MarTech Interview with Liz Miller, Senior Vice President, Marketing, CMO Council

Liz Miller, Senior Vice President, Marketing Chief Marketing Officer Council

“Marketers and organizations will need to identify ways in which AI and technology can be deployed to actually enhance and accelerate delivery of a more human relationship.”

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Tell us about your role and journey in technology. What inspired you to be a part of the CMO Council?

Am I allowed to reach all the way back to the Commodore 64 as my starting point on this journey in technology? I say that because I think that my father’s curiosity in the early age of personal computing helped me grow up as a pseudo-digital native in an age of eventual cord-cutters. I just didn’t have that trepidation or fear of computers or technology. I can remember my middle school and high school was very “forward” and had an elective class on programming in the “computer lab” that let us play around with BASIC and Pascal. In college, we could sign up for time in the computer lab to write and save our papers…so exciting. By the time internet rolled around…sure! Let’s jump in with both feet, even with that horrible screeching sound (connections) and AOL chat rooms (hello social). I never thought of technology as something to fear…it was always a giant, exciting sandbox.

I joined the CMO Council in 2006 and was immediately drawn to this idea of a peer-powered network. Our executive director had grown this amazing grassroots network of B2B technology giants all asking for the same thing…find a way for us to learn from each other and not from old traditions or norms. Find a way to push the needle and demand a place at the table for marketing. What started with 12 competitors sitting around a dinner table grew to 1,200 B2B marketers by 2006. My mandate was to grow the network to include global marketing leaders across all industries and sectors, and to identify challenges, interests, goals and points of intersection across all of these peers. So, challenge accepted!!!

According to you, which businesses are fastest to adopt CRM platforms? What’s the readiness challenge to making CRMs work efficiently?

This might not be the answer you are expecting, but the businesses that are “fastest” to adopt CRM platforms are traditionally those who have noticed stalled growth…they are usually the organizations that have realized their sales processes and connections to customers are just not where they should be. Something is “broken” so they assume CRM will “fix” it.
Here is the problem…these are not necessarily the organizations that are most effective at adopting CRM. In fact, these are the organizations that when we ask, “What tool or solution do you anticipate you will install, rip and replace or redeploy in the next 12 months” answer either CRM or email platform…like they don’t already have one.

When CRM is leveraged as a band-aid and not the backbone of a company-wide engagement strategy — when the price-tag says CRM but the mindset says Sales Force Automation (remember that oldie but goodie) or even worse, fancy automated spreadsheet of contacts, then efficiency and effectiveness are likely out of reach. I would say that the greatest CRM challenge is the strategy behind why CRM is being implemented. Is it just a sales tool to organize opportunities and contacts? Or is it an enabling tool that provides an organization with a true north… a single version of truth about the customer, about processes and about opportunities and relationships?

How do you analyze the joint value of bringing CRM and data analytics together? What are the core technologies that CMOs are most interested to buy today?

Fundamentally, the value lies in the ability of the organization to know, understand and focus on the immediate needs and opportunities from the customer’s point of view. It enables and empowers an organization to turn the idea of customer-centric behavior from a motivational quote on a wall into a real business strategy that is profitable, efficient and sustainable.

Through a more tactical lens, bringing CRM and analytics together enables an organization to shift from being data-driven (which typically turns individual, manageable data points into individual action triggers so that operations can be automated) into one that is intelligence-driven (which relies on intelligence derived through analytics to identify “best” actions from understanding and knowing where, when and how to communication with a customer to knowing the best products, services or solutions are right for that customer in the moment of an individual customer’s need). It takes data traditionally housed in CRM systems and integrates, combines and enriches it with all of the unstructured data about the customer that exists far beyond the confines of marketing and sales.

Today’s CMO is looking at a couple of core technologies as must-haves in their stack and a couple of emerging technologies that they are working hard to upskill and learn about quickly. First and foremost, we are hearing that the top tool CMOs are looking to implement in 2019 will be new data and analytics tool, specifically tools that can aggregate and analyze big, small and dark data and then distribute relevant insights across the organization. CMOs are also looking to invest in holistic customer experience and customer journey platforms that can pull together all of the best-of-breed point solutions they have accumulated over the past years so that instead of the silos of action and data they have today…they need a platform that connects all of the dots. As far as things on the horizon that are picking up speed: AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, and did I mention AI?

