Top Ten Conversations Between CIOs and CMOs – Rewinding 2014, Spinning Up 2015

154067314On the first day of this year, I published a list of the top ten conversations between CIOs and CMOs – and because it’s “list time” again (trends, predictions and prophecies) thought I’d share what I’ve learned since. 2014 has been unlike any other year in my career, not just because I’ve moved into the CMO seat (and 2014 was my first full year as CMO) but because of the sheer amount of change in my company’s industry (real time communications software).

I just posted on our corporate blog seven specific stellar trends in “RTC”. Now I will put on my CIO2CMO hat. Here’s what I’m seeing to help grow your business and create value through a close partnership between CIOs and CMOs in 2015 based loosely on the ten tips shared earlier this year (in the much more extensive post than this one, which you can read here).

1. Improve your customer conversation and experience by evaluating all your customer interactions and developing a means to stay connected with them in the moment.

In my company, we implemented many programs where we integrated our main CRM (salesforce.com) with other marketing applications (including our marking automation system Pardot) and campaign initiatives (for example our www.realtimecommunicationsworld.com community built in partnership with TMC). While we have room to grow, we saw real results by combining our sales, marketing, and customer service “interactions”.  We now have a “dashboard” that shows where our investments in conversations are paying off.

2. Better engage your employees to motivate them, help them to collaborate and inspire each other.  

This was a tremendous focus area for us and surely many other software companies given the nature and force of change! In addition to upgrading our intranet, we also invested in SAP Jam as a very effective social networking, idea sharing platform. We are streaming news to employees, and employees are actively posting ideas, including contributing to our ongoing customer engagement and quality improvement initiatives. In January we are rolling out a sales enablement portal based on Bloomfire to share all marketing, campaign and PR material. We’re all becoming more engaged, and software applications have helped a lot!

3. Generate, collect, measure and convert more sales leads.

When I started as CMO in mid-2013, there were only rudimentary tools in place – but now, in partnership not only with our CIO but also our inside sales team, we implemented Pardot for our marketing automation platform.  Now marketing campaigns are streaming leads into the CRM! We are tracking conversions and with the software are literally able to show the “lifecycle” of a prospect – from qualified lead, through sales opportunity, to a won deal! We now have set up architecture to “go big” in 2015. Having made this investment, we are now also able to enhance our sales support and enablement programs since we have the benefit of “automation” in place, and the sales team loves it as they can track down to the content item and web page what their customers are looking at.

4. Analyze your data to better understand your competition, pricing and competitive position.  

There is no getting away from “human effort” in order to collect, organize and analyze competitive data. We have always subscribed to industry analyst data and expertise (Infonetics, Gartner and more) but where we began doing more in 2014.  Through a more systematic harvesting of information from the web, with more news alerts in place from our competitors, as well as intentional and concerted efforts each quarter we have delivered incredibly valuable “intel” for everything from sales strategy to R&D investment. With the improvement of our intranet, we’ve also made this information readily available (with full search capabilities and subscriptions and alerts for our employees). In 2015 we’ll continue to work to make visibility into the competition easier and more intuitive, as we also believe knowing the competition is one thing, but not the only thing – beating the competition comes through better solutions, better service, and exceeding your customer expectations.

5. Identify new products or services that are IT or marketing related that you can introduce adjacent to your existing offerings.

Not every business is in the position to morph as rapidly as we, in the software industry, are. My company is in a really cool position in the real time communications software space, including a launching Kandy, a new communications platform-as-a-service that enable web, media and advertising companies to embed voice, video and collaboration features right into the conversation (both in mobile and web applications). One of my favorite examples is the work we have done with a company called Toy Genius, for which one of our technology partners (Vizicom) have built a shopping concierge featuring a live “Toy Tech.”  Marketing helped work on this success case directly. We’re applying the same type of solution to our own website, offering a sort of “web Sherpa” to visitors when they come, with a live expert ready to help direct visitors to the right information, answer questions, or connect them with the right department or individual in the company. We are not eating our own dog food – we are eating our own Kandy!

