MarTech Interview with Jaime Punishill, CMO, Lionbridge

Jaime Punishill, CMO, Lionbridge

“Our customers are not segments, archetypes or the sum of their latest actions. They are real people and we need to understand both their commonalities and their differences.”

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Tell us about your role and journey into MarTech and AdTech. What inspired you to join Lionbridge?

After earning my degree from Stanford, I supported brand strategy, innovation, product design and digital transformations at several financial services organizations. I am fortunate enough to have spent the past two decades in change management. That’s something I didn’t set out to do, but I always found myself being the one trying to change how things were done.

When I joined Lionbridge in November 2017, the company and translation industry were both in the midst of massive changes. In mid-2018, we underwent a rebrand and stripped our marketing technology stack down to the studs and built it back up. We aimed to simplify our offerings, as well double-down on helping our customers create culturally rich experiences. To this end, we are also adding technology-driven improvements in efficiency and accuracy.

In addition to this being an important time for Lionbridge, it’s also exciting for me to move into an industry and company ripe for change.

From the time you started at Lionbridge, how much has the Digital Marketing paradigm changed?

In the 15 months I’ve been at Lionbridge, the market has become increasingly competitive. Digital Marketing services are being increasingly commoditized with fewer barriers to entry. New technologies threaten our existence, but they also open new avenues. The world is more data-driven than ever and we need to adapt our thinking and processes to that reality.

What is a crowdsource multilingual data ecosystem?

We use a crowdsourced network of hundreds of thousands of vetted contributors to provide fast, cost-effective language solutions. This method takes advantage of the collective knowledge of people around the world speaking hundreds of languages to guarantee we’re providing customers with the most accurate, localized content possible. A data ecosystem like this is great for user-generated content such as interactive apps and blogs. There’s also a growing need for high-quality multilingual data to train AI-based systems — a need that Lionbridge meets.

Tell us about your recent Lionbridge deal. How would this AI acquisition benefit your customers and technology partners?

Lionbridge acquired Tokyo-based Gengo in January 2019. The purchase includes, Gengo’s platform for delivering AI training-data services through a fast and efficient crowdsourced network of highly specialized contributors. Gengo is a perfect fit for Lionbridge, combining tech-led translation services and a tech-led community-based platform. Together, our linguistic experts and Gengo’s advanced technology platform are key parts of our localization delivery system.

For our customers, this means we can be more efficient at localization and establishing resonance. We can be more agile and user-friendly and nimble. The platform will allow for things like better recruiting of contributors for crowdwork and faster payment processing. We can support a larger volume of crowdwork and move a lot quicker on customers’ behalf.

Which Marketing Technologies are you excited about trying and working with in 2019-2020?

We are working with a lot of new technologies now that we have rebuilt our technology stack; I’m most excited about conversational marketing interfaces. Voice will account for 50 percent of all online search queries by next year. People are getting used to conversing with machines, whether it’s through their phones, televisions or in-home voice assistants. When you have a customer or potential customer with a question, there should be no time delay. Customer satisfaction and sales go way up when you catch someone at the right time and provide the right recommendation.

How do you prepare your MarTech company for the complex Digital Marketing challenges?

I make sure we focus on the people. We need to understand the world from our buyers’ perspectives. Our customers are not segments, archetypes or the sum of their latest actions. They are real people and we need to understand both their commonalities and their differences.

We build the foundation of our business around their similarities and then personalize for essential differences. The more we use data and technology to communicate and interact with our customers, the more we need to incorporate context, state of mind and customer pain points.

As a CMO, how do you identify the biggest advantages and challenges in making translation and localization technology a staple in a modern CMO’s stack?

We look at customers’ foundations. Translation and localization can’t be tacked on to the end of a marketing strategy any more than SEO can. The ability to translate and localize must be baked into strategies from the start. As companies’ go-to-market in new regions, they can’t just take an existing campaign, implement in a new place and expect the same results. They have to design products and services from the ground up to be applicable and adaptable to multiple markets and personalize them individually to account for cultural nuances. I also like to look at the balance between automation and human touch in an organization. Translation and localization can be done faster through automation, but human expertise and context are also needed to make sure it’s accurate and appropriate for each market.

What role does Lionbridge play in sales acceleration processes and acquiring loyal customers?

Marketing’s key objectives are to drive leads and to help potential customers understand what solution we provide and why we’re different. Sales acceleration is at the center of that, which is why we spend so much time and energy focused on getting our data right and using it to correctly identify key levers.

One example of how Lionbridge helps our customers acquire their customers is that we help them enter markets they wouldn’t be able to enter without a robust network of translation and localization experts. For example, if you want to enter the market in India, how will you find the people with the skills to get all the languages right? India has 22 official languages and 122 other major spoken languages. Netflix just released its first original piece of content there, with 24 languages of subtitles. If you want to take your voice search engine or map application into India, we recruit and provide the people with the skills needed to make sure you get the language and cultural nuances just right, so your product can be successful there.

Tell us about your go-to strategies to support rapid growth and the lessons you learned through the period of massive shift and transition in 2018.

My go-to strategy is to start with a strong foundation internally, know your destination and plan for change. In any big transition, you need to start by building internal support. You have to understand how people got where they are, have a lot of patience and overcommunicate the key messages around the changes.

A lesson I learned through our rebranding was that we should have done a better job of marketing our marketing. When you’re heads-down in a change, it’s easy to forget to bring people along and keep telling the “change” story. Don’t underestimate how many times you need to communicate change messages internally.

