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Study: Marketing, IT Must Mesh

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SAN FRANCISCO The marketing and IT departments of most corporations are worlds apart, but the two groups must work more closely together to speed innovation and boost the bottom line, according to a new report by management consultancy Sapient and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Rather than focusing strategies on Web sites and interactive media, smart marketers strive to improve both their products and the customer experience, says the report, which is titled, "The New Marketing-IT Power Partnership."

"The customers' experience is the marketing" and positive experiences earn brand loyalty and repeat business, the report says. But to pull that off, a company's "marketing and technology strategies must be tightly aligned and must collaborate effectively."

The study cites as an example Netflix, which subverted the traditional movie rental industry and grew into a $682 million business in seven years by blending technology and marketing to provide an innovative service, enhance the consumer experience and effectively build its brand.

A key problem in the alignment process is that marketing and technology executives often don't speak the same language and can have different backgrounds, skills and equipment. "Understanding each other can be slow and frustrating," but it is essential, the report says.

For example, more than 70 percent of companies do not use technological tools and analytics to guide their marketing campaigns.

The report cites Tom O'Toole, both CMO and CIO at Hyatt Hotels, who advises that marketers take the lead, with technologists anticipating the flexibility that campaigns require and designing such functionality into hardware and software systems.

How about outside marketing agencies? Report co-author David Bond, Sapient's director of IT strategy, said shops should act as unbiased third parties who speak the language of both departments.

"Outside partners should bring multi-disciplinary teams that can ask the tough questions of both groups to help identify what can be improved. They should serve not as auditors, but as facilitators," Bond said. Outsiders can also provide alignment insights from other companies and other industries, he added.