Then there are those who started on a very opposite path from the creative world of marketing - accounting. You don’t see many CMOs with a CPA designation, but these days that’s a very critical background to have - the ability to crunch the numbers.
From accountant to CMO
When I connected with Jason Rose, VP Marketing at Gigya (a fellow Canadian by the way), I expected to hear a similar story of moving from product marketing to the CMO office, and that was certainly there. But what I didn’t expect to hear what that he started out in accounting, working at Arthur Andersen directly out of college. Rose worked in the business consulting division doing financial analysis, consulting and transfer pricing (had to look that one up).
Rose left his consulting job to work for a small software company in early 2000 that offered financial planning and analysis for financial services. That led him to New York City where he worked on the merger between JPMorgan and Chase Manhattan. He spent his time working on cost center assignments and weekly flash reporting for the CFOs of the newly formed JPMorgan Chase.
Then Rose learned about pre-sales, where he could frame out concepts and get the customer excited, then pass the customer on to sales and implementation and he could move to the next opportunity. He moved to another small software company called SRC Software, which was later acquired by Business Objects.
At Business Objects, Rose worked in product marketing for financial planning and analysis and later, portfolio level marketing. When SAP acquired Business Objects, Rose shifted to managing the entire enterprise performance management and governance, risk and compliance (GRC) portfolio. Then he moved to Business Intelligence and Advanced Analytics and spent the next four years in that group as VP Marketing.
Although he enjoyed his work with SAP and learned a lot, he decided to take an opportunity that moved him up the ladder - CMO of Datasift - an enterprise Twitter firehose reseller startup. Guess what? Rose resigned SAP on a Monday, and the next day Twitter bought Datasift’s biggest competitor and planned to shut down Datasift’s firehose. Rose was thrown immediately into crisis communications mode. Luckily, a one-year out clause enabled Datasift to keep the news quiet and just before it was publicly announced they landed a partnership with Facebook to do Facebook Topic Data.
A guest lecture brought him the chance to meet a CEO who was looking for a CMO and a little over a year later Rose finds himself working for Gigya, a customer identity management vendor.
The data-driven CMO
With Gigya, Rose is in a position of helping to define the customer identity management industry and putting Gigya in a leadership position. It’s very much about awareness, and there’s some critical number crunching and analysis required to help do that.
Rose believes that a CMO can’t do their job without a strong backbone in analytics. Think of key metrics like cost per lead (CPL), cost per click (CPC), conversion rates, views, time on page, managing lead flow through the funnel - these require an analytical mindset. It’s not pure finance, Rose admits, but it’s related to key questions such as:
- Are we making the right investments?
- What return are we getting from those investments?
- How can I calibrate the marketing mix to ensure I’m managing my discretionary budget the right way (and Rose says the marketing budget is the biggest discretionary line item for a company today)?
He also understands that a CMO needs a creative bent. He said his time in product marketing, telling stories and making sure the messaging was right for the customer has given him those skills. It’s a balance that every CMO must figure out.
Life at a startup is different from marketing at an enterprise company, and Rose said he learned a lot from his time at Datasift. He said the CMO executes on a much shorter cycle. Things move fast and change faster, and you need to be agile and able to change with it. You also own the entire marketing function from demand generation, to sales enablement, messaging and brand. The startup CMO needs a well-rounded skillset.
There are no major analyst reports in the customer identity management industry. No Forrester Waves or Gartner Magic Quadrants, and there’s not a lot of writing about this market. Rose sees the opportunity to build awareness and create the marketplace.
So, what’s his biggest challenge today? Rose points to two important things.
- Making the pipeline numbers month over month. You need the right marketing mix, including paid programs (this is especially key because Gigya is in an education awareness phase). He said they are still working on their formula for paid programs and the fact that he doesn’t have a perfect formula for digital marketing keeps him awake at night. I’d suggest the desire for perfect is the accountant coming out in him)
- Ensuring constant sales enablement, Gigya has a good communications cadence, but there are still gaps. Rose believes in over communicating, ensuring the BDRs have tools they need to support their target audience.
Both challenges have a strong data-driven focus, and both clearly demonstrate how important it is that marketing prove its value in the sales pipeline.
Does the marketing stack of a data-driven marketer like Rose look different from other CMO stacks?
- Marketo for Marketing Automation - landing pages and email
- Salesforce as the CRM
- An agency that supports a strong SEM strategy (SEO and Adwords)
- Social media - Rose says he hasn’t cracked the code yet on social, saying their CPL is good, but if they aren’t converting, then something isn’t quite right.
- Engagio for ABM - they are just starting to use this
- WordPress for the website
This is a standard stack, which tells us there is no secret “data analysis” sauce. Each technology produces data, it’s what you do with that data that is important.
You don’t need an accountant background to be a data-driven marketer. But you must have some amount of love for numbers. Not just the ability to crunch them, but to understand what they are telling you, and then figure out how to adjust your strategy accordingly. That’s not easy for some CMOs, and that may be why we see so many moving in and out of new positions so often. The numbers prove you are doing the right things (or the wrong things), and if you don’t have the numbers, or don’t understand them, you can’t prove marketing’s value.
The other thing that works for Rose is that he’s truly interested in what Gigya is doing. There is a strong element of privacy in customer identity management, and Rose saw the opportunity to mix his love of digital marketing with another love - privacy and compliance (remember his days in GRC consulting?).
Good marketing shows that you know your business and you love it. The best marketers are truly interested in the products and services they sell. They believe what they offer customers is something really important. I don’t think every CMO can confidently say that.