Why GoDaddy needs a CMO and a chief customer officer

The CMO and CCO of technology services provider to small businesses, GoDaddy, share their joint quest to keep customer centricity as the heart of the company's go-to-market strategy

Phil Bienert and Barb Rechterman
Phil Bienert and Barb Rechterman

In March, small business technology provider, GoDaddy, joined the growing list of organisations globally to appoint an executive-level chief customer officer (CCO).

The lucky candidate was Barb Rechterman, a GoDaddy veteran who had been with the organisation since its launch in 1997, and who had been CMO since 2006. Under her leadership, the US-based business reached an aided brand awareness score of more than 80 per cent, helping put Rechterman on the Forbes list of Most Influential Chief Marketing Officers for 2014.

As GoDaddy’s inaugural CCO, Rechterman became responsible for aligning the company’s products, services and engagement models with the strategic needs and values of its customer base. GoDaddy has nearly 13 million customers across 42 markets and employs 4000 staff.

“This new role is one I was destined to take and a challenge I’m already running at full throttle,” said Rechterman. “As we expand internationally, we are scaling up and innovating customer-relation strategies for a global audience. We’ve always known… as we take care of our customers and prioritise their needs, our overall business thrives.”

That didn’t make the CMO role redundant, however. Taking up the reins was Phil Bienert, GoDaddy’s executive vice-president of digital commerce for two years, and a seasoned data-driven marketer. Notably, both Bienert and Rechterman report to company CEO, Blake Irving.

So why did this organisation need both a CMO and CCO? We caught up with Bienert and Rechterman to find out.

Why it’s not CMO versus CCO

Rather than perceive the CCO as a threat, Bienert said the creation of such a role demonstrates how important customers are in the engagement process.

“At GoDaddy, we’ve always viewed the customer as our ‘north star,’ meaning no matter what team you are on, the customer is the lens through which we make decisions and prioritise,” he told CMO. “Having a chief customer officer within our senior leadership team fuels our overall alignment, so, no, the CCO is not a threat, it’s critical to our success.”

Read more: Are CCOs a threat to the CMO, or the ultimate modern marketer?

According to Rechterman, the CCO gives customers a defined voice beyond social media, and a dedicated channel beyond customer care and support.

“The job varies, depending on the company, but as our chief customer officer, I’m responsible for aligning the company’s products, services and engagement models with strategic needs and values of GoDaddy’s unique customer base,” she said.

“Since inception, GoDaddy has been a customer-centric organisation. In fact, we decided to become a domain name registrar after going through the process of registering a name ourselves and realising it was difficult for people who weren’t technical and cost more than it should. For us, having that ‘customer experience’ gave us the idea to democratise domain names, which led to becoming the company we are today serving small business owners and entrepreneurs with dozens of products and services designed to help them thrive online.”

Over the years, GoDaddy has continued to distinguish itself from other technology providers with its own brand of personalised, 24 by 7 telephone support and consultant, Rechterman said.

“This has given us great insight into customer needs, especially with our small business owners. The CCO is ultimately responsible for the customer experience, but we’re all working toward a common goal to help customers succeed online,” she said.

Bienert said each of the complementary positions is a huge job in itself, which is why both he and Rechterman report directly to GoDaddy’s CEO.

“As CMO, I’m working on marketing strategies and executing on a global scale through a variety of channels including digital, social, broadcast and direct marketing,” he said.” At the same time, Barb is taking customer input, and as the ‘voice’ of the customer, is working to connect the dots across our organisation to adapt in ways that help us serve our customers better. This could be usability, a product function, or any other number of potential improvements.

“As fast as technology changes, we want to be there to make the process of setting up a digital presence seamlessly productive, so we strive to continually improve. Both positions help grow the customer base, but the day-to-day responsibilities are defined differently.”

Thanks to her diverse skillset, Rechterman is able to champion the customer and be a strategic driver when it comes to thinking differently about customer-value and customer needs, he said.

To support both functions, Bienert said he and Rechterman also made it a priority to collaborate with chief technical officer, Elissa Murphy, on customer programs.

“Elissa has a big voice in how we serve customers and what we build for them based on their needs as small business owners,” he continued. “While this type of customer-technical-marketing collaboration may not be common practice, in our view having a diverse group of leaders ‘at the table’ who understand big data and customer insights from a range of viewpoints is mission critical and a valuable differentiator for GoDaddy customers.

“What’s key is to have everyone working toward the same goal, which in our case is to empower customers to succeed online.”

Rechterman agreed having a sense of customer ownership at every level makes a positive difference. “It’s absolutely critical for everyone in an organisation that serves customers to ‘own’ their piece of it and be passionate about helping customers,” she said.

One thing Rechterman said is making it easier to be an effective CCO is her vast experience across different functions of GoDaddy’s business. Over the past 18 years, she’s led the engineering and developer teams, customer care, communications and marketing. It’s this experience that’s an asset when it comes to “connecting the dots across different disciplines internally”, she said.

“It’s good to have a CCO to have a good sense of how things work in the company and having been at GoDaddy since the start, I am fortunate to have a unique perspective,” she said.

“Think about the range of products and services we offer customers – it’s not just domain names, it’s websites that we can build or you can build yourself; there are ecommerce sites, marketing products, email, online accounting and invoicing. A big part of my job is to help customers find the right solution for their goals.

“A CCO who can step into a customer’s shoes, so to speak, and be their advocate behind the scenes with the product teams is a very good thing for customers.”

Building the right company values

It may sound like a lofty goal, but Rechtenberg claimed every line of code, customer call or interaction is a chance to change the world.

“Owning outcomes is a core value in our organisation that we all talk about every day,” she said. “We are all here to empower people to easily start, confidently grow and successfully run their own ventures. The CCO job is about keeping our teams aligned and adaptable in an organised way to continuously improve the customer experience.”

Likewise, the CMO has a customer-centric focus and needs to understand the customer lifecycle, Bienert said.

“I’ve spent much of my career focused on the customer journey and using a data-driven approach to get the right message to customers at the right time, based on what they need at various stages of their development,” he said. “As CMO, I have to consider the customer in order to market effectively.”

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