The Best Way To Stop Marketing From Getting Around IT: Teach ‘Em

Written by Todd L. Michaud
December 1st, 2009

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).

In the past, the relationship between marketing and IT was often strained by marketers’ seemingly innate attraction to the “shiny new toy” and IT’s needs to follow structure, process and sometimes even a project plan (Gasp!).

This tension was only made worse as marketing vendors averted the perceived IT roadblock by providing completely outsourced platforms. “Don’t worry, you don’t even need to tell your IT guy that you are doing this.” But the world of marketing is changing at a rapid pace. Social media technologies, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are disruptively becoming the new marketing platform. Marketers who have been used to “talking to their customers” are now finding that success means “engaging their customers in an active dialogue.” Listening is now more important than talking, and transparency is the new currency of brand image.

Historically, many franchisees have not been allowed to launch their own Web sites, have a Twitter feed or do a blog about their stores. I used to believe that it was extremely dangerous to let franchisees have their own voice on the Internet. I was alarmed by the idea of a franchisee putting out questionable content or choosing platforms that would not represent the brand’s quality in IT (“Two Guys In A Garage Hosting”). But I have come to understand that everyone has the ability to provide a message about the brand to hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. Why would you stop the people who have committed a significant amount of their time and money to your brand from having a voice? Once you come to understand that you no longer own the message, the biggest advantage will be having a bunch of people on your side of the dialogue supporting the brand.

The good news is that we’re getting to the point where IT is going to be much less of an implementor and much more of a technology coach. IT will no longer need to control the project, but instead become a subject matter expert in the new platforms. This will cause less friction between the groups and less need for marketers to attempt to end-around of the IT department. And this “teaching and guidance” role should get more strategic. Indeed, the times when IT is seen as an interfering unit rather than a helpful one may even come to a close.

This dramatic change in IT’s reality will bring a marked change to the relationship between IT and marketing. Given that many business partners do not understand how IT works, for IT leaders to truly be effective, they must have a detailed understanding of how the business works. This understanding allows both sides to have a productive dialogue about technologies that meet the business’ needs because the IT person has taken the time to understand the “why” behind those needs.

Such an understanding is a responsibility that I personally take very seriously. I am constantly seeking to know more about how marketing, operations and supply chain operate so that I can better serve the organization. My latest topic is social media. I recently read three books on the topic: Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith and Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. Until reading these books, I thought I understood what social media was. What I came to know is that, while I was very familiar with the tools of social media–blogs, YouTube, Twitter, etc.–I did not understand the impact these tools have on the world of marketing.


One Comment | Read The Best Way To Stop Marketing From Getting Around IT: Teach ‘Em

  1. bill bittner Says:

    Hey Todd,

    Interesting thoughts, but although my background is also retail IT, my focus has been on the supply side. There is nothing worse than the marketing side over promising and the supply side under delivering. I agree the new media present challenges, but I think your analysis under estimates the coordinating function of IT. The IT department does not only implement individual projects, they are often the ones who know what both the left and the right hands of an organization are trying to do and can coordinate business processes in addition to technology. If an organization cannot deliver the goods all the marketing in the world will not improve sales.


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