From CMO to CEO: Anametrix’s Pelin Thorogood

The number of marketers who have made it to CEO is still in the low percentages, but with the right mix of data-driven marketing and customer focus any CMO can reach the top job

Among Thorogood’s first tasks has been presenting her 2013 company budget and hiring plan at her inaugural board meeting as CEO in February. “I made quite a few changes to the one I’d inherited, then I presented that to the board and shareholders and got that approved, and am now moving on it,” she said. “Smaller businesses move fast.”

One of the first lessons she’s learned since becoming CEO is around budgeting. Although well-versed in finance and experienced in managing the marketing team’s P&L, Thorogood said diving into the entire company budget was both enlightening and challenging.

“I now have so much more empathy for the people who said ‘no’ to me when I asked for things as the CMO, because I realise how many things we’re balancing as a company,” she said. “I should have known that before, but you selfishly look at your own piece. As I CMO, I’d say ‘I need to spend more money to generate revenue and I don’t know why you’re not giving it to me’. But now I understand the delicate nature of business and how many things we have to really balance. It’s about balancing our cash coming in and out, and revenue coming in and out, which are obviously very different things, and being able to figure out the timing of everything based on those financial metrics.

“It was one of those moments where I just smiled to myself as I thought back to multiple conversations I’d had in the past and saw the other side of the story.”

Thorogood is also striving to put her own stamp on Anametrix and is working with co-founder and chief technology officer, Anders Olsson, to re-evaluate the product roadmap.

Anametrix has had a slew of product releases in recent months, announcing its campaign analytics product in October, followed by Anametrix for Microsoft Excel in January and a mobile app in late February. This allows clients to access, manipulate and interact with their data whatever mobile device.

“What I want to ensure is we are truly balancing innovation with immediate client and market needs,” Thorogood said. “The most difficult thing as CEO is walking that fine line, because it’s easy to just say ‘I’m going to be purely customer centric’ or ‘I’m going to go all for innovation’. I want to make sure we are innovative enough but at the same time serving the needs of clients that don’t require innovation as such, but an adjustment in our product set to make them happy. That’s important.”

Making sense of data

Given how critical data-driven analytics has been to Thorogood throughout her journey to CEO, she has clear ideas on how the technology platforms should evolve to service the modern marketer. The next big advancement needs to shift the focus from recording and dashboard technologies, into interpretation, she said.

“A lot of analytics providers talk about analytics, but they’re just reporting tools, whereas analytics is about analysing and diving into data to show what it means,” she claimed. “We want to dive right into that world of analytics and particularly predictive analytics. With the amount of data coming in from so many different sources, we’re in a great place to understand what the future holds for various market segments and product segments. We want to give that power to marketers to do their own ‘what if’ analysis of data so they can make their own decision.”

As Thorogood puts it, the biggest opportunity is moving marketing truly into the forefront of being an accountable, predictable revenue driver for the business. “There is a lot of power there, we just have to harness the information we have about our customers, and be able to be more relevant to them so we can do more right-time marketing through the right channel,” she said.

“That can be done if we can make sense of the breadcrumbs consumers are leaving behind.”

CMOs who can embrace this data trend and find a strategic way to straddle marketing and their company’s objectives will truly become the best CEOs, she said.

“We need to make marketing not just a revenue driver in the sense of top-line revenue, but also understanding margins and therefore driving profitability as well,” she said. “The difficulty is using both your left and right brain together and bringing accountability and predictability into a department that wasn’t known for either in the past. But by joining that creativity and analytical ability, marketing has a much bigger potential impact on top and bottom line than any other department.”

And no doubt, so do the CMOs who are driving it.

10 ways to prepare for a CEO role
  • Take on a general management role in an emerging market
  • Broaden your skill set at every opportunity
  • Gain experience in at least one non-marketing role
  • Get involved in as many mission-critical, non-marketing projects as you can
  • Demonstrate your credibility and track record as a commercial leader
  • Develop close working relationships with other functions
  • Work with the CFO to value the company’s brand assets
  • Hone your communication skills
  • Learn to make the tough decisions
  • Find a mentor who is a CEO or in a general management position.
- From Spencer Stuart’s From CMO to CEO: the route to the top

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia.

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