CMO Insights: Alexandra Shapiro, CMO

May 23, 2018

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Alexandra Shapiro.

In this video, Alexandra discusses;

  • The fundamental belief that marketing strategy and business strategy must be aligned tightly
  • How her team puts into practice and operationalizes customer experience
  • The multiple uses technology provides marketing to achieve goals and drive business

Learn more about Alexandra from her LinkedIn profile.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our CMO Insights Playlist on our YouTube channel.

NOTE: At the time of this interview, Alexandra was still in her position as CMO for BigCommerce. She recently became CMO for Intercom. 

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television. I am your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today, we have Alexandra Shapiro, who is Top Executive at BigCommerce and formerly at PayPal as well. Alexandra, welcome to the show.

Alexandra Shapiro:

Thank you. Love to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So you’ve had a, quite a fascinating career, a lot, certainly on the payer side. And what are some of the trends that you’ve seen as a marketing executive over the last few years,

Alexandra Shapiro:

I see a lot of innovation in marketing technology and significant investment in capabilities that we now as marketers have at our disposal disposal, which since he just, the way we market the way we target them, the way we ultimately deliver information and messaging to our customers.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. And then strategically, what are some of the key priorities you’ve been focused on over the last year?

Alexandra Shapiro:

I mean, number one, hire any is dr. Gross. and whether it was a PayPal or it’s big commerce, which is a SAS eCommerce platform, or my previous experience in banking, the worker, the worker marketing is around driving profitable growth for the company. So it means understanding our target customers, how we understand their pain points and deliver value to the customers, and then build profitable, go to market strategies that allow us to achieve business results. Fundamentally, I believe that marketing strategy and business strategy has to be aligned Lely tightly and encouraged donation marketing can be used to drive business groups.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So as you think about this, this concept of business accountability, how are you building that culture within your teams?

Alexandra Shapiro:

It’s nice with three different things. First is actually a size was understanding goals. What is the business side it gets with trying to achieve, and then having those targets, those goals align with marketing goals. There’s a very direct correlation between business goals and marketing goals. And so understanding those business targets that’s at the very beginning. That’s the first thing. The second thing is taking the targets, the highest level goals and cascading them down to all of my team members and marketing all the way to the marketing channels that they manage because they use a very clear link in the comparability to be total revenue number for as a company and expectation around revenue grows from a particular marketing channel. And then lastly, using data to make the right decisions to understand how do we optimize our marketing channels to drive some maximum results for the business.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, we hear a lot of that. You mentioned in the very beginning, you talked about technology and the role that’s played. When you think about this concept of digital transformation across the enterprise, what, what role does marketing play in that

Alexandra Shapiro:

Marketing is, is it at the very beginning of knows the customer journey and stays throughout the customer life cycle. Initially marketing determines a strategy around what business segments we are trying to serve. Marketing is defining our get segments, the value proposition that segment personas their buying journey, marketing uses customer insights and data combination of those two things to really understand who she wants the company target. Then the next step marketing is involved to building out, go to market strategy. Working very close to me as a product team was sales to determine the right sales and marketing channel mix to acquire certain customers. And then marketing is deeply involved again with sales and product to nurtures of prospects.

Who’s a buyer journey across the customer life cycle and gets them started on, on, on the product. The later on support was onboarding. So let’s say marketing is pretty heavily lots of the initial strategy, peace and quiet and customers. Well, it’s interesting as later on, once a customer has acquired now, marketing can help get the customer onboarding. Did he end up and remedy? And this has to be done again. And company two was a great product experience and marketing later, it helps engage customer to their lifecycle to reduce churn, to drive higher upsells and ultimately build customer loyalty.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Excellent. Just pause there for a second. I just want to make sure it’s recording on a split screen. So it is, you’re doing great. Yeah. So yeah, it just it’s, it’s weird. Cause I’m seeing your video twice. So it was just, it was like you should I see it. I see. I guess. Okay. Well you’re doing fantastic. So keep it up. Okay. so let’s talk a little bit about the customer experience. So this is big buzz word. Everybody talks about it over the last couple of years. How do you actually put them into practice? How do you operationalize it across the enterprise? Cause it’s one thing to talk about your customers and the experience, and then it’s quite another right to build the systems, the touch points, the processes changed the culture. So what, what’s your take on that?

