MarTech Recruiter Erica Seidel & Healthgrades SVP Jay Wilson discuss recruiting the right martech role

"Inside the Search for the Martech Unicorn" will take attendees through the process Healthgrades used to recruit its new Director of Marketing Technology.

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Seidel Wilson

As the martech landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck speed, finding the right marketing technology talent could arguably be the biggest martech challenge companies face right now.

Earlier this year, Jay Wilson, SVP of marketing platforms & services for Healthgrades, and his CMO, Andrea Pearson, decided the organization needed a marketing technology leader who could add a new level of “fervor” to their mission of aggressively going after consumer-engagements.

“I play that more traditional martech role, but I also pivot between our CTO and CMO,” says Wilson.

Wilson says he’s more tech-forward and that Healthgrades wanted to find a more strategy-forward candidate — someone “squarely in the blur” between technology and strategy.

Wilson worked with Erica Seidel, the founder of the marketing recruitment firm The Connective Good, to recruit and hire Healthgrades’ new Director of Marketing Technology.

In their upcoming “Inside the Search for the Martech Unicorn” presentation at this year’s MarTech Boston Conference, Wilson and Seidel will take attendees through the process they used to fill the role.

Also taking the stage will be the new hire to offer his side of the story, giving the audience a 360-degree view of the recruitment process from all sides involved.

Today, Wilson and Seidel give us a sneak peek of what they plan to cover at MarTech Boston and share their thoughts on recruiting marketing technology talent — and how they see the martech leadership roles among the C-suite evolving along with the technology.

Where do you think we are in the evolution of the marketing technologist role? Do you believe most companies understand the need — or are most just coming around to how a marketing technologist serves a marketing organization?

Seidel: What I see is that we have progressed over the last year in seeing more people calling themselves marketing technologists, and more of an interest in hiring martech.

It’s not always called martech. If you look at people with these skills — even the people I looked at for this [Healthgrades] search, some of them were called marketing technologists, some were more marketing automation folks, some of them were more marketing operations.

Some are more just general digital marketing folks who had a broader skill-set, touching into data, analytics and automation.

[With] the businesses I see far along in their evolution, a couple of things are true. One, they have a champion internally, somebody who has risen through the ranks and has christened themselves a marketing technologist — someone who has figured out how to influence the organization. That’s one characteristic of these organizations.

Another is a CMO who has some of that skill-set and really values it.

You still see a lot of blank stares. There’s still, I think, more people within B2B and high-tech in particular — they get it. But, outside that, there are a lot of CMOs who are still wrapping their arms around digital marketing.

Then, the other piece of this is [that] a lot of companies are hiring talent, but at junior levels. I see this in smaller B2B tech companies that know they need to use technologies in marketing but hire really junior talent — I’m talking manager-talent people with three to five years of experience.

It could reflect one of two things: one is that they’re thinking it’s about pushing the buttons and executing or that they actually trust the junior talent that’s natively digital to outpace the more seasoned marketing people.

Wilson: My thought is similar to Erica’s. I don’t think that marketing technologists, as [people] you hire, are pervasive throughout all sectors, and all companies. I think the penetration of it is in the first quartile, so to speak. I do think that’s rapidly rising.

You see more and more people using that term, but you still see things like working under digital or being a digital officer. People still struggle with the term. They struggle with the notion that there is a person that understands both things — probably because it’s been pounded into us society-wise for so long that a technology person couldn’t possibly be a person who understand the psychology side of marketing as well, and the strategy side of marketing.

Erica’s right, CMOs are often leading the charge, and there are those of us who are that CMTO-archetype — who end up in organizations also leading the charge. Saying, “No, we need more of these type of people,” because we know they exist. We came from that place. We are one of them.

I think it’s going to continue to grow, and as it becomes more accepted, it will grow faster because the needs in the business side of the equation are there. When you look at Scott Brinker’s stuff, it’s obvious that the need for this in the business world is extreme.

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What would you list as the primary benefit of having a marketing technologist leader within your organization?

Wilson: It’s a tough question to answer in a sentence or two because there are so many different benefits.

To me, the primary benefit of having a marketing technologist on the team, and specifically on the marketing team (there’s benefits to having a marketing technologist in other places and organizations as well) is that there is some understanding on both sides, right? Understanding the why we do what we do from a marketing perspective — what it is that we’re trying to achieve, how we’re trying to communicate.

And at the core of it, not just top level — I’m sending a message, but why am I sending the message? And how is it that if I use a different color on the message, it might influence the mindset of a consumer or recipient?

So really understanding that psychological why, and the real depth of that, and the science as storytelling. And then, combining it with an understanding of technology that helps you accelerate implementation.

To me it’s about connecting those two worlds together with a single person, as opposed to throwing a bunch of people in a room.

Seidel: I think a benefit is, at its best, if the person is good and is enabled to [do] their best, they can drive top-line and bottom-line growth. They can make marketing more efficient. They can do more with less. They can make marketing happen faster.

In B2B, you often have companies that, early in the company’s stage, marketing is more about about business development. It’s about finding customers. It’s about understanding what the market needs. It’s about doing things that don’t scale, and that’s fine.

But then, beyond that, you get to this “nail-it-or-scale-it phase” as the company grows, and grows out of that business development stage. And that’s where a marketing technologist can come in and put the right technologies and processes in place to enable that nailing and scaling.

Who within a company — or within a company’s marketing organization — should be involved with creating and hiring a marketing technologist role?

Seidel: I think it’s whoever is going to work with that person, right? Usually it’s some people in marketing, some people in IT — sales if it’s a B2B organization, because sales and marketing are obviously joined at the hip, especially in B2B organizations.