6. Measure the effectiveness of your marketing spending and optimized your marketing investment.

I love working on marketing budgets – said nobody ever (well I am a closet accounting geek, so now and then I say it). Face it, budgeting is painful, as the economy (while improving) is still slow. What made a difference for me and my team this year is that we tracked every penny and were honest with ourselves and our colleagues (and the finance team!) about which investments were working, and which we did not need to extend or repeat. I always wish for even more data but come budget season 2015 I will. More and more of the software we set up for our marketing automation platform will pay off so that we can start to measure investments in trade shows, events, content marketing, media relations, advertising, collateral, web, social media and more. Marketing KPIs? Bring it! Because now – we can track nearly everything shy of measuring in granular detail “brand awareness.” But we’re working on that too.

7. Tie your marketing, sales process and customer relationship management systems and processes together more tightly to benefit the company and the customers.

While we have not perfected this at my company, we’re getting really close. Undertaking a project of this magnitude is really hard, especially when you have “regular” work to do. But the upfront investment of time – analysis – discussion – connecting of the dots…and the upfront investment of integration and coding – pays off when the quality is there. Getting human beings to participate (entering quality data for example, in a timely fashion) is still a challenge, but less and less so as the interfaces to those systems become more intuitive and “instream” – for example, updating salesforce.com on your mobile device immediately following a customer or prospect meeting. We have also seen great response to more flowing information associated with customer service, so that everybody who is associated with a customer’s success now has much more visibility into “what’s happening” and not just through a quarterly report – through daily interactions and certain triggers. Our teams are much better equipped to rally in the event of a challenge – and nothing pleases our customers more than awareness and action. We call them if we sense an issue – they don’t have to call us.

8. Make sure your marketing and IT efforts affect, influence and predict the company strategies.

Data, data, data, data – harvest it, analyze it, learn from it, contribute back to it. I’ll say it again – those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it. And those who do study history – in this new digital world, this means those who continually study behaviors of customers and prospects –  are sure to be extremely successful. Information is not just about managing risk or controlling expenses – it can also drive decisions to take a stand where there is only limited information but a team’s collective hunch that innovating early will position the company as a “first mover” – which still has its advantages. Whether there is a lot of data, or a little, having all the data will help ensure the implementation of strategies will affect the company positively. (I just quoted my New Year’s Day 2014 post – this still rings true – we have more work to do but we have seen attention to this driving what we are confident will be a spectacular strategy for 2015 and 2016).

9. Ensure your presence on the web and social media is contributing to your brand’s success and your operating results.

We continually improve our web and social web presence.  In 2014 we redesigned our website completely in the middle of the year, launched a new website for our Platform-as-a-Service – kandy.io – and in January will be coming out again with a more simplified and responsive website. We have hired more marketing technologists, and they are ensuring all our work in content marketing, writing for the web, campaign strategies, e-mail outreach and all our other marketing efforts conform to the “best practices” which themselves are continually evolving. We are also 100% mobile friendly, and are finding that downloads are a predictive measure of success (whitepapers rock, and so do the related webinars). We have worked closely with our CIO and IT team to make sure everything we’re constantly developing fits into and leverages our digital platforms including CRM and other systems.

10. Create a partner, supplier and technology ecosystem that is mutually beneficial operationally and maximizing revenue and go to market effectiveness.

This has been one of my favorite all time projects of 2014! We launched an incredible platform for our sales channel partners with Relayware, another platform we have integrated – with other platforms! Partner ecosystems are never easy to build. We’re very fortunate at GENBAND to have a strong and fun partnership between CIO and CMO and our very creative and dedicated teams.

We can never stop reacting to this rolling change in marketing technology! Well that is unless it’s time to stop, and enjoy our friends and families during the holiday season. Rest and balance is important too, and after you invest in systems and automation it’s a little easier to step away, unplug, hug your kids, and be grateful to be part of such an interesting world at such an interesting time.

I’ll be back in the New Year with posts on technology, marketing, communications and all other things CIO2CMO!