CMO Insights: Chris Spears, Chief Marketing Technology Officer, Arke Systems

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Written by Pamela Muldoon

September 6, 2017

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Chris Spears, Chief Marketing Technology Officer for Arke.

In this video, Chris discusses how

  • Integrating technology requires a plan, process and forethought for true implementation
  • Minimally viable data is an important term for his internal team when it comes to metrics and analytics
  • Procurement of technology and project management are two different functions that need to be connected.

Learn more about Chris from his LinkedIn profile and follow Disruptive Advertising on Twitter.

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

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I am your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz group today on our show, we have Chris Spears, who is Chief Marketing Technologist for Arke. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Spears:

Jeff, thanks for having me. I’m excited.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So I’m excited too, because now we’ve had CEO’s on the chef CMOs, vice presidents of marketing. You are the first marketing technologists now we’ve actually now we’ve had, so I think that’s really cool. Tell us a little bit about what does a chief marketing technologist do?

Chris Spears:

Absolutely. we, we get to do everything. So we are sitting in the conversation when marketing is trying to come up with that strategic plan. We’re working with the IT teams to understand the systems and capabilities that they believe they need to put in place to support marketing. You know, it ends up having a little bit of that data scientist hat on, cause we’ve got to figure out what data we need, where it’s coming from, how we’re going to leverage it. And we bring all that functionality and, and ideas and systems together in a way that supports the revenue generation for the business.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So this is a, I imagine a relatively new role within the last couple of years. Why, why now?

Chris Spears:

You know, I think the term was officially coined by Scott Brinker a couple of years ago. Got a lot of traction when then Gardner announced that the CFO was going to spend more money on technology than the CIO. I don’t know if that’s completely come to fruition yet, but I don’t think you can avoid the fact that there is a tremendous amount of technology and technology diversity required to run, not just digital marketing, but customer experience as a whole, right? You think about the systems powering, you know, social support or social you know, social selling. You think about the systems supporting sales teams, they’re all technology and the more well integrated they are in with the rest of your marketing technology pieces, the more effective that customer experiences. So I think as we watch, you know, technology continue to expand its capabilities and footprint, it’s just going to become more and more prevalent in the full range of marketing.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So I think we’re anxiously waiting for the next iteration from Scott. Uh,shortly since Smart Tech is coming up, it’s probably going to be well over 4,000 companies now. So what’s your take on that as an industry expert? Is it too much now? Just right now enough? I mean, when does it, when does it stop?

Chris Spears:

And this might be a really simplistic way to think about it, but,uwhen, when we’re having conversation with customers and they look at that map of 4,000, we tend to focus them in on the fundamentals, right? So how well are you executing your web strategies, your marketing automation, demand generation strategies, your CRM and sales strategies, and figure out if we’d maximize the capabilities that’s in that first set of tools, those foundational tools, before we start chasing some of the shiny objects that are out there and, you know, promise to completely change our world and make everything better for us.

Chris Spears:

And, and I think a lot of times, you know, organizations hear that message and go, I’ve got a CIO or a CEO telling me we’ve gotta be all over social, or we’ve gotta be doing something with AI. You know, and being here, we got Coca-Cola in our backyard in Atlanta. And you know, I think one of their mandates is always, you know, 70% towards what we know works 20% towards what we’re pretty sure is going to work in 10% on the wild and crazy. And I think you’ve got to align your marketing technology in the same way, 70% of your spend needs to be going to those core fundamental, you know, digital and customer experience tools.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s really good advice. So how does, how does a CMO build start building a business case? How do they figure out within those roles, what they should be spending on what they shouldn’t and where they’re spending too much on?

Chris Spears:

Yeah, I think one of the biggest problems we see, right, there’s a lot of technology it’s easy to buy. You can put it on a credit card, you know, and immediately start utilizing something it’s very definitive in its list of features and functionality and capability. Nine times out of 10 technology is bought before a strategy has been deployed. And then you’re kind of like, well, we got this great tool. Why wasn’t it? The silver bullet? Why, why haven’t we solved all of our problems? And it’s because that tool doesn’t have a strategy component to it, right? It’s not dictating how or what your business is going to do with it. You know? So we challenge a lot on what is that strategy, right? You’re, you’re talking about needing a system that does personalization on the web. Great. Why, well, we want to do personalization.

