Aligning Marketing and IT: Where to Start

This blog is part of our ongoing series, “CIO-CMO Alignment for the New Era of Digital.” To see all content in this series, click here

 

B2B buyers are now demanding more from digital experiences—and those demands have impacted the roles of the chief information officer and chief marketing officer. Marketers and technology experts alike are expected to adapt to these fast-paced expectations in real time. In response to this need for digital transformation, each leader’s role is expanding to include some of the qualities and responsibilities of the other.

With the customer squarely at the center of any organization’s success, both CIOs and CMOs have to embrace technology and customer data in order to provide the digital experiences their customers demand. An alignment between marketing and IT is now crucial to creating an optimized customer experience and achieving shared business goals.

In the process of teaming up, CIOs and CMOs have discovered the power of their complementary skills and expertise. With a CMO’s deep understanding of marketing and the customer journey, and a CIO’s ability to integrate systems and utilize data, this alignment puts the customer’s digital experience at the center of it all.

 

How CIOs and CMOs differ and where their responsibilities overlap

 

While CIOs and CMOs come together to collaborate, they each still hold unique responsibilities that reflect their individual expertise.

CMOs lead with a deep understanding of the customer, their needs, and their preferences. They manage digital marketing and advertising, keeping the brand and customer top-of-mind in every facet. While they drive marketing efforts with a strategic perspective, CMOs also take the lead on essential work in marketing technology, operations, and customer-focused regulations, including: 

  • Digital Marketing & Advertising 
  • Brand Management 
  • Experience Management 
  • Customer Acquisition & Retention 
  • Campaign Management 
  • Marketing Technology 
  • Marketing Operations 
  • Privacy, Trust, & Regulatory

To execute these responsibilities, CMOs now see the need for sophisticated technology in order to better understand who the customer is, what they need, and how they move through the sales funnel. CMOs need to create an ongoing, agile partnership with their CIO to appropriately plan, build systems, and utilize data—not only for today but for the next year, two years, five years.

CIOs are largely responsible for the infrastructure and systems that support the organization. This includes everything from IT strategy to operations. With the expansion of digital across all business units, they also have to lead governance, support, and cybersecurity to keep all systems running smoothly and securely.

  • IT Operations 
  • Service & Delivery Management 
  • IT Support 
  • IT Systems & Applications 
  • IT Strategy & Governance 
  • Cybersecurity

Along with these more traditional IT responsibilities, CIOs now have to possess a strategic, future-focused vision in order to best advise how to optimize, integrate, innovate, or update their tech stack to improve the customer experience. To make this happen, CIOs need to foster a collaborative partnership with their CMO to streamline the buyer’s journey and build a long-lasting customer relationship.

Creating innovative customer experiences requires an integrated partnership between your CIO and CMO. The responsibilities overlap in the area where customer experience and technology unite. These are areas where marketing and IT can work together to maximize their efforts:

  • Digital Strategy & Transformation 
  • Customer Experience 
  • Marketing & Commerce Integration 
  • Data & Insights 
  • KPI and Reporting 
  • Continuous Innovation 

Collaborating in these areas will bring together the best of marketing and technology. They say two heads are better than one, and in the business world, two leaders who are in alignment can also accelerate progress. This means work goes from concept to reality, data sets are translated into meaningful insights, the shopper becomes a buyer—and it all happens at an elevated level and on an expedited timeline.

 

How to align CIO and CMO: 3 ways to get started

 

Alignment is a process that happens with time, dedication, communication, and problem-solving. And the exact model of this partnership will be unique to each organization. So where do you start?

To establish a partnership, organizations can focus on three key business priorities. These areas combine the CIO and CMO’s individual expertise to better understand buyers and their digital journey, ensuring the basics are in place before improving, scaling, and automating.

 

Segmentation and personalization 

 

Segmentation brings a deeper understanding of different groups of buyers and provides more accurate information for decision-making moving forward. When it comes to market segmentation, the CMO takes the lead. They understand the importance of knowing the subgroups that make up a broader buyer market and have the expertise to identify their target niche based on shared customer characteristics. The CIO will be an effective partner by ensuring the CMO has the data necessary to group their targets effectively. If the data is not there, the CIO can address technology concerns and improve data and analytics capabilities. 

Personalization involves a cooperative effort between CIO and CMO. The CIO offers an understanding of the benefits of B2B personalization in optimizing the customer experience. They know that 79% of consumers are only likely to engage with an offer if it has been personalized to reflect previous interactions. The CMO has customer expertise to know how to start the process of personalization. Once both teams are on board, the CIO can evaluate technology considerations for enabling personalization. Data-driven insights are crucial to understanding a buyer’s needs and delivering a relevant, targeted user experience.

 

Communicating with global audiences 

 

Taking learnings from segmentation and personalization, the CMO will head up the effort to personalize content at scale. They will be crucial to understanding what buyers need and want to know during the research stage and in making purchase decisions. 

The CIO offers the nuts-and-bolts to make those communications clear and relevant, including details like local languages and tax information. Technology built with global audiences in mind ensures all content is personalized across a full range of global buyers based on who and where they are. 

 

Unifying technologies

 

As a technology expert, the CIO will take the lead in assessing current technologies and how they are integrated with distributors, as well as across business units and their different-but-related goals. Integration addresses a top buyer pain point: 42% of buyers said difficulty integrating suppliers’ tech solutions with their own solutions was a top pain point with supplier technology. 

The CIO evaluates all technologies that need to work together for the business to function effectively, including the commerce and fulfillment platform, marketing automation and CRM, and customer service. They identify the gaps and provide solutions for bridging them. The CMO will contribute to this process, primarily in the area of marketing automation, with the understanding that this system’s success not only depends on its individual technology but also how well it integrates with other systems.

These three steps are a natural starting point for creating a CIO and CMO partnership. This alignment not only builds cross-functional teams but it also deepens customer insight, maximizes marketing effectiveness, and integrates organizational technology—producing a foundation for competitive advantage. With shared goals and a collaborative plan, marketing and IT are on the same page. This level of focus and teamwork sparks innovation, ignites efficiencies, and fuels business growth.

 

If you’re looking to increase alignment across C-suite leadership, get started by downloading our white paper Solutions For The C-Suite: How CIO And CMO Collaboration Drives Digital Innovation.

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