Martech is mainly about relationships

My approach to the marketing technology field has been geared toward focusing on human topics like relationships.  Marketing technology, however, is certainly a technical discipline, and my route to this field began by working closely with web developers and designers as well as software programmers.  Further, it obviously involves marketing acumen, which I’ve picked up on the job.  Granted, one can certainly argue that most – if not all – professions are mainly about relationships, but I can certainly speak to martech.

I’ve tried to focus some of my columns on the relationship aspects of our field for a few reasons.  First, there are so many other experts and voices who provide great technical and marketing insights.  There isn’t a shortage of those.  Second, it has provided me with a niche to fill.  Third, my work experience has really impressed upon me that the technical and business aspects of working in this field are the easier (certainly not always easy) parts of the job; relationships, on the other hand, can be much more difficult.

Relationships are important – particularly, as Milton Hwang argues, where marketing operations and tech leaders have become modernizers.  Darrell Alfonso also provides some valuable insights into how practitioners handling the day-to-day and tactical aspects of marketing operations can better understand the leader’s perspective.  Alfonso weaves relationship tips throughout his piece.

You’re not alone

How often have you had a straightforward project get held up by bureaucracy or office politics?  Have you ever tried to get a colleague to slow down so that you all could more thoroughly evaluate a need or problem?  Ever been involved in training or providing other enablement to end users?  How about trying to jockey for organizational funding and priority for your project over your colleagues’ projects?  Is it just me or is persuading other people to your position not always easy peasy?  Moving and shaking is fun until the pushback, right?

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Change and project management

There are many tools and strategies out there for addressing the tricky parts of relationships.  For instance, I’ve written about the value of change management and project management methodologies to martech practitioners.  

Change management acknowledges that resistance is inevitable – regardless of whether people perceive that a change is positive, neutral, or negative.  It provides tools and tactics to anticipate, evaluate, and address such resistance.  If that doesn’t involve relationships, I don’t know what does.  Hopefully, when change management is used correctly, no one will need to even fret that resistance is futile as people will feel that their perspective and input are considered.  There’s a reason why the Borg aren’t popular.

Project management on the other hand provides structure to getting stuff done.  It establishes roles and responsibilities along with cadences, ceremonies, definitions, measurement standards, and artifacts to assist a group to collectively work together to accomplish tasks.  The agile philosophy and its accompanying Scrum framework are rather popular, and my fellow contributor Stacey Ackerman has written about how to apply them in martech contexts.  By clearly establishing a framework for action, people are better aware of roles, expectations, and schedules — and that all helps promote healthy relationships among the people involved.

Winning & influencing

I kid you all not.  While I was drafting this column, a senior leader here at my employer Zuora shared his notes regarding Dale Carnegie’s seminal work “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  He shared them since he believes that its principles are critical to individual and collective success.  Not only is it easier to accomplish things when people choose to get along but typically the results are superior as well.

It is important to note that Carnegie’s principles are related to leadership.  Unlike managing, anyone can participate in leading — no matter how junior or senior they are.  Focusing on establishing and maintaining positive relationships can help junior individuals punch above their weight, but when senior individuals foster healthy relationships, they too can shine as people respect and value positive leaders.  I’ve seen individuals across the seniority spectrum both fail and excel when it comes to relationships, and based upon how my colleagues have responded and reacted, my unscientific and anecdotal sample shows that it is better to strive to be likable.

Carnegie’s philosophy can certainly help martech practitioners excel if they choose to incorporate it into their work.  Working in martech involves changing things and influencing others, and failing to consider the importance of interpersonal relationships will likely hinder a practitioner’s ability to thrive.

I can also personally attest to the senior Zuora leader’s focus on fostering positive relationships and on placing people first; he walks the walk.  He’s proof that being nice can lead to success.  His resume shows that he has advanced and thrived professionally at companies of significant consequence like SAP.  If he can, so can all of you.

The difficult stuff

Don’t get me wrong.  Integrations, RFPs, measuring KPIs, and similar activities are not always easy.  However, relationships are involved in all of them, and if my experience is representative, relationships are the toughest aspects of martech.  Why not try to make this aspect not only more tolerable but enjoyable and effective to boot?

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

About The Author

StevePetersen lg

Steve Petersen is a marketing technology manager at Zuora. He spent nearly 8.5 years at Western Governors University, holding many martech related roles with the last being marketing technology manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at the Washington, DC digital shop The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, non-profits, major brands, and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He’s also a Certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area. Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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