Data scientists can get involved. Data management people can get involved. Potentially, customer success people can get involved.

If you think about martech, it’s about tracing a customer through the company — or tracing a dollar that comes in from customers through the company — and making sure all of that is optimized. Anybody who is going to be involved in that could be a stakeholder.

Obviously you don’t want everybody — you don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen. So you probably have a few people that are making the decision on hiring, but then a few other people who weigh in. They give input, but they’re not making the decision at the end of the day.

Wilson: I agree. I think it depends on the role you’re filling, too. In our case, we were filling consumer engagement. In other organizations I’ve worked with, a marketing technologist would play a significant role in the ecommerce team, literally connecting the dots on driving that bottom line and the experience at the same time.

[For some] organizations, it’s pure marketing strategy they’re playing a role in, and other organizations are playing a role in product. So, it really depends on the role.

You could also ask agencies or the tech companies with the technologies you’re engaging. Say you’re a Marketo customer. It wouldn’t be ridiculous to have the person meet their support team from that company as part of the recruiting process.

How do you see marketing technology impacting the C-suite? Do you think more companies will begin transitioning their CMO role into a CMTO position?

Wilson: My perspective on this is that the C-level roles are often creative roles, and CMTO is certainly one of those.

I don’t think we are going to see an established patterning of CMTOs reporting up to CEOs, necessarily. The more traditional tie-up is either to the CMO, or the CTO, or CIO. I think that’s not likely to change any time soon.

What I do think is interesting is if you look at the pattern of the talents — look at someone like Mayur Gupta [VP of Growth for Spotify]. He’s taking a role in growth marketing. I think there is probably a new C-level role that’s emerging in that zone, where it is about a CMO who cares about the bottom line.

There was a recent report in the Harvard Business Review about the different types of CMOs that exist — ones who focus on understanding the brand and getting the message out. Then others who are really entrenched into the business strategy, and are driving, as Erica says, the top line and the bottom line.

I think what happens is the talent ends up in those more business-strategy focused CMO roles. They might not have a CMTO title — they might just be CMOs — but that’s where the upper echelon of talent ends up.

Seidel: In order to have a CMTO, and recruit for that, the CEO needs to know, and get it, and see the value. I think few CEOs are there now.

I do see some companies selling services or technology that are martech-oriented wanting to hire a chief marketing technology person; but, in those cases, that’s more of a thought leadership person to help sell and help showcase the bench strength within the company.

What’s interesting, in general, if you took a step back, you have all these new titles emerging, like chief AI officer, chief data officer — obviously, chief digital officer, chief customer officer.

It’s great we’re making these new things somebody’s problem and somebody’s purview, but at what point do we have so many of these niche titles that each one might not have as much purview as it should?

Any recommendations for a marketer looking to get into a more marketing technology role? Or maybe any red flags for anyone going through the interview process?

Wilson: For someone who is seeking to become a marketing technologist, it’s hard to recommend a very specific path. There’s lots of ways to get there.

In my case, I was an engineer, or technology person, my entire career, but I was adjacent to marketing. I like the adjacency to understanding consumer behavior and implementing it with technology. If you have those passions, it’ll come through in your career.

As far as getting into a situation where you’re interviewing and red flags, because it’s marketing and technology, and because there’s a little bit of blur between the two, there’s some obvious things you should watch for.

Siloed organizations are not going to function well with a marketing technologist, unless your mission is to break the silos down yourself. You want to look for those kinds of warning signs, because you’re obviously going to encounter friction if you’re coming in trying to bring both perspectives, and those teams don’t even talk to one another today.

The other thing is [that] awareness of the value you bring to an organization can also be challenging. As you’re talking to your team — whether it’s a senior role and you’re talking to executives or whether it’s a more junior role and you’re talking to your team — there should be some recognition of what is special about the role, and why it’s needed.

Otherwise, you’re going to feel like you’re just a marketing intern, or you’re just a technology intern. And you’re going to feel devalued — especially if you’ve pursued this as a thing. That is my advice to future martech people.

Seidel: If you’re a martech person, and you’re evaluating whether a job is the right fit for you, there’s a couple angles to look at. One, does the company understand their customer and want to organize around the customer? Do they want to know more about the customer? Are they customer-oriented? The best martech folks are highly customer-oriented, and so that’s important.

The other thing is asking about the data that they have — What’s the data? How does it flow? How much data? How is it grown? — to know the sense of what you’re going to be working with.

A question one person asked me during the search I did for Jay was, “How does the decision to buy new technology get made?” I thought it was a good question because you may be able to tell a lot by what that decision-making process is like.

Does it take a year to buy a new technology? Does it have to go all the way up to the CIO? [At] what level can you buy and deploy new technology if you are not at the CIO level?

A lot of different processes can work, but knowing how those decision-making processes happen is a good thing to know before you go into a company.

I also think, if you’re a martech person, you might want to think about being a “T-shaped” martech person. There’s a lot of depth you can go into — you can be an expert at automation, social media, CRM, analytics, ad tech, web, development and web presence, web design.

I recommend to people that this is still kind of a niche role, so to be as broad as possible with your skill-set makes sense now.

If you’re headed to the MarTech Boston Conference, be sure to attend Jay and Erica’s presentation happening on Wednesday, October 4. Part of the conference’s management track, “Inside the Search for a Martech Unicorn: How Healthgrades Attracted and Landed Top Martech Talent” panel will also include Healthgrades’ new Director of Marketing Technology.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Amy Gesenhues
Amy Gesenhues was a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.

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