Alexandra Shapiro:

It starts with understanding the customer and understanding full customer set of needs and the broader context around the customer. In our case, we work with business customers, which means as a, as a eCommerce platform or as a payments provider in all of those situations, we’re not the only technology solution that they’re using. So it’s important to understand the full customer context, what as a provider you use and how I was technology solves a part of the puzzle in how as a provider and the broader ecosystems comes in into the picture. It’s also important to build deep data profile of your customers using third party tools and on a behavior with you. So on that’s behavior to build a deeper picture and understanding of the customer because the ultimate goal is to deliver as a right message, the right experience, the right solution does a customer doing the right stage of their customer life cycle.

And so understanding the customer through a combination of deep insights and data, this is a starting point later on. We it’s important for us to create great experiences in partnership with product and again, deliver personalized and relevant messages throughout the customer experience. We can use a simple tools as NPS survey to understand customer feedback and actually reads the survey results to determine, well, what can we do? What can we improve? That’s probably one of the most useful exercises to go through is to actually listen to the feedback that customers give you on your platform. Then use that information to create better product experiences and deliver customized messaging. One of my thing I’ll add was again, they were the innovation and technologies. We now have new opportunities to understand data and to test and optimize. And so using test and learn approach, he can optimize multiple experiences and understand how does the customer interact with your product and what drives the greatest level of engagement and and ultimately survive results for your business.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. Great answer. Very, very comprehensive clearly then spending a lot of time working with customers as you shared. Right. So tell me, tell me a little bit, I mean, you’ve, you’ve built so many teams over the years and I’m just curious as to, what do you look for? I mean, in terms of, is there a certain type of town you’re looking for a generalist you’re looking for specific people, what’s your approach to building out your organization,

Alexandra Shapiro:

That protection, it changes from time to time, depending on the company and the needs of the company. But in general, I look for two things. I look at what the, how first one I’ll look at skills, does a person has the right skills to use a job? Does it have some variety of experience? And that’s pretty important. We recently have been moving to a structural model that used a center of excellence approach. That means that I’m looking for folks who have deep expertise of the marketing channel that they may not. So that’s really important understanding if they have the right skills, but the second part is equally important. It’s understanding the, how they do some work. How does it approach, how does it work with others? How does it make decisions?

And I think at this point it’s important to have folks who can not just have the skills, but lack that how in the environment that we work today, when we focus so much on collaboration, it is important to have those. And then as I hire talent than I built town, I also tried to understand the individual strengths. We go through deep exercises to understand the strengths, and then we built development plans that allow us to leverage our strengths. I’m a huge believer in leverage and strikes. So and then do an extensive exercise. This was a team to understand each other’s strengths and how we can bring all of our different strengths to solve business problems.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s great. So tell me a little bit about how you approach technology because there’s clearly so much of it today. And what do you have you make decisions on, what do you buy? What do you get rid of what business cases does it solve? How do you train your team and what’s your approach to bring technology? And

Alexandra Shapiro:

So I use technology and four or five critical ways. The first way I use technology is to help me improve my targeting. Do you understand the fit when they talked about segments, I need to make sure that I’m using technology tools that are available to us to help us target the right segments. And so what I’m trying, then it still looks a right to acknowledge. So we’ll get us we’ll, I’ll meet bolus to do that. So that’s the first use of technology. I’m less looking at providers with more, what is the latest solutions that are available that can provide data enrichment or better targeting and they’ll company. She knows the tools. So ultimately I can do a better job targeting. That’s the first use of technology. My second use of technology is deal, understand their intent, to understand behaviors that will drive them to be some bright prospect for us.

