Head down to any marketing department today and you're likely to hear the phrase 'MarTech' being used quite liberally. This has become one of the biggest buzzwords in the industry over the last year or so, and it's only set to get bigger in the coming years as these professionals look to reach more digital-savvy consumers.
But is this something that the IT department needs to get involved in as well? Sooner or later, the answer will almost certainly be yes, so it’s important to have a good understanding of what this trend involves, and when you should be stepping in.
MarTech, as the name suggests, is used to refer to any piece of marketing technology, this includes applications and other tools specifically designed to assist marketers reach potential customers. This can cover a wide range of solutions, but it frequently refers to web and cloud-based software aiming to make life easier for marketers.
For example, social media management platform Hootsuite would fall under this banner, as would email automation tools like Mailchimp. But it goes far beyond this. Indeed, in 2017, MarTech's Marketing Technology Landscape listed more than 5,000 companies operating in this space, up from just 150 in 2011.
Bringing MarTech out of the shadows
With so many MarTech providers out there, the biggest risk as far as the IT department is concerned may be that their marketing team goes out and starts procuring services from these companies without running them past the IT department first. Indeed, marketing is now one of the biggest sources of shadow IT - and the two departments will have very different priorities.
Marketing pros will argue that the often-lengthy process of going through the IT department is too time consuming and restrictive, especially as they want to get up and running quickly and start testing out new tools. IT pros, on the other hand, will feel there are very good reasons why these processes are in place.
And these reasons aren't just limited to security. Without visibility into what tools the marketing team is using, IT may have no idea how far their network now extends, where data resides, or how to integrate this into other parts of the business. In an environment where having a single source of information is a priority for many firms, having MarTech tools with crucial data siloed from the rest of the business or creating difficulties when being integrated into other applications, can lead to greater inefficiency due to duplicated effort, or more errors.
Addressing the security concerns
Marketing is an industry that lives on data. Lead generation techniques will be dependent on professionals having a large bank of personal contact information to work with, and this is naturally a huge potential security risk, especially in today's heightened regulatory environment.
With many marketing activities now reliant on third-party MarTech vendors, this could be a particularly big issue. One survey conducted earlier this year found four out of five marketing professionals (80%) don't trust their vendors to keep them safe from risks associated with GDPR and how they use personal data.
Marketing pros aren't security experts, and while many of their concerns center around exactly what constitutes consent in regards to the use of the personal data they hold, businesses also need to work hard to ensure they aren't exposed to data breaches when using third parties, and this is where the expertise of the IT department will be invaluable.
When should the IT department step in?
Therefore, it pays for the IT department to take a close interest in what your marketing teams are doing. But it can be a fine line to walk between being too open and too restrictive in what you allow. You don't what to end up with a reputation or looking over other departments' shoulders all the time telling them what they can and can't do, but by the same token, you can't be completely hands-off.
IT directors should therefore work to maintain good communication with the chief marketing officer and establish a clear process for when and to what extent IT gets involved. For example, it may be useful to let marketers run small-scale trials on new software without interference, as they will be able to more easily identify what works best for them. But when they want to scale up to company-wide level, this needs to be the point where IT steps in to examine what risks and technical issues this may lead to.