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Building 'The Stack' Can Be Tall Order Politically, Says Xerox Marketing Technologist

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The "marketing stack" has become a tall order for marketers in recent years as the need for technology explodes, along with the vendors to provide it. It's also led companies to struggle with the politics and complexities of making the whole thing work.

Duane Schulz
Duane Schulz

In "The Art of the Stack: Piecing Together Your Marketing Technology," panel discussion at Ad Age's IQ Conference Jan. 17, marketing and marketing-technology leaders from Hilton Hotels, Prudential, Nestle Waters and Xerox will discuss how to solve one of marketing's most complex – and expensive – problems. In this interview with Advertising Age, Duane Schulz, chief marketing technologist and head of digital at Xerox, gives his take on how to navigate the politics of the marketing stack, why more companies have chief marketing technologists, and why a "marketing cloud" may not be the answer.

Ad Age: What's the key to successfully piecing together a marketing-tech stack?

Mr. Schulz: First you have to have the support of the entire organization. That's both executive support and in all of the marketing groups and IT. Without it, you'll never break down the silos. The next thing is to have transparent access to everything that's in use. If you can't, you can build a stack, but it won't get implemented. You'll run around behind them trying to convince them that maybe MailChimp isn't the best solution and maybe Marketo would be better.

Ad Age: Ideally you'd start with a tabula rasa, but almost no one can. So how do you decide what to keep and what to add?

Mr. Schulz: It depends on what are your aspirations for use of that technology? What are the marketing functions they're enabling? We built out a three-year progression of ambitions for specific layers of the marketing process, and then started slotting in the tools.

It's often very political in terms of different people wanting or having control of different elements. Again, that's where you need executive support. That's why we've seen this move toward naming a chief marketing technologist and giving them the badge.

Ad Age: Do companies really have to have a chief marketing technologist?

Mr. Schulz: I do think that's a key piece. It doesn't necessarily need to be a standalone function. It was for us in the first couple of years. But it needs to be embedded at the right level of executive sponsorship. So I reported to the CMO and was a step away from the CEO, so I had the organizational gravitas to call high and get people to do things. …Now there are CMTs coming out our ears in different companies, because people were spending a lot of money on these tools in a haphazard fashion.

Ad Age: What kind of background does a chief marketing technologist need?

Mr. Schulz: You have to have some level of IT background. For the first 10 years of my career, I was an IT manager. I moved to marketing 20 years ago. But I can at least sit down with the IT guys and decode the language. At the same time I'm a marketing guy. Most of the people I've met in this space have some software development background, or have been working in digital marketing.

Ad Age: There are a lot of "marketing clouds" out there. What are they, and do you need them?

Mr. Schulz: So far the marketing clouds getting pushed are mono vendor or dominant vendors with open [application programming interfaces]. Obviously the big dogs -- SAP, Adobe, Oracle, etc. -- have these cloud offerings where they say they can do everything from soup to nuts. But the more they get into it, the more they realize they can't be A-plus providers of everything, so they open it up to third parties. Those are clouds I believe in. I don't believe in all-in-one stuff. Nobody's there yet. What's emerging is a marketing operating system with lots of subroutines that work together, with maybe some unifying hubs. I'm thinking more like the Salesforce model, which was built around the notion of all these apps. One was Marketo, which spawned a public company.

Ad Age: Something that has a bearing on what you need in a marketing stack is whether to bring programmatic trading in house, or develop dedicated agency operations, or outsource everything. What's your take?

Mr. Schulz: I think it depends on scale. Very large enterprises, maybe it makes sense to bring it in house. We have neither the scale nor the resources to set something that big up internally, so we rely on outsourcing.

Want to learn more about the pitfalls in building a marketing stack? Sign up for the Ad Age IQ Marketing & Technology Conference here.