Prediction Series 2019: Interview with Elena Filimonova, SVP, Global Marketing, CGS

Prediction Series 2019 with Julian Diaz, CMO, Skynamo

Tell us about your journey into Marketing and Technology and how you arrived at CGS.

With more than 20 years of B2B technology company experience, I started in Sales and Account Management, and then joined Finance after business school before moving to Marketing. Having worked in different functions provided me with a well-balanced view of the business. I’ve always said that marketing does not exist in isolation. Business strategy always dictates the Marketing strategy.

Over the span of my career, I worked for both start-ups and established companies  — but always the ones with an entrepreneurial culture, which is what attracted me to CGS. The company has a very broad product portfolio, and figuring out how to communicate and connect all the capabilities that CGS offers is a challenge that continues to be extremely interesting to me.

What opportunities and challenges did you and/or CGS identify at the start of the 2018 and have you conquered them?

As a diversified B2B technology company, we address a lot of different industries, divisions, and buyer personas. Adopting a highly personalized approach to prospecting was both a challenge and an opportunity for us. A challenge because of the complexity of our business, and an opportunity because it allows us to stand out from the crowd and focus our resources.

In 2018, we moved to ABM and personalization, which go hand-in-hand, in terms of strategy, process, and technology. This approach did wonders for us in terms of the engagement (e.g. first-time visits, time on site, bounce rates, etc.); however, the conversion to opportunities and closed business takes time. We are working on refining our approach to accelerate this.

What was the most disruptive moment in Marketing in 2018? (i.e. the Facebook data privacy scandal) How did that impact your business strategy?

Like most global businesses, GDPR had the greatest effect on our 2018 Marketing process.

At CGS, we implemented “data mapping” to understand our clear role in the flow of data. We’ve also completed a revision of our privacy and cookie policy, and have added consent provisions to our website, while also implementing written agreements with clients and vendors, and providing Employee Awareness training.

What are your predictions on the “Role of the CMOs” and the closing gap between Sales-Marketing functions?

In 2019, Marketing will be the function that will help shape corporate strategy. Companies have realized the need to align themselves around the brand, and Marketing is seen as the key to this success story.

Brands will invest more money in their Marketing Strategy and Marketing Technology, which will directly impact Sales. Overall, when Sales sees quantifiable results from Marketing (e.g. customer and prospect engagement, pipeline and closed deals) and there exists clear, mutually agreed upon criteria and definitions of all the stages in the Sales/Marketing waterfall, especially for complex B2B deals, and a handover process, the gap disappears rather quickly. Building your organization’s thought leadership and brand reputation is a softer metric but one that also has a tremendous benefit in terms of Sales Enablement.

Do you think AI-as-a-Service and Experience-as-a-Service will be useful for marketers in 2019?

I do. Social listening, sentiment analysis, predictive analytics, personalization and optimization of the customer journey — all have been offered in “as-a-service” model for some time now. This makes these services more affordable and accelerates the adoption. And, I believe the trend will continue.

How do you train your Marketing and Sales ops team to justify the use of Automation and Reporting tools? What feedback do you often get from these user-sets?

I do not need to convince them to use these tools — without them, they simply couldn’t do their jobs or measure the success of their efforts. We are a data-driven organization. Tracking, presenting and demonstrating credible metrics of marketing value is essential for Marketing for both refining our activities and building recognition and trust with the rest of the company.

What was the most impactful lesson you had learned from 2018? How do you plan to implement the lesson in 2019?

We learned two main lessons from our ABM initiatives: 1.) ABM worked better for us when we targeted either existing accounts for cross-selling purposes or prospects that have already been extensively nurtured, as opposed to completely “cold” prospects; and 2.) We sub-segmented our markets too thin. When you go after very niche markets, especially if you are targeting mid-size private companies, the data is simply not there for the technology to work as intended. We are taking these lessons on and adjusting our programs for 2019.

Which leaders in the industry do you closely work with? How do they help you stay close to the business actions?

I work with all levels and leaders across the industry, but what I have found most helpful is working with younger generations. These up-and-coming practitioners are an enthusiastic group who are eager to learn and try new things. Their focus on technology to disrupt common business practices is also highly valuable, as they will be the group to direct the course of business in the near future.

What’s one piece of advice for all the CMOs and marketing leaders in your community?

Marketing as a discipline is moving ahead at an incredibly fast speed. Stay on top of the latest and greatest, but make sure you understand what makes sense and brings value to your business. And, of course, surround yourself with great people — they make all the difference.

Elena Filimonova, who joined CGS in 2014, leads CGS’s global marketing organization. She is responsible for all activities related to conceptualizing and implementing go-to-market strategy and achieving marketing targets on corporate and divisional levels. This includes market research and planning, integrated marketing campaigns, promotion and advertising, lead generation, sales enablement, events, corporate brand positioning and strategy, and directing the global marketing team. Ms. Filimonova holds an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and a BA from Moscow University of Linguistics.

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For nearly 35 years, CGS has enabled global enterprises, regional companies and government agencies to drive breakthrough performance through business applications, enterprise learning and outsourcing services. CGS is wholly focused on creating comprehensive solutions that meet clients’ complex, multi-dimensional needs and support clients’ most fundamental business activities. Headquartered in New York City, CGS has offices across North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

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