The Marketing Strategist:

Five Key Take-Aways from ITSMA’s Annual Conference

November 14, 2014

Dave MunnWith all of the uncertainties that come with change, there is one sure way for marketing organizations to be successful: focus on driving more value. At this year’s conference, we examined three aspects of marketing value: value to the business, value to customers, and individual value. From the variety of discussions that took place during conference, this subject clearly struck a nerve.

Delivering business value seems to be a challenge that is top of everyone’s list. If it isn’t already at the top of yours, it should be. By way of some conference highlights, here’s why.

1. To demonstrate marketing’s value to the business, we need to measure results, not effort. And to measure results, we need to change the way we report. As Mani Dasgupta, CMO of Capgemini North America, said in one of the Marketing Leaders Panel, there is no such thing as a bluebird. If marketing laid the groundwork, then it is up to us to prove it.

In one of her sessions, Julie Schwartz, ITSMA’s SVP of Research and Thought Leadership, shared how best-in-class marketers set quantifiable performance targets that link marketing activities to the business outcomes that senior executives care most about. Amdocs’s CMO, Chris Williams, exhorted us to measure business results, not marketing effort, by aligning metrics to the buying cycle.

Nick Panayi, director of Global Brand and Digital Marketing at CSC, discussed measurement at length. His first step was to make the CSC content management system the center of the marketing universe. If it wasn’t in the system, it didn’t exist. This allowed Panayi and his team to develop an accurate dashboard to report marketing results to the executive team. Among their most important reporting metrics are the lead handoffs from marketing to sales. If sales-accepted leads drop below 80%, there was a problem. Dashboards provide a critically important rearview mirror; but for Panayi, predictive analysis is the true power.

2. The prevalence of data, largely in the form of digital footprints, is dramatically changing our ability to measure and predict behavior. As Malcolm Frank, EVP of Strategy and Marketing at Cognizant Technology Solutions, made clear in his compelling talk, this is not just the next chapter of corporate IT but a fundamental shift in the way we do marketing. Frank shared some great examples from his new book, Code Halos, of just how detailed and surprising the information from our virtual selves can be: Facebook knows that you’re falling in love before you do. And if you listen to Garth Brooks but don’t vote Republican, you’re in a very small minority.

This is just as important in the B2B space. Companies that are able to understand and engage their buyers by interpreting code halos will create a competitive advantage. Marketing must develop a robust analytics capability to do so—and to keep our companies on the right side of the coming industry rift.

3. Understanding buyers and personalizing their experience are critical to engaging them. Adele Revella, CEO of the Buyer Persona Institute, reiterated common wisdom: buyers purchase from providers they trust. To build that trust, we must understand how, when, and why buyers make a purchase decision. With these insights, marketers are able to create value propositions that are more persuasive and able to engage buyers.

Once we can anticipate the needs of buyers on their journey, we can personalize their experience both offline and online. Meagen Eisenberg, VP of Customer Marketing at DocuSign, talked us through some impressive results of using 15 marketing tools to create a personalized digital experience for target buyer segments. For Eisenberg, success is the ability to attract, engage, convert, and measure. In two years DocuSign’s sales pipeline grew 22%, the average time visitors spent on the website increased over eight minutes, pageviews increased over 300%, and click-through rates tripled. Even better, she and her team now have extensive data for predictive analysis to further refine and target their messaging.

4. We must refocus what we do to be meaningful and relevant to our chosen audiences. As Frank put it, “I don’t care if my next-door neighbor knows who Cognizant is, but I do care if my 10,000 potential customers know.” This isn’t just about understanding their motivations and predicting their behavior. It’s about having something relevant and meaningful to say to them. When Chris Goodman took on the role of CMO at KPMG, one of his priorities was to make sure there was meaningful and relevant thought in all of the thought leadership.

ITSMA’s Schwartz told attendees thought leadership really does matter during the buying process. In our recent survey of how buyers consume information, more than 75% of respondents indicated that thought leadership was critical or important in both considering providers and short-listing them. In fact, the most highly rated source of information on industry trends and solutions was provider subject matter experts (SMEs). When information is meaningful and relevant to buyers, they listen. This, surely, is what helps us to distinguish ourselves in what HCL CMO Matt Preschern called “the sea of sameness.”

Two great ways to connect with our audiences in a compelling way are storytelling and Account Based Marketing, as Bev Burgess, SVP, ITSMA Europe, and Jeff Sands, VP, ITSMA, respectively, demonstrated in their workshops.

5. It’s time for marketing to rethink the model. Expectations of what marketing can deliver are high, but gone are the days when we could just ask for more budget and headcount to fulfill those expectations. As John Lenzen, CMO of TCS, said, “The role of marketing hasn’t changed, but the tools have.”

The impact of these new tools is so significant that it is changing processes, and even people, along the way. Larry Weber, author of The Digital Marketer: Ten New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Customer-Centric, told attendees that the CMO’s new job is to improve digital engagement. Between DocuSign’s 15 automation, lead-nurturing, reporting, and analysis tools and CSC’s 47, it’s clear that digital marketing tools and data analysis skills are not just hot, they are critical.

Pegasystems CMO Robert Tas said the biggest part of a marketing leader’s job is change management. That’s especially important as he, like many of us, helps his company transition from focusing on products to focusing on customers. In his three-year journey to building a world-class marketing team at KPMG, Goodman focused a lot of energy on his marketing team, making sure team members were both students of the firm and students of the industry.

Perhaps Weber summed up best where we are: “We’ve finally recognized that marketing is a verb, not a noun, and that it’s never done.”

Want the latest news from ITSMA?

Subscribe to our newsletters and alerts for ITSMA blog posts, research publications, events, and more.

Further reading