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By Phil Weinzimer
Today’s forward-thinking CIOs form strategic partnerships with CMOs to create innovative marketing solutions that result in new customers, markets, and revenue streams. Forbes identified Zeta Global as one of America’s most promising companies because it understands how to leverage the CIO-CMO relationship to drive competitive advantage. Dr. Jeffry Nimeroff, CIO at Zeta Global, shared his insights on the value of this partnership in a recent interview.
Phil Weinzimer: What changes are taking place in today’s marketplace that require companies to think differently about marketing to their potential and existing customers?
Jeffry Nimeroff: When chatting recently with marketing leadership of two of Zeta’s clients (one a leader in the travel and hospitality space, and the other a leader in the telecom space), we focused on value creation and execution and how omni-channel marketing technology can be an effective enabler. My experience has been that leadership has concerns about their inability to execute creative and effective marketing programs.
The promise of omni-channel marketing is finally being realized. Platforms (and services) that provide marketing leadership the ability to get the right message in front of the right person at the right time and in the right channel are becoming more prevalent. I see organizations moving from a disparate, siloed, channel- and function-specific execution model to one that is more unified across channels and functions. These modern organizations have seen the value of unifying their profile data and leveraging current technology, which is helping them replace singular marketing messages with “contextual conversations.”
Amazon does a great job by leveraging its centralized profile database, which houses customer info, transactional info, content and reviews, etc. Within the last month, I received 1) a recommendation email that resonated, 2) did some online research that Amazon helped direct, 3) completed a purchase, 4) received in-app and SMS notifications of my order shipment, 5) received the same notifications that my package had arrived, 6) received an email follow-up asking about the packaging used, and 7) received an email request to review the product if I was so inclined. This is a rich conversation that benefits both sides. Amazon gains from this conversation when I choose to interact with them. The info I send to them is useful to optimize their operations.
PW: What role does technology play in achieving a successful marketing program?
JN: Executing successful marketing programs is a very interesting problem. A successful marketing program involves having individual conversations with large sets of people on the same topic at the same time. Today’s modern platforms are starting to fulfill the promise of making the required functions of 1) data management, 2) creative management, 3) experimental testing, 4) deployment, 5) statistics gathering, 6) reporting, and 7) analysis easier to perform well. Smart marketing organizations can now spend more time focusing on what they want to execute as opposed to trying to figure out how to execute.
Look at the following picture to see how easy it is to represent conversations as a part of marketing execution. This is an example from one of Zeta’s retail clients implementing an Abandoned Cart email that is triggered one day after a visitor to the site abandons an item in their shopping basket.
PW: How does this impact the role and relationship of the CIO and the CMO?
JN: I view the/my CIO role as one of helping my partners solve critical problems using technology as my toolkit. I shared this during a recent conversation with a CIO colleague, and he agreed with me wholeheartedly.
Continuing the earlier theme, the differentiation of the what and the how is important in establishing the value that the CMO and the CIO bring to their partnership. With a history of successful technical execution―both building and buying―the CIO will be viewed as a problem solver and trusted advisor instead of an adversary or impediment by the CMO. The CIO as trusted advisor works with the CMO to translate what needs to get done into how it is going to get done. The CIO as adversary sees (or maybe doesn’t) shadow technology proliferate as the CMO engages with a solution provider purporting to solve her or his biggest problems without the need for intervention from IT. The latter is a situation we very much want to avoid, as it creates many challenges in areas ranging from finance to information security.
The modern CMO is embracing this relationship as well. That embrace has led CMOs at various CIO-CMO forums to express a shared vision:
“We’ve officially entered the age of the customer.”
“Technology is not an expense; it is a capability for competitive advantage.”
“We don’t know what will make a better customer experience, but we’re data-driven. We constantly test, learn, improve, and refine.”
PW: How are companies addressing these changing market conditions?
JN: CMOs desire a unified state where their data and technology is integrated, but understand that an evolutionary (incremental) approach, not a revolutionary (big-bang) approach, is warranted. Centralizing an organization’s data repositories and the coordination of execution within and across channels are the precursors to a smooth-running omni-channel team.
At Zeta, and I am sure in the industry in general, we have seen 75% of our clients and prospects present a “single view of the customer” as their No. 1 goal, and many within the ecosystem are offering their approaches to getting to the goal.
PW: What do you see as the critical components of an effective marketing campaign?
JN: The critical components in marketing execution haven’t changed over the decades, but our ability to execute quickly and effectively through the leveraging of technology has. A direct mail campaign from the 1970s required 1) targeting, 2) rich printed content, 3) postal delivery, 4) data to correlate the results over time, and 5) a mechanism for ensuring that the results from the current campaign help drive future campaigns. Today we have modern marketing platforms that support all the required phases in one clean package.
What has changed is the definition of a campaign. The days of the isolated marketing messages are going away. Whether you are talking to a customer or a prospect, as in real life, an interactive and adaptive dialogue yields far better results than a set of independent and disjoint messages. The industry now uses the term conversation because it better represents what modern platforms implement. Viewing marketing in the context of these one-to-one conversations opens up a new body of techniques and supports my earlier statements that marketing is both an art and a science, but also requires a new set of metrics and a renewed sense of discipline.
The adage “with great power comes great responsibility” is apt here as today’s omni-channel marketing platforms can easily be used to overwhelm with improper and repetitive messaging.
PW: What advice would you give CIOs who want to collaborate more effectively with CMOs or marketing organizations, if there is no CMO?
JN: As I’ve mentioned, to partner effectively with anyone, a CIO must realize that their expertise is in critical thinking and problem solving, using technology as their toolkit. Once the CIO knows what needs to be done, their expertise in technology will lead to an efficient expression of how the solution should work. Being the trusted partner removes the attractiveness of shadow technology, which promises incredible returns for little effort and no IT involvement. Shadow technology can reach upwards of 80% of a tech budget if a CIO hasn’t worked hard in partnering with their business leaders, which presents staggering risk.
For solving marketing problems, the CIO needs to ensure the CMO that they understand the core elements of marketing execution and know that technology is not a silver bullet. There is no “one size fits all,” and a combination of technology, people, and process, like what exists in today’s marketing ecosystem, is the best way to accelerate to a great solution.