Thursday, August 21, 2014

MarTech Conference: Chief Marketing Technology Officers Come Out and Play

I got home late last night from the inaugural two-day MarTech conference in Boston, which was simply terrific. Conference chair Scott Brinker assembled an all-star cast of presenters and, more important, a finely balanced mix of topics from industry trends to practical issues of planning, hiring, organization, and technology choices.  (I guess I should note that I also presented and contributed a few thoughts on the agenda, but credit for the success goes elsewhere.)

While the formal topic of the conference was “marketing technology”, its real theme was “marketing technology leadership”, and in particular emergence of the “chief marketing technology officer” as a critical role. Many attendees held that job, either in title or de facto responsibilities. Most were clearly delighted to find so many other people sharing the same opportunities and challenges. They had probably developed a secret handshake by the time the conference was over, although as a mere consultant I wasn’t told what it was.

The presentations were consistently excellent, which in itself is close to amazing: I guess Scott had checked everyone out carefully before extending his invitations.  Different attendees probably had their own favorites depending on their own interests. That being the case, I think it doesn't insult anyone to say that the two that most resonated with me personally were by Laura McLellan of Gartner – source of the famous “marketing will spend more than IT by 2017” forecast, which she reported has already come true -- and Clorox Director of Marketing Technology Shawn Goodin.

The factoid I recall from McLellan’s presentation was the 81% of large companies already have someone in the chief marketing technologist role – so that particular future had already arrived. My favorite part of Goodin’s talk was a marketing technology capability heat map that displayed all of a company’s tech strengths and weaknesses on one page.

I was also immensely impressed with SapientNitro CTO Sheldon Monteiro’s description of their in-house training program to grow their own chief marketing technology officers – and in particular his response to the objection that people they train might then leave: “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

The next edition of MarTech is already planned for March 31- April 1 in San Francisco, presumably to be followed by another Boston edition next year. I’m sure they’ll make the obvious extensions like more tracks and pre/post-conference intensive trainings. But why stop there? This is basically summer camp for marketing tech geeks, so I’ve already suggested to Scott that he add audience participation including:

  • role-playing: if marketers ran tech and techies ran marketing; if buyers acted like vendors and vendors acted like buyers
  • TV show knockoffs: CMTO Shark Tank business plans for marketing technology investments; The Vendor Selection Dating Game; Martech Recruiting Bachelorette; CSI MarTech Unit analyzing project failures; and of course Survivor: CMTO
  • board games: CMTO versions of Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders, and Dungeons and Dragons
  • scavenger hunt: find the best short list of products via Web research in a fixed period of time, without ever talking to a salesperson
  • camp fire stories: vendors share their scariest client experiences, while wearing paper bag masks to protect their jobs
  • tall tale telling contest: who can make the most ludicrous claim with a straight face (note: separate divisions for buyers and vendors).
  • not to mention a hackathon, talent show, and, karaoke.

Seriously, Scott – who would not pay good money to attend?


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