Former Head of Marketing Operations and Creative Production
The New York Times
How would you characterize the state of marketing technology in your global enterprise today?
We are slowly evolving from disconnected, proprietary and redundant off-the-shelf tools to a more holistic, integrated application. We’re also evolving from an advertising-centric tech view to one that supports a marketing model.
Which stakeholders should be enjoined, and how should they be aligned to better identify, specify, acquire, integrate, deploy, manage and evaluate marketing technology investments and vendor performance?
The obvious stakeholders who should be involved include marketing teams (end users) to inform requirements, priorities and the technologies needed to build out solutions. The less obvious but critical stakeholders are marketing technologists (a new or non-existent role at many firms; also referred to as marketing technology product owners). These individuals provide the thought leadership necessary to couple business needs with thoughtful roadmaps, focusing on areas of investment—whether it’s process re-engineering, upskilling or investing in marketing capabilities (data and tool solutions). These individuals need to possess a hybrid skill sets to define the big-picture landscape (martech stack) of marketing capabilities needed, define the prioritization of those capabilities, and translate marketing’s requirements into technology “asks” for internal IT and third-party vendors. This group would also conduct necessary RFPs, evaluation of vendor solutions and promote proof-of-concepts when needed. They would be responsible for process re-engineering, KPI validation and tracking (to CBA estimates), and managing vendor relationships to ensure tools are performing as they should.
Two other stakeholders that are often overlooked but are necessary are finance (critical partners in building out and validating CBAs to justify investments and secure funding) and legal (critical for evaluating non-disclosure agreements and negotiating contract details with vendors).
How well is your organization utilizing data and building, deploying and optimizing marketing technology stacks to better equip and up-skill the modern marketing team?
First, there is a recognition of the importance of data. What’s lacking is a holistic approach to fix issues that is sensitive to the needs of marketing, not only in terms of analytics needs, but also from an executional standpoint. Those who are making data decisions currently really don’t understand what marketers do, and sadly, neither do many marketers. For example, having a single definition of product metadata or campaign code metadata are details that are often overlooked as those making decisions either don’t know what they don’t know, or they don’t take the time to include or reach out to experts.
There’s also more emphasis on analytics to build out insights. While much investment has been made in building out an integrated data environment to inform these ‘insights’, there is a lack of/shortage of skillsets/understanding of how to ‘execute’ on these insights more efficiently and seamlessly. I would say that emphasis on data integration has under estimated what tools would be needed to get new ideas into market more efficiently, effectively and seamlessly. And I would say that the line between where data needs to reside vs logic (i.e., tools), is not fully clarified.
Which categories, tools or areas of marketing technology have given you the most traction and are producing the most value from a marketing performance standpoint, and why?
We conducted a point-of-departure assessment of marketing tools about three years ago and prioritized two areas. First was to focus on low-hanging fruit or quick wins. This led to an implementation of on-site optimization or personalization tools. These were very visible and put more power into the hands of marketers to drive results but focused more on acquisition efforts. In parallel, we made an investment in core building blocks that would be necessary for future scale but, because of their complexity, had longer implementation timelines. These applications would benefit retention efforts as they were intended to harvest and leverage more first-party data. This included the deployment of a new content management solution to house digital assets, an integrated customer/prospect executional database, a campaign management tool to orchestrate cross-channel segmentation logic and customer journeys, and lastly a workflow tool to provide more transparency into resource utilization and capacity.
What are some of the contributors to escalating marketing technology delivery costs, failure rates, risks and unmet expectations in your organization?
There are a number of areas that contribute to project overruns and higher costs.
- Leadership gap: Shortage and lack of empowerment of skilled marketing technologists that truly understand the needs of the business and can translate those needs into solutions and hold implementation partners accountable. Most organizations underestimate this risk and hence don’t invest in these resources, which causes confusion around accountability and solution design.
- Lack of understanding: Many people don’t know what marketing tools are necessary (i.e., do we need a tool, or do we just need to redesign a process?) and how marketing tools differ from AdTech (a DMP is not a marketing customer database).
- Competing interests in setting priorities as individuals are often focused on what they know, not what they don’t
- Lack of skills: This is especially true within IT around the proper deployment of tools (IT also underestimates the complexity and often takes a build-versus-buy mentality).
