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Integrating marketing, sales and IT ‘absolutely critical,’ says Sorrell and other experts


By Kate Kaye, The Drum

November 11, 2020 | 6 min read

Data and tech are more integral than ever to how marketers and sales teams do their jobs. As a result, there is more pressure than ever to bring these groups together with IT — despite their historically icy relationships.


Sorrell says IT and marketing need to work together and better.

Breaking down departmental silos has long been an aspiration for top businesses. Now, a number of undeniable trends are putting the pressure on marketing and sales to not only to work together — but to also add IT to the mix.

Several factors are driving this push: the importance of first-party data, audience-focused marketing, tech-heavy consumer-facing communications — not to mention the need for marketing to work with IT to prove that they really need that new tech platform.

“Bringing together sales, marketing and IT – I don’t know how you do that, necessarily. I don’t think there is one solution, but integrating those more effectively is absolutely critical,” says Sir Martin Sorrell, S4 Capital founder and former WPP chief.

The sunsetting of cookies is creating strange bedfellows

It’s no secret the industry is shifting away from third-party cookies for ad targeting and measurement. Meanwhile Facebook and Amazon are taking greater control over the information brands need to understand their customers. These factors make first-party data – the stuff brands collect themselves about consumers rather than getting it from third parties – increasingly important.

But first-party data requires first-rate data management and storage. Marketers and sales teams are not always part of a tech-buying process that is typically led by IT, but the integration of all three departments is the key, say experts.

“In order to build a first-party database you need to audit, assess, develop and integrate,” says Sorrell. “It places great demands on the organization – they were not built to integrate so you have to leverage the different parts of an organization to integrate them. It’s related to another issue which is much grander, the relationship between three functions between marketing, sales and IT.”

Marketing now involves customer data management, sophisticated campaign measurement and optimization and more data analytics – all of which require coordination with IT.

“Many companies need to explicitly understand the value of the data they have so they can make appropriate investments,” says David Ratajczak, who leads Boston Consulting Group’s marketing practice in North America. “All of those [efforts] need to be coordinated fairly well.”

The need for ‘joint, combined decisions’ about tech

Tech decisions “have got to be a joint, combined decision,” says James Cannings, co-founder of MMT Digital, which builds web platforms, apps and chatbots for clients including Vodafone. But he adds, those tech and data decisions “have got be around the customer experience.”

Both Sorrell and Ratajczak suggest CPG brands that market and sell through Amazon – where more and more customers do their product research and shopping – are especially vulnerable.

Brands such as banks also need to create better bonds between marketing and IT, says Sorrell. “Most of the banks spend $10 or $11 billion a year on IT. A lot of that is consumer-facing,” he says. “It affects you or me as a customer of that bank. It doesn’t come under the control of the CMO. It comes on with the control of the IT function.”

Another reason for collaboration: In general, brands are shifting their approaches to be more audience-centric, says Ratajczak. That can require new data sources unique to a niche audience or technology that delivers information around specific performance metrics, he says.

“That audience-oriented analysis is something that requires both data and analytics tools that many times are absent from most technology stacks,” says Ratajczak. “You may find that there’s a whole group that needs to be built out that includes IT, marketing and sales.”

Pleasing the CFO requires some mending of fences

But tech costs money, and that is still another reason for better marketing and sales collaboration with IT, says Ratajczak.

“There’s never been a time where there’s been as much scrutiny over marketing investments,” he says.

With budgets tight, marketing and sales must work closely with IT to make their case those holding the purse strings, says Ratajczak. Marketers and IT “need to be going hand-in-hand to the CFO with a level of detail and rigor that maybe could have been overlooked before.”

The thing is, marketing and IT haven’t always gotten along. In fact, CMOs as recently as 2017 told Gartner that collaboration with IT was a “major detractor.”

But those chilly relationships seem to be thawing. Gartner’s 2019 Marketing Technology Survey found that 53% of CMOs said working with IT to achieve business goals was “no impediment.”

It’s a “huge shift,” Gartner analyst Lizzy Foo Kune told The Drum in October. “IT is actually one of the biggest supporters of what [marketers] do.”

And if marketing and sales still are not getting along with IT? Cannings suggests they let the customer journey be their guide. He says organizations should plan workshops involving members of each department in which they should map out customer journeys, then discuss challenges each group faces along the way.

“You’ve just got to get everybody in a room,” says Cannings.

Ratajczak advises forming a cross-functional team across marketing, sales, IT and finance. “Create a squad that can move rapidly and has both accountability and authority to move rapidly.”

Additional reporting by Kenneth Hein.


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