What this global CMO is doing to lift her martech and data game

Tech learning platform marketing chief expands on storytelling in a data context, managing the tech stack and why diversity is good for business

Heather Zynczak
Heather Zynczak

Technology learning platform, Pluralsight, which was founded in 2004 in the US, recently opened its doors on a local Australian office and has its sights set on achieving big things for the region.

The SaaS outfit offers assessments, learning paths and courses with industry experts and its aim is to provide technology skills at scale for businesses of any size in any industry. 

Pluralsight global marketing chief, Heather Zynczak, shared her insights with CMO during a recent visit to Sydney on the importance of data in marketing and how creative storytelling still has a valuable role in the modern marketer's playbook. 

Zynczak spoke of the tension and discussion among senior marketing leaders about whether storytelling and creativity are more important, or if analytics, data and technology rule the roost. 

“And the answer for me is ‘yes, to both'," she said. “We still have to be storytellers. We still have to get our value proposition told in a way that's compelling to our customers. We still have to be thinking about our customers first and what their journey is.

“But there's just new ways to do that - through social media, through apps, through new technology. And those new ways to tell the story allow us to be more analytical and measure.”

The changing marketing dynamic

It's clear technology has come to assume a central role in the marketing remit over the last 15 years. While the tech stack has become complex and can be daunting to the less tech-literate, it has made the financial investment in marketing quantifiable, Zynczak said.

“Everything can be measured,” she said. “Every dollar you spend, as a marketer, you should be able to understand the return on that dollar and the efficiency of your marketing spend. The massive changes we've seen in digital, that have completely influenced the way marketing has become more analytical, a precise data-driven field, is something I really enjoy.”

It’s this imperative on CMOs to be data-driven, Zynczak believed, that will help lengthen CMO tenure in the c-suite.

“We last less time than the CFO, the CIO, the CTO,” she said. “A lot of the CMOs, who have 20 or 30 years experience, grew up through the creative and maybe through communications or an agency and may not have as much data or tech orientation.

“It's not that those CMOs aren't doing great work. It's that they aren't speaking the language of the boardroom to be able to talk about their results and what they're delivering to the company in terms of numerical value, how much pipeline they’ve generated. They're not articulating how much the marketing campaigns have delivered in terms of revenue, and how they increase retention of customers.”

Senior marketers really need to be able to speak the language of data and analytics, and the value-based language occurring in boardrooms today, Zynczak continued. "I think every CMO, if they're not already extremely data-driven, needs to be on the fast path to get there,” she added.

Choosing the right martech

But even as technology helps marketers to get there. Zynczak agreed technology can be overwhelming, and looking to new solutions to cure problems isn't the right approach. To combat this, she uses a two-part rule when considering new technology. 

The first rule is it has to integrate with the company's core platform, Salesforce. "If we do great work, but it can't eventually get to the sales team to see what we're doing, it doesn't matter because it has to help generate revenue. So integration with Salesforce is key,” she said.

“Then it's about ROI analysis. How much is this technology costing us versus what do we think we're getting from it? And if the ROI is not met, we will cancel technology and don't use it anymore.”

The data-driven marketing approach, and the tech stack that supports it, means CMOs need to be comfortable with tech or having people working close to them who are, Zynczak continued.

"If you're a CMO who’s not comfortable with the tech, I would say your first two key hires should be somebody who’s going to manage your tech stack and have a great grasp on it," she advised. "The second hire should be somebody who can make sure they can pull the data out in a meaningful way for conversation."

Women in tech

The other professional objective Zynczak is passionate about is female participation in tech and leadership and diversity across the board in business. Zynczak, who started her working life as a coder and “the only woman in the room”, has frequently found herself the only woman in the room or at the table. She wants that to change for the next generation.

“It's proven we get better business results when we have a population working on the business which more accurately mirrors our general population," she said. "And so we need more diversity in the workforce and we need more diversity in tech. Those two things are important for me personally and for Pluralsight.”

At Pluralsight and in her previous workplace, Zynczak established a networking group within the organisation to support and provide mentoring for women in tech, in particular.

“I think creating groups and creating space and creating support is important,” she added.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.

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