Interview with Dawn Colossi, Chief Marketing Officer, FocusVision

Interview with Dawn Colossi, Chief Marketing Officer, FocusVision

“I use data to validate and prove what it is I’m trying to accomplish — people will argue against opinion, but it’s hard to argue against data.”

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Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What made you join FocusVision?

My move to technology happened at the very beginning of my career, basically by accident. Right out of college, I was working at McCall’s Magazine as an editorial assistant and, to be honest, was a bit bored. A colleague went on an interview at Ziff Davis, the biggest technology publisher at the time, but she wasn’t interested so I asked her to recommend me. I’ve been in technology ever since and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

FocusVision was interesting to me because I had spent my last four years at Commvault collecting and talking about big data. When I spoke to the FocusVision CEO, he told me about how they collected small data — small data is the human insights necessary to understand what your customer thinks and feels. This was a missing piece in what I was doing and I knew it had to be missing in many marketing teams that are struggling to modernize, so it was intriguing. I felt like this was a place where I could learn, bring a new aspect of data into my marketing methodologies, and really connect with the audience.

As a woman in Tech, what are the biggest challenges to leading Marketing Operations in the Marketing and Sales technology ecosystem?

The biggest challenge is being a woman in tech, to be honest. It’s no secret that technology is a male-dominated industry. Although there tends to be more women in marketing than any other department, that just creates a stronger bias — against women and against marketing. But I think if we just accept that, then we are just as guilty as those around us. So, I’ve worked hard to earn the respect of my company’s leaders, have held me and my team’s work to a very high standard, and I don’t back down if there’s something I need the company to hear.

My secret weapon is data. I use data to validate and prove what it is I’m trying to accomplish — people will argue against opinion, but it’s hard to argue against data.

What valuable lessons did you learn from your roles at Commvalult and Infragistics? How did your roles there transform your vision into marketing infrastructure and tools?

Infragistics is where I made the move from corporate communications and PR to oversee the entire marketing organization. It’s where I got my education in marketing.

A few years into my tenure at Commvault, I realized the marketing dashboards we were measuring ourselves against didn’t make any sense — it looked like we were failing miserably because of one touch and one contact attribution — but the company was thriving. That’s when we started our journey to stop point-in-time “spray and pray” tactics and define the buyer’s journey, create a program and methodology around that, build a MarTech stack to support it and, finally, develop the reporting and dashboards to be able to provide back to the business real insights to what our customers/prospects were doing, what the buying team looked like, and how a content-driven digital marketing engine drove business.

Tell us about your go-to strategies to support rapid growth, lessons learned through periods of massive shift and transition to Marketing Automation and Analytics.

What I’ve learned is that it starts with really knowing your customer. We all have the ability to measure impressions, clicks, downloads, views, etc., and through Marketing Automation we can provide real-time customer-driven engagement. But what’s missing from that big data is the “why”— why our customers do what they do, how they think and feel to drive their actions — our customer’s truth. It’s not until we do the work to understand our customer’s truth — through the right research, both quantitative and qualitative — that we can become part of our customer’s story.

Missing this data in our marketing analytics doesn’t allow us to be customer-driven and if we’re not customer-driven, no amount of Marketing Automation will help us achieve growth or customer loyalty. Understanding our customers’ truth and designing a program that addresses our customers’ pain points and connects with their emotional drivers is how I differentiate my programs from campaigns comprised of the three emails and a landing page that exist in a majority of B2B marketing.

How do you mentor your product marketing and ops team at FocusVision?

Not sure I’d classify it as mentoring, but what I bring to the table is a customer-centric approach. No matter what conversation we are having or what we are trying to decide, I always take the position as the customer’s advocate in order to bring the voice of the customer into the room. I can do that through the work we’ve done, whether it’s surveys, video research, or focus groups.

From the technology industry, how do you huddle with and share your ideas?

I have a strong network of marketing peers that allows me to “talk shop” and explore new ideas and theories. I also like to have a team of “thinkers” around me. A team where each individual brings different experience, expertise, and view points, and is always challenging itself and me to use the data we have — both big and small — to always improve our programs and connections with our audience.

