MarTech Interview with Jeremy Korst, President, GBH Insights


“One of the biggest challenges facing CMOs and marketers today is the need to transform their marketing strategy and CX by taking an ‘outside-in’ approach that combines the best available data and customer insights.”

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Tell us about your role and journey. What led you to join GBH Insights?

I’ve spent most of my career leading marketing and product management as general manager, CMO or exec for major technology companies including Microsoft, AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, Avalara, among others. More recently, I’ve serving as a board member or advisor to early-stage technology companies.

Throughout my career, I’ve lived at the center of disruptive technology changes and dynamic, competitive markets. Without question, one of the biggest challenges facing CMOs and marketers today is the need to transform their marketing strategy and CX by taking an “outside-in” approach that combines the best available data and customer insights.

I joined GBH Insights as President in Fall, and lead the firm’s overall growth and development, as well as working daily with our team and clients on marketing strategy. My role allows me to use my experience to work with major brands on some of the most pressing (and fun!) challenges and opportunities — leveraging marketing strategy, analytics and research.

Tell us more about the work GBH Insight is doing. What services do you offer CMOs and marketers?

Core to our DNA at GBH is taking a data-driven and customer-centric approach. We help CMOs, Chief Product Officers and other leaders to solve marketing and business challenges, improve customer experience and create strategies for growth.

We typically work upstream in the strategy process (e.g. segmentation, positioning, customer journey, go-to-market strategy, new product development) with a focus on optimizing customer lifetime value (CLV).

Great marketing starts with being intentional about brand position and choosing the right, valuable target customer segment, and then obsessing over the customer experience and journey — creating relevance and value for your brand. By applying world-class research, insights and advanced analytics, we help clients deliver stronger outcomes and make smarter decisions at every stage of the marketing lifecycle.

We tend to work with Fortune 500 companies, but also get the opportunity to work with forward-thinking smaller companies that understand the need for our capabilities.

How can brands benefit from partnering with GBH? What sets you apart from competitors?

The reality is many brands struggle to effectively apply the right data and customer insights to improve marketing and CX at scale. GBH helps clients to focus on better data, not big data. And we understand that not all customers are created equal when it comes to making choices on what products and services to create and deliver to which customers.

Today’s dynamic customer journeys are constantly evolving, and to be successful, brands not only need to understand, but anticipate customers’ needs in the moment. By applying research, data and analytics, GBH helps CMOs and brands to develop products and experiences to deliver on customer needs, while also identifying unmet or underserved needs to drive future growth.

In addition to our focus on marketing strategy, data and analytics, another big differentiator for GBH is our approach draws from both real-world experience and our connection with world-class academic leaders. Our co-founder is chair of the Marketing department at Wharton, and our advisory board includes professors from NYU, Kellogg and other leading institutions. This gives us insight into the leading edge of strategy and marketing science. Combined with our experience working with Fortune 500 brands across categories, we understand the needs of today’s CMO and marketing leaders. We’ve been in their shoes and worked on their side.

You’ve led Marketing and Product Management for a wide range of companies including Microsoft, T-Mobile, AT&T and Avalara. What have been some of the biggest key learnings in your career and how do you apply these to your role at GBH?

One of my key learnings is just how important it is to have a singular, cohesive and articulated brand position and target customer that is embraced throughout the organization — not just in marketing! A successful brand can’t be everything to everyone. Strong brands make hard choices. Without that clarity across the organization, it is impossible to effectively prioritize product development, deliver a cohesive customer experience, and ultimately, win in the marketplace. At GBH, we work with CMOs to help develop and deliver this clarity using an “outside-in” and data-centric approach.

What are the biggest challenges facing CMOs today in your opinion?

While in the past, CMOs often came from a brand, communications or creative background, today’s CMOs are being asked to drive sales and revenue growth, inform differentiated product features and experiences, improve CX and marketing effectiveness though data analytics, all while also leading brand, product and customer marketing. It’s an exciting time to be a CMO, but also a time of high risk as there are very few CMOs who can effectively prioritize every area. So, having a broad mindset and building an experienced, capable team around them is becoming more important than ever.

For the CEO, and the CMO, success in the role comes down to understanding what’s needed to transform the organization, taking a customer-obsessed and data-driven approach. How do CMOs get the right cross-functional leaders, talent and external partners in place to stay ahead of the curve and drive the most impact? CMOs today also play a critical integration role within the c-suite to help bridge product roadmap, technology, data and analytics with an effective and cohesive customer experience that aligns with and enhances the company’s brand position.

The world of marketing has changed radically with data and analytics playing a bigger role than ever. What do you see as the biggest opportunities for brands?