The challenge we are facing today isn’t building up interest in AI, it is actually the ability to understand what AI is and what it is not, how it differs from Machine Learning and where it can be applied in both operational and customer-facing actions and activities.

How can businesses maximize their ROI from CRM and marketing dashboards?

First…use them. Develop plans and strategies to improve what is seen on them. I know it sounds trite and a bit like Data 101, but you would be surprised how many times I hear horror stories of CRM failures that really start and stop with the organization simply not using it. It seems like a lifetime ago that people used to call Sales Force Automation “sales forced” automation as sales teams would refuse to enter information about their accounts and contacts. Even today, you hear of organizations where the company culture is one that uses CRM as a stick with which to punish and beat their teams rather than a tool to support, empower and engage with the customer.

The bottom line is this: I don’t really care which CRM tool or technology you buy. If the organization’s culture does not value data and intelligence, including an ingrained belief that everyone is responsible for the customer experience and the failure to input data and utilize intelligence derived from CRM will take them further away from the customer and from profitability no tool will be effective.

Tell us about the new-age integrations that marketing teams are missing out on Marketing Technology platforms such as Contacts, Contracts, Email and Customer Service.

Everything you have outlined here has a single common thread: The Customer. That is where and why we are connecting technologies today. What I tend to see a lot of today is people looking at technologies like they are looking at a neatly organized catalog…oh, I sell things, ergo I need a commerce platform…here! This one looks cool. But in today’s economy, everyone is a commerce company…the product, currency and commodity may shift and change, but people are all transacting, so, our job as marketers is to orchestrate the easiest path and route for our customers to be exceedingly thrilled with their experiences be it simple (searching for information) orcomplex (buying and installing a new solution or tool).

Every action is a transaction — some exchange hard cold cash and some exchange time or trust. So, how are we setting up our systems and tools to empower every person within our organization to best impact, accelerate and optimize the entirety of that customer’s valuable lifecycle? Have we given service and support access to previous actions and contracts of a customer? Do sales executives have access to supply chain detail to best set expectations with a customer? Does marketing have a clear picture of the trends in service and support to understand why social is trending in a negative sentiment direction with no warning?

The CMO Council surveyed senior marketing, commerce, supply chain and operations executives and learned:

  • One in 4 executives says that there is just not enough time in the day, budget in the bank or patience in one’s spirit to be able to unlock the full potential in data today.
  • 39% of executives feel that access to customer data across all customer touchpoints and across the entire organization is hit or miss… at best.
  • 41% admit that access to intelligence, including analysis and intelligence from 3rd party data is only partially integrated into current systems and only reaches select teams and personnel.

So what does this all mean…today’s customer is willing to walk away from brands they have done business with in the past…even brands they love…if they are met with experiences and engagements that fail to meet their needs and expectations. There are no more passes…and not a single customer…EVER…has ever thought, “Oh, It’s ok that I have to keep repeating myself every time a new person gets on the phone to try to help resolve this issue…they probably aren’t working on a holistic engagement platform that connects disparate points of data across the organization.” NOT. ONE. EVER.

The push towards new technologies is because old ones keep failing. But I would posit that it isn’t just the technology that is the failure…but rather the combination of a terrible strategy that was then automated.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use in your current roles?

At our core, we are a small business, so, we don’t have all the awesome bells and whistles we would like to have. We do leverage CRM, email and lifecycle management automation, social listening and management, media management tools for earned and owned analytics and tracking and, of course, the usual suspects across site tracking, experience and optimization.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in AI and Data Management technology on CRM businesses for 2019-2020?

So, first I’ll tackle this from the lens of what CMOs have told me they are going to do: 23% plan to look at some form of AI-powered chatbot or live advisor/assistant to enhance their customer’s journey, 17% plan to apply new technology and AI to reshape the contact center and 8% are looking at advancing IoT strategies and doing more with that data.

