CMO interview: How robotic automation is helping this marketing team find agility and alignment

Signavio chief marketing officer, Geraldine Teboul, shares the marketing team, strategy and technology driving the B2B company's growth

Geraldine Teboul
Geraldine Teboul

While much of the talk around robotic process automation (RPA) has centred on its potential to replace human beings in marketing roles, for Berlin-born software maker, Signavio, the opposite appears to be the case.

Signavio makes software that helps organisations understand and improve business processes across functions such as human resources, supply chain, and marketing. The company attracted USD $177 million in funding, and its clients include DHL, Deloitte, Bosch, and Australia’s NBN.

Interestingly, for a technology company with only 330 staff, it boasts a full-service marketing team of 25, including design and digital teams.

Recently appointed CMO, Geraldine Teboul, was surprised when she joined the company to see the size of the team she would be leading.

“I don’t think you’d see that often,” Teboul tells CMO. “Many companies still externalise a lot of their marketing department - they do design and content outside, or they see digital as an external function. We have all this integrated within our company.”

The benefit of this model is that it allows Signavio’s marketing to be extremely agile, Teboul says.

“People know exactly what they are doing,” she says. “They are on top of everything, they think ahead of time, and they can interact with other people in a very efficient way. And it allows us to have a lot of surety in what we do in the different regions because we know exactly what our business is and where we are going.”

Having an internal digital team also enables the company to be much more responsive to the needs of its customers.

“We do a lot of A/B testing, and we test a lot of new software,” Teboul continues. “This allows us to be a little more refined in the way we address marketing and map the journey of our customers. So we now have a very defined vision of what our audience is looking for, which can be per region or per country. This allows us to be a lot more efficient and quicker in the way we deliver optimised marketing strategies.”

Improving human process

That Signavio has put so much thought into how it runs marketing is reflective of the core mission of the company, which focuses on process improvement. Company founder, Dr Gero Decker, says Signavio’s technology analyses how processes are run to assess their performance, and when appropriate designs more efficient ways of working. Often this results in the implementation of robotic process automation tools, although Decker cautions that process redesign is an important first step.

“The basic observation with RPA is you can fail much harder and much faster than ever before because the moment you put robots in place you give away a lot of control over what is happening to the robots, who unfortunately are pretty stupid,” Decker says. “The moment you run into exceptions, robots very easily produce ‘interesting’ results.”

In some instances, Signavio will find the need for robots can actually be eliminated if upstream processes are optimised. He also says those organisations looking to RPA simply for cost reductions might soon find themselves disappointed.

“Once you put the robots in, the incremental value that you get out of them diminishes very quickly,” he says.

The longer term goal should be to investigate how technology can be used to create better processes that transform the business, rather than just performing existing processes faster or at lower cost.

For Signavio, the integration of its technology into marketing came in support of the need to have its sales and marketing teams work together more effectively.

“We are very sales heavy,” Decker says. “Every customer on the buying cycle goes through sales, so this is very important for us from the very beginning.”

As the company grew, it had allowed sales leaders in each region to set their own programs. However, this soon caused friction in terms of the handover points between marketing and sales. Three years ago, Signavio began to consider its own workflows and what it wanted to optimise for, particularly in content creation and distribution.

“We identified quite a number of things we could do in the marketing function to streamline activities,” Decker says. “We heavily use our own tooling to route the work and make sure that things are done in a very timely manner.”

That now includes an ongoing project to improve the visibility of customer data as it moves between the company’s core sales and marketing systems of HubSpot and Salesforce.

“Out if the box we have really limited visibility of end to end journeys of customers across those systems,” Decker says. “We’ve used process mining capabilities to uncover the journeys and understand what the touch points and patterns are that really yield acceleration, and asked are there things we can do on the nurturing side for addressing additional personas through an account based marketing campaign. This is what we are looking in to.”

Having a strong marketing team gives Teboul the people necessary to act on the insights that the technology is uncovering. In this way, technology is reinforcing the need for people in marketing, rather than replacing them, especially when it comes to transforming those insights into campaigns.

“Marketing is going to be more automated, but we are going to have better access to data and be able to make better decisions in a quicker way,” Teboul says. “But that won’t replace human interaction. We will still need human interaction and human experience to make this technology work.”

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