NAB CMO: How marketers can add value to their organisation

Recently appointed marketing leader at banking giant talks about how he's looking to turn his marketing function into a world-class team through customer experience and advocacy, data insights, and curiosity

Andrew Knott
Andrew Knott

It’s beholden on marketers to demonstrate how they can add value to their organisation, NAB’s recently appointment, CMO, Andrew Knott, claims.

“From a marketing standpoint, we have a responsibility to our business but also the broader marketing community to challenge ourselves to see how we add value,” he tells CMO. “We are at one of our most interesting junctions, and never had a greater ability to demonstrate value.

“We’ve also never been as equipped with so much data and the tools to measure and demonstrate our value, and never has the door been so open to the perspective we bring around the customer at an executive level.”

Knott was appointed CMO of NAB last October, replacing Sandra de Castro. He sees CMOs as requiring three key attributes to attain the leadership position they deserve: An innate curiosity about people; a level of humility; and a constant desire to learn and challenge themselves.

Fostering fresh, customer-led thinking at NAB

It’s these values Knott is bringing to bear at the banking giant. Having come from out of category and country, he’s looking to inject an appetite for fresh thinking into the business, as well as an outside-in perception.

Knott spent a substantial part of his professional career in agencies, working for Havas Worldwide as well as Ogilvy across Australia, Asia and the Middle East. While still overseas, he switched to client side, and was most recently VP of media and digital for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa at McDonalds. This wealth of international experience has given him a broad perspective, well-developed cultural insights, and a willingness to be open to different ways of doing things, he says.

Under all of these roles has been a fixation on customers. “What started my education journey was being intrigued by what motivates people drives behaviours and that curiosity continued ever since,” Knott says.

Knott is looking to now lead marketing at NAB with customer custodianship and insights. The banking giant’s marketing function already plays a significant role in how the group’s customer values and engagement plays out, and gained ownership of its customer advocacy program last year. This sees marketing taking an active role in shaping strategy and managing execution, end-to-end processes for new products and services, and change management through a customer-centric lens.

In addition, NAB has embedded measures to track improving advocacy across the organisation, which are used as key performance metrics for senior leaders through to frontline staff.

“It’s not about disrupting or fundamentally transforming the function, it’s about how we bring a customer-centric approach into the organisation and ask ourselves the question of whether there is a better way to do things as a result,” Knott says of his plans. “Delivering a compelling experience for our customers is common sense and will deliver better outcomes for the business as a whole.

“It’s about recognising that success is defined by a customer’s willingness to advocate on our behalf. That’s a critical measure, and a business performance measure at every level, right up to our executive team. Marketing plays a huge role in not only reaching those customers, but understanding them, providing insights then pushing those back into the organisation.”

Being a world-class marketing team

Knott says two of NAB’s five clear organisational values particularly resonate with him: Being bold, and having a will to win. To do this, he’s inspiring his marketing function to become a world-class marketing organisation.

Knott defines modern marketing success as firstly aligning around the customer. That requires understanding customer journeys.

“I’m a big believer in the death of a marketing funnel and the importance of marketing lifecycle,” he says. “This has been around as a concept for a long time, but it’s understanding the role marketing has to play at every element of that lifecycle.

“Importantly, once we have customers, it’s then how we drive advocacy. That allows us to think through if we are aligned to deliver at every stage of the journey, and secondly, if we are thinking forward enough to evolve at a pace that at least keeps the gap between us and the customer constant. Ideally, we want to reduce the gap between what we’re doing, and what customers are doing.

“Very few brands lead customers, most are lagging in where they’re spending time trying to communicate with customers, versus where customers actually spend their time.”

The critical enabler for all of this is data, Knott says, who agrees most organisations and marketers are now awash with data they’re struggling to utilise.

“The question is how to leverage the right data to inform us about the things our customers are asking for, or are implying they need though their behaviours, and ensure we use insights to evolve how we do things in order to deliver a better outcome,” he says.

Knott has inherited a significant data and analytics team at NAB that stretches CRM to predictive modelling, arguably makes the job easier. The banking giant has also made recent investments into infrastructure to better leverage data, although some of these are still being deployed and stitched together, he says.

“We’re well positioned to accelerate,” Knott says. “There’s an incredible array of talent in the team, and it feels if we can get aligned on how we how create value in the organisation, we can galvanise our position and close the gap between where we are today and being truly world-class marketers.

“We have processes in place to exploit that infrastructure using that talent. But we’re not incredibly dissimilar to many large organisations in that way too much time is spent extracting data from multiple sources to put in a place where we can manipulate it and leverage it.”

Knott is looking to achieve a balance between executing off the back of data, and asking lots of questions.

“It’s about setting the goal for how analytics drives value into the organisation, but also creating an environment around that which allows us to do the test-and-learn type activities that lead to surprising outcomes that helps us accelerate,” he says. “That’s about reducing the aversion to failure and risk. If I can create a supportive environment, we will do some amazing things.”

What’s making it both an exciting and challenging time for marketers is that they’ve been given a far greater level of accountability than ever before, Knott says.

“We need to ensure that while we represent customer on the way into the organisation, and throughout their journey with the bank, we hold ourselves to account,” he says. “It’s about thinking and acting like professional services entity within the enterprise.

“It’s beholden on marketing to be best possible supporter of the enterprise as a whole. We need to deliver total shareholder return and have significant a role and contribution to the organisation in achieving those goals.”

Building an innovation focus

Key in all of this is building an innovation culture. Like many CMOs, Knott is keen to foster experimentation throughout the NAB business. While he’s not a big believer in standalone innovation labs, he points out the group’s own innovation team, NAB Labs, is helping incubate new ideas and thinking within the business.

“But real success is when these ideas get out of the lab and become part of way we go to market and deliver value to customers,” Knott says. “One thing I do bring is that sense of anything is possible, partly because I spent a lot of time in Asia, where anything is possible and you’re building off decades of consistent growth. But it’s how you do it.”

Knott notes Coke’s 70/20/10 innovation approach as something to aspire to.

“However, I’d suggest anyone working in retail would struggle to achieve 10 per cent on pure stretch thinking,” he admits. “But finding that ability to invest a percentage of time and budget in pure innovation thinking is something that can unlock real value in our organisation, in much the same way it has unlocked value for value-based companies at the other end of the spectrum.

“What is compelling about NAB Labs is we’re able to partner with external providers to bring new ideas to market. We’re also very supportive of SMEs through our NAB Village, which allows them to take advantage of our facilities. We’re also interested in exploring how we partner with tertiary institutions and get access to some of that thinking. We have a well-developed intern program but it’s something we can build on.”

Journey to better customer advocacy

Whatever form innovation takes, the underlying objective needs to be delivering better experiences for NAB customers. Knott sees this not just as moments of interaction, but better holistic outcomes for the customer.

“For example, it’s not about a mortgage application process, but how we get a customer from the thought of moving home to being in their new home and growing as a family unit,”he explains. “Anything designed to improve that process and make things better for the customer ultimately should be better for our business as a result.”

Knott uses two key questions to determine this: Are we evolving strategically; and are we getting the small things right.

“We don’t own our brand, customers do,” he continues. “Our brand is defined by those small moments of interaction far more than what we say. We have a very well-developed customer pain points program, where we’re trying to understand where we don’t make our customers’ lives easier, and we’re working systematically to address them.

“We also have a number of internal working groups, and I’m an active member of one group focused on customer advocacy and how to improve that. It’s not group speak, but a genuine commitment to delivering better experiences for the customer.

“The more we understand about them, and the better we understand what they aspire to achieve, the better we can bring our financial expertise in to help them.”

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