I find very little value in building a team to do what you say and a whole lot of value in a team that’s comfortable to challenge me and each other, and have healthy debates with the intention of getting better.

What does your technology community look like?

Having been in the industry a long time, my community consists of people from all areas of business. I watch what they are doing and writing on LinkedIn, share my thoughts and ideas, and stay connected.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

We are continuing to build out our MarTech stack, but currently we rely heavily on Salesforce, Pardot, The Big Willow, BrightEdge, and a number of other technology platforms. Next year, we’ll add a content management platform. In the past, I’ve used Kapost.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Video Marketing operations for 2019-2020?

2018 brought us the avalanche of in-your-face Gary V videos and, to be honest, I find it a turn off. I think everyone will take a step back, look at the data, and see those videos really aren’t having an impact. What I predict is that we will start to see more interactive, immersive videos that put the consumer in control.

Tell us about the most outstanding digital marketing campaign that you led in your career.

To this day, the most remarkable digital marketing campaign I’ve done in my career is the first one. As I mentioned earlier, dismal marketing dashboards really challenged me and my team to think differently. We started by looking at the data we had on closed/won accounts, which allowed us to see the real buyer’s journey.

Using that information, we designed an Always On engagement program to find and engage an audience that looked like they were already looking to buy based on intent data. Once we put that into market, we had a third-party analyst firm, SiriusDecisions, do an analysis on our results.

Their report showed that digitally engaged accounts had consistently higher win rates — about 15% higher — and digitally engaged accounts had a 20% higher deal size. We also saw that digitally engaged accounts had a higher conversion rate to opportunity — about 14-19%. For years we were struggling to get our suspect to MQL conversion to the industry standard of 4-9% and we were able to get to 14%.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

Integrate. They continue to grow because they truly understand their customer’s truth and build content and community that becomes part of their customer’s story.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?

It’s like anything that’s new. You test it in areas where you think it can make a difference and use the data to understand what’s working and what’s not. What I’m passionate about, though, is understanding and remembering that we are still marketing to human beings and I don’t want to lose the human connection in the marketing that I do.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

I think it comes from my curiosity, enthusiasm, and persistence to try new things and not be afraid to fail.

One word that best describes how you work.


What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Slack, email, a good project management solution — this varies depending on the size of the team and workload.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

Don’t read every email when it comes in. Pick a few times a day to check and respond. The only exception to that is something from your boss or above your boss — that’s why notifications need to be activated.

What are you currently reading?

I read a lot of content on LinkedIn. A lot. I love to see others’ point of view, technology vendors’ content, industry analyst content, articles from marketing and tech pubs. Just don’t gate it, because then I move on. A business book I read over and over is called “Play Bigger” by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead and Ken Maney.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Listen first.

Something you do better than others — the secret of your success?

I’d like to think I’m a strong manager and have a talent for rallying a team together into a tight-knit, driven group headed in the same direction. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that if you don’t have a strong team around you, you cannot be successful

Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Scott Vaughn, CMO, Integrate

Thank you, Dawn! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Dawn Colossi is CMO of FocusVision, a leading research technology software company. A Top Woman in MarTech and Digital, Dawn specializes in strategic marketing and digital transformation.

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As the global leader in qualitative and quantitative market research, FocusVision can manage all your market research, all on one platform. All the technology you need to discover and deliver meaningful insights.

FocusVision offers best-in-class video streaming for focus groups and ethnographic research, online software and mobile device usability studies, and the most advanced survey programming and reporting tools. For 25 years, our innovative solutions have enabled qualitative researchers to get close to consumers, observe their stories, and obtain better insights. Now our quantitative research products collect the raw data to put those insights to better use. FocusVision simply provides the most in-depth research available from any single company.

With offices in six countries across five continents and the world’s largest network of focus group facilities — 1,400 in 60 countries — FocusVision truly is a global leader in market research.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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