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Why the Marketing CTO Rocks the 3 Chief Technology Positions in any Startup 

 March 7, 2019

By  Nick Temple

CTO, CMTO, Marketing CTO 

What is the role of a small business Marketing Chief Technology Officer (Marketing CTO)? How is that role different from the Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO) or CTO?

I get these questions a lot – from people who are familiar with the role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and their duties, as well as those who aren't. 

CTO - Chief Technology Officer

Let's start with the CTO. The Chief Technology Officer is an executive-level position in a company or other entity whose occupation focuses on an organization's scientific and technological issues. Like the CEO, the CTO focuses on comprehensive technology for the company and always has a strong technical background - and may or may not have marketing experience as well.

Marketing CTO - or Marketing Chief Technology Officer

Marketing Chief Technology Officer (Marketing CTO) is the CTO role; however, with a strong business/marketing background and a strong engineering or technical background. Ideally, every CTO is also a Marketing CTO. However, my experience is that many people with a strong technology background don't get business or marketing, and the organization suffers.  

A Marketing CTO is a technologist who gets business and comes from the technology side of the house.

Chief Martech Officer - CMTO

Contrast the Marketing CTO - a technology and business generalist - with the CMTO - Chief Marketing Technology Officer. The CMTO is a specialist and more narrow than either the CTO/Marketing CTO. The CMTO focuses almost exclusively on martech - the software, such as social media, analytics, communication, funnel building, and other tools that make up an organization's sales process. 

If a technologist can function well within business constraints, can a marketer learn technology? Rarely does a Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO) have the technical chops to manage the complete technology needed within the organization. 

The CMTO is a marketing person who gets enough technology to build out sales funnels. The Marketing CTO is broader - this is a technologist who also understands the broad business applications of technology across the organization (not just in the marketing department).

A great CTO is one I call an Marketing CTO. The Marketing CTO is both well-versed in business and can handle making decisions across the engineering department, the marketing department, and the entire organization with the pragmatism that moves the business forward.

When Technology Choices Matter

A few years ago, one of my soon-to-be clients chose a specialist technology to develop their advanced SaaS / website. The CEO made this decision because "that's the technology the developer knows" how to use. 

The developer made a good case and was able to get the basic system up and running quickly and at a low-cost. Then the developer moved on.

Finding other developers in the field who worked with that particular technology became a costly task, and turnover was high. New features and bug fixing cost more and took much longer to implement than they needed to. Had a more appropriate technology been chosen at the beginning, the project would have been much smoother. 

The business spent much more cash than planned, while this simple uninformed technology choice set the project back months. Months during which the company was spending money and also unable to realize the revenue projected.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

Different Views 

Clearly, the CEO of the company could have sought the advice of a technology specialist.

How would each of our different roles have handled this situation? Was the CTO (engineer), CMTO (marketer with some engineering), or Marketing CTO (engineer with a marketing mind) able to make a better decision?

The CMTO comes from the marketing department. Their specialty is marketing, building funnels, and wiring together systems to make the sale. Their focus is specifically on martech. They wouldn't have the experience to see this kind of project to completion and shouldn't be in charge of product engineering.

The CTO is from the business's engineering side and very possibly would have agreed with the developer. The tech was pure, state-of-the-art, and conceptually sound. It was also off-the-beaten-path and expensive to maintain outside an R&D project.

The Marketing CTO is a pragmatist - thinks like an engineer and can see the larger picture. They think about the technology itself and have a deep understanding of the effects of the technology choices on the overall business.

Good CTO's do have good business sense and function as Marketing CTO's in many cases. The point is that a CMTO is a marketer with a narrow technology focus on martech. At the same time, the Marketing CTO is a CTO with a broader business focus that can bridge the gaps between product, engineering and marketing departments - as well as make martech decisions.

Ready to create your next big project? Get your ideas together, validate them, then find a great Marketing CTO to help you make the best technology decisions for your business.

You can find out more about martech and the creation of the Marketing CTO in Scott Brinker's excellent article, "The Rise of the Marketing Technologist".

Filed Under: 

Nick Temple


Nick Temple is an international bestselling author, serial entrepreneur and badass technologist. He started writing software and prose before high school and published both before college. Nick now works with evolved entrepreneurs to help them grow their business & lifestyle through capturing, identifying and executing on their best ideas.


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