CMO50 #10: Jonathan Amery, Vocus Communications
With over a decade of marketing executive experience in the UK and Australia leading up to his position at Vocus Communications, Jonathan Amery has witnessed first-hand the rapid evolution of the role of the CMO within the digital landscape.
“It’s all totally different from when I first started,” the GM of marketing and customer experience says. “Our basic marketing tools have changed completely, across everything we’re doing. Digital tools, in-house practices, automation and your ability to measure what you’re doing have all totally changed as well.
“Where you allocate your budget, the types of talent you hire into your team - it’s all gone from a few big pieces as a marketing strategy, to lots and lot of little things that contribute to the overall pipeline.”
In discussing all the small components that make up overall marketing pipeline, Amery says the IP telephony brand takes the time to break everything down into the traditional marketing funnel, from awareness to consideration, to evaluation and sales, plus all the bits in between.
“From that we can then look at what can we measure, what are the activities we need at awareness phase, how many people we are pushing at the top of the funnel, how many people are we moving through the funnel, and what the different tools or mechanics to help people drive through that funnel,” he explains. “Then we look at how many people are falling outside of the funnel, how many people are getting to the bottom and what they are all worth.”
Throughout his career, Amery says he’s build towards a leadership position by moving away from being a traditional specialist and branching out to embrace different roles.
“This is where I think a few marketers will come unstuck,” he says. “As you move up in your career and you become more senior, you need to move back into being a generalist. A CMO, by definition, should be a generalist and a marketer that has a good understanding of strategic planning, looking at how things fit together and how to motivate a team and how to work towards a single goal, with a good understanding of everything along the way.
“At the same time, a CMO needs to be able to rely on those specialist roles within their team to unify those various silos of strategy.”
CMOs need to invest in people
Amery also describes the CMO role as being all about investing in your people.
“You have to develop your team because things are moving so quickly and there’s so much to learn,” he says. “Things change so rapidly that what works now might not necessarily work in three months’ time. You need to put time into training your team and give them an opportunity to grow and learn, so they can keep up with all this stuff. Because if you don’t adapt you become a dinosaur pretty quickly.”
When it comes to leveraging talent, Amery says leaders need to ensure their team is not just skilled on what needs to be done, but also has good direction and strategic planning from the top down.
“Ultimately, there is always just too much to do,” he says. “We’re not a huge team, but unless there are 50 people, you just can’t do everything. On top of this, there’s a lot of distraction out there, so it’s not just about choosing what to do, but about choosing what not to do.”
Question every marketing move
The next key thing Amery suggests CMOs should prioritise is a culture that questions everything you’re doing.
“With things moving this quickly, marketers shouldn’t make a lot of assumptions that because something has worked before, or because someone else says it works, or because that’s the way it has been done, it’s a working model,” he says.
There’s also an onus on CMOs to ensure their team is empirically testing things and taking a good hard look at the data that’s coming out and question all the components of the marketing mix that should be working.
“You can then determine what should stay and what should change,” he says. “And that’s a hard decision sometimes. You need to ask are you making decisions because you’re too scared to just turn things off because they don’t work, or are you making decisions based on the data? From a CMO point of view, that’s pretty critical.”
In his CMO50 submission, Amery detailed the innovative integrated marketing activity work he's done on building Amcom's brand in the higher education sector.
Where marketers get it wrong, Amery claims, is forgetting about the strategies that really drive sales or contribute to the bottom line.
“There are certainly a lot of distractions out there that you can be great at marketing, but still not have great results,” he says.
A recent strategic move Amery executed was building a customer experience team and function within Amcom and to have that function sit within marketing. This is despite the fact that he agrees customer experience sits across every part of the business.
“For a rapidly commoditising industry like IT and telco, and as consumers demand personalisation and personalised experiences, there comes a point when the balance should tip from just spending to acquire new customers to investing a big part of that that spend back into the experience,” he says. “It’s also about trusting that the investment is creating advocates, promoters and lifelong campaigners for our brand. In my opinion, customer experience works hand-in-glove with marketing. CMOs need help to drive this experience on the strategic agenda.”
Over the next 12 months, Amery says the focus is on driving the brand nationally and leveraging a few key products to become the number one force for IP telephony in Australia.
“Vocus is a fantastic brand with an amazing heritage, it’s about doing things differently and having a real customer-centric business, and not just doing it because everyone else is doing it,” he says. “We’re about changing the status quo and really doing some great things for our customers. The job for us moving forward is to really build that understanding of that challenger brand and start sharing it out a little wider than it is now.”