Nearly every decision CMOs and marketers make today begins and ends with data. In fact, knowing how to effectively leverage customer data and analytics is the number one success factor for CMOs today. Sure, there needs to be effective creative execution, but even that is increasingly influenced and guided by data.

And yet, data for data’s sake does not make you successful as a brand. The ability to engage with and understand customers at an individual level by tapping into the right data and insights is where marketers have the biggest opportunity to realize and drive sustainable growth.

Successful brands embrace the fact that every customer is different, with continually evolving tastes and preferences. A fundamental lense for this perspective is Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) – how your brand delivers value across the entire customer lifecycle and journey. GBH is adept at working with brands to identify strategies to improve CLV metrics – reducing churn and improving customer retention and growth by applying research and analytics.

What are some of the key factors for CMOs and their teams to apply data, analytics and insights to improve customer experiences, marketing and sales?

One of the key factors is understanding that customers are heterogenous and constantly evolving. And, not all customers are equally valuable. In fact, the same customer can have different potential CLV to different brands even within the same industry or category.

To succeed in today’s market, CMOs need to take a holistic approach to gather customer, competitor and other market data to ensure an effective strategy. They also need to implement the necessary listening and sensing functions across their team to ensure the strategy is being executed effectively, CLV is being maximized, and the strategy iterates as the organization learns more and the customers and market evolve.

To successfully accomplish these goals, CMOs need to build a high-performing, data-driven team that has the skill sets to effectively apply the right data and technology to create growth. This point couldn’t be more important. Consider these stats as an example. Marketing analytics spend is forecasted to increase by 200% in the next three years. And yet, by 2023, Gartner predicts that “60 percent of CMOs will slash the size of their marketing analytics departments because of a failure to realize promised improvements.”

In order to show impact for analytics spend, marketers need to make sure the data and technology investment their making truly deliver better marketing and experiences to improve CLV over time. Too often, we see brands adopting new technology just for its own sake, which can result in a “Frankenstein” approach of different teams investing in different point solutions that create a broken (and expensive!) customer experience. A key is to better understand and keep a pulse on the needs and changing behaviors of the brand’s target and highest value customers — not all potential customers.

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

Mat Velloso, Senior Technical Advisor at Microsoft, recently tweeted, “If you see something written in Python, it’s probably Machine Learning. If you see something written in Powerpoint, it’s probably AI.” That’s a very true statement in 2019 — as we think about AI’s current level of maturity.

With AI riding the hype cycle, it’s still a very immature technology, not yet fully scalable and practical for many companies and scenarios. That said, it’s also one of the biggest emerging trends. Tech companies and brands across industries face an imperative to integrate Machine Learning, and longer-term AI, into their products and services, or risk becoming less competitive.

What’s important for business leaders as they evaluate AI and other emerging technologies is asking the right questions. How can AI help you effectively execute your desired customer experience and journey? How will you measure and optimize customer value? At the end of the day, AI isn’t a strategy, but a tool to anticipate and deliver on your customers’ future needs.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

The people I work with tend to be lifelong learners and early adopters who naturally gravitate to using new technology. But, we don’t use new technology just for its own sake — it needs to demonstrate incremental value.

One word that best describes how you work.


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

Outlook, Slack, MileIQ, Waze, Expensify, Spotify, Lyft, OpenTable

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

Not every email needs a response.

What are you currently reading?

Seth Godin’s new book “This is Marketing.”

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

If you’re not a little bit uncomfortable in a job or project, you probably not pushing yourself hard enough.

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

There are so many folks who come to mind and I’m lucky to work with a bunch of super smart, interesting colleagues and clients. But one person who I’ve worked with in the past and has now gone onto different things is Sam Araji. Sam is a very data-centered marketing strategist who always has good perspectives and insights.

President at GBH Insights, Jeremy Korst is an inspirational, dynamic, collaborative and visionary executive who is passionate about creating and leading hi-performing teams to do great things.

His specialties include corporate strategy, general management (P&L), global management, brand strategy, product management, product development, product marketing, storytelling, public speaking, technology strategy, pragmatic innovation, partnerships and business development, negotiation, people development, AR/PR.

GBH Insights – Full-Service Marketing Insights FirmGBH Insights is a leading marketing strategy, customer behavior and analytics consultancy. We partner with the world’s most customer-obsessed brands to solve some of today’s most pressing marketing and business challenges, improve customer experience and create strategies for growth. We understand the needs of today’s CMO and marketing leaders. We’ve been in their shoes and worked on their side. Co-founded by the chairperson of The Wharton School’s marketing department, the GBH team is made up of successful CMOs, marketing research and academic leaders — with experience working with Fortune 500 brands across categories.

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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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