Enabling the Rise of the CMT – Introducing the Digital Marketing Reference Model

Key Concepts

Digital marketing is rising in prominence in most large organizations, with the CMO function assuming new technical responsibilities and forging much closer relationships with the CIO’s office than ever before. Taking this even further, over 80% of large organizations (as of 2014) have added a new role called the “CMT” – Chief Marketing Technologist – with joint responsibilities across marketing, strategy and technology.

Moving forward, with CMO/CMT allocations expected to surpass those of their CIO partners within a few years (per Gartner), they must grapple with CIO headaches like expanding budgets, strategic alignment, technology governance, enterprise architecture, portfolio management and allocation of resources between run/grow/transform the business. And with leading organizations spending over 30% of their marketing budgets on digital initiatives, the number of software/cloud solutions, platforms, projects and vendors will continue to proliferate at both the corporate and business unit levels. This means that the CMT needs to apply holistic, enterprise architecture practices like portfolio rationalization, business alignment and strategic planning to manage complexity and overall performance on an ongoing basis.

With this in mind, this article provides a short background on a few of the dynamics impacting the rise of the CMT, followed by the introduction of a Digital Marketing Reference Model to help rationalize the increasingly complex world of digital marketing in the context of the broader marketing mandate. A brief discussion of strategic planning for the digital marketing domain is provided here as well.

Background – The Rise of the CMT

In their July-August 2014 HBR article “The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist” (R1407F), Scott Brinker and Laura McLellan make the case that the role variously called “Chief Marketing Technologist” (CMT), “Global Head of Marketing Technology”, “Business Information Officer for Global Marketing”, etc. is critical to leading and managing marketing’s “digital marketing” mission.

This is due to the fact that:

  • Marketing is rapidly becoming one of the most technology-dependent functions in business
  • Customer and prospect engagement are increasingly accomplished through digital channels
  • Customer perception of most firms is dramatically impacted by the perception of digital tools offered to them associated with that firm
  • Executives saying that digital marketing is the most important technology investment
  • Digital marketing budgets are growing
  • Daunting management challenges associated with the proliferation of vendors, platforms and solutions covering an increasingly broad domain of capabilities (e.g. marketing automation, social media management, CRM, customer facing apps, etc.) exist

For this reason, organizations are increasingly bringing in the CMT role to achieve the following goals:

  • Set the technology vision and strategy for marketing
  • Align marketing technology with business goals
  • Champion greater experimentation and more-agile management of the marketing function’s capabilities
  • Serve as a liaison to IT and participate in the evaluation and selection of technology providers
  • Help develop new digital business models (i.e., innovation).
  • Act as change agents, working within the marketing function and across the company to create competitive advantage
  • Act as the connective tissue between four primary constituencies:
    • CMO and other senior marketing executives
    • CIO and the IT organization
    • Broader marketing team (including other marketing disciplines)
    • Outside software and service providers

So that’s a LOT of things to think about. How does a CMT get their hands around all this?

Borrowing from the CIO Toolset – Introducing a Digital Marketing Reference Model

While the CIO’s role varies considerably and is way beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say they’ve had to become adept at using various tools for survival over the years, including those used by business/technology strategists and EA (Enterprise Architect) practitioners. These include domain-specific (e.g. “collaboration and communication”) capability reference models, maturity models, portfolio rationalization models, governance and operating models, EA frameworks, etc.

As a practitioner consulting with CIOs in this space for many years, I’ve adopted and built many models of the type listed above, including what I call “Assessment” or “Reference” models used to get an initial feel for an organization’s current state with respect to a specific domain of capability. This allows me to work with customers to quickly determine interest areas and pain points to focus on, often pursuant to a strategic planning effort related to the subject domain.

Because marketing in general and digital marketing in particular encompasses so many different areas and is evolving so quickly, it is difficult to represent a holistic view in any sort of usable format. To address this gap, here we introduce a “Digital Marketing Reference Model” which should be helpful in any assessment/strategic planning work that your organization is pursuing (or plans to pursue). How this model can be used as part of your digital marketing planning is covered in the next section, including a sampling of questions specific to a few tiers of the model. Descriptions specific to each tier of the model will not be covered in detail here, as this material is otherwise well-covered in the available literature on digital marketing from vendors, analysts and other experts in this space.


