How Adobe tackles modern marketing leadership

As CMO50 2018 opens, Adobe's regional director of marketer discusses the innovation, growth and collaboration agenda all CMOs must follow in order to be successful

Paula Parkes
Paula Parkes

As we launch the fourth annual CMO50 program, CMO catches up with Adobe’s own director of marketing Asia-Pacific for Enterprise, Paula Parkes, to discuss how innovation, effectiveness and being customer-led are impacting her position as a marketing leader.

CEOs and boards have been pushing CMOs hard for growth and innovation. What does innovation mean to you as a marketing chief?

Innovation is one of Adobe’s four core values, and at Adobe we’re constantly challenging ourselves to disrupt the status quo and question whether we are being brave and taking risks.

Innovation also means unlocking new segments. One priority is SMB, and we’re employing growth hacking to help get there. In the enterprise space, it’s about continuing to unlock customer value. Customers are investing significantly in technology and we want to ensure they’re realising the true value of their investment. Capitalising on new technology is also essential. New tech like artificial intelligence (AI) within Adobe Sensei has the power to make tedious processes and administrative tasks more efficient. We’re always assessing new technology to enable and enhance the experiences customers have with our brand.

For me, innovation has to be always-on. There has to be some stability and an incremental thread of innovation running across the business.

As organisations strive to become more customer-led, how has this impacted the CMO remit?

With marketing now sitting at the intersection of engagement and experience in all businesses, the remit has become more business critical and visible. I’d suggest the shorter tenure we’re seeing ties into the more accountable nature of a marketing leader.

Marketing is a revenue generation engine of the business. And when issues crop up in the business, marketing absolutely has a seat at the table. There’s few strategic or business critical issues I don’t get involved in. That’s become the new normal.

As marketers, the customer always had to be at the centre of everything we do. Marketing has moved on from purely brand and demand to being pivotal for every experiential moment a customer has with the brand and that means working across functional boundaries in the business. Part of what’s driving that is digital, data and the technology. The CFO has started to trust the CMO a lot more as a result.

Can you share one customer-led activity you’re working on?

A key relationship I’ve fostered internally is with the head of customer solutions. That team is a trusted advisor in helping our customers realise value, by providing roadmaps and blueprints for digital discovery and performance, and we’ve started integrating these insights into our customer lifecycle plans. We’re increasingly thinking about customer success and value realisation from a marketing strategy perspective, looking at this as an end-to-end journey and analysing our impact on engagement, adoption and Net Promoter Score. We’re also looking at always-on that focus on growing value within accounts.

A few years ago, marketing was very acquisition-focused, but we now realise you need to balance growth with sustainability. To pivot a marketing organisation from a pure acquisition and acceleration focus, you have to unravel what retention and customer engagement mean as part of the entire customer lifecycle. It’s less about services marketing, and more about understanding the customer’s maturity path. That takes a lot of insight.

What’s one initiative outside of day-to-day marketing you own or contribute to?

At the end of last year, we reviewed our go-to-market model to make sure we have focused customer alignment and segmentation designed to drive revenue.  A core part of the program is driving cross-functional engagement, and I looked at our partnerships with sales, the partner team, and services function to ensure we had a key role in the experience delivery.

Our new go to market approach brought consistency globally, but there are nuanced ways to how we look at segments in Asia-Pacific, such as digital maturity and use cases to drive engagement and adoption that ultimately increase value.

Re-focusing our entire marketing engine to start driving value by segment was a significant change. It means driving scale, particularly for acquisition in new segments and emerging markets. This core project is changing how we interact cross-functionally. It’s also driving more focus internally on account-based marketing, and throwing out old measurement models in favour of customer engagement scores. This is beyond the remit of marketing, and it’s driving more focus on what we need to do for each customer and why.

What are you doing to bring a culture of continuous improvement to your team?

We’ve just implemented a new marketing management system and it’s impacting the pace of speed and accountability in the business. We are reducing review timeframes from weeks to days. It’s about iterative review cycles and driving a new rhythm that alters business impact at pace. We assess performance and media mix by vertical and customer lifecycle, all driven by insights from our own technology.

What that has fuelled is a desire to redefine our vision for 2021. As a marketing leadership group, we’ve spent a lot of time defining the road to optimisation, and re-engineering for future success. Fostering digitally enabled marketers and a culture of innovation is key. We are creating environments and spaces where it’s safe to fail, test and learn. Part of that comes from agile work practices, a path we’re about to embark upon. Agile is already happening in pockets and extending this will give us more rapid learning and continuous improvement. With that will come more collaborative ways of working, activity-based work practices and tighter teaming.

Where are CMOs still challenged in demonstrating commercial effectiveness?

Where I see CMOs struggling is with personalisation at scale and across all touchpoints, devices and screens. While people see technology as an enabler, there are still issues gaining access to the entirety of customer data across all touchpoints a customer has with your brand. We’ve been talking about a 360-degree view of customers for the past decade, but in practice many marketers are still grappling with data issues.

There is an opportunity to nail that in order to achieve personalisation at scale. To get there, marketing must go beyond its original boundaries and into all functions of the business.

What skills are vital to the modern marketing discipline and the CMO?

Digital and data-driven skills are non-negotiable. Given the pace of change, agility is also front and centre for me. As a CMO, leadership and stakeholder management are super critical. There’s a level of technical skills most need to have, but as you get closer to the leadership team, it’s your ability to hone stakeholder management and negotiation that will stand you in good stead.

Adobe is changing the world though digital experiences. We help our customers develop and deliver high-impact experiences that differentiate brands, build loyalty, and drive revenue across every screen, including smartphones, computers, tablets and TVs. Adobe content solutions are used daily by millions of companies worldwide—from publishers and broadcasters, to enterprises, marketing agencies and household-name brands. Building on our established design leadership, we enable customers not only to make great content, but to manage, measure and monetise it for maximum impact. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

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