The CIO and CMO roles increasingly meld together as IT becomes more commercial and closer to the business and marketing becomes more technology driven. Here are 10 conversations that you as a CMO need to have in 2014 with your CIO (as a former CIO, I urge all the CIO’s to reach out the the CMO too – these conversations can and should be two way!)
1. How are you improving your customer conversation and experience by evaluating all your customer experience?
Customers engage with businesses from dozens of different angles, whether B2C or B2B. And the C2C (consumer to consumer) conversations occurring through social networks may be the most challenging, and ultimately rewarding conversations of all to “mine.” Relationships are dialogues, and the best companies are good listeners. Being adaptive and addressing opportunities and threats in real-time can help foster trust. This adaptive behavior requires a new set of human skills as well as evolutionary software for tracking, responding and continually improving engagement. I am drawn to Gartner’s concept of “The Business Moment” – which describes a world where interactions happen within seconds, and can change the course of “try” to “buy” – or “fly!”
Whenever you engage with customers, have a goal in mind, whether it’s to help improve your offer or build increasing loyalty. Setting goals around partnering of marketing and IT teams helps set roadmap, and determine investments needed for the customer engagement cycle. Lines are blurring across companies as they increasingly become technology enabled (not just IT companies like my company, GENBAND, but all companies, since so much business is enabled digitally).
Traditionally, the product team manages product, and marketing is responsible for increasing brand awareness and driving sales, but with “real time” customer interactions, it’s more important than ever for companies to embrace the “blur” between business units and their support functions like marketing. The CIO can help by partnering with the CMO to deploy new models of customer engagement. How you engage with your customers – not just what you offer – is more and more impacting how customers view your brand. 70% of Americans are willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies who they feel provide above-par customer service.
13% more adds up, and can help fund more marketing and customer service software applications. When CIOs and CMOs pursue these opportunities together, systems that help communication flow better externally and internally contribute directly to the top and bottom lines.
2. How can you better engage your employees to motivate them, help them to collaborate and inspire each other?
The best companies understand that every employee is an ambassador for the brand, and an engaged and knowledgeable workforce can have a positive impact externally when they are supported with information and inspiration from the company’s leadership. At GENBAND, and at many others this time of year, we are finalizing our 2014 strategy and business initiatives, and are spending as much time planning internal communications as we are on market-facing programs. Why? Because we see leverage there. My marketing team interacts on a daily basis with our IT team, and with the human resource team, collaborating on many initiatives including:
- Constantly upgrading our intranet
- Adding more and more multimedia so we can share information and ideas more clearly
- Making our quarterly global employee calls even more visual and interactive
- Taking advantage of more surveys and polls
- Exploring social networking opportunities to open up more “multilateral” communications between teams (more on this soon)
My CIO and I have learned it makes sense to experiment in an small way with new applications, before rolling them out. In doing so, we are able to learn from a “focus group” who are our “internal clients”, advocates and “early adopters”. These early teams help us get other employees on board. For example, we rolled out Bloomfire to our global marketing team, and began slowly adding new users, as a way to publish insights and learning from around the world (we’re a global enterprise in an industry that is very fast moving!) I’d love to hear what’s working for you.
3. What are you doing to generate, collect, measure and convert more sales leads?
One of my favorite graphics is the one posted here showing the topology of marketing technology companies (thank you Scott Brinker!) Scott is about to put out a new version in early 2014
Is a picture is worth a thousand companies in a fragmented market? It’s certainly getting more and more interesting when it comes to “listening software” helping business attract, persuade, convert, and nurture customers from prospecting to retention. Integration is a hot topic, with incredibly successful companies like Salesforce encouraging their ecosystem to develop industry vertical applications, and more and more companies building their own processes and architectures (and even new applications) as a competitive advantage.
At GENBAND, we’re developing in WebRTC to enhance marketing systems with real time voice, video and messaging capabilities – using our own software to make it possible for us to engage as “live humans” with people visiting our website or responding to our email and web campaigns. We currently use Salesforce.com as our Customer and Sales platform, and Pardot as our marketing engine. Pardot is a super cool campaign development and lead nurturing platform. The sales and marketing applications are a partnership between our CIO, his IT team, me and my marketing team. We’ve hired “martech” experts, and are moving more of our marketing dollars into digital. We see lead, order and revenue results from these systems in mere months from deployment!
Hubspot (a Pardot competitor) published some relative statistics: only 27% of business to business (B2B) leads are sales-ready when first generated. This makes lead nurturing critical for capitalizing on the other 73%, but up to 65% of B2B marketers have not established lead nurturing campaigns. Ten years ago, the idea was targeting. Today, targeting is only scratching the surface – now, how leads are developed into a relationship is the new art and science of digital marketing.
