5 Questions With… Ian Cross of Bentley University

Ian Cross is the Director of the Center for Marketing Technology at Bentley University, where he is also a professor. He began teaching after a 20+ year career in marketing and hi-tech. 

Question 1: How do you define ‘digital strategy’?

“I cannot imagine a company today creating a business strategy that does not encompass Digital Strategy. But for many of our clients Digital Strategy means learning more about web- and social media-based tools and techniques and how to harness them effectively for their business. A typical project for us would be to evaluate their current use of technology for business and how it impacts their customer interactions. Our Digital Strategy would build out from the business strategy – how to create difference from the competition and communicate with customers – and how we can use digital tools, web sites, apps, and mobile devices to make that difference matter to customers. It also has to be a strategy that is measurable to understand if and how progress is being made against milestones and marketing objectives.”

Question 2: You aren’t a CDO, CMO, or CIO — so why do you think you were asked to be interviewed by Chief Digital Officer?

“Many of the clients we work with in the Center for Marketing Technology (CMT) approach us to help them gain insight into a product issue or customer insight and we help them with market research, insight and consumer experience projects. However, when we ask how our findings will impact a client’s strategy, the responses are typically vague; and if we push down into digital strategy there is sometimes no more than a desire to ‘create buzz’ through social media. Also, we find that marketers and IT professionals struggle to collaborate successfully – marketers want to open up the channels of communication with all stake holders and IT typically worries about security, platform stability or any number of technical reasons to say ‘No!’ My background is as a technology marketer working at some of the worlds largest tech firms and I  embraced technology and digital back when we called it Internet Marketing. Technology is the agent of change and we strive to show our clients and students how market  insight, cutting-edge technology and a strategic approach to business is vital to compete in a global economy.”

Question 3: What kind of mobile device(s) do you have, and what are your three favorite apps? 

“I grew up in an MS DOS world dominated by Microsoft and PC manufacturers until four years ago when we welcomed Apple to the CMT to investigate how Macs and iPads can impact the world of the Business Student. I acquired my first MacBook and fell in love with Apple devices. I now embrace the Walled Garden of Apple because seamless compatibility works better for me.”

Devices: iPad, iPhone, MacBook Air, iMac

Favorite apps: Maps, Yelp, FotMob Soccer Scores

Question 4: Why should Chief Digital Officer readers care about the Center for Marketing Technology (CMT) at Bentley University? 

“The CMT is a market research and marketing strategy center that allows our clients to bring us a marketing problem and we can turn loose some of the best business minds in academia, energetic and smart students, and other business partners to provide insight and solutions to these challenges. We embrace technology to accelerate change, without being tied down to any vendor or solution. The CMT is equipped with a state-of-the-art digital infrastructure to assist clients with focus groups, surveys, data analytics, field customer experiences, eye tracking, emotional sensors and other neuromarketing approaches. We are now getting excited about the possibilities of 3D digital printing and how that impacts product design and development. We have the tools and techniques that companies can share and tailor to the problems they are trying to solve, and we continue to innovate with our partners by learning more about their real world challenges and sharing knowledge with our community.”

Question 5: If your students only remember one piece of advice you deliver to them — what would you want it to be? 

“In any job or project focus on one thing: what  can you do that will add the most value and make the most significant difference.”


For more information about Ian and his organization, check him out on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter (@iancross), and visit the Center for Marketing and Technology at Bentley.

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