Salesforce Marketing Cloud chief: Org structure and design is stopping marketers from finding growth

Chief strategy officer and former media and marketing leader also shares how AI can be utilised to drive growth

Jon Suarez-Davis at the Salesforce World Tour in Sydney
Jon Suarez-Davis at the Salesforce World Tour in Sydney


Org structure and design has failed to keep up with the technological advancement now available to marketing and CX professionals and stopping many from delivering customer success and growth.

That’s the view of Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s global chief strategy officer, Jon Suarez-Davis, who caught up with CMO at the vendor’s recent World Tour in Sydney to discuss the ongoing opportunity available to marketers through rapid technology innovation, and what’s hindering their customer success efforts.

“There are fundamental org structures and designs that are prohibiting modernisation,” the former media and marketing leader told CMO in an interview.

“When I started at Kellogg’s, we wished the technology would do more – it was always a technology problem. I don’t know where this tipping point happened, but in the last couple of years, it’s happened.

“The technology now is incredibly advanced and what we can do with the platforms. But the org structures, designs and incentives of companies have not caught up. That right now is one of the biggest barriers for companies. They need to be agile, nimble and flexible to truly take advantage of these technology stacks.”

Suarez-Davis agreed the majority of brands today have made investments into martech and adtech solutions, which they’ve actively using to ostensibly improve and optimising marketing programs and approaches. However, many simply haven’t been able to harness their full capability.

One of the reasons is ever-higher customer expectations mean marketers and the technology platforms must connect beyond the four walls of the marketing function and into areas such as service, digital experience, commerce and sales. For Suarez-Davis, this means marketing leaders must be actively striking cross-functional relationships across their organisation if they have a hope of meeting the customer experience standards of their end users now and into the future.

As an example of a brand that’s recognised the need for cross-functional collaboration, he pointed to Salesforce customer and online hotels booking engine, Hotels.com.

“Hotels.com is taking cross-functional teams that are making consumer journey decisions, but not just in their own patch of media or CRM,” Suarez-Davis explained. “They’re getting together by design. And what’s key is they’re incentivised for the greater good and on an overarching goal. It’s not just email marketing click rate improvements, it’s achieving against an end business goal. That ensures people work together.”

What’s also clear in organisations that are doing well is that they have an obsession with the customer, commitment from leadership, a clear brand purpose, and an almost “maniacal obsession on alignment versus functional domains”, Suarez-Davis continued.

“We’re going through this period where we probably need to overcorrect for a while, because we’re so in our silos and functionally derived,” he said. “We’ll overcorrect on this alignment, largely on KPIs that are more consumer-driven and aligned by business goal. Leaders have to also step up and say they recognised a KPI in your patch may not be the right one.

“Because you can’t have it both ways – I can’t incentivise you for the wrong KPI. This is where the delicate balance is right now.”

Blurring the marketing-sales-service line

Suarez-Davis joined Salesforce exactly a year ago following its acquisition of data management platform (DMP) provider, Krux, where he was the CMO and strategy officer. He spent the previous seven years leading Kellogg’s global media, strategy and marketing effectiveness team.

He said the remit coming into Marketing Cloud was refreshingly clear: Build the vendor’s footprint and brand positioning as an enterprise marketing and customer experience platform provider.

“Salesforce is the world’s number one B2B CRM. Over the last three years, we’ve made significant investments on the B2C side, including social acquisitions such as Radian 6 and Buddy Media, then ExactTarget,” Suarez-Davis said.  

“But with the acquisition of Krux and the DMP, we are now not only a full marketing cloud solution, we’re clearly focused on driving consumer engagement at scale not only at marketing, but across the entire customer success platform with Commerce, Service, Sales, and Community.”  

As customer experience becomes the key to competitive advantage, the lines between sales, service and marketing are blurring. That’s something Salesforce is keen to capitalise on and through its increased integration of Marketing, Service, Sales, Commerce and Community Cloud offerings, looking to dominate the market in.