CMOs and CIOs should have an ongoing discussion about how to best select, deploy and grow their digital marketing and lead generation – nurturing – and conversion efforts. The sales team will love them for it!
4. Are you analyzing your data to better understand your competition, pricing and competitive position?
Keeping track of your competition is important in industries like communications networks and software applications. There is no solid strategy without a full understanding of the competitive context. Given the massive amount of information available on the web, it is easier than ever to gather data and respond to it. Beyond the usual search and news alert approaches, there are statistics that marketing teams can gather based on key words, site traffic, and other “trending” data points.
We relentlessly track our competitors through a variety of means, including online research, ongoing conversations with top industry analysts, continual review of requests for proposals and feedback from participating in bids, and of course a feed-back loop from our sales team and channel partners. Being able to efficiently collect, synthesize and then make recommendations based on competitive intelligence is a perfect point of discussion between any CMO and CIO. In addition, protecting proprietary information from getting into the wrong hands is just as important.
The data we collect and analyze on our competition includes pricing, promotions, product and solution introductions entry into new geographic markets, partnerships and OEM relationships and more. It’s a constant activity, and requires not only diligence in collection, but quality in analysis and synthesis. It also requires an efficient and timely means to communicate the information to drive meaningful, targeted responses and actions – by R&D, sales operations, and of course front-line sales teams. There are software tools available to help monitor competition and capitalize on opportunities missed by the competition as new technologies or business models emerge. This should supplement, not supplant subscriptions to market intelligence from analyst firms.
There is so much information, the science is becoming an art of digesting then summarizing and sharing information using communications platforms like the intranet, internal blogging and messaging feeds, alerts, and more. Enabling employees to “sign up” for feeds from marketing on the competition and customers relevant to them is a project we continue to work on together with our IT team to combat “information overload.”
5. Are there new products or services that are IT or marketing related that you can introduce adjacent to your existing offerings?
My company is a global leader in VoIP solutions, and we’re making continual R&D investments in innovating web-communications solutions which embed voice and video into online interactions and workflow platforms. We are seeing more and more uptake in “Real Time Communications” (RTC) and “Rich Communications Services” (RCS) as part of businesses’ strategies to engage more naturally and productively with prospects and customers. This is one example where the solutions we are building for our customers are more frequently evolving from our own marketing innovations.
As a former CIO, I must admit I am obsessed with the alchemy of IT and marketing – I am always looking at how technology can help businesses succeed. The medium has been the message, but now the messaging and mediums are converging. End-users have endless choices on how they wish to engage and remain engaged: in person, by video conference, by voice, messaging, email, collaboration platforms, and more. Becoming a CMO opened my eyes to how fast the way companies brand, market, and sell is changing. Staying ahead has never been more important – particularly as a new generation of decision makers is rising up. These new users consider access to instantaneous and free information a given. They are holding businesses to higher and higher standards, including making communications simpler and adaptive to their “choice of channels.” Look for ways in your business to make IT and Marketing into the product.
6. How are you measuring the effectiveness of your marketing spending and can you optimize the marketing investment?
Never in history has marketing had the tools to show ROI, and CMOs and CIOs can work together to ensure even the most “micro” investments are attached to a reporting mechanism so businesses can adapt their spending towards the most productive tactics. With tools like Google Analytics, investments in web domains can be measured in real time. With campaign software, click-throughs and behaviors can be tracked all the way from targeting and lead generation to scoring and conversion. Given the mutability of the web, we are able to test three creative approaches for campaigns, for example, and adjust our spending based on initial response rates, and re-invest where we are making the most progress.
Events can be planned with software, promoted, tracked, and measured – whether they are intimate customer events, partner events, or large trade shows (in my company’s case, for example, Mobile World Congress, the largest mobile trade show and conference in the world each year). Every badge can be scanned, and leads generated in the morning can be acted upon by the sales team during the day, and reported by close of business that day. Our IT team helps us integrate data flows from many different touch points, and manage in Salesforce.com, while “talking” to other software platforms and databases we have in place. We’re fortunate to be a software driven company, so we have very smart and creative technologists throughout the business, whom we are not afraid to tap into along with our internal IT team.
Using software to help promote the business, drive interest and leads, and measure conversion is a win-win-win for marketing, sales and management. We love reporting on the results of our investments, and relentlessly work to communicate where we are succeeding and not succeeding – holding ourselves up as an example of a results-driven organization. Come budget time, when marketing is so often seen as an “expense” or “cost center” – we are able to show how marketing drives revenue and therefore enterprise value. This is making marketing and IT more popular than ever at GENBAND – including with the CFO!
7. Can you tie your marketing, sales process and customer relationship management systems and processes together more tightly to benefit the company and the customers?
