Marketing’s IT buying boom

When you think about your company’s marketing department, IT doesn’t necessarily spring to mind. Surprisingly, the people building your company’s brand and generating sales leads may also be at the bleeding edge of technology purchasing – and using video conferencing to transform almost every part of how your business touches the outside world.

I had time recently to sit down with Megan Lueders, vice president of global marketing at LifeSize, where I also work, for a few questions about video conferencing and marketing.

Where is the marketing profession heading today, technologically-speaking?

Laura McLellan, research vice president at Gartner, recently conducted a webinar in which she predicted that by 2017 the chief marketing officers will spend more on IT than the CIO. Eighty-three percent of marketing organizations surveyed by Gartner indicated they had total control over choosing and managing marketing services providers. Choosing and managing marketing technology providers? Seventy-one percent.

Already, about 30 percent of named marketing-related technologies and services are being bought by marketing, and almost half of all purchases are being influenced by marketing. Video conferencing is often one of those purchases.

What does this buying trend mean for marketing and IT departments?

The marketing professional is cooperating more closely with IT. The alliance between IT and marketing has to be tighter than in any other part of the organization because of marketing’s dependency on systems. It’s critically important that marketing technology applications and services work flawlessly with back-end systems.

The growth of these applications and systems is also requiring marketing to be more of its own IT operations department. The marketing department is now typically staffed with its own personnel responsible for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the company’s web presence, and virtually every other part of its technical operations. The only real exception is keeping the servers and back-end systems running.

As a technology budget line item, video conferencing can be among the biggest expenses, right?

That actually depends on the capabilities and sophistication of the system. But it also often generates among the broadest returns on investment for the organization.

Video conferencing has created new opportunities for things like product introductions, corporate news events, even customer training. That has elevated the role of the marketing professional beyond sales lead development to a corporate communicator allied with many other functions in the business—including human resources and general business communications. Because it is now blending into other functions and departments, the role of marketing is becoming much more central to the organization than it had been in the past.

How is video conferencing technology elevating the work done by marketing?

Take press briefings, for example. Anytime a video conferencing option is available—that is, whenever a reporter has access to a broadband Internet connection—we prefer to do a video call, when it might otherwise have been done by telephone.

Video press briefings are much more effective than the audio. With video conferencing, both sides can be certain of having each other's complete attention. The temptation to multitask is minimized. You gain a keener awareness of body language and acceptance of what's being communicated. This is particularly true when speaking with people for whom English is not the primary language.

Even internally, though, video conferencing is becoming increasingly important – and this ties back to the original discussion of alliance between marketing and IT.

How so?

As we said, the marketing department is now downloading and installing a wide range of applications and services from a variety of vendors. The integration among the various applications and services must be seamless, with no points of failure along the way. Using video conferencing to share data, and information ensures complete communication between the marketing department, the IT department and your vendor—and among the vendors themselves.

It’s interesting that the video conferencing IT investment is also one of the most effective ways of getting the best value from the rest of your IT investments. Of course video conferencing costs money, but in the grand scheme of things, when you're putting thousands of dollars into each of your systems, a video conferencing purchase is nominal insurance to guarantee that your integration and implementation plans will work as designed. And it's a lot more affordable than hiring consulting firms to do the integration.