“We feel pretty strongly that we’re blurring because of consumer expectations,” Suarez-Davis said. “The consumer doesn’t care about an organisation’s marketing channels, or service arm, they just want this one exceptional experience. The only you can do that is through a full customer success platform and that’s our approach. It’s playing for the long-haul. That’s not easy, but we think it’s the right approach.”

According to Suarez-Davis, this shift is being matched by trends in the marketplace around the changing role of the chief marketing officer. He pointed out marketing titles are transforming into roles such as chief ideas officer, chief growth officer, chief customer officer.

“These are reflective of this blurring of the line and the fact that markets are getting a broader remit that includes customer service channels, commerce and more,” he said.

It’s also incidentally, something CMO found in its 2017 State of the CMO research report. Across the more than 100 Australian marketing leaders surveyed, 78 per cent reported that the digital commerce function was reporting directly into marketing. In addition, six in 10 owned customer experience, one-third customer care and service, and 39 per innovation.

As a former marketer and marketing chief, Suarez-Davis has also seen first-hand how much the role has changed.

“I’ve been in this for 27 years and I went from doing a proper job of media planning, dots and plots, to now incorporating loyalty, retention, shopper marketing, customer marketing and now commerce,” he commented. “It’s incredible what the marketing function is now responsible for. It’s ultimately charged with growth of the business, so they’ve got to have all of these areas underneath their domain, otherwise it doesn’t work.”

As Salesforce looks to integrate all of its different platforms, Suarez-Davis said the vendor also has to encourage cross-functional alignment.

“The idea behind the customer success platform, which is fundamental to our business, means putting the customer at the centre,” he said. “We have something call the V2MOM model, which is how we run our business. And it’s a planning and disciplinary approach. We’re putting integration at the heart of what we’re doing.

“It’s very clear our accountability is to the customer, which means it’s all about integration all the various clouds and communities. It’s a forcing function. And that requires leadership, commitment, alignment and an unwavering commitment to a clear KPI, which for us is customer success.”

Looking then at the position of the CMO, Suarez-Davis said it’s vital to surround yourself with cross-functional talent.

“The ones we seeing as progressive are bringing in IT, finance, supply chain and customer service within the functions they have,” he said.  “They’re also infusing new talent into the organisation that many have not had.

“A particular one is data scientists, which is different to market research, which of course is also still incredibly valuable. But they understand the difference between the traditional research and data science and analytics. So they’re bringing in those cross-functional players and other expertise, and depending on their category or how they go to market, they’re bringing in the right capabilities. And the skill we typically see is data analytics.”

Rise of artificial intelligence

The other massive area of focus for martech vendors is on AI. At Salesforce, this has manifested through Einstein, a growing framework of AI/machine learning capability that it’s materialising through functionality such as image recognition, predictive analytics and automated customer recommendations.

Suarez-Davis said the vendor’s recent State of the Marketing report, found upwards of 50 per cent of customers using AI today believed it is critical in their ability to deliver personalised, consumer engagement at scale.

“Nestle is a great customer example – they’re simply leaning into it in the right way,” he said. “The brand is already using Social Studio to look at images and how it engages with consumers. But as Nestle, they need immense scale. So it’s about how they leverage AI - in this case Einstein Vision - to go through images and start to categorise and basically let the machines do what they’re good at.”

For Suarez-Davis, there isn’t just one way of looking at how AI will impact the tasks done by marketers. “We have some customers that depending on how tough their category is and where they live, who look at AI through lens of streamlining, efficiency and taking a manual process and streamlining it,” he said.

“Businesses will always try and do that. But I would say that’s a relatively short-term view of it. How can it help us get closer to the consumer and drive growth is the longer-term game.

“Being the CMO is very difficult and growth is hard to come by. Most marketers have understood in the last five years that you can’t cut your way to growth. The bottom line is they believe AI will help them restart the growth engine.”  

Read more from this year's Salesforce World Tour in Sydney:

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