Marrying IT and marketing

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Barry Abel
Barry Abel

Let's face it: Marketing and IT have traditionally been like oil and water. How can IT, a division doggedly focused on internal issues such as ROI and reducing spending, find common ground with marketing with its attention geared more toward external factors and its propensity to spend money to make money?

Yet, in the somewhat rare instances that IT and marketing come together with a common purpose, the result can bear phenomenal success for the organization. Marketing and IT need each other. Unite them and the sky is the limit.

IT often controls the deliverability, communication and measurement tools for the marketing message and, therefore, the success of a company's marketing efforts. When marketing communicates its needs to IT, it enhances the successful delivery of company messages that drive sales and revenue. When the company is profitable, more resources can be made available to IT, further improving productivity for the entire organization.

While it may not be readily apparent, marketing and IT typically share high-level goals — mostly involving the overall success of the company. However, to achieve these goals, the departments must pool their knowledge, set up lines of communication and stop playing political and budget games.

Building a joint IT/marketing team makes sense, especially for marketers. After all, IT involvement is essential to the success of many marketing initiatives. For example, data collected by IT is instrumental in helping marketing increase response rates for e-mail campaigns, achieve its goals for converting prospects into customers and do the backend work to sustain customer retention programs.

The first step towards creating true teamwork between the disparate departments is to decide who should be on the joint IT/marketing team. Select people who understand the big picture and want to play a major role in growing the business and who enjoy working with others.

Because team members will share the challenges and goals of both groups, there needs to be a clear understanding of the individual departmental demands on each team member. Once these demands are acknowledged, IT/marketing team members can work together to create a list of joint goals and deliverables. An essential component of any team — especially a cross-departmental team — is effective lines of communications to keep team members and managers from both departments informed of decisions, challenges and successes.

To ensure a strong IT/marketing team for the future, engage representatives from both departments to interview candidates for key marketing and IT positions. Use the interview process to screen for people who can work effectively with all team members and support the team's goals. Choose marketers who have an aptitude for technology and an understanding of how IT can improve marketing performance. Look for IT professionals who appreciate how marketing helps drive the revenue that fuels business growth and who have the desire to help marketing initiatives succeed. Choose team members carefully and you have all the makings of a successful IT/marketing coalition that has the power to make major contributions to the bottom line.

Barry Abel is VP of Field Operations, Message Systems.


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