​CMO interview: The importance of being digitally agile with your CIO

Executive VP and CMO of Avanade reveals why it’s critical for marketers to wrap their heads around technology, data and digital vision

Avanade’s executive VP and CMO, Stella Goulet talks about being digitally agile and importance of CMO/CIO collaboration
Avanade’s executive VP and CMO, Stella Goulet talks about being digitally agile and importance of CMO/CIO collaboration

In order to succeed in today’s fast-paced world, B2B marketers need to jointly develop a digital vision for their organisation in partnership with the CIO, Avanade’s marketing chief claims.

With more than 20 years’ experience in marketing, including a global marketing leadership post at IT services company, Capgemini, Avanade executive VP and CMO, Stella Goulet, has seen how much technological change has truly impacted the role.

“When I began my marketing career 20 years ago, the fastest way to reach a mass audience was by fax, whereas today we have a plethora of digital tools” she told CMO. “At the same time, buyers and the buying journey have changed significantly and are continuing to evolve rapidly.”

Technology is so important to reaching customer today that IT needs to be your best friend, Goulet said.

“However, as we work with clients and as I talk with my peers around the world, it’s clear that many companies still struggle with this alignment,” she said. “Marketing and IT teams tend to speak different languages and you must bridge that gap.”

At Avanade, Goulet has been fortunate to partner closely with her CIO counterpart to jointly execute a shared digital vision, something they now refer to as a ‘CIMO’ (Chief Information Marketing Officer) perspective.

“Our digital marketing strategy was one of the first projects where we worked on together, and having the right people to conduct due diligence and execute was a key element,” she explained. “In fact, one of the first people I hired was a digital marketing expert with expertise in technology. On the IT side, our CIO assigned a business analyst to work with marketing who is strong in technology, but has a clear understanding of and experience with the way we operate and our objectives.”

At Avanade, four key success factors have been employed by the CIO and CMO to establish a shared CIMO perspective: Alignment with business outcomes; ongoing collaboration; shared, practical priorities and projects; and multi-disciplinary teams who have some knowledge of both marketing and technology.

“If a marketer is unable to get the right level of partnership and cooperation from their IT counterparts, I would advise them to go elsewhere,” Goulet said. “A shared digital vision with IT is absolutely essential to marketing’s success today.”

Personalisation perspective

Being an effective marketer and providing a truly personalised experience requires CMOs to rapidly identify insights from data extracted from multiple channels – not just in marketing, but across the business, Goulet said. This is further validation of the importance of a ‘CIMO’ perspective, she said.

“Because marketing can go out and buy a raft of applications to enable their objectives, but to be of real value, these need to be integrated with other systems - and that requires IT’s support,” she said.

Goulet claimed enterprises that succeed over the next decade will be those that can most effectively connect smart technologies, people and insights to deliver a more personalised experience to customers.

“As the voice of the customer, marketing is ideally positioned to take a leading role in driving consistency across all touchpoints,” she claimed. “However, marketers will face the challenge of determining how to consistently deliver highly targeted and tailored experiences, without breaching the trust or patience of customers with data over-reach. That’s why we expect to see the importance of digital ethics increasing in coming years.

“I have that close working relationship with our CIO, and our teams have learned to speak the same language, collaborate and share an appreciation of each other’s unique expertise. Because of this, we are delivering more value to the business and driving better results than ever.”

Goulet also noted business buyers now behave more like consumers , doing research online and often making decisions before they talk with sellers. “That is why the customer experience matters more than ever,” she said.

Engaging today’s digitally savvy customer requires marketers need to deliver a consistent and personalised experience to customers across both physical and digital touchpoints, Goulet said. Again, this is not just those owned by marketing, but all functions.

“Digital on the inside equals digital on the outside,” she added. “You need to establish a customer-centric culture by ensuring your employees are digitally enabled and have the information they need at their fingertips.”

Repositioning the brand

Joining Avanade in 2012 as its first CMO, Goulet has had the opportunity to work with business and marketing leaders to help change the way Avanade goes to market.

“It has also allowed me to address the challenges and opportunities that new digital technologies provide to our clients and their customers,” she said. “We’ve transformed our marketing organisation, building new capabilities and digital tools to be able to provide a more seamless client experience and increase our impact on the business.”

At the end of Goulet’s first year at the company, she joined Avanade’s executive committee, a move she believed helped lift the strategic role of marketing. She’s also taken a pivotal role in creating Avanade’s new vision: To be the leading digital innovator, realising results for its clients through the power of people and the Microsoft ecosystem.

Another highlights of Goulet’s career was helping the Williams Martini F1 racing team digitally transform to improve its performance on and off the track.

“Not only does Avanade provide services and solutions to help Williams become a digital workplace and take advantage of the cloud, we also sponsor the team,” she said. “It’s a unique relationship where Williams is both a client and a supplier and we’re both fully invested in each other’s success. It’s a great way to tell our story inside and outside of Avanade.”

Leveraging technology to understand your customer

For Goulet, mobility, social trends, analytics and cloud should be built into the DNA of a marketing approach.

“With digital, we can reinvent the customer experience to be more intuitive, connected, personalised, relevant and timely,” she continued. “Technologies like mobility bring us closer to our customers wherever they are, and data and analytics enable us to gain insights to make better decisions and help our clients realise results.

“Importantly, these insights also enable us to add more value to the business and to better influence strategic decision-making.”

Yet even as we firmly step into the era of the digital customer, Goulet claimed the fundamentals of marketing remain the same: You need to deliver products and services that meet and anticipate the needs of customers better than anyone else.

“Customer expectations are higher than ever before and customers have more choice, so we need to be more effective at executing on the fundamentals of marketing,” she said. “Digital technologies can equip us with the insights and information to do that.”

As a consequence, Goulet said the first priority for attracting and retaining customers must be getting a single 360-degree view of the customer, in order to deliver consistent and connected experiences.

“A second priority should be to gain a deeper understanding of the behaviours of the digital customer across both physical and digital channels,” she said. “Extracting insights from digital technologies is critical, but don’t forget the power of in-person conversations to provide a measure of customer engagement.”

The third area Goulet said marketers should focus on to drive customer loyalty is trust. This is especially vital given the fine balance between delivering value to a customer from data they share, versus breaching their ethical expectations by becoming too intrusive - or using the information for unintended purposes.

“To maintain the trust of customers, organisations must do more than just fulfil compliance and security obligations,” she said. “Instead they will need to move towards implementing a digital ethics framework that formalises ongoing consideration of what is morally acceptable for the customer. Marketing will need to be actively involved in that process.”

Challenges ahead

Among Goulet’s priorities this year is ensuring her marketing function understands data, extract insights quickly and responds to customers in an agile way.

“This year, we’ll see a shift from using data for measurement to predicting outcomes,” she said. “Managing the ethics of data will also be an increasing challenge. Marketers will need to make important decisions about how data is used and the best ways to balance opportunities to add value, without breaching the trust equation we have with customers.

“Marketing will need to move beyond focusing on its own interactions with customers and take a greater role in the end-to-end experience. While every individual in an organisation is responsible for the customer experience, marketing is best-positioned to ensure that touchpoints across all functions of the organisation are coordinated to optimise engagement.”

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