- Lack of informed knowledge from those buying technology: Vendors oversell solutions only to find mid-implementation that they do not meet the needs of the business.
- Lack of leadership willing to invest in building blocks like data integration and governance: These are not as sexy as more visible online tools, so there’s a lack of appreciation for what is needed behind the walls to enable the sexy tools. Worse still is that there’s a lack of understanding or capacity to fully appreciate this, so it results in rework later or implementations fall short or take longer and cost more.
What is needed to improve the full marketing technology lifecycle management process when it comes to accountability, visibility, compliance, value creation, and spend management?
Centralized ownership and clear accountability of a marketing technology leader are critical. This individual and team should reside on the marketing side of the business. Discipline around prioritizing solutions is also needed such that the right problems are prioritized and addressed versus having a “solutions chasing problems” approach. This should also include a focus on process transformation. The marketing technologist would need to partner effectively across the business and IT, but ultimately, they are accountable for defining the roadmap, managing the budget, evaluating outcomes and leadership for embedding change in the organization.
What do you see as the primary challenges and obstacles to improving go-to-market processes through greater automation, data utilization and AI adoption?
- Lack of a single owner with the right skills and expertise to define and align a roadmap/strategy
- Leadership appetite for making investments when the return is not immediately obvious. A metaphor I use is that no one cares about how electricity is delivered to their home, but if it’s not done properly, you’ll pay for it later.
- Governance: Capabilities don’t fail; people do by bastardizing technology and using it for purposes that it wasn’t intended or designed for.
- Technology overload: There are more than 7,000 vendor solutions available, and trying to navigate it all is very difficult. Even the most experienced marketing tech resources have a challenge remaining focused with all of these vendors pinging them to look at their solution, or worse, getting the ear of more senior leaders, thus requiring them to now investigate and distract them from the work at hand. It can be hard to find a balance between focusing on getting current projects done while staying reasonably abreast of new technologies and the latest progress.
- Continuous process improvement with emphasis in knowing what problem you’re trying to solve before going down the road of looking at vendors or internal solutions
- Data: Lack of governance around metadata, data that is decentralized, lack of established source-of-record control, an understanding of staging and requirement differences for analytics versus execution
How can chief marketers play a more defining role in digital transformation across the enterprise?
First, they need to define what they want to do, understand why they cannot do it, and then rely on experts to help inform solutions. You must be open to new ideas but also focus on fixing the basics first. In addition, they must create focus in the organization rather than creating a lot of ricochet requests. Educate/translate how the benefits of MA will help the business, knowing that not all change is immediately transferable to ROI. Create and champion a marketing technologist role, and give them the resources to be successful. Support clarification of ownership, and help remove political barriers to success when there are competing interests. Be empathetic, rigorous and patient. Change takes time, so awareness of how much change they are driving into their organization requires a level of maturity and sensitivity so as not to overwhelm both the deliverers and receivers of change.
Madeline Delianides is a seasoned marketing technology leader, having held a number of positions responsible for the execution and transformation of marketing capabilities. She has an extensive and diverse background in direct marketing, process re-engineering, technology development, organizational change leadership and team development. Most recently, she was the Head of Marketing Operations and Creative Production at The New York Times. Her team of 45-plus marketing professionals executed all marketing promotions, including audience segmentation, multichannel targeting and creative production of marketing digital assets.
Prior to The New York Times, she was the Vice President of Marketing Segmentation Strategy and Execution at OppenheimerFunds (OFI), an asset management company. Prior to OFI, she was a Vice President with American Express, holding positions within marketing and technology transformation, information management and operations.
Over the course of her career, she has held a number of positions that have consistently bridged between business applications and technology. Her specialty is marketing technology, and she has more than 20 years of experience covering all facets of direct and digital marketing execution (i.e., segmentation design, campaign delivery, marketing capabilities, digital technology). Her expertise and that of her team has played a critical role in providing speed, agility and information insight as a source of competitive advantage for American Express, OppenheimerFunds and The New York Times. She has also held positions with Deloitte Consulting and Northrop Grumman.
Delianides holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA in finance from Hofstra University. She resides in New York City and spends her free time bicycling, playing golf, swimming and reading. She currently serves on the Georgia Tech Alumni Advisory Board.