(This is our full set of day 2 session recaps for the MarTech East 2019 event. Read on for more insights on MarTech orchestration, career development, procurement best practices, and CX insights.)
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Keynote, Day 2
Keynote Session 1: From CMO to CEO: The Journey and Lessons Learned
Day 2’s keynote began with a brief session from Lola.com CEO Mike Volpe, who provided insights on the best way to transition from a marketing leadership position into a CEO position. According to Volpe, while CMOs do have transferable skills, being the world’s best CMO might not get you a CEO interview.
According to Volpe, there are CMO skills that are directly transferable to a modern CEO role, including:
Go-to-market expertise – Marketing leaders should expect to grow experience on go-to-market strategy, ideally for multiple market models across multiple channels. However, the goal of a CEO is to push marketing to adopt the right direction for a company’s business model to find the perfect GTM and drive alignment across different revenue teams.
Strategy expertise - As a CMO, there’s a lot of strategy work to do for both go-to-market and other areas. Marketing is a good proving ground to develop CEO-class strategy.
Communications expertise - Arguably, while strategy planning is important, planning is a small part of it. A larger part of strategy is repeatedly overcommunicating it to important stakeholders to ensure alignment across teams. Marketing leaders transitioning to a CEO role may need to change their communication style from prescriptive to Socratic. One of the best ways to drive adoption of important ideas can be to ask many questions and sit down and listen to nudge team members to come to important conclusions on their own.
Leadership expertise - As a marketing leader, you might have led small to medium-sized teams. Small teams give leaders opportunities to develop personal relationships that make individuals relatively easy to manage. Managing larger teams is a different beast. It’s advisable for executives to scaffold their skills by seeking mentorship from other CEOs. Volpe also asserts that hiring is the most important thing any executive will do, and should therefore take up a significant portion of your time. Volpe explained, “I spend lots of time browsing LinkedIn and partnering with recruiters. I used to interview 100% of all candidates, but have backed off as the company has grown. However, I still spend a lot of time thinking about hiring and recruiting even though I personally have only a few direct reports. Again, hiring is the most important part of being a CEO. Make sure your calendar allotment reflects this.”
Volpe went on to list a set of crucial CEO skills that CMOs often lack:
Managing outside your expertise - It can be intimidating for marketing specialists to try to manage sales, engineers, or other functions with which they have no personal experience. This is not something to be avoided or feared. It can be worthwhile to build experience in these areas outside of your day job.
Finance and accounting - CEOs must be able to speak fluently in the language of business and understand the broad applications of finance and capital structure on the company. Said Volpe, “Finance is a fundamental language of business. You can’t run a company if you don’t speak the language.” The executive suggested looking into online classes or tutorials to learn more, particularly about the importance of cash. Volpe asserted: “Cash is the fuel to grow your business. For some of your competitors, consider tracking stock prices, listening to quarterly earnings calls, and getting accustomed to what affects a stock price, especially from a company’s own statements. Understanding finance helps CEOs create and apply strategies to different growth scenarios. For instance, a new, cash-poor startup will have very different priorities from a company that recently raised funding in high growth mode and is looking to make that money last while burning cash to hire rapidly.
Board and investor management - Volpe explained that investors and boards can either exert an immensely positive or negative influence on CEOs and the operations of their companies. Walking into a board meeting unprepared is a disaster scenario - many boards will tear unprepared executives apart. However, modern boards seem interested in pulling marketers onto boards these days, which means there may be opportunities accessible for marketing leaders who can unearth these opportunities. There are unfortunately not many resources on how to be a good board member - it’s a skill that comes with time.
Volpe closed his session by recommending Ben Horowitz’s book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” which speaks honestly to the challenges of running a business.
Keynote Session 2: Orchestration Beats Sophistication in Marketing & Martech
The next session, presented by Bain & Company partner Cesar Brea, covered the rise of data science and the shortcomings of AI in modern marketing. Brea suggested that marketers have “reached peak AI in terms of hype cycle,” and that the real work will come down to smart use of data and a focus on results, not buzzwords.
Brea suggested that modern marketing comes down to five primary stages:
- Evaluation - How are our campaigns and website doing. What is/are the problem(s)?
- Execution - How do we fix those problems?
- Analytics - What additional factors need to be considered? And are the analytics in play transparent, maintainable, and credible? If not, they are unlikely to be adopted and will fall by the wayside.
- Data - Do we have integrity in our data? Good analytics aren’t enough if data integrations are fragmented and practitioners need to juggle flat files to compensate.
- Use case - To optimize use cases, marketers need to build a feedback loop that leads back to their use case to confirm that they’re getting the results they want.
