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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Tom Nightingale, CMO at Con-way

tom-nigtingaleMy CMO 2.0 Conversation with Tom Nightingale, the CMO at Con-way, a $5B publicly traded transportation and logistics company, was very enlightening to say the least. When I spoke with Tom, he had been the CMO at Con-way for 5 years, where he overlooks public relations, web and digital marketing, product marketing, lead generation, events, direct marketing, new product development, customer satisfaction and voice of the customer – generally what you would expect the responsibilities of a CMO to be. He is also responsible for internal communications and enterprise sales management. One of the things that was intriguing, and that I think we will see more of as part of a CMO’s responsibility in the future, is that he is responsible for recruitment marketing, a major effort as they recruit over 6,000 drivers a year at Con-way (Note: we will be launching a research project on recruitment marketing in partnership with — more on that later, email me if you have an interest in participating).

When Tom talks about being in charge of recruitment marketing, he talks about having the responsibility to fill the funnel, which then gets processed by his partners in HR. His role is to bring in quality candidates who align with the Con-way brand and their employment value proposition. Being in charge of employee communications means he communicates with employees from the day after they process through the HR funnel till the day that they leave.

Like most CMO’s, Tom has seen some big changes in marketing over the past few years, with the two most notable being the rise of social media and the decline in effectiveness of TV and print advertising. Another big change is the increase of content curration across all channels.

As in most industries, word-of-mouth is an important vehicle to reach customers, prospects, and prospective employees. At Con-way they make sure that the content they create can easily travel and be used when friends recommend them as a potential vendor or employer. A good example of that is how they share their job feed on their Facebook page for others to see and share with friends.

As said earlier, social media has made a big difference in Tom’s job over the past couple of years. While on the commercial side of their business the use of social media is still in the early stages, they see it playing an increasing role in customer service related inquiries as well as in requests for proposals and quotes. They also use social media internally, one example being the use of twitter to connect truckers with their load boards.

An interesting challenge facing Con-way marketing is that they have thousands of customers with whom they have a pretty shallow relationship, in essence moving freight for them from point A to point B, and which differ from one another on a regional basis. They also have several hundred customers with whom they have very deep relationships – those that outsource their entire supply chain to Con-way, and who have needs that are different based on industry. Tom is convinced that the latter group presents a bigger opportunity to connect customers with one another using social media or social CRM – ensuring that the collective becomes smarter than the individuals. When he thinks about a community for those customers, he also envisions hyper-local and face-to-face components – which is the right way of looking at customer communities when you have that opportunity.

We also talked about accountability and metrics – a topic that is top of mind for many marketers. At Con-way, marketing is accountable for three things – reducing the cost to acquire and retain customers, attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees, and positioning the company for growth. All metrics that are being used at Con-way support those three overarching goals.

The conversation then switched to the role of culture in a services company like Con-way. Con-way has a simple set of values that they truly live by – integrity, commitment, safety, and excellence. With a business where the brand is impacted by lot’s of employees who interact with customers, it’s critical to  the brand to have simple values that everyone can live by.  That is also why the employee brand and the customer brand have to be the same – if employees are the ones that will influence the brand promise in customers’ minds, they need to live that brand promise. The values at Con-way are so important that they are discussed every day during pre-work meetings with 8,000 drivers who interact with an average of 25 customers every day.

We closed the conversation by talking about innovation. At Con-way, they make a distinction between process innovation and product innovation. Process innovation is key when you have to constantly increase efficiency in a low margin industry to maintain profitability, while maintaining very high levels of customer service. Product innovation at Con-way is based partly  on Voice of the Customer and partly on trend spotting to see where the industry is headed. Launching new products in a service company like Con-way can be a tricky proposition. Unlike with product companies, where they can launch a product that is 80% complete and fix it later, in a services company the product has to be 100% perfect when you launch it.

It’s really interesting to see how the issues of a CMO in a more traditional business are not all that different from those in more recent industries, like for example the high tech space.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • The importance of alumni  in marketing and new employee training
  • More detailed conversation on how the overarching goals drive metrics
  • The integration between sales and marketing
  • Marketing content co-creation with sales
  • The use of social media for internal communications
  • The importance of content curration and thought leadership
  • How you need to adjust your business practices to the local culture
  • The differences in employment marketing in different cultures

As usual, you can listen to the full CMO 2.0 Conversation on the CMO 2.0 site.

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