. There are companies that are just now really starting to learn how to use things like Facebook and Twitter, and that’s not right for everybody either or people who are doing really well on Pinterest. So to say, “Now Pinterest is passé. This other thing is cool.” If it’s making you money, it’s cool because there is nothing cooler than money.

For your business, that’s what you want. You want revenue. You want customer satisfaction. You want customer loyalty and you want referrals. That’s what everybody pretty much wants. So if it’s working, it’s working. It’s very easy to get caught up in all of the razzle-dazzle of new things, so continuing to make sure that you’re reading and writing and learning about stuff.

We talked about it a couple of days ago on a show about setting benchmarks in doing things like that. There’s a real positive side of setting benchmarks and adding a channel or changing one thing and seeing how it affects the benchmarks as opposed to dropping a channel, adding something new, doing all these kinds of things at once because you’ll never actually know which lever you pull that really made the difference. Maybe you didn’t have to pull ten levers. Maybe you only needed to pull one. Staying relevant made things smart about making right data decisions.

Also learning how to measure your efforts is really important. The people who have jobs in five years are the people who can prove that the job that they’re doing works and that when it doesn’t that they’re willing to try new things to get to a better place. So if you’re not measuring things or not measuring things correctly and if you don’t know how your particular job or business division really contributes to larger company goals then I would say you need to figure that out. You need to figure it out today.

We had a conversation about it. I think it’s another FOUND Friday episode. I would say that initial notes from today, I would definitely put a link to that episode because it’s really true.

Karen: Talking about being prepared, we’ve been talking about how we don’t really think the universities right now are preparing graduates for the marketing environment that is now, that their programs are really based on what marketing was a few years ago and that graduates aren’t getting anything about the technology side of marketing. Do you think that this new role of CMT is maybe going to influence that? Or do you just think that the learning institutions are dinosaurs and then moved too slowly?

Erin: I don’t know if you can really blame the university for not having a curriculum for something that we, as marketers who live and breathe this every day and whose livelihood depends on it, can’t keep up with a lot of times ourselves. We talk about how the fact that even if you created a curriculum in the time span of six months and printed textbooks, you would probably already be behind the curve. And you have to have somebody who could teach it. That’s difficult.

I’d like to think that what a university’s job really is – and I’ve always felt that this is what schools’ core function is – is to teach you how to think and learn, research, and find information for yourself, and to present you with information in fact so that you can make better and informed decisions. Because information is everywhere especially now and we’re always presented with so much information in a variety of sources that you have to start to really ask yourself: who do I listen to? Who do I get my knowledge from? Do I want to take everything they say at face value? Or do I want to dig a little deeper? What does this information have to do with me? What does this information have to do with my life, my business, my truth, whatever it is?

It’s really hard. I can’t imagine trying to be a university professor or staff member today where my job is to create a curriculum for this role. I would really start at a blend of marketing and engineering capabilities, so basic HTML for short. We’re not teaching marketers HTML. We need to be doing that because that’s a survival skill.

My seven-year-old cousin can actually code an HTML so I’m not even sure that by the time you get to college, you probably already know some of it. I really think that that’s a horrible expectation of a single institution.

Karen: We’ll see seven-year-olds coming in and teaching the professors how to do it.

I think that’s about it for today. One thing I did want to mention was this whole idea of the lifelong learner. I’ve always been a proponent of “teach people how to learn.” I think that’s what you’re talking about. Teach people how to learn and how to be learners and how to always be open to the next thing. People get a skill set and they get stuck in that skill set. There’s a lot of fear as they get older or have been in position longer. There’s a fear of learning something new.

So I think for marketers, a big piece of advice is to use that fear to really improve yourself and take that next step. Take that leap and learn what you can. Hopefully, the CMT will come along to help guide you, as well.

Erin: You’re also a really good person to give that advice, having been both a marketer and a teacher, understand that learning doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom. Changing fields presents a really big challenge. One of the things you and I talk about a lot is really relevant for people and they should [20:37 inaudible]. There’s really only so badly you could break something. So trying to learn something new, you can’t be ruled by the fear of messing up or doing it wrong. I mean you can do it wrong. But if you’re a doctor, if you’re a neurosurgeon, of course, doing it wrong has drastic consequences.

As a marketer, there are probably consequences but there should be some failsafe in place for it to not take down an entire company. Really focusing on having this adventurous spirit I think would give people a lot of opportunities that they don’t have if they’re working from this fear or scarcity mindset.

Karen: It seems like there’s so much on the Internet. On a Saturday afternoon, click into YouTube and watch a video.

Erin: Like a FOUND Friday episode.

Karen: Perhaps a FOUND Friday episode! Correct. Or one of our FOUND episodes. We are going to be talking to Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute on Monday, and that is going to be an interesting conversation because I think we’ll touch on some of these trends in marketing and talk about where he sees the role of the market is going as well as just marketing as a field. Where is it going? And especially, of course his focus is content marketing.

Erin: I would like to tell people after you’ve stuffed yourself full of turkey next week is that you can go and watch this recording while you’re too uncomfortable to move.

Karen: I plan to gain at least five pounds on Thursday. I don’t know about you, but I know you like to start your New Year’s resolutions early. I’m a procrastinator, so I’m just going to gain the weight and worry about it in 2015.

Erin: That’s fine. Just by Black Friday, close the size bigger.

Karen: There you go. Is there anything else about this trend of the content marketing technologist? I’ve also seen it as the content marketing technology officer. The title does get longer and longer.

Erin: I needed to come up with a bevy of titles or something like the “marketing ninja wizard” or whatever nonsense that they want to say. Parting thoughts would be: as with anything, like I mentioned earlier, these things take time to flush out and to see where they land. On every organization, it’s going to go hire this person tomorrow. Not everybody is life or role is going to change overnight. Very few things especially in bigger organizations change overnight.

I would start thinking about – if I’m already in a position in marketing – is how can I take the idea of a chief marketing technologist and incorporate some of what that is into my day-to-day role? Really what we’re talking about is the reason people are talking about hiring this person is because there’s a need that they’ve identified. So how can you start to absorb some of that need because that makes you a bigger and bigger asset to your own organization because you’re already anticipating the need? That would be where I’d leave it.

Karen: I think it’s an interesting trend. I for one am going to be watching this over the next year or so [24:23 inaudible] predictions for this actually come to fruition in a year or if it’s going to take a little while. As most predictions, they’re kind of hopeful and then sometimes takes a little longer for it to actually happen.

Erin: We can review it at the end of 2015 and we’ll come back, check and see. Thank you, Karen.

Karen: I just want to remind everyone that if they want to continue this conversation with either of us, they can e-mail me at or I really think we need to change the name of the show to the Erin and Karen show.

Erin: I’ll take it under advisement.

Karen: Alright. Have a good day.

Erin: You too. Bye, Karen.

Karen: Bye-bye.

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