Brea suggested that marketers consider using a ”‘marketing performance grid” that overlays specific, snapshot performance metrics on top of every marketing channel and major initiative. By mapping out up-to-the-minute performance on top of channels such as email, online ads, website performance, and direct mail, marketers can easily identify bottlenecks at a glance. For example, if email metrics and website traffic and conversions are in line with current expectations, but paid ads are underperforming, marketers can instantly identify what they need to fix next.
Brea listed several case studies that called attention to the importance of contextually understanding these five factors and strategically using them to resolve pain points. One example was that of a nationwide retailer expecting increased foot traffic during shopping season. The retailer blithely queued up its marketing spend to deploy during the middle of the shopping season, but realized post facto that shopping activity varied greatly in different regions, such that it greatly overspent for some locations and greatly underspent for others. Brea also covered other examples, such as a company that heavily relied on direct mail marketing and used a somewhat inaccurate model to predict churn. In its first run, it was able to accurately predict about 50% of customers that churned, while still sending out costly mailers to the other 50%. By improving its model, it was able to identify about 75% of its customers at churn risk and conserved considerably more of its spend by oversending only about 25% of its next deploy to churning customers, rather than half.
Brea offered a few predictions about how marketing operations is currently changing and will evolve in the years to come:
Workshop to war room - Brea predicted that kanban-style planning around manually-written sticky notes is being phased out for meetings around monitors that focus on data, not intuition-based brainstorming
Center of excellence to citizen data scientist - Brea also predicted that analytics will cease to be a centralized discipline as more marketers become versed on analytics and more organizations adopt new and user-friendly metrics that offer more-actionable insights
Simplistic automation to experimentation - The analyst suggested that single-thread process (STP)-style automation that simply triggers one process after another will give way to a more-experimental style of automation as marketers endlessly test campaigns in real time
Dashboard descriptions to decision support - Finally, Brea suggested that analytics dashboards, while helpful, may give way to contextual recommendations. Rather than staring at a bank of charts and attempting to extrapolate conclusions, marketers will favor contextualized suggestions that specifically state: “Your campaign is underperforming in this aspect - here are three things you can do about it.”
SESSION 2: How to Organize and Coach Outstanding Marketing Operations Teams
Featuring Kimi Corrigan of @cisco
This session featured Head of Marketing Operations at Cisco Duo Security, Kimi Corrigan. Korrigan began by describing the structure of her own, highly mature marketing operations team, which contained four different functions:
Platform operation support (POPs) - The technology owners who act as administrators and work with sales operations on larger, behind-the-scenes projects
Campaign operations (COPs) - The team that implements and executes the technical aspects of marketing campaigns using the company’s MarTech stack.
Marketing intelligence operations (MIOPs) - Analysts who check campaign data to verify accuracy of metrics and advise the demand generation team.
Development marketing operations - Operations professionals who manage front-end development for emails, landing pages, and other marketing collateral.
In addition to these functions, Corrigan strongly recommended hiring a project manager as soon as possible. Project managers can handle operational requests as well as bureaucratic tasks (such as managing contracts for new MarTech applications the team is evaluating). They can filter and prioritize the dreaded ad-hoc requests that otherwise take marketing operations professionals sideways.
Corrigan suggested that marketing operations professionals largely understand they won’t be frontline heroes who are the subject of many celebrations. Some marketing ops managers actively avoid the spotlight and may shy away from feedback. However, Corrigan suggested that marketing operations is a role that benefits from coaching and cross-training to build confidence and rapport. The executive suggested the following approaches:
“Pull and push” team projects and leaders - To build team camaraderie as well as leadership skills and confidence, Corrigan explained that she de-emphasizes hierarchy and focuses on project-based structure, encouraging every team member to regularly take the lead on specific operations projects. Once a team member has taken point on a project, that project lead is expected to hold all other related team members responsible for requirements and deliverables - even their own bosses. This approach ‘pushes down’ the decision-making process, builds confidence, and helps team members grow accustomed to leadership.
Coaching, not managing - Corrigan stated that she manages team members 20% of the time and “coaches” them the other 80%. The executive defines coaching as asking more questions than answering to encourage team members to engage with challenges and come up with their own solutions. She also recommended regular quarterly meetings in face-to-face meetings and candidly asking team members such questions as “If you could write your job description and salary a year from now, what would they be?” The subsequent conversation then boils down to how to get that team member to where they want to go. Corrigan also recommended that teams “make everyone a coach” by practicing “radical candor” as described in Kim Scott’s management book. Not everyone is accustomed to receiving bluntly honest feedback, but Corrigan asserted that creating an atmosphere of total honesty is ultimately the most productive way to go.
