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What I Learned in the First 90 Days as a CMO

As a new CMO, there were three words that could immediately turn every head in the room so they were no longer listening. They were “My customer said…”

The following is a guest post written by Dawn Colossi, a leader in transformational marketing and CMO of FocusVision

I spent the past seven years in the Marketing Department of a high-tech software company. I held several titles during that time but about four years ago I went all in on Digital Marketing. Around that time, B2B started to wake up and realize something the consumer market has known forever: Engagement with your brand through content marketing is what sells the product. Take the Jell-O cookbook. Published sometime in the 1940s, it contained a whole book of recipes around Jell-O and guess what it did—it drove sales for Jell-O. So simple. So, with the world wide web a little over 20 years old and social media running our lives, B2B finally woke up and started talking about digital marketing, content marketing and more recently, “engagement.”

I began all-in with digital content marketing and what my team was able to do was truly groundbreaking. We built an always-on digital model that tracked accounts and contacts from their first touch, measured engagement, and could tie that engagement to revenue (I have a number of blogs and videos out there, just Google if you’re interested in that story). There are thousands of posts on LinkedIn and hundreds of MarTech vendors around this model because this is what most marketing teams aspire to. We even won an award from SiriusDecisions three years ago and I spoke on the main stage about our journey. As a result, I’ve spoken to marketers at the biggest software companies in the world–Microsoft, HP, SAP, IBM, etc.–to share our story and how we did it. Internally, I had dashboards that also showed all these things and we were certainly able to get the attention of the sales leaders and the executive suite. I mean we had stopped talking about leads and started talking about revenue! But there were three words that could immediately turn every head in the room so they were no longer listening. They were “My customer said…”

So while we had dashboards, funnels, pie charts and statistics in plenty, as soon as someone talked about the last meeting they were in or what they “heard,” the best slides filled with compelling numbers became meaningless. This “case study of one,” as we came to call it, was so frustrating because as a company we behaved like little kids who suddenly heard the ice cream man–we dropped everything and ran towards that sound.

“No data can speak louder than your customer”

Ninety days ago, I joined FocusVision, a full-spectrum insights and analytics technology solution provider, as the CMO. It was a fairly long interview process, but I know my work in Digital Engagement is what ultimately landed me this position. I’ll be honest, I had never heard of FocusVision before and truth be told, any research I did at my last company was ad hoc because we were trying to prove something or test something. In total, I think we did two old-school, in-person focus groups (one that was completely useless because the moderator and the participants were a terrible match); one brand study that our Execs decided they just weren’t going to believe no matter how many charts or numbers we put in front of them (“Everyone we talk to knows who we are” we were told); and a few surveys by a certain zoo animal. So, the big AHA moment I had since I came to FocusVision is no data can speak louder than your customer. That’s why our beautiful charts that showed website pathing or demand waterfalls or even brand recognition never made the impact we needed them to and as soon as someone said, “My customer said…” that’s what everyone focused on.

Enter FocusVision. We help companies bring their customer into every meeting. Our customers use our surveys to gather quantitative data, even in video format; our online focus group platform gathers qualitative data by allowing teams to get the right group of participants, regardless of geography, listen and watch from wherever they are and then bring the right sound bites, or video clips back to the entire organization to see and use; and our different video products allow brands to either get feedback directly from the customer in situation using mobile video or actually SEE the customers USE their products like Pampers did.

The benefit of capturing that feedback in video is best stated by our customer, the former Director of Global Customer Loyalty from eBay: “In most presentations, you are forced to help bring to life the voice of the customer through text and pictures but with this new approach, you can bring the customer into the room with you to tell their story.” See the eBay case study.

“What I was missing was the customer himself”

What I’ve realized is that as I built the buyer’s journey, engagement programs, brand awareness decks, personas, and all the other elements that went into the work we did and tracked all those “numbers” in our dashboards, what I was missing was the customer himself. While my numbers certainly told a compelling story, had I asked my customers and prospects about their pain points, day-to-day lives, what they thought of us as a company etc., and captured it on video, I could’ve actually brought the customer into every single Executive and Board presentation so that all the key stakeholders could see and hear, right from the customer’s mouth, what they thought or felt. I would’ve never lost the room to the case study of one because when someone said, “My customer said…” I could’ve said, “Here’s what OUR customers said…”, rolled the tape, and then had the data with all of my dashboards to back it up.

And then, I would’ve dropped the mic.

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