At that point in time, it could be combination of behavior with us, how they engage with our content. It could be understanding of how they engage with competitor content that’s available to me, or do they use competitive products. But understanding and the 10th is very important and that’s probably as two things that are immediate uses of technology. So as a scoring technology that is available as, and can be used to overall life. So the, the right leads sent to our sales team, for example, the third use of technology is to optimize my marketing step. As we invest across a broad range of marketing channels, it is important to understand which of the channels drives. It ultimately results for us in linking all the way from keywords that I used, maybe in the stages of the buyer journey later on to the revenue data, once a customer has an onboarding.

 

So making that full and tan like pitch is very important, cause then allows us to optimize in a marketing channel mix in, but we invest in our most valuable channels. Technology is key here. It’s technology, connecting different data systems, attributions technology, and analytics supported by technology. But overall distending are, I have different channels and different segments. And then the last piece is personalization. So how can we leverage again, the idea of delivering the right content does the right segment, that the right time, this is again where technology comes in. It could be optimized to test, to learn. It could be a bring in third party technology tools. It doesn’t mix. So the messages are relevant and targeted based on the audience.

Jeff Pedowitz:

All of your answers are so comprehensive. Okay. You mentioned content a lot. And one thing I’m curious about is, so we’ve all been instructed over these last few years, get more content out, more content. Do you think there’s too much content out there and how do you know when you’re getting the right type of content in front of your customers and what’s your approach to organizing it? Cause I think it’s pretty easy to overspend, isn’t it?

Alexandra Shapiro:

Yeah. So we we are very lucky in my most recent role at big commerce. We brought in a very strong content marketing team. And so I can try that again. Cause that I went in specifically big commerce my college and say, ask me not to specific. Okay. I think ultimately you determine that you have the right content if you have the right users engaging with it. And then it, it all has to be connected back to your customer segments. Who are you trying to target? What are their pain points, how your solution is helping address those pain points and how can you leverage content to bring those customers to the bio charity? So by understanding how customers engage with the content, it’s probably one of the best ways to determine is this conference is relevant. Is it solving questions at a top of mind, this content doesn’t have to be about your solution.

It could be a more general solution, but at least as long as you’re engaging with audiences tech to build deeper understanding of the customer, start collecting additional information, then you know, you’re having the right type of content. You are not seeing that feedback if you’re not seeing that engagement. So there’s something wrong with your content strategy, go back, think about the customers and target segment you’re trying to solve what matters to them and then start developing content that resonates right feedback.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So if you were to advise your fellow marketers and in three buckets and whereas they should spend their time, the strategy the planning and the execution, where should they spend them? Like if you were gonna divide it into a hundred, where should they allocate each at percentage of time?

Alexandra Shapiro:

So this thing about marketing or actually a cool look. So we do use it plenty. We know our goals would build our strategies that align to some goals. And then we quickly take those strategies and execute and then use the results to see where actually meeting the goals. So when I think about marketing, I always think of this circle, this slope and the right answer is it depends, but it also has to be a feedback loop so that the execution is your Realty. It’s very important that you’ve measured that execution. So you actually know if it’s meeting your strategy and it’s delivering the right kind of goals. So the right answer, I think it has to be a closed feedback loop.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay, good answer. So in closing, any advice that you would give to your fellow marketing executives out there,

Alexandra Shapiro:

There’s been a ton of really fantastic innovation and, and just in terms of how we can use data, customer insights, personalization, and latest marketing technology to deliver the right content, the right info the right message to our customers and prospects, and then ultimately drive much greater growth as a business. So that would be my advice. Start with your customer, build this deep understanding of your customer says you can and then use the information that you collect that third party data to deliver those a right message. Does the right customer that’s the right time?

Jeff Pedowitz:

Very well said. Well, Alexandra, thank you so much for your insights, and thank you for being on the program today.

Alexandra Shapiro:

Yeah. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

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