Finally, a “vendor”/”product” tier could be easily be added to this model, but the vendor-to-capability mapping for this broad a category is a very complex undertaking and beyond the scope of this article. In the marketing automation part of this world, the following organizations are provided for reference (not intended to be a complete list):

Act-On, Adobe/Neoplane, Aprimo, CallidusCloud, Hubspot, IBM/Unica, Marketo, Microsoft/Dynamics, , Net-Results, Ontrapoint, Oracle/Eloqua, Salesforce.com/Pardot/ExactTarget, Salesfusion/Loopfuse, and Silverpop.

Excellent third party coverage of this (and other related) categories is provided by analysts like Gartner, Forrester, etc. (e.g. The Forrester Wave – Lead to Revenue Management Platform Vendors Q1 2014).

Strategic Planning for Digital Marketing

As mentioned previously, solid strategic planning is critical for the success of digital marketing, as with other digital domains. While comprehensive coverage of strategic planning is beyond the scope of this article, the following “10 Step Strategic Planning Model” is provided below to help get you started.

10 Step Strategic Planning Model

A generic 10 Step Strategic Planning Model is provided below for reference. This is adapted from a blog (and paper) on the topic of strategy development from March 2014 (blog reference: What’s Your Altitude? Navigating the 5 Levels of Strategy).


Again, while beyond the scope of this article, this generic model could easily be applied to the digital marketing domain working in conjunction with the Digital Marketing Reference Model provided in the previous section to help with the “Envisioning (& Discovery)” phase of the strategic planning work (items #1-5 in the above diagram). The next section provides a starter set of digital marketing discovery questions that could be used as input to the Envisioning work.

Key Questions:


  • Does your organization have a digital marketing strategy?
  • What techniques are being used to expand brand awareness, and how are you incorporating modern techniques like social listening and proactive customer engagement to understand and take action within your customer base?
  • How are you monitoring/measuring lead/demand generation (and revenue contribution) based on social outreach techniques and integrating that between digital and traditional channels?
  • How is that measurement fed back into the overall strategy and execution plans?


  • What ratio of sales engagements currently result in a closed deal? What steps can you take towards better qualifying leads and improving this ratio?
  • What key metrics do you report on on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis?
  • What are your current KPIs, and how can you show each department’s value?
  • How do you measure campaign ROI?
  • How are you measuring and evaluating your marketing success?
  • What KPIs will you use to determine if your revenue processes are on track?
  • Do you generate enough leads?

Marketing Strategy

  • What are some short-term goals that can be achieved with marketing automation?
  • What are some long-term goals that can be achieved with marketing automation?”
  • What role does email play in your marketing strategy?
  • Do we need to modify our end-to-end business revenue processes and/or improve marketing/sales alignment?
  • Who in your company will use marketing automation?
  • Who will take ownership?
  • What are the marketing strategies that you currently use (email marketing, paid search, webinars, live events, etc.)?
  • Do we have the right skills, staff, culture, etc.?
  • How can you incorporate cross-channel marketing into your efforts?

 Operational Capabilities and Processes

  • Can your team envision demand generation and lead lifecycle processes that align to today’s modern buyer?
  • Do you have someone who can absorb, visualize and discuss large amounts of data and complex concepts, and make decisions to solve problems based on available information?
  • How does your sales team prioritize leads?
  • What defines a sales-ready lead?
  • Does your sales team use a CRM system?
  • How does your lead qualification team prioritize their time?
  • How do you handle marketing-to-sales lead handoff?
  • How will you implement lead nurturing for leads that are not yet ready?

Marketing Automation and Digital Marketing Functions

  • How are you leveraging social media?
  • Are you using your website for lead generation? If so, how can you expand this?
  • How do you manage your forms and landing pages?
  • Do you have enough compelling content?
  • Does your solution record and display all online activities for individual prospects?
  • Do you have dirty data full of duplicates and/or bad records?
  • What is your data cleansing strategy?


Like their CIO partners, CMTs need tools to help make sense of the increasingly broad, deep and complex space of digital marketing. This article presented a Digital Marketing Reference Model and 10 Step Strategic Planning Model to help you start planning the next phase of your digital marketing efforts.

Additional recent articles/papers from the author (papers available upon request)

Recent Blogs

Recent Papers

(Available upon request)

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  • Envisioning the Future of End-User Computing and the Modern Digital Enterprise
  • An Un-radical Vision for Intranets in 2014 – Back to Basics, Dialing Back the Hype
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