You need to design with change in mind. You can’t predict where an organization will be in three years, but we often make that type of long-range plan in marketing. It’s great to have a three-year goal or destination in mind, but the plan to get there needs to be built to be intentionally flexible and adaptable. When you use a GPS, the route may change along the way, but it will always get you to your destination. Treat your marketing plan the same way: focus on the destination, with good data and flexibility that allows you to adjust your route along the way.

One other lesson I learned is that change is always bigger and harder than you think. These transformations feel much like parenting — reading every advice book under the sun doesn’t truly prepare you for that first night home alone with a screaming infant. You plan afor every contingency and then when the changes actually happen, you realize how adaptable you need to be. When I see big transitions fail, it’s mainly been because the strategy was rigid.

How do you mentor your Product Marketing and B2B Commerce teams at Lionbridge?

I encourage people to look for ways to think differently and celebrate new approaches. I model curiosity. We all need to make time to consume information, listen to pitches and filter it through the lens of our business. You never know what you’ll be inspired by or when the information will serve you in the future. I also actively hire people who are flexible, adaptable and multiskilled, because what I might need from them in the future could look very different from what I need today.

What does your personal technology community look like? Who do you meet at events and conferences to discuss technology?

I’m a business guy who happened to code as a kid and understands tech, so I wouldn’t say I have a technology community per se. I tend to hang out more with the technologists, trying to understand the business applications and implications of their tools. At the end of the day, technology is just a set of tools in the service of a goal. I’d rather talk about the goals – reducing friction, meeting customers’ needs – than about the tools themselves.

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

We have rolled out about 20 new technologies in the past year. We use Marketo automation software, Drift conversational agents, a whole new web stack. Seismic sales enablement software helps our sales team identify what content will be most useful to whoever they are talking to.

We also launched a new data management platform, because all other tools are meaningless if the underlying data isn’t right. We must focus on really good data and tools that help us take advantage of that data. Many databases are like swamps, and there are two things you can do to fix them: clean what you already have and set up processes to prevent polluted data from entering in the future. We are doing both. If you’re not keeping track of user preferences and consent, you’re in trouble.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Marketing Technologies for 2019?

Data privacy will be a huge disruption. Not only recent and pending legislation in the U.S. and around the world, but also the fact that consumers will be much smarter going forward. They have really woken up to the fact that their data is out there and hasn’t been treated well, either by choice or by accident. A lot of tools aren’t ready to support a transparent universe where you need cleaner data.

Conversational marketing, which I mentioned previously, will also be big. We are in the early stages of this and are starting to see manifestations of generational shifts. More people are moving into decision-making roles who grew up conversing with search engines and who are very comfortable with voice assistants of all kinds.

We’re also in the early days of AI, which takes form through things like neural machine translation and content relevance serving. This has implications on organic versus paid strategy. It will help marketers get to know their audiences even better and help them more quickly identify and surface resonant messages.

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

There are so many out there, but one I think is really important is Drift, because the whole notion of conversational agents is so important. I’m paying attention to how they think about this whole different method of engagement with buyers. Seismic is another company I pay attention to given that they help us empower salespeople to deal with buyers differently.

I’m also interested in companies that do scalable, personalized video such as Vidyard and Idomoo.

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

To prepare for AI, we must understand that the world is data-driven. Everything depends on that. No matter how fancy your tools are, they won’t work without the right data. If you put bad gas in a high-end car, it still won’t run well. You need to source good data internally and externally, be an expert in your data stack and invest in skilled analytics people.

An AI-centric world will require a test-and-learn mentality. I’m sure whatever we’ll talk about next year hasn’t even been invented yet. So again, we need to plan for change.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

I intentionally hire people with curiosity and an affinity for technology. I also model it by always trying new things and asking if we’ve thought about a different approach. It’s important for them to consume information about technology in all forms. I spend a couple of hours a week talking to vendors and learning new things from them.

One word that best describes how you work.


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

On a basic level, I’m a big user of Slack and texting. I also couldn’t live without my password managers, LastPass and Dashlane.

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

I use Boomerang for Outlook and Mixmax — that’s the only way I can manage my inboxes and calendars.

What are you currently reading?

I’m usually reading five or six books at any given moment, though I try to stay away from business books. I’m an insatiable consumer of information. I’m also partial to hardcover books.

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

Get clear on whether you care about the outcome or the process. You can accept less pleasant journeys if they get you to the right destination and they bring everyone along.

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

It’s probably become clear by now, but I’d say it’s being willing to adapt to change and planning flexibility into everything I do.

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

Dave Gerhardt at Drift.

Thank you, Jaime! Hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

As Chief Marketing Officer at Lionbridge, Jaime Punishill is responsible for leading global marketing efforts including brand, content, demand generation, digital, and product marketing. Jaime is a recognized leader in brand strategy, innovation, product design, and digital experiences, having previously served as the Head of Brand Strategy & Digital Marketing at a top financial services company and led the relaunch of its brand. His previous positions at other financial services organizations include Global Head of Content and Digital Distribution, in which he designed and built a suite of products and services powering more than 1,000 financial firms, media partners’ portals, and apps.

Lionbridge Logo

Lionbridge partners with brands to break barriers and build bridges all over the world. For more than 20 years, we have helped companies connect with global customers by delivering marketing, testing and globalization services in more than 300 languages. Through our world-class platform, we orchestrate a network of 500,000 passionate experts who partner with brands to create culturally rich experiences. Relentless in our love of linguistics, we use the best of human and machine intelligence to forge understanding that resonates with our customers’ customers. Based in Waltham, Mass., Lionbridge maintains solution centers in 27 countries.

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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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