I just had another great CMO 2.0 Conversation – this time with Mark Gambill, the CMO at CDW. As usual we started by having Mark provide some context about his company and his focus there. In this case the company is an $8B provider of software, hardware and services to a variety of industries that has more than 400,000 customers.
The conversation then moved to how some of fundamental changes in the industry – e.g., the fact that people are making their buying decisions based on information they gain online and in social networks, that they increasingly bring their own tools to work, and that mobile devices are more and more looking like full fledged computers – is affecting marketing. Mark talked about the blurring lines between consumer and business applications and about the need to not flail as a marketer when it comes to integrating social media as part of your marketing mix.
He also talked about the need to segment customers differently and how deep consumer research allowed them to uncover six customer profiles that help them better answer the questions: “what do we stand for?”, “who do we serve?”, and “how do we win?” Interestingly enough (and we see more and more marketers follow this trend), much of the segmentation was based on behavioral characteristics of potential buyers and not traditional market segment data. Other information that came with the profiles include data on where those people like to hang out, how they prefer to receive and consume their information, who else they are listening to, and more. All of this allows them to create and distribute content – both online and offline – in a much more effective way than what they were able to do before.
We then talked about the challenges of developing a recognizable brand when you do not manufacture your own products but instead distribute those of companies that may have pretty strong brands themselves. The way CDW tackles this complex problem is by being “technostic” (meaning technology agnostic) and by positioning themselves as a trusted solution partner. They also realize that buyers establish trusted relations with people more so than with companies or organizations, and so every customer gets a dedicated account manager. With a maniacal focus on customized personal service for every customer they hope that this is what will allow them to deliver against that “trusted partner” brand promise.
We also talked fairly extensively about CDW’s commitment to and use of social media. They had started a small business community but then decided that they would be better served by engaging, as participants as well as sponsors, in places where people were already hanging out. (It is always good to speak with a marketer who resists “the not invented here syndrome” that we have witnessed so many times when companies deploy communities as part of their business processes. They feel like the only way to be successful is by hosting the community on their own platform, even if a strong community already exists on some other platform.) Mark sees social media as a meaningful way to engage people in the context of customer support, but he thinks there is a scaling issue when it comes to leveraging it for lead generation. This is something we have heard from other marketers who need hundreds of thousands, if not millions of customers to be successful. The key here may be to develop a comprehensive leader/ambassador strategy and to understand how those people will help amplify everything you do across the various platforms where your customers, prospects, and detractors hang out.
Although, as usual, we ran out of time, we did get to talk about the types of people that Mark is looking for in staffing his marketing department. Besides finding people who are a good fit from a corporate culture point of view, Mark is looking for well rounded people who, while they may not yet have the full battery of skills one might desire, can be trusted to learn them as well as embrace future skills that we don’t yet know will be valuable. Another important hiring criteria in Mark’s business is diversity. Mark is also convinced that a CMO has to increasingly become a well rounded generalist, with knowledge that goes well beyond marketing.
Other things that we discussed include:
- The importance of face-to-face meetings in customer relations
- The importance of good customer service in brand building
- How they are monitoring what is being said about them in the social media space and how they are engaging
- The importance of understanding “human 1.0” in explaining what is happening in a web 2.0 world
- The importance of appealing to the altruistic part of the brain instead of the pleasure side of the brain when running communities
- The impact of the “green wave” on technology sales
- The importance of ROI, customer loyalty and other marketing metrics
As usual you can listen to the interview on the CMO 2.0 site and soon we will put up a transcript of the call.