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CMO50 2016 #26-50: Tori Starkey, VMware

  • Name Tori Starkey
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company VMware
  • Commenced role December 2011
  • Reporting Line Vice-president of marketing, product and communications, Asia Pacific & Japan
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 12 staff
  • Industry Sector IT and telecommunications
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    If she had to pick her biggest achievement over the last 12 months, VMware’s Tori Starkey says it would be fostering an intelligence driven marketing culture that’s delivered more customer centric, effective, omni-channel marketing programs.

    “I’m particularly proud of making the hard calls on budget allocation upfront to drive longer-term performance,” the CMO says. “This approach, including investing in strategic planning across the marketing team, has had the added benefit of enabling faster, improved decision making as well as the ability to better leverage investments, as they are built for scalability and flexibility.”

    From the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    A key marketing program for Starkey over the past year has been around assisting VMware cope with rapidly changing conditions and attitudes in the SMB space around technology. The objective was to quantify the drivers for the change and develop a plan to arrest decline in share.

    To do this, Starkey spearheaded market research and analysis of the vendor’s installed based to understand the movement between products, renewals rates, drivers of revenue reduction, and the performance of channels and key sales partners.

    The marketing team then worked collaboratively with sales and channel teams to develop a strategy across partner enablement and marketing programs, new processes for VMware’s customer-facing teams, new marketing programs, and people, process and cultural change.

    This work has delivered a new go-to-market approach for VMware that has seen the brand shift away from the traditional event-led activities to an intelligence driven marketing approach.

    Through all of this, Starkey and her team worked to train the frontline on new salesforce processes, including lead management and next best offer, led weekly reporting on lead management including ageing, progress, value and conversions, and delivered an ongoing internal communications program that highlighted optimised activity and new offers.

    “The resulting always-on program focuses on retention, cross-sell and upsell initiatives across the four most strategic SMB solutions,” Starkey says. “We developed new propensity models to more effectively target customers across the installed base. In addition, we have an ongoing test-and-learn program to optimise the effectiveness over time.”

    The program has been launched to key partners via a new ‘concierge’ service, whereby they can outsource all or some elements of the associated marketing program.

    “The initiative has enabled our partners to run more sophisticated, integrated programs to our mutual benefit,” Starkey says.

    Empowered business thinking

    Another priority for Starkey has been helping VMware diversify into new solution markets via a deeper understanding of customers’ business, key decision makers and their circles of influence.

    She quickly developed a pilot to support this objective, working with the vendor’s local agency to build a cloud-based solution that integrates with existing legacy systems. From there, Starkey developed the business case to local and global leadership teams to garner support for an account-based marketing platform. This also meant upskilling and empowering the marketing team to leverage the platform.

    By treating each account as a market of one, the ABM program has increased VMware’s share of wallet in top accounts and helped to create a broader set of strategic relationships throughout the customer journey. The platform includes social intelligence with an artificial intelligence processing capability; seamless monitoring and publishing capabilities; the capacity to traffic activity through workflow processes; and a data repository capability with direct integration to a profile’s social presence for real-time updates.

    In addition, marketing has been able to give sales team the tools, assets and insight reports that help them engage with customers, with complete account plans as well as trigger/alerts for key contacts/accounts.

    Starkey notes a 10 per cent improvement in marketing effectiveness in first six months, and significant marketing pipeline by the end of pilot.

    Data- and technology-led approach

    As an example of data in action, Starkey points to a highly effective, integrated marketing campaign her team created based on recent research on how Australians manage flexible working. The program, called ‘IT Survivor, harnessed customer insight including the importance of VMware taking an approach that demonstrated technology.

    The campaign heavily leveraged data to effectively target competitors’ installed customer bases with the most compelling offer to switch to VMware. Data was also used to retarget customers with messaging across social, Web and contact centres based on their interaction with the brand, while propensity models helped VMware target its own installed base to drive cross-sell and upsell.

    The results included an impressive number of opportunities, 176 per cent above target.

    Customer-led approach

    Helping VMware to keep its eye on the customer prize is an intelligence-driven marketing approach that sees marketing efforts focused on fewer, integrated streams that leverage data insights and market intelligence to more effectively target communications over time.

    To do this, Starkey has worked to provide tools, research and reporting to field reports on market sizing, penetration by segment, channel effectiveness and brand tracking. Her team is also leading customer advocacy programs for the Asia-Pacific and Japan region, including action plans for sales teams based on advocacy scores and marketing initiatives that leverage promoters and exclude detractors from specific marketing communications.

    Recently, a social and digital engagement program was launched to better engage with customers and prospects via proactive social media monitoring and engagement. This was based on feedback from customers that it was extremely hard to navigate VMware and find a means of getting questions answered, Starkey says.

    On top of this, VMware has built up customer advisory boards, a number of which are led by marketing. These summits are designed to garner feedback on initiatives before they go to market, Starkey says.

    “We’re also bringing the voice of our customers to life by providing engaging storytelling that is embedded in all our communications,” she says. “This includes the recent launch of our customer stories website.”

    Fostering capability

    In support of these efforts, Starkey has invested in digital and social training for the entire team, designed to embed digital as a natural part of the way it goes to market. Top talent have also been embedded into key functional areas to enable them to get a deeper understanding specifically of analytics and marketing platforms.

    “This will increase their ability to develop strong marketing requirements and also enable them to leverage the capabilities we do have to their fullest,” Starkey says.

    Mentoring is on offer to the entire team both within VMware and externally, and agency ‘ride-ons’ are actively in play, allowing team members to work for the day with external partners. In addition, teams are encouraged to undertake stretch assignments, running programs for other regions or functions in order to broaden their experience across multiple markets and channels.


    Starkey describes creativity as a culmination of innovative approaches to engage with audiences through an integrated data-driven approach. “I lead our focus on audience intelligence and deep market place insights to create authentic customer experiences,” she says. This takes many forms, including running cross-sectional workshops, collaborating across the business, encouraging cultural diversity and diversity of thought, and leveraging test-and-learn to encourage creative application of data insights.

    “Creativity in marketing programs includes the creative use of content, channel mix and design to authentically engage our customers and prospects in an increasingly competitive, cluttered and buyer led environment,” Starkey adds.

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