SESSION 3: Creating and Enabling a Unified Marketing Ecosystem
Featuring Shaunna Conway of @deloitte + Patrick McQuaid of @td_canada
This session featured advertising and marketing analyst Shaunna Conway of Deloitte Consulting and VP of MarTech and Analytics Patrick McQuaid of TD Bank Canada. The presenters discussed the importance of creating a unified MarTech ecosystem for an extremely large, risk-averse, and cost-averse financial institution.
The presenters opened with a roadmap for TD Bank Canada, which consisted of:
Vision - A high-level assessment for the future of the company’s MarTech stack
Assessment - An audit of the company’s current technologies, regular users, technical capabilities, and relevant customer data
Target state - A revised set of goals establishing specific objectives and overall scope of the project and the amount of change management (costs, training, and process changes) involved
Roadmap - A realistic map of short-term and long-term projects to deliver the best possible MarTech stack aligned to appropriate team members with proper enablement and expectations for accountability set
To define its vision, the presenters identified TD Bank Canada’s key objectives: to drive personalization at scale, create a connected user experience, create brand loyalty, democratize tool usage, and prioritize its investments. The presenters saw key gaps in the bank’s ability to responsively deliver customized messaging to keep prospective customers and existing customers engaged. Its challenges included multiple customer views, legacy technology, and a lack of reusable content. From this initial assessment, the presenters set out to take a customer-focused approach to solving its challenges with better customer segmentation, customized content to be produced and utilized at scale, optimized CX, and a dedication to continuous learning-based improvements based on captured metrics.
For this task, the presenters structured its MarTech organization to include a “steering committee” to align stakeholders on overall goals versus current progress; a marketing ecosystem leadership to define the team’s future strategy; a transformation leadership team consisting of line-of-business (LOB) users and technologists to provide on-the-ground feedback for direction; and a capability leadership team to ensure the project was properly provisioned with budget to cover procuring technology with the necessary capabilities.
While the presenters are still in the final implementation process, they’ve learned valuable lessons from working on such a huge MarTech design and implementation project. For instance, small proof-of-concept (PoC) projects can be useful to showcase value to stakeholders before significantly investing in a larger rollout. It can also be valuable to formulate a set of overarching “guiding principles” to stick to, rather than an overly prescriptive and highly detailed list of a thousand tactical steps. It’s also important to manage change by involving stakeholders as early in any process or technology change as possible.
SESSION 4: Avoiding Random Acts of MarTech
Featuring Stacy Falkman, Steve Petersen, John Jagelsky
This rapid-fire panel session featured three marketing operations practitioners working at several different organizations in education, finance, and software. It largely focused on group answers to specific panel questions.
The first question for the panel was about how many products each panelist evaluates and implements annually, which ranged from anywhere from 2-3 products to 4-5 - including bringing on new solutions or sunsetting existing ones. All marketing operations professionals, including the panelists, face realistic limitations on acquiring new apps for their MarTech stack, including budget, timing, and administrative approvals, among others. The panelists agreed that there isn’t a single “right answer” to exactly how many new solutions an operations team should evaluate at any given time.
When asked about the importance of free trials and PoC engagements, the panel admitted that it can be difficult to secure free trials for more-involved solutions, particularly those that require deep software integrations (which take time and incur security concerns). The panel also pointed out that it’s possible to sabotage yourself by setting too tight of a timeframe on a trial or PoC, as many solutions have a learning curve that requires some time to master. It’s possible to restrict yourself to too short of a window for a solution that might otherwise have been very valuable and short-change yourself. In cases in which trials or PoC are unimportant, the panel recommended requesting that vendors demo use cases that are directly relevant to your own, ideally for companies within your own industry. When all else fails, operations professionals may have to rely on referrals, reviews, and word of mouth.
The panelists shared that they try to look for a variety of second-hand intel before making purchases, such as customer references, review websites such as G2Crowd and TrustRadius, as well as reports from analysts such as Gartner and Forrester. One approach is to create a vendor spreadsheet that not only compares solutions by features, but also by feedback, even down to intel gleaned from review websites, though the panelists advised against putting too much stock into reviews that were overly positive or negative. This process may sound time-consuming but can be helpful to inform tough choices.
When asked how to define stakeholders for new processes and tech acquisitions, the panelists unanimously agreed on the value of forming strong relationships with cross-functional teams. Every panelist asserted the importance of marketing operations having healthy relationships with IT procurement and finance groups to facilitate purchases and approvals. It’s also important to have strong relationships with legal and data security teams to ensure that any new solutions you acquire will pass through approvals as expediently as possible while ensuring compliance with important regulations such as GDPR. One of the most important new changes in recent years has been the need to bring information security (infosec) teams into procurement conversations as early as possible to identify and address security concerns as soon as possible.
(That’s the end of our coverage for MarTech East 2019’s day 2 sessions. For more in-depth coverage of the marketing operations sessions featured at the event, please see our previous days’ blogs.)