CMO and CTO: a natural double act

With growing talk of the need to merge the two roles Mariam Sharp finds four ways to get it right

There is increasingly a need to structure organisations to better make use of the roles of chief technology officer (CTO) and chief marketing officer (CMO). However, this also raises important questions:

  • Who should be in the driving seat?
  • How to address team-related issues that might arise?

Earlier this year, Kristin Intress of Worldhotels, explored the notion that the two roles should merge.

As part of a presentation at TDS Europe, Ingress referred to Simon Sinek’s approach to business development, which starts with a golden circle and the question ‘why’.  The model, coined Start with Why, explores how business leaders can inspire change, and highlights the importance of connecting to customers emotionally.


In examining Sinek’s approach, Ingress pointed to the importance of products being meaningful, rather than just cool!

“Because we are in a digital age, products are originated, created, and researched online so now CTOs are in a position of hearing, seeing and understanding the customer.”>

In the light of that, CMOs also need to develop new processes to adapt to this changing environment.

4 ways to hone the relationship

1.  Put strategy first:

You must have a compelling articulation of the business context, a clear policy and a set of coherent objectives. Having a vague technology vision or grand leadership statement will probably lead only to change for change's sake and make it difficult for team members to work towards common goals.

2.  Focus on the single customer view:

Almost all organisations aspire to having a single view of each customer in real time. With the growth in smartphone adoption, and improvements in recommendation engines, the dream of understanding the customer journey in new coherent ways is closer than it has ever been.

No one should be on an isolated island

3.  Get out of silos:

“No one should be on an isolated island, it’s important to move faster by moving out of silos, put the customer in the middle and work as one cell,” says Ingres. So how do you collaborate? Find ways to bring together marketing and tech people, because this informs value creation and, importantly, increases accountability.

4.  Ask the question: would anyone recommend you?

For Ingress, it’s important to involve your teams by asking this question even before you embark on building a product. In her words:

“Take a step back and think about the passion points. Find out what the customers are passionate about and then build those products. People are craving humanity, people want to be part of something again - so listen to the stories that can connect your product to your customers.”

This is often missed because it is much harder to do than building a product. 

Speaking about how people’s lives have changed in many places, and how time is short, Ingress said experiences matter far today. “…we have gone from agriculture, to factories, to offices, and services. We don’t go to Starbucks just to drink the coffee, it’s about the experience.”

By thinking carefully about the experience and about what matters to people, is an opportunity. Citing another example, a hotel that ran unique gin tasting events went a step further by offering a hotel bed ‘free’ as part of the event. People didn’t to drink and drive and drive home, so this met their needs but also presented an opportunity for promotion and upsell.

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