The marketing workflow at a cutting-edge software company looks like an aerial night view of a densely populated city: a sprawling web of tech that tracks, triggers, schedules, segments, automates, optimizes and reports things like website performance, lead handoffs, customer and prospect behavior, email sends and programmatic advertising campaigns.
It’s a cluster. And to successfully pull it off, you need a marketing operation that looks more like the inside of an air traffic control tower than anything you’d see on Mad Men.
That’s where marketing technologists come in.
What Is a Marketing Technologist?
The role started sprouting up in the late 2000s, prompting Scott Brinker to give his 2010 talk, “Rise of the Marketing Technologist,” where he identified that “technology decisions and marketing strategy are intertwined,” and that a new, niche role — a hybrid between marketer and IT pro — would lead the way in the digital-first era of marketing.
Now you can spot marketing technologist roles across a wide range of companies, sometimes using the term marketing automation or marketing operations instead.
Marketing technologist is a catchall term, and changes its shape based on the size and type of company. (Brinker himself buckets the job title into four common archetypes.)
To get a clearer picture of what the job is like from the perspective of those in the trenches, we talked to three marketing technologists. Below, they share their insights on what people interested in the role should know.
Their responses have been edited and condensed.
Senior director of marketing operations, Apollo GraphQL
Marketing technologist, Numberly
Senior marketing operations manager, Fidelis Cybersecurity
How did you get into marketing technology?
Braund: I’ve been in the marketing technology field for about 10 years now. I came in through what I’ve learned from talking to other people my age in similar roles is a common path: A lot of early analytics roles and reporting roles that were dealing with some kind of automation, whether it’s building calculations in Excel or doing early Access database stuff or using other reporting tools. That built up a good set of skills that matched what I needed to do for what we’re calling marketing technology now, which for me started with marketing automation.
Champsaur: I shaped the role as it went on. I started with a more marketing-focused role, and I had a high affinity for what our company was doing in data science, and I really liked working with that team. My title always changed — I started as a CRM display product manager, and then I was a data product manager.
Oloyede: I got in by happenstance. After college I interned at a company that was an early adopter of Eloqua, one of the tougher marketing technology platforms to learn. I got a chance to learn it and the operational processes. I also learned Marketo. So with the knowledge of those two platforms, I got recruited to do consulting, and that’s where I developed skills around the strategy in marketing technology.
What are the main responsibilities of a marketing technologist?
Braund: Marketing tech stack strategy, budget management, technology governance and making that stack work together and integrate well. There are several technologies that look very similar. Your job is to decide what capabilities are required to support your use cases and provide those with as little duplication as possible. We help people with technology evaluations and implementing and managing many of those tools.
Champsaur: To sit between the marketing part and the tech/IT/data science part of an organization, and really help them understand each other. Make sure tech understands the goals and objectives and that marketing understands the constraints and what’s feasible or not.
My company’s role is to help brands use their data more efficiently and build better relationships with their customers. And we do that through a wide range of things, from CRM to providing operating platforms, to programmatic activation, to strategy.
Oloyede: The core skill set of the job is the technology and the process and operations part. So half the role is that of a marketing technologist and half the role is marketing operations.
Part of the job is managing tools themselves — not just the components of the tool (the campaign, the assets) — and that requires updates, management of processes, maintenance, support.
This role is marketing 100 percent, but it has dotted lines to a bunch of other business units. A big part of this role is getting leads to sales, qualifying names for sales, managing the prospects, managing your customers on the back end and their digital footprints. Other departments come to you because you’re the communication tool, and they need to communicate to customers and prospects.
Most Common Responsibilities of a Marketing Technologist (Source: Survey by chiefmartec.com / MarTech Today)
- Train and support marketing staff on using marketing technology products.
- Research and recommend new marketing technology products.
- Operate marketing technology products as an administrator.
- Design and manage internal workflows and processes.
- Integrate marketing technology products with each other.
- Monitor data quality within marketing technology products.
- Design, run and optimize/test marketing campaigns.
- Architect the overall marketing stack of all marketing technology products used.
What’s a challenging aspect of the job?
Braund: Technology purchasing decisions can happen in siloed groups, and now we’re tasked to centralize that and have a check-and-balance process. Introducing that friction to bringing on technology is difficult, because people aren’t usually fans of additional steps, that extra work. We ask them to think through questions like: “What are you trying to accomplish? What is this tool going to do that other things can’t already do?”
Champsaur: It’s still actively evolving, the tech is constantly changing, the ecosystem is really shaky and moving. Cookies going away is a big thing for the ecosystem. I think the role is probably going to continue to evolve with the technology and with the needs of companies.
Oloyede: Keeping up with everything. Technology moves so fast. So trying to keep up with the technology and the marketing and the market itself.
What qualities are often found in successful marketing technologists?
Braund: One trait we always used to say we try to interview for is curiosity. If something’s wrong, you want your intuition to be to dive in and figure out why, troubleshoot it, break down what’s the root cause of this thing, so we can figure out how to solve it. But also, when you’re working and partnering with people, that curiosity means you’re going to try to understand their perspective and their goals before you jump into a solution.
Champsaur: Being curious. It’s a really big environment, and because you’re halfway between marketing and tech, it’s really important to have that curiosity for both sides.
It’s also important to have a sense of humility in your work, because you’re talking to people who are a lot more specialized in their fields than you are. If you have that sense of humility to ask others questions and really try to better understand what they do and don’t assume you already know, I think it is really big in that role.
Oloyede: In this role you have a lot of dotted lines to different business units, so your ability to communicate has to be huge. Yes you have to be logical, but the biggest soft skills are communication and collaboration. You have to be able to bring people together and communicate with people who don’t normally speak the same language. That’s what’s missing in the role. Because I can teach you software, but it’s hard to teach those soft skills.
What advice do you have for people trying to make the leap into marketing technology?
Braund: Build up a foundation of data literacy and how to relate data together.
Champsaur: If there’s a project that you see other people in your company working on that looks cool, just ask if you can help. The more you do that, the more you’re shaping your job to be what you actually want to do.
Oloyede: If you’re on the creative side and you want to get into the marketing technology side, offer to help with data management. Trust me, they’ll want the help. And you can get in and learn the tool without “messing anything up.” If you don’t know anything and don’t know anybody, get a MailChimp or Constant Contact account and just play around with it, build some email campaigns.
Common Marketing Technology Tools
- Google Analytics
What resources do you recommend for newcomers?
Braund: There’s a handful of Slack communities out there that are really powerful and popular. I know MO Pros is a huge one. Getting into those communities is important; you can tap into people’s experience, and there are job boards.
Oloyede: Find a community, jump in there and just start firing away questions. It’s the fastest way to learn, because there are other professionals just like you — new people trying to learn, advanced people who have been in it for a decade and everything in between. They can answer questions that aren’t necessarily in a white paper or e-book. Marketo, Pardot, HubSpot or Eloqua all have their own communities, so jumping in those is a great way to start. There are independent communities; Mops Pros is one of them.
Any other nuggets of wisdom you can share?
Braund: Understanding how to successfully drive change is important. I don’t know if anybody ever fully masters implementing change. It’s super difficult. Getting some skills and developing a plan for how to implement and drive change is important.
Champsaur: Don’t hesitate to ask questions, ask for advice, ask for feedback. You’ll be better at your job.
Oloyede: The major tools are HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua and Pardot. If you can learn one of those, you’ve got a foot in the door.... And work on your communication skills — speaking clearly and concisely, listening with empathy and building trust.