Chris Spears:

What does that mean? Give me a specific use case where you know something about Jeff because of an in store visit and how you would leverage that to personalize his experience on the web. Let’s make it real and stop talking about it from a 40,000 foot view of, of what we need. And what we’ve seen is when we can help a digital marketing team or a marketing organization, craft those specific use cases, it’s much easier to sell through to the C suite and their peers, because it’s not this hypothetical personalization is going to make our lives better. It’s we’re going to do this. And our hypothesis against that type of personalization to Jeff is that it’s going to drive a 10% lift in his purchase.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. So do you think that technology is helping to solve the data problem or contribute to it?

Chris Spears:

We use a, a term over here and it’s minimum, minimally viable data. So there is this opportunity in the web and emailing demand in your CRM system to collect every iota of information. And you know what, from an it perspective, that’s cheap. You can do it, let them collect everything. There’s no reason not to. From a marketer’s perspective, we focus in on what points of data are actionable. And if you knew them, you would actually change what you’re doing. If you just want to know something anecdotally, it’s probably a little bit less important. If you, if you focus on the data, that’s going to change your business decisions, the content you produce, the, the audience that you target, the personalization that you’re going to do you know, in, in, in your world, thinking about how it’s going to impact, what is that next message or communication we might drop out to somebody, you know, ignore the noise.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s good advice. So there’s a lot, been a lot of talk recently about the customer experience and customer engagement and, you know, that’s should, shouldn’t be anything new. We’ve always tried to work on customers, but in your view, what are you seeing out there in terms of mix? I mean, are our marketing organizations spending the right mix between top of funnel, net, new acquisition, life cycle, marketing loyalty, do they need to be doing more or one or the other?

Chris Spears:

It’s a great question. And it’s something that we’ve spent some time thinking about, right? So customer experience, right? If we feel doesn’t really encompass everything, right? You can sit down with a group of marketers and say, okay, you’re responsible for customer experience. Tell me what that means. And they go, we’re not all we can control is that top of the funnel, we can figure out awareness. We can get people into a funnel and nurture them. But then the customer experience goes to a sales team that we have no impact on goes to a support team that we have no control over. It goes to service delivery or product delivery that we can influence. And then maybe they let us play again at the end of the funnel and turn them into advocates. After, you know, they’ve gone through the, the, the middle you know, when we go out and talk to a marketing department, a CEO, an it team, we talk about it as a there’s a brand experience. And that brand experience is made up of a set of journeys. And those journeys include your buyer journey. They include your customer journey. They include your partners, your distributors, your, your, your vendors, your employees, and all of those journeys come together to create that ultimate brand experience. You know, and the customer segment is a piece in there that isn’t even controlled by the marketer, you know, so I think there’s an interesting use of language when we talk about customer experience from a marketing perspective.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay, great. So how are you saying the skillsets of marketers evolve and in terms of both who you hire for at arc and what you recommended or what you’re seeing at your customers and is the skillset changing? And if so, what are you guys looking for?

Chris Spears:

There is a lot in our customers. And I think even the reason that we get engaged that says we’re really good at it. We’re really good at marketing. We need somebody that can bridge that gap, right? We need, we need someone that’s going to play, you know, referee, quarterback, whatever you want to call it in between those two divisions of a, of an organization that can go, you know, there’s a, I think it’s a Dilbert cartoon, right? And they go, Hey, we want to know the geolocation of where that picture was taken. And the developer responds great. That’s an hour, we’ll plug that right in. It’s no big deal. You know, in the next frame they say, we’d really like to do when that picture is taken to determine what bird is in the picture. My developer looks up and goes, yeah, that’s no problem either.

