Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Few CMOs would list engineering as their undergraduate degree. But for Kraig Swensrud, that unusual starting point was the perfect beginning for a career that now sees him working as the San Francisco-based CMO for Australian email marketing giant, Campaign Monitor.
It is a technical skillset he believes will be increasingly in demand as the worlds of marketing and technology continue to collide.
“My background through my education was in studying complex systems and learning how things worked,” Swensrud says. “But what I discovered early on was my passion for translating complicated concepts and technologies into compelling and easy-to-understand stories.”
Swensrud’s early jobs were in software engineering with enterprise giants, Oracle and SAP, in the mid-1990s, where he saw first-hand how technology was helping transform the Fortune 500. It wasn’t long before he also saw this generation of technology come under threat from software-as-a-service providers.
That realisation led Swensrud in 2006 to found his first startup, Kienden, which provided real-time integration between Google AdWords and Salesforce CRM. That company was acquired by Salesforce and Swensrud went on to become its CMO for product marketing and product management, before leaving in 2012 to found his second startup, the online survey tool, GetFeedback.
That company was subsequently acquired by Campaign Monitor in November 2014, with Swensrud stepping into the CMO role. He describes the meeting with Campaign Monitor founders, Dave Greiner and Ben Richardson, as a match made in heaven.
“We shared the same core philosophies and were excited about the same things,” Swensrud says. “Now what I am really excited about is helping businesses all around the world. It was really fun to help the Fortune 500 transform and grow, but taking that technology expertise and simplifying it and adding value to millions of companies around that world – that is what gets me to wake up every day.”
Swensrud says demand for Campaign Monitor’s easy-to-use email marketing solutions has led the company to double its performance against almost every major performance metric, with November being the biggest month in its history.
Powering that growth is a suite of marketing tools Swensrud has pulled together into an integrated stack, including Google AdWords and Analytics Optimizely, Vimeo, AdRoll, GetFeedback and Salesforce.
“We rely on these technologies to really execute every major function, from the paid online advertising to our demand generation campaign, our customer marketing, and showcasing what our customers are doing through video,” he explains.
“There is a megatrend that is happening in marketing technology, which is the move to do it yourself. Because these tools are always getting simpler and easier to use and move cost effective, and because the vendors themselves are doing some of the hard work of plugging the technologies together, they work together out of the box. That is making it easier and easier for marketers to take advantage of these technologies, and that is going to continue for years to come.”
Even so, Swensrud considers his engineering background and entrepreneurial experience essential as a modern marketer.
“I entered the workforce right out of college, understanding the principles of engineering, understanding analytics and feeling comfortable working with the latest and newest technologies,” he says. “We are a data-driven company; it is in our DNA, and is what we are all about. And so I felt almost like I was born for this modern era of data-driven marketing, and I think without that background it would be extremely challenging.
“I can see moving forward that as marketing technology grows, and there are more vendors to think about, that certainly is a challenge for a lot of classic marketers and CMOs.”
Bringing marketing automation into Campaign Monitor
It is also a challenge Swensrud and his colleagues are keen to help with at Campaign Monitor. He says in 2016 the company will maintain the focus on ease-of-use that has enabled it to sign up more than 2 million paying customers, but will also expand its focus to tackle automation of marketing processes by bringing the concepts embodied in tools such as Marketo, ExactTarget and Eloqua down to a price point suitable for smaller businesses.
“In one of my previous roles as chief marketing officer, I implemented one of these products and it cost me a $1 million and I had 10 people working on it for a year,” Swensrud says. ”It delivered phenomenal results, but when you think about the Fortune 5 million, those companies don’t have a $1 million, 10 people and a year to wait.
"And that’s why you see marketing automation technologies really only being adopted by mid-market and enterprise companies.”
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