CMO50 #18: Kevin Ryder, IR
Kevin Ryder was appointed VP of global marketing for Australia-based IR in November 2013. At the time, the software company said he would lead the biggest marketing shake-up in its 25-year history.
And that’s exactly what’s happened. Over the past two years, he has worked tirelessly on a raft of transformative initiatives, including a brand rejuvenation, data-led customer engagement programs, organisational and structural changes to the marketing function, and wider collaborations with sales teams.
Empowered and long-term thinking
“The strategic aim of the CMO is to support aggressive financial growth targets while delivering a great personalised customer experience. This will be done through innovation in digital marketing and stronger partner relationships, and by closing the gap caused by physical distance with the majority of our global customers,” Ryder says.
“In October 2013, IR CEO, Darc Rasmussen, outlined a four-pillar, five-year strategic plan to drive growth. Strategic marketing programs and partnering are led by the CMO. Two years in, both revenue and profit targets have been exceeded, and over the last 12 months, the marketing generated pipeline has more than doubled.
“We now use agile methods to introduce new innovative marketing ideas and the team understands that if they don’t fail, they are not trying hard enough."
Top marketing attributes
For Ryder, every CMO now needs a good understand of what drives the business.
“You also need a focus on revenue-based outcomes, the ability to transform data into informed decisions and a customer-centric attitude,” he says.
From the CMO50 submission
Business contribution and innovation
IR has established a global leadership position in the performance management of unified communications ecosystems. However, with Microsoft Skype for Business disrupting the market, IR needed to adapt quickly and develop a new go-to-market strategy.
To do this, Ryder led a transformational change team to review every aspect of IR’s business, including organisational structure, product direction and sales channels.
Since commencing the initiative, IR has made significant progress towards its transformational goals. This includes a major investment in R&D and marketing programs, new roles dedicated to the Microsoft channel and the rollout of new KPIs to ensure complete organizational alignment to the strategic objectives.
“Early results have been very positive and include over 400 per cent increase in sales pipeline for the Microsoft product line,” Ryder said in his CMO50 submission.
Modern marketing and customer engagement thinking and effectiveness
IR lists many multinational firms among its clients, including more than 25 per cent of the Fortune 500. However, few were willing to speak publically. Attempts to convince customers to provide endorsements had failed and few believed this would change.
Ryder launched a new voice of the customer initiative in June 2014, accompanied by KPIs for all employees. The program encourage IR customers to share stories of how they had used IR solutions to ‘save the day’ in their organisation. Over the following 12 months, 45 customer testimonials were published, beating the initial target by 50 per cent.
“The success of the program to date has been the result of driving a customer-first culture,” Ryder said. “The organisation first needed to understand that this was the responsibility of every employee and not just the account executive. Making the customer a hero is now ingrained in the IR culture.”
Data and/or technology driven approach
Like many CMOs in recent years, tackling customer data to drive better insights and marketing is a major priority. Ryder is no different and said when he joined IR in 2013, customer data quality was poor and it was essentially being used to send out mass unsegmented emails. The result was that the marketing function had become ineffective.
“Ultimately, customers were confused and did not understand the value that IR delivered,” he said in his submission.
As part of the project to address poor customer engagement, Ryder undertook a four-step process to transform IR marketing to a data-led team, which now operates in real-time with more informed decisions for greater customer engagement and increased ROI. Steps taken included building capability in the marketing team through introducing new digital skillsets, data cleansing and tools integration, sales alignment, and introducing new platforms including a cloud hosted website, social tracking software, analytics tools and personalisation capability.
As a result, IR could then deliver new and engaging content aligned to the buyers journey – a shift from technical specifications and stock library photos to storytelling using creative animation, Ryder said.
Results to date include a significant increase in customer satisfaction, a 127 per cent increase in marketing generated revenue, and a 110 per cent increase in marketing generated pipeline.
“Customers now feel that IR is engaging with them as a trusted advisor and they value the information that is shared,” Ryder added.
In February 2014, Kevin led a review of the company brand. At that time, IR was known as Integrated Research, and had poor brand equity and technical, complex and inconsistent messaging. In November 2014, the new IR brand was launched.
“In came a refreshing new brand that promoted a simple message about optimisation of complex environments in an entertaining way,” Ryder said in his submission. “A new IR logo was created using just two dots and two dashes and a series of fun animations were used to tell stories in an engaging way.
“The new brand was also the catalyst for a new vision for the company and a way to unite all employees and engage customers.”
In June at a ceremony in London, IR won a ‘Graphite Pencil’ award from the Design & Advertising (D&AD) organisation, followed up by a Cannes Lions award from France.
Since the brand launched, unique website visitors increased by 50 per cent, and the year finished on a high note with the announcement of record profits.