Best tool in a martech leader’s arsenal is to identify and remediate a problem before it becomes a problem
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Ram Ramalingam, Chief Marketing Officer at FutureAnalytica
Ram is currently the CMO at FutureAnalytica (FA), a cutting-edge, seed-funded tech company that is set to disrupt the worlds of Al/ML and data science with the world’s first and only End-2-End No-Code Al platform. This proprietary platform includes a cutting-edge AI Studio, where businesses can build and launch complex data science and AI models with a single click deployment to the AI Marketplace, all in six to eight days instead of months, and with 100% no-code.
How did you plan your career path to be a successful Marketing Technology (Martech) Leader?
I realised early on (in my late teens!) that problem solving and leadership came naturally to me. I was very good at identifying the right direction towards achieving a goal and changing my life’s course accordingly. I was also great at visualisation and storytelling, so I always wanted to do something that’d allow me to travel the world, meet people, and narrate a brand story. However, I desired to be in the top 1% of whatever I did, which is why I left a promising career in music and martial arts, as well as a few other things along the way; although almost everyone told me that I possessed the talent and skill for those, I was not fully convinced.
Life is about statistical probabilities, and my goal in life was to achieve financial freedom before I hit 40. I knew the odds were stacked against me in the fields of music, sports, etc.; however, I was naturally fascinated with technology, which I hypothesised would only continue to expand. Thus began my quest to acquire cross-functional skills across sales, product management, and solution design with the aim of eventually becoming a global marketing leader in tech. This plan paid off — still pays me back each day with my ability to understand the technologies right to the barebones and their impacts across various functions, which then allows me to devise the best possible strategies.
What challenges you faced in your career path and how did you overcome them?
Nothing major, but two of the most common challenges most aspiring leaders face, especially in their initial phases of their corporate journey, are politics and work-life balance. While I endeavoured to never spend any energy in politics, I did face my share of ridicule, ego-clashes, etc. in the first eight to ten years of my career, all of which I managed to not just overcome but make work to my advantage. Right from ousting a few bad managers with truth, boldness, confidence, and action, to making myself useful for others by gaining more subject-matter expertise on a given technology than anyone else in the near vicinity, I generated value for myself in the ecosystem through my expertise and acumen.
How do you plan to promote your company’s technology or technology products?
There are various tactics one can employ for product or brand promotion, but none are more important than a marketer’s own ability to sell, fully comprehend the technology (backend, frontend, infrastructure, scalability, etc.), and communicate their thoughts. Once you have these three elements in your arsenal, you can then employ various techniques around digital marketing, content marketing mediums such as newsletters, articles, and thought leadership, as well as engaging with key influencers and analysts within the space.
How do martech leaders intend to use technology in marketing, and what are the benefits to their organizations?
The best way is to first get buy-in from two sets of stakeholders: internal and external, the former being all your (marketing department) team members and the latter being a select group of CXOs and leaders across other verticals. Team briefing about any new change is critical, especially when it involves re-structuring or (re-)deploying teams for other or added responsibilities, workforce management, and overall process changes. But most importantly, briefing the team on business value creation and the benefits of upskilling if needed is critical. Here’s the pathway for external stakeholder communications:
CEO: This is the first step to getting full buy-in and mindshare from the head of the organisation in terms of the value, overall costs (time, resources, and payments) for the technology, an ROI plan, a rollout strategy, and other benefits around employee satisfaction, etc.
IT: To ensure the technology proposed to be implemented within marketing will not hamper or go beyond the present IT practises and processes, and to plan for additional infrastructure and resources for implementation, management, etc.
Finance: To ensure the budget approvals are in order and the vendor payment schedules are in place.
HR & Talent Acquisition: To communicate and plan for the upsides and downsides of implementing the said technology, especially in terms of E-SAT, managing attrition, potential talent branding, L&D/planning upskill programs, etc.
The benefits of technology implementation in marketing can range from something as basic as saving time to a business-critical outcome like a viable increase in MQLs and top-line revenues. However, the main purpose of implementing new technology in marketing is to boost productivity and bridge the gap between efforts and outcomes, where the ideal stage to reach is minimum efforts and maximum results.
What are the challenges faced by martech leaders today while implementing technologies in marketing?
Many problems can arise along the way, especially if any of the action roadmap steps (mentioned above) are bypassed in any way or a certain action is left unmitigated, unaddressed, or incomplete. However, the main issue that Martech leaders face today is that there are too many good options. There are at least 10 different technology options to solve one specific use case or problem, and in a CMO’s quest to solve or overcome problems in marketing, picking the right technology, not just in terms of cost but also in terms of internal capacities of resources, is of paramount importance. Furthermore, there is a risk that a certain technology will tick all the right boxes but will not be suitable for your specific business model or will not produce the desired results. Sometimes, marketing leaders are advised to run multiple customised POCs or simulations of the product before making a final purchase decision, and most times, one is able to weed out the unfit technologies during this testing phase, but more often than not, it’s only post-implementation that one realises the real value or uselessness of a certain technology.
How can Martech leaders overcome the challenges faced?
Most of the tactics are highlighted above, but some of the best tools in a martech leader’s arsenal to overcome a challenge are to identify and remediate a problem before it becomes a problem. Homework, research, the Red Team vs. Blue Team methodology for building a case, having the right selection panel (not taking everything on your head), delegating different aspects of the prequalification work to at least two to three people in the team or organisation to ensure you can compare the findings and make an informed decision are the best ways to achieve this. Also, taking counsel or advice from fellow CMOs in your community or group will prove advantageous.
Any best practices, industry trends, or advice you’d give to other Martech leaders to help them succeed professionally?
As a CMO, I’m a member of several leadership groups and communities where I give and receive professional advice on a variety of topics. There will always be things (small and big) that you may not even know exist but that could be beneficial or even a must-have in order for you to succeed. So, the best advice that no one ever gave me, but something I always advocate to young marketers (even leaders), is to build and leverage a community of fellow leaders.
Anything else that you would like to highlight?
There’s a system that combines a certain set of self-developed life principles and tenets that I follow. I keep adding to this “knowledge base” from time to time, but these are, in my opinion, the secrets to success. Now, I may not be on the Forbes 100 List, but adhering to these principles can ensure greater success.
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