Now, for my predictions of what will happen: AI and data will grab hold in content creation as well as distribution. We’ve really been focused on the application of personalization in delivery, but we are seeing brands making waves in AI and data application making everything fall into that “addressable” category — addressable TV, video, whitepapers, you name it. Everything will become a name your own adventure, putting that power to define relevance and content on the fly in real time squarely in the hands of a buyer/consumer who is fully aware of the power they wield. To answer this desire, we will see AI being applied in programmatic and journey delivery across both marketing and advertising.

We have been super focused on applying AI in ways that directly engage with the customer (think chatbots, recommendation engines, etc.) and that’s all great…but in reality, we will see customers start to revolt. Human customers want human-powered experiences… they want to be mad at a person who will empathize. Alexa is the least empathetic and usually the wrong voice out there. So, one disruption I certainly see in our path is the revolt against AI… as customers go in search of real relationships. To combat this, marketers and organizations will need to identify ways in which AI and technology can be deployed to actually enhance and accelerate the delivery of a more human relationship.

In a study we released a month ago, we learned that 41 percent of marketers felt that the hardest thing about trying to develop lasting customer relationships was actually stepping back and remembering that they were building relationships and not just deploying campaigns. Yes… 34% said their biggest challenge was aggregating the right data to actually build a view of the customer… and yes, that is where AI will make a big impact. But foundationally, we have totally lost sight of the customer.

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

I’ve been watching blockchain starts, especially those in the marketing and content space, as well as security startups. I’ve also kept my eye on VR application and startups that are making both the technology and the content more accessible to the broad consumer population and not just to the early adopters or tech enthusiasts. While it isn’t a “technology” so to speak, I’ve really been tracking trends across eSports as a new behavioral pool — this is the breeding ground for the new “fan” so I’ve been watching how both player, brand and fan behavior and engagement evolves.  I’m also a super nerd so things like quantum computing, neural interface and biometric behavioral analysis are also on my watch list.

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

As a marketing leader… leap. Jump into AI. Don’t prepare. Don’t fret. Don’t risk paralysis or fear. Jump! Start small. Find a mundane, operational task that AI could tackle and free up your team’s time. It doesn’t have to be a big, sexy AI award-winning showstopper. It can literally be AI learning to tag all of your brand’s images.

Stop thinking AI knows it all. AI has to be taught. Stop thinking about HAL opening the pod bay doors. Start thinking of AI in the same way you might think about growing your team from intern up. You wouldn’t toss your intern into the deep end of developing a marketing strategy and expecting flawless results, revenue and the savvy that only comes with seniority. No… you would toss the intern into a learning curve… you would expect that intern to explore… learn about the product, the customer, the business.

AI is the fastest-learning intern you will ever have. And just like me with that Commodore 64, you’ve got to get in there and play. Play with the tools that empower you to ask new questions of your data and learn new nuances about your customer. Explore the bottlenecks that have forced you to think of real-time in the matter of the weeks it takes to aggregate and execute instead of the moments of customer need. Marketers need to think of this as a customer-centric world made possible thanks to AI-empowered intelligence-driven marketers.

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

Liz Miller brings a varied career that spans over 25 years in the Marketing, Sports and Entertainment, Retail, Health, Beauty and Personal Care spaces. Miller joined the operating partner of the CMO Council, GlobalFluency, in 2006, leading consumer marketing services engagements, quickly assuming the role of marketing and operations leader for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. As the Senior Vice President of Marketing, Miller oversees all business strategy, marketing, research and program operations, as well as serving as the lead analyst for all research initiatives and reports. Along with oversight of event, content and digital teams, Miller can most often be found hosting one of the CMO Council’s many executive Dinner Dialogs or presenting CMO Council research findings at global conferences and thought leadership events.

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Founded in 2001, the CMO Council serves as the premiere peer-powered network for senior marketing decision-makers. It is the only global networkof executives specifically dedicated to high-level knowledge exchange, thought leadership and personal relationship building among senior corporate marketing leaders and brand decision-makers across a widerange of global industries.

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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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