Data-driven marketing drives "geekification" of the CMO

CMO catches up with Glenn Pingul at Globys to discuss how data analytics, digital marketing and the rise of the chief marketing officer into the c-suite is making marketers geeks

The evolution of marketing through data and analytics is “geekifying” the CMO role and putting stronger emphasis on partnership and alignment between marketing and IT departments.

That’s the view of Glenn Pingul, an experienced marketer and VP of products at US-based big data analytics company, Globys, who caught up with CMO to discuss what he calls the “geekification of the CMO” and utilising data insights to drive customer engagement.

Pingul’s resume includes running above-the-line branding activities for marketing agencies in the US, as well as more quantitative-oriented marketing roles. These range from heading up in-based marketing at T-Mobile USA incorporating Web strategy, to loyalty retention programs at American Express and marketing strategy and analytics at retailer, Nordstrom.

At Globys, he oversees the company’s contextual marketing division and flagship product, Mobile Occasions, a data analytics and reporting solution aimed at telcos and financial services providers.

According to Pingul, the phrase “geekification of the CMO” is a reflection of the challenges marketers are facing, regardless of industry, to justify spend, improve customer experience, and be true business executives.

He outlined three key factors behind the shift to more data-driven marketing leadership. The first is the natural evolution of marketing models from pure growth and acquisition to understanding the customer better. Using the mobile telco industry as an example, Pingul claimed marketing done today is heavily reliant on grasping what’s happening below-the-line, and diving deeper into the campaign results available, than broad brush, above-the-line acquisition tactics.

The second contributor is the rise of marketing to executive level within organisations. “In order to sit with the other c-suite executives, marketers need a more quantitative approach,” he said. “To stand toe to toe, you have to prove your facts around how your business unit is working, and it’s hard to do that when you’re just showing things based on gut feel. You need to bring more data around that.

“So much of marketing is in large ways controlled indirectly by procurement and finance. They look at things in terms of hard numbers and ROI.”

The third driver of CMO “geekification” is digital marketing. “If you think about the kind of analysis, data and insights marketing and ecommerce companies are getting on the Web, it’s so much more sophisticated in terms of understanding the sales and retention funnel. It’s again brought a lot more pressure onto analysis for marketers,” Pingul said.

“And CMOs can’t just deliver results, they also need to explain what’s working. Whether they’re delivering value above expectations or not, those days of not knowing what’s effective are running out.”

As well as becoming more quantitatively driven, modern marketing chiefs must possess a degree of technical understanding, Pingul said. To do this, he advocated better partnerships with the CTO and CIO.

“It’s like a baseball team – you may be a great infielder, but if you can’t run you don’t sit in the outfield. You instead get a guy who is a good at roving and is fast, but may not have as quick reflexes,” he said. “It’s about thinking not as individuals, but as a team.”

Bridging that CMO-CIO gap

What’s clear, however, from a host of recent global surveys is that CMOs and CIOs continue to struggle with how best to collaborate. Pingul used his own experience at T-Mobile taking over Web properties from IT, to explain how CMOs can find common ground with IT.

“There was a decision that things weren’t moving fast enough and that IT was building things the customers didn’t necessarily want,” he recalled. “So marketing put together a list of 20 features we wanted on the site for customers as priorities and sent it to the IT team. We had zero traction.

“The head of Web IT services team then suggested we do joint application design sessions [JADS] and bring together the person with the vision, with the person who can build it. We went through each of the 20 items and when we explained in our language what it was we were trying to get the site to do, every one of those items was something IT could easily solve.

“We didn’t care how they were going to solve it, but we had a better understanding that what they were going to build was exactly what we needed. The enlightening thing was just having conversations in your own language and finding the commonalities. We had used customer experience as an example, and IT got it.”

If you can find the common factor of what you’re trying to solve, IT will deliver the technical capability, Pingul said. “IT staff don’t want to waste any more time than you in marketing want to waste,” he said.

“If you set the same goal for everyone so they not only know that’s the goal, but their compensation is also tied to it, it’s amazing to see how easily it moves people to go in the same direction, at least at a high level.”

The next step is making sure the individual strategies leading up to that bigger goal are consistent. “It’s also the point where you make trade-offs,” Pingul said.

One example he used was average speed of answer across the customer care team. “The difference between having a target of 4 seconds versus 20 seconds is light years in terms of expense. So you have to make sure the priority is aligned with the business, as well as consider whether it’s worth having real time all the time, or in specific instances.

“If you don’t have people with the same goals, you lose trust in them working on things for the same benefit. If everyone works towards the same goals, you have a built-in level of trust and the dialogue where you or someone can say ‘I can give you real time, but it’s going to cost $x’. Collectively, you make those trade-off decisions together.”

The relationship between CMO and CIO is one problem, but data collection is clearly the other. Pingul stressed the importance of getting the entire organisation to see the value of data as part of the customer strategy.

“If you put a value on data because it helps drives great loyalty across the enterprise, then people in customer care will understand that they need to put that code on why someone called because the information is going to be valuable downstream,” he said.

“It’s incumbent on the person leading the strategy to think through what they want, how it’s going to achieve the objectives and how technology enables those objectives to be realised and make the trade-offs, not just offer up a wish list.”

Creativity versus data

While many industry commentators suggest the shift towards data-driven marketing is at the expense of creativity, Pingul believed being a geeky CMO ultimately leads to more creativity.

(RELATED: How Mi9 balances real-time marketing with creativity)

“We look at the insights and analysis we bring to our customers as the lightning rod of creativity,” he said.

“I think a lot of the misconception about ‘geek’ marketers is that they’re just pseudo-finance people looking at numbers and spreadsheets. We strive to present insights that deliver those ‘a ha’ moments. What that does is allow a marketer to think more creatively.

“Not only have you the insights on what your customers are really doing, you can now deliver a set of messages that say this. You’re relying on real data to justify why you took a certain strategic direction.”

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