Why Marketing Must Work Hand-In-Glove with IT

By Holly Hughes06.10.2019

Can marketing’s creative, spontaneous spirit productively partner with IT’s more structured, security-obsessed culture?

It has to.

The most brilliant big ideas produced by the marketing team will go nowhere fast if the technology needed to execute is not properly identified, executed and managed.

At fintechs, traditional banks and credit unions alike, the marketing technology stack and functionality continues to grow: We see it in CRM systems, lead generation applications and data management platforms. Then there are social selling tools, bots, and other forms of marketing automation.

Banking’s continued march to digitization and personalization makes it imperative that the “right brain” of a financial services organization’s marketing operation is in sync with its “left brain” in IT. Real-time customer data—and all the insights it can generate—is too precious to waste, as can happen in a dysfunctional marketing-IT relationship. It can cause as much damage as a disjointed relationship between sales and marketing.

More bankers need to think like Anne Boden, founder and CEO of Starling Bank, a digital-only, London-based bank. Anne has described Starling as a technology business with a banking license. On its website, the bank explains that “We’ve built a full-stack bank, which means we’ve created many of our systems from scratch—software that’s fast, secure and making banking technology unique.”

So, what can you do to improve the marketing and IT relationship to set your organization up for success?

  • Hire and develop tech-savvy marketers. These people should know enough about technology to share the right information and ask the right questions when teaming with IT colleagues. Even a marketer’s cursory command of key martech (marketing technology) platforms can lead to the development, in collaboration with IT, of more customer-centric systems, products and marketing campaigns.
  • Plan, then plan some more. IT needs lead time and can’t do its best work when forced to respond to last minute requests from marketing. By looking over the horizon, marketers can devise and communicate clearly defined, long-term goals and involve IT earlier rather than at the point of execution, allowing IT time for feedback and planning on their end.
  • Be agile. The “agile” software development methodology is now the standard in most IT departments. Marketers not only have to plan effectively, but they have to also communicate the business value of IT requests in order to make it into the right IT sprint and keep their projects on track.
  • Invest in and manage the martech stack. BAI research shows that only 11 percent of marketers completely agreed with this statement: “My bank is operating at a state-of-the-art level in marketing analytics, predictive marketing and customer segmentation.”

But there’s hope. According to a survey of bankers for BAI’s 2019 Banking Outlook report, the leading investment priorities for banks lie in technology and integrated platforms. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of bankers listed tech as their top priority for the next two years. Banking’s digital transformation—driven by the alignment of marketing and IT—will require smart, substantial and sustained investment that will produce rewards for all stakeholders.

Financial services marketers’ strategic vision and creativity are no longer enough to excel in the digital age. They need a working knowledge of how to analyze the rivers of data generated in an omnichannel ecosystem and make smart business decisions from that data.

To do all that, marketers must share business objectives and technology needs with their partners in IT with greater lead times and frequency. When both sides understand each other in conversations about goals, data, metrics, and martech needs, great things can happen.

A successful relationship is absolutely essential amid banking’s digital transformation. As right-brain maxims go, you can’t spell “marketing” in today’s world without “IT.”

Holly Hughes is chief marketing officer for BAI, a Chicago-based financial services association and a leading industry partner for breakthrough information and intelligence. Reprinted by permission from BAI Banking Strategies