Shifting From a CTO to CMO Mentality

CTO to CMO Mentality

Clients come to us at 3 different stages of the client life-cycle: stabilization, optimization, and innovation. By the third stage, a client’s growth should focus on new site content and features, new programs and initiatives, and new partners and technologies.

This should be the most exciting time for digital marketing teams, where they can focus on building a robust customer experience that drives new business and grows the brand. Perhaps your marketing team is ready to launch a new brand, expand internationally, introduce a new loyalty program, offer a new payment option, or add a BOPIS feature. However, the project immediately gets backlogged, behind dozens of other projects in IT. The level of customization required for these projects will come with a long timeline and high costs.

If you’re in an organization like this example, that reliance on development teams and a large technical debt stunts business growth and frustrates marketing teams that need to grow the business. This is what we call a CTO mentality.

A look at CTO mentality 

Historically, the more technically complex an organization is, the more time, money, energy, and resources go towards technology, building a large technological debt and a backlog of projects that are reliant on development teams. With a CTO mentality, there is a high level of enterprise complexity of technology. The organization looks at how frontend dev, backend dev, custom integration, building custom features, and multi-brand, multi-site (internationalization) is needed to help the business grow. As a result, technology ultimately drives the business and ends up being the focus of how a business is run and how quickly an organization can grow.

Organizations with a CTO mentality are plagued with ongoing costs of hosting and infrastructure; needs for security patches, point releases, and regular upgrade; performance and load testing; and time and costs of outsourcing changes that could be done by an internal team if the list of development needs weren’t so long.

A look at CMO mentality 

Organizations that shift to a CMO mindset start with a solid technology, framework or foundation, allowing the organization to position their focus on more marketing and revenue driving activities, whether that be conversion rate optimization, marketing campaigns, or new functionality. Shifting to a CMO mentality requires a solution with no upgrades, lower dev costs, ecosystems of partners and apps, speed of innovation for new features, high performance, and a lower total cost of ownership in a tech-stack.

The CMO mindset leads with marketing vs. technology, because the technology – that solid foundation – is already in place to support new growth. A CMO mentality looks at strategy, marketing campaigns, SEO, landing pages, CRO, frontend development, pre-built integrations, and multi-brand, multi-site (internationalization).  Branding and building a better customer experience becomes the primary driver of the organization, focused around pre-purchase, post-purchase, and the shopper journey, as well as expansions, new acquisition strategies, and the faster speed to market of new products, services, and features.

Shopify & BigCommerce Help Shift from CTO to CMO Mentality

About 2 years ago, when Shopify started really gaining popularity in the market, we coined the term “Shifting from a CTO to CMO mentality.”

CQL thinks of Shopify Plus and BigCommerce as a CMO approach, instead of a CTO approach. It allows our clients (and our CQL team) to focus on marketing, conversion and experience design to drive revenue, not technical integration. CQL’s value proposition switches from solving complex technical problems, to optimizing the customer experience. We can provide strategy and marketing to drive revenue and hit KPIs.

The mentality shift is causing many replatforms to frameworks focused around supporting marketing teams with easy-to-use tools and expansive app ecosystems that allow a more plug-and-play approach to adding to features and functionality. As a result, organizations are able to focus their attention on more marketing related activities, vs. deeper, technical, and more complex things.

What Clients Are Saying About Their Organization’s New CMO Mentality

“In the past, my teams have leaned more heavily into programming and site development; but with Shopify, we focus much more on marketing, creative, and acquisition. The platform really helps my team focus more on building enjoyable customer experiences, as opposed to the technical side of it.”
Todd Dreith, EVP Marketing & Ecommerce
Footwear Unlimited

“We were struggling to even put up banners or swap out text on our sites. I remember one instance where a web developer had to pull the code in a rich text file for me and I had to make the product copy changes in the file and then send it back to him; it just wasn’t feasible and it wasn’t possible to digitally market that way.

We were looking for something super reliable, fast, responsive, and user-friendly so we as digital marketers could take it over; we selected Shopify in 2020 for our 11 brands, starting with Onix. We were able to capitalize on the momentum of Ecommerce and how much consumers were leaning into it; the part that was really unexpected was how much we were able to transform our digital marketing effort because we had a platform that worked for us. ”
Emily Patton, Brand Manager
Escalade Sports


The shift from CTO to CMO mentality is about moving away from as much customization, backend development, and technical complexity as possible. Instead, an organization’s investments are put where the brand is; time, effort, and dollars are reallocated to marketing and growth.

Are you ready to switch to a CMO mindset? Contact us.