Chris Spears:

It’s going to take a research team nine months, we’ll figure it out and we’ll program it in, you know, and both of those requests are made with equal weight, not realizing the difference in how, how much it takes to do that work. You know? So the, the type of roles that we see our clients filling, the reason they’re asking us to step in is around bridging that gap and saying, you know, we heard marketing ask for this. It you’ve over engineered what you’re recommending. We can’t wait nine months to come back with whatever they’ve asked for. You know, so that’s been a very powerful piece of, of the story. I think clients’ side, you know, there, there is a propensity to say that some of the work that’s being done. And I imagine you see this in your, in your capability as well. You know, it, it’s not just the commodity work, right? Somebody that can sit down and think through what is that email tax direct mail journey that I want to send a, you know, an, a prospect on to get the best result out of them. Isn’t just a matter of setting up 11 emails and chunking them through as fast as you can to get some engagement. It does require that strategic thinking and also understanding, you know, the, how long it takes to configure those things.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So from a process standpoint, with all this technology flowing into marketing is marketing also learning how to manage the vendors. I mean, fist, you know, typically that’s a procurement or an it function, but our marketing organization is prepared to really systematically evaluate measure and manage the vendors they’re working with.

Chris Spears:

I think those organizations, I put two parts onto that one procurement. And the other one I think is just project management, right? My experience so far is that most marketing organizations don’t have nearly the robust project management capabilities that an it, that their peers in it have. You know, so, so leveraging it to bring that project management capability to keep things on the rails, to keep things moving forward, I think is very important. And also to holding vendors accountable after they’ve been selected you know, the, the, the issue that we see more frequently on the procurement side is just trying to understand the, the work right? So, whereas they look at marketing technology from procurement’s perspective and they go, well, this is just bodies and hours like we do on the it side. Right? So they should be apples to apples with the, you know, global systems integrator off shore team, you know, type of rates and cost structures and, you know, project level detail. And it’s a little bit more fluid, right? Cause you’re, you’re changing a lot faster than your traditional it models.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So what’s your take on account based marketing, been hot term this last year, year and a half?

Chris Spears:

Ah, what’s old is new again. I mean, is there a sales methodology or, you know, all the way back to Siebel CRM that talked about, you know, account-based targeting, you know, and, and account targeted selling you know, I think the I think it’s a new term. I think it follows the same set of constructs that, you know, when you weren’t fishing the entire world, you were always honed in on a specific, specific set of accounts. You are going after them in a specific way. I think digital has just enabled new channels, right? So that we can say, I’m going to go follow around all the executives from IHG on social, with ads until somebody engages with me, or, you know, I’m going to, I’m going to hunt them down through a data platform and more proactively reach out to them. But I, I think most organizations are not most, there’s been a healthy mix of organizations doing account based selling account based marketing for 20 plus years.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s true. So what’s the next big thing in MarTech?

Chris Spears:

I think marketing is got to catch up. My opinion right now would be that the, the proliferation of platforms, the capabilities in these tools were, you know, even the most advanced marketers, most of these systems and technologies are five years ahead of what they have the staff to take advantage of and execute on. And, and even the business cases to prove that it’s driving the right level of value for the investment that’s being made in it. I mean, you know, kind of back to that sh you know, fundamentals versus the shiny object theory. You know, so when I think about what’s next in Mark, Mark tech, there are a bunch of interesting concepts, right? I think chatbots easy to talk about personalization. We’ve been talking about it for five years. It’s still trying to come to fruition and not just, here’s a name and an email that gets sent, or we recognize you when you hit the website.

Chris Spears:

But you know, this specific piece of content was targeted at Jeff because he loves the Cowboys and not hi, Jeff, you know, so I think that level of personalization is still coming together. I will say that one of the tools I’m waiting for, and I expect to see out in the marketplace soon is something that actually walked the streets across this best of breed, marketing technology stack. There’s some, some people making head, you know, making way. But I, I shouldn’t have to log into my web platform, my email platform, my CRM system, my ad management system to target you. And, and you have an engagement plan that runs against you, right? Something is going to orchestrate that across a variety of disparate tool sets. That’s what I think would be the next big innovation,

Jeff Pedowitz:

Great advice from the chief marketing technologist themselves. So, Chris, thank you so much for being on the show today. Really appreciate it.

Chris Spears:

Absolutely, Jeff. Thank you.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet.

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