The Secret to a Successful Relationship With Your CIO

Marketers must be transparent, trusting (and trustworthy), collaborative

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Let's face it; we marketers live in a new world. We continue to rely heavily on analytics and big data, and we're in search of new technological solutions to better personalize the customer experience across all channels. When it comes to making the right kinds of technology investments to better reach and serve customers, it's increasingly become the province of the chief marketing officer.

As the CMO continues to rise as the next power player in technology, it's become even more important for the CMO and CIO to work together, to ensure the right investments in innovations are being made, and at the same time, tie to the company's broader strategy.

Small to medium size businesses, especially, face a slew of challenges when it comes to marketing and IT, including a lack of resources and staff, among other issues, so it's imperative that CMOs and CIOs reach across the table and work together with a common set of goals. By embracing this partnership, marketers and technologists can look for new ways to connect to customers, optimize channels and analyze big data. But how do we do that? How do we really work together in the most efficient and effective way possible?

Here, the key elements that can really make the CMO and CIO relationship work:

Transparency: As a marketer, when I'm working with the IT Department, I need options. I need answers. I need help understanding the technical complexity of certain projects or if a work around makes sense. Ultimately, I want to understand what IT is really capable of and comfortable delivering. Marketers must demonstrate to IT that the business strategy is at the forefront and that the customer is at the center of their decisions.

On the other side, IT needs to better understand that marketers are ultimately responsible for business growth and innovation. Ultimately, transparency in terms of wants, needs, possibilities and capabilities is crucial between both the marketing and IT departments.

Trust: As a CMO, you meet with your CIO on a weekly basis. You talk to each other, update each other, but so what? Does that really lead to trust?

As a marketer, I have to know that the IT Department really can execute what I need. And the IT Department needs to have confidence that I'm not asking for frivolous tasks. Through transparency, CMOs and CIOs can engender this trust, which at the end of the day, will help drive the success of the overall relationship.

Reputation Management: We all know the stereotypes. IT views marketing as the group that races around thinking everything is a priority, setting unrealistic expectations with IT, because we don't understand technical complexity.

On the other hand, IT seems to get away with missing deadlines, changing priorities or claiming lack of resources to explain why projects aren't completed on time. So how do we combat these unfair stereotypes? Instead of viewing ourselves as roadblocks, both marketing and IT should make themselves enablers to improved business performance.

Discuss what is possible, and work together to accomplish common goals. That will make for more collaboration and joint problem solving, making marketing and IT important allies. The CMO and CIO must be the ones to lead this charge and ensure that a real partnership emerges.

If CMOs and CIOs can support each other on an ongoing basis, enable one another to accomplish goals and view one another as allies, then ultimately the relationship between marketing and IT can be truly successful.

Nancy Costopulos is Chief Marketing Officer of the American Marketing Association.
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