The role of a Marketing CTO in your Business

What is a small business Marketing Chief Technology Officer (MCTO)?

I get this question a lot – from people who are familiar with Chief Technology Officers (CTO)’s and their duties, as well as those who aren’t. That’s fair, as it’s a term rarely used.

A technologist who gets business.

A few years ago, one of my soon-to-be clients chose a little-used non-mainstream technology to develop their advanced website in – because that’s the technology the developer they hired “knew” how to use. The developer made a good case – and indeed was able to get the basic system up and running quickly and at a low-cost. Then moved on.

Trying to find someone else who knew that particular technology and how to update the system became a very difficult task – new features and bug fixing cost more and took much longer to implement than they needed to. Turnover was high, because finding skills in this particular technology was hard – and expensive. The business was set back months and they spent much more cash than planned, while unable to realize the revenue projected. Sound familiar?

In general, a small business CTO is the “chief technology officer”of your business – they understand technology, and are your go-to person when you have a tech question. This can include product engineering and development as well as simply making sure things work or helping you setup the email system you choose. Many times, this area is called the “back office” … the things that make your business run but that customers rarely “see”.

Who do you go to when you need a technology question answered?

In a nutshell, A Marketing Chief Technology Officer (or MCTO) is a rare breed of person – someone who can work both right and left brain, if you will. Someone that is at heart a technologist and has depth & experience of a CTO. This person fills the traditional role of CTO, but who also has a strong competency working with people and understanding business and marketing trends. They can help you design a business that not only functions well but can also deliver an amazing customer experience over time.

Arguably, all CTO’s should be MCTO’s – the difference is slight but significant, encompassing breadth of knowledge and big picture thinking, as well as the ability to make appropriate business trade-offs.

As business owner, how many coders/engineers have you found that actually “get” your business? That understand what you actually need to deliver to your clients and customers? Can offer alternatives and suggestions so you get what your business actually needs? Who understands the tradeoffs required when making recommendations, and has your best interest in mind?

Many times there are simpler / easier / less expensive solutions than the ones you are aware of or even the ones that you ask for. Do you have someone who will help you to see and execute on those solutions?

These are all problems that small business owners have. You know your business, but you don’t know what you don’t know about the new technology that can help you build your business even better. And you shouldn’t have to – you need to focus on your industry, your customers and your own business strategy without trying to keep up with all the new innovations that are happening in unrelated fields.

What you need is a trusted partner. Someone who is keeping up with those innovations and gives you options. Who sees the trends and can help ensure new tech doesn’t blindside you making your current offering irrelevant (who wants to be Blockbuster?). Someone who knows your business and your customers well enough to suggest different ways of approaching the problems you have – and who can see opportunities that could otherwise be missed.

This can be as simple as helping you choose the right web hosting and email provider to as complex as automating your marketing using chatbots and machine learning systems or coming up with whole new product lines.

That’s part of the value of having a high-level technologist on your team who also understands and addresses business concerns as part of your trusted team of advisors. They can help you leverage new technologies as well as avoid traps and the pitfalls of overextending yourself or making costly mistakes.

A quick technology check – estimating the costs of ongoing maintenance – by someone who knows the industry, best practices and has the knowledge and familiarity with your business to see the “big picture” – would have helped avoid the hole my client found themselves in, saving months and many thousands of dollars.

This person, I call a MCTO.

Nick Temple’s new book, “5 Checks of working with a Marketing CTO” will be available in Kindle, hardcover and paperback editions shortly. To find out when, visit http://themarketingcto.com/5checks

Note: For those familiar with the term CMTO (chief marketing technology officer), that’s not what I’m talking about here. CMTO’s deal exclusively with martech, and is narrower in focus than a CTO or even CMO. A MCTO, on the other hand, broadens the duties of the traditional CTO to martech but also encompasses any area where customers come into contact with technology in your business.

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