CMO interview: Why CX, martech is vital for charity growth

World Vision Australia’s first ever CMO discusses why it’s vitally important to bring the consumer customer experience to charity marketing

Teresa Sperti has had a busy year. As the first ever CMO of World Vision Australia, she has hit the ground running, focusing on bringing a customer experience perspective to the global charity through a combination of martech, data and analytics and marketing smarts.

The ambition is to not only grow the donor base, but to, ultimately, make a difference on the ground where the humanitarian organisation has its biggest impact.

Sperti is the first to admit it has been a challenge to help the organisation change and evolve so that it recognises marketing as vital in its future growth. Similarly, the importance of customer experience in the overcrowded and competitive charity sector needed to be elevated.

“It’s been a really big and exciting first year,” she tells CMO. “Being the first CMO at World Vision means there’s a lot of work to do. We’ve gone through a change and evolution, with the organisation focused on transformation both from a supporter perspective and how we deliver experience, as well as a digital transformation.

World Vision CMO, Teresa Sperti
World Vision CMO, Teresa Sperti


“While it might be odd for a charity to be focused on customer experience, the reality is we operate in a very competitive market. There are 54,000 charities and not-for-profits operating in Australia, from niche to large organisations. While we have direct competitors in the humanitarian service space, we’re competing more broadly for charity dollars and federal income. There are also inherent challenges added to that, like low wage growth and rising costs of living.”

To cut through, World Vision needs to invest appropriately to deliver on the type of experience donors expect, Sperti says.

“Like any other consumer market, donors expect personalised experiences; it’s not any different for charity. Often what we do is quite invisible because it’s overseas and not on our doorstep, and we need to make the invisible, visible,” she continues.

“We need to work hard to engage our supporters, to engage new segments, particularly younger segments of the market which haven’t grown up with World Vision or the 40 Hour Famine. It’s a much more cluttered space, and a lot of focus has been on product development and how we engage with different segments.”

Lessons learnt

Sperti admits to being somewhat of a career bower bird, gathering up marketing experiences in a variety of industries and applying what she has learned to new segments. This has held her in good stead as she applies her vast knowledge to helping World Vision evolve.

Prior to World Vision, she spent five years in retail at Coles and at Officeworks. However, she’s not a retailer by trade, and Sperti’s career has spanned everything from automotive through to media and travel.

“I tend to like to move around and learn about different industries and take those learnings as best practice to adopt to new industries,” she explains.

Part of those best practice learnings have included the value of marketing technology, and how marketing is delivered within an organisation as a function.

While World Vision is a charity, investment in marketing technology is absolutely vital to not only engage more appropriately and effectively with donors, but also to streamline operations. Sperti says she’s had to focus on investment in key enablers, such as technology, digital asset management, and marketing automation, as well as a data lake.

“I often say marketing is an investment in the charity, it’s not a cost. You can’t deepen impact without growing your donor base,” Sperti says. “But equally, investment in technology enables us to be more efficient and effective as a charity, and that’s really important as well. So while investment does cost money, there are inherent benefits, both for the way we engage supporters, but also in the way we operate as an organisation that are important when you’re operating in the charity industry.”

World Vision just completed a tender process and is in the early implementation stage of rolling out a new marketing automation platform, selecting Oracle Responsys as its tech provider. Investments into data and analytics, meanwhile, are aimed at looking at data in real time, and also leveraging models and segmentations to make targeting decisions and to identify churn.

“We are also working globally within the partnership to invest in a DAM platform, and the reason that is so critical to us is because we have to make the invisible, visible, and content is a key way to demonstrate the impact we make in the field,” Sperti says. “Content is a strategic asset for us, it’s not just a marketing tool – it’s leverage. There is also investment happening at a global level in that space.”

Donation growth

In order to deepen World Vision’s impact in the field, it’s important to drive growth in donations. To do that, Sperti says World Vision must continue to focus on the retail or general public segment, but also diversify.

“We have a strong focus on newer segments, like the philanthropic market or the corporate market, where we haven’t traditionally played,” she says. “From a brand perspective, we’re known for child sponsorship, but as you engage new audiences, this creates a brand challenge and a broader marketing challenge in how to go about engaging different segments.”

World Vision Australia is also embracing new interfaces such as paywave technology as a part of a wider digital strategy aimed at lifting its engagement game. What started as a trial last year in about 30 locations around Australia six months ago has now been expanded, and World Vision paywave technology is located in approximately 190 locations across the country.

In the September-November quarter last year, the organisation had 70 active machines, which generated nearly $40,000 - new money that the charity says it previously never could have accessed. 

Process and new thinking

A strong focus on processes will enable the team to develop the right solutions, Sperti says. One way World Vision is working to achieve this is by leveraging techniques like human-centred design.

“This has meant a real shift for us, not only in changing how we market, but how we deliver marketing as a function, and how we engage with the broader organisation to collaborate and solve problems,” Sperti says.  

In particular, Sperti is working to put marketing back into the heart of the organisation to grow the donor base and the vital humanitarian work the charity undertakes.

“It’s great see a marketer at the leadership table now; it’s not uncommon marketers aren’t at the leadership table, despite the role we play in driving business growth. It demonstrates to me the importance the organisation is putting on marketing at an executive level in order to enable it to realise its ambitions from a strategic perspective over the next five to 10 years,” she says.

“It’s not without its challenges. To be a new CMO in an organisation which is very marketing led, inevitably you’re going to face challenges as you evolve and shift your approach. But I’ve got a really great team behind me, and the organisation has a strong appetite to evolve. Without that the challenge would be much greater.”

As a global organisation, Sperti is also focused on partnerships and how to drive value at a global level. For example, when World Vision looks to diversify and penetrate into new markets, she’s looking at how the team leads global strategic initiatives with counterparts in other offices to generate value for the partnership for all involved and tap into specialisation and expertise that exists around the globe.

“It’s really exciting, we are being empowered as an office to lead in certain spaces on behalf of the global partnership, and the more we can do in that space the better,” Sperti adds.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu 

 

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