There’s a known gulf between marketing and engineering / IT teams. But despite differing work attitudes, educational backgrounds and departmental priorities, many organizations go out of their way to create strong working relationships between these groups—and their CMOs and CTOs.
Here are five approaches major companies have found effective for maximizing their tech-marketing partnerships:
Have The CMO And CTO Sit Next To Each Other
At adtech firm SteelHouse, CMO David Simon’s team works frequently with chief product officer Marwan Soghaier’s department, covering everything from the best way to design new products right down to the wording of FAQs. Simon says one way to ensure collaboration between marketing and tech honchos is to have them sit next to each other.
“[It] sounds insignificant but is incredibly significant,” he says. “We can hear what is going on in each other’s world all day.”
Tech and product need to “Stay in close cooperation with the CMO and the marketing team,” Soghaier says, “so they can both adequately and accurately communicate what has been designed to the outside world . . . and provide that visibility to internal development teams.” SteelHouse recently developed major feature releases for their products, working with their marketing department to ensure large brands using their product knew about the “value and the benefit” of the updates.
Build A Roadmap
Rahul Kashyap, CTO of cybersecurity firm Cylance, says marketing can’t exist on its own: Companies—especially companies planning to scale—need a roadmap that sets opportunities and strategies for engineering and marketing to improve the organization’s bottom line, and building that roadmap needs to be a priority.
“It’s important to know your capabilities and have a built-out process so that marketing comes out at [the] right time,” he says, “and there’s proper handoff of info on both sides for how capabilities are marketed, and to ensure marketing has the info they need for messaging. This is something to jump onto early in a company’s life.”
Shaun Walsh, Cylance’s senior vice president of marketing, believes putting engineers in front of customers is the most important thing you can do. “They hear customer problems, and have such an intimate understanding of the problems that their conclusions always startle marketing people,” he says.
Collaborate On Data
Groupon CTO Colin Bodell feels that data is a place where there’s especially strong room for collaboration between engineering and marketing, especially as much of today’s marketing is data-driven.
“That doesn’t mean being a slave to the data and doing exactly what the data says, but data in its consolidated and recorded form is almost an invitation to discussion and creativity,” he says. “I find the best relationships between CTOs and marketers is one where we can look at the data, compare the data, ask questions, and then have a meaningful discussion about the approach we want to take to engage with customers.”
This approach helps Bodell in his role. “That dialogue,” he says, “allows me as an engineering leader to put the right technology in place.”
Make Time To Talk Despite Long Distances
The CMO and CTO of influencer marketing team Experticity face a dilemma when it comes to meeting face-to-face. The company is spread out between offices in Utah, the Bay Area and Washington state. CMO Kevin Knight is based in Experticity’s Oakland offices, while CTO Greg Cox is based in their offices outside of Seattle.
Knight and Cox say that one of the keys to collaborations between their teams is to meet in person frequently. When either is visiting the other’s office, they make sure to have dinner together in order to catch up beyond the usual video chats and conference calls.
Their respective teams also make sure to leverage each other’s strengths for large-scale projects. When the company ran a series of Facebook ads linking to an immersive quiz, Experticity’s engineering team worked closely with marketing to design one that met the company’s needs.
“Kevin is our CMO but has a great product sensibility, having worked at Facebook and Pinterest,” Cox says. “People in product organization, like project managers, work closely with him to get input on the products we build so we can get his insights. We work in a very unsiloed way, with a lot of cross-pollination between marketing, engineering and product.”
Have All Teams Embrace The Same Workflow
Mozilla’s marketing, engineering and product teams worked feverishly behind the scenes to prep for the public launch of the Firefox Quantum Browser, the not-for-profit’s highest-profile product launch in years. Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff explains that the marketing team’s workflow has evolved to become more like an engineering or product team.
“We have approximately 100 people in a full agile lead model, just like our engineering team,” he says. “The language and terms we use is just like an engineering team. If you’re a CMO trying to identify how to work better with [an] engineer team, don’t translate into a language you don’t understand—instead, work on an equal playing field as peers.”
Kaykas-Wolff believes the teams don’t have to use different processes. “There’s a farce that exists, and it’s the idea that you have to fight for resources in an organization,” he says. “When you work in a similar fashion, things get along.”