The lack of customer data integration is ultimately an issue of data quality. I’ve seen many companies fail to recognize data quality as a strategic issue and only fix integration after quality issues surface. This failure to recognize the problem happens when prospect and customer data sets are managed by different groups and are part of different processes. When there is no single point of ownership across applications and channels, different groups believe their data is comprehensive and accurate. When data is merged, inconsistencies rapidly surface. Some companies, however, never find out about problems until they find out when prospects or customers report multiple points of contact, confusing messages or leave for a competitor.
If your company is experiencing any of the following issues – it’s high time your CMO and CIO sat down to compare notes:
- Business units are unaware when customers have additional accounts within other business units, often a challenge with wholesale/retail and multi-level channel businesses
- Customers are targeted for solutions they already have
- It takes forever to generate a report on “total customer value” because the process is manual
- You are finding yourselves in constant debates about which business unit owns the most accurate customer data
- Up-sell and cross-sell programs aren’t working
- Your customers are complaining
- And your prospects are not responding to offers
Ultimately every company is valued based on their customer base and future value – so when CMOs and CIOs work together to drive intelligent integration and more transparency into customer and prospect behavior, the entire business will benefit.
8. How can your marketing and IT efforts affect, influence and predict the company strategies?
I know it is hackneyed, but I still love that old saying – those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it. And those who do study history – and in this new digital world, those who continually study behaviors of customers and prospects, are doomed to be extremely successful.
When CMOs and CIOs collaborate to capture and analyze data, including data on the impact of marketing campaigns, they are bringing an often missed benefit to the business – the ability to develop strategies and predict results based on trending.
The ability to also track, capture, analyze, synthesize and then share market, technology and competitive information is critical to developing growth strategies, whether your company is seeking to drive more top line revenue growth, or bottom line EBIDTA growth. Very often, great strategies are about saying “no”. Especially in fast-moving industries, like communications software, strategy without data can provoke a lot of opinions. While we cannot always predict the outcome of investments required to ensure new strategies are successful – when the CMO and CIO work together to provide as much “actionable data” as possible during the development of a strategy, decision making becomes more grounded and less risky.
This is not to say information is only about managing risk – 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.
9. Are you ensuring your presence on the web and social media is contributing to your brand’s success and your operating results?
Understandably, a brand’s presence on the web and social media is the purview of the CMO and marketing team – given the importance of content and multimedia creative. So how can a CIO and CMO collaborate to ensure optimization of the web to raise brand awareness, promote solutions, drive and convert leads, and contribute to stronger business results? The CIO can serve as the “chief scientist” while the CMO serves as the “chief artist” – dividing and conquering when it comes to what is required for a truly successful and sustainable web program.
CIOs are all about the systems inside the company – including ERP, CRM, HR systems, productivity tools, and more. But when they work more closely with CMOs they can also contribute to the engagement outside the company. Building an audience on the web, including social media, is gardening. It needs to be planned, planted, pruned and progressively expanded. Success on the web certainly does not happen by itself, and it’s exciting to put together the marketing and IT teams to research the winners and determine their “secret sauce” – competition for mindshare and customers often begins online! Just as companies research their competition, researching the competition’s web and social statistics in order to “beat them at their own game” is not only important, but fun. It’s strategic and it’s competitive and measurable, and partnership between marketing and IT can result in online leadership faster together than separately.
It’s a volume play, it’s a numbers play – frequency matters. It’s also a quality play – content will always matter since the best targeting leading the right prospects to bad content will fail.
Investing time in building a strong social media presence will help reach new audiences and provide insights on current customers, who are likely the most important audiences to reach using the web and social media campaigns. It’s much less expensive to keep and grow an existing customer vs. having to recruit and convert new ones. I encourage CMOs to start up this dialogue with CIOs, or vice versa. Is your company doing everything it can to leverage the potential of the web and social media?
10. How are you creating a partner, supplier and technology ecosystem that is mutually beneficial operationally and maximizing revenue and go to market effectiveness?
Finally, I’d like to encourage CMOs and CIOs to look at the ecosystems they already have in place and may not think about as “marketing machinery.” There are many creative ways to look at the companies you work with, buy from, and partner with, to identify new ways to go-to-market. For GENBAND, the technology companies we partner with, including companies like Samsung, Intel, IBM, HP, are many of the same companies we buy from.
Why not sit down – CIO to CMO – and review the relationships you have to identify out-of-the-box ways to go-to-market empowered by each other’s products and solutions? Every company can benefits from business relationships that open minds and doors to new revenue.
Ecosystems are never easy to build, but when CIOs and CMOs think about the potential together, and work on the platforms for success together, two heads will be better than one, and two teams, marketing and IT, more able to make a big difference in fueling their company’s growth.
In 2014, I’ll continue to share results of our CIO/CMO efforts at GENBAND. It’s going to be a great year!