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Marketers try to map and meticulously outline their customer’s journey to convert a lead into a paying customer. Instead, maybe they should focus on behavioral data to deliver the right message on the right channel at the right time.
Today, my guest is Judd Marcello, executive vice president of global marketing at Cheetah Digital. He believes the customer journey doesn’t exist. Instead, figure out why data is important and how to leverage it between brands and customers.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
Eric: The customer journey. Ah, yes. Marketer’s way of trying to map and meticulously outline every step that a lead takes to becoming a paying customer. And we just hold their hand as they stroll down the journey of giving us money. It’s what we’ve tried to do to really construct a linear path for our prospects. Now, it’s all great in concept, but reality might be a little different because we’ve got all these new marketing channels.
Now, the buyer has become so much more erratic. They’re jumping around from channel to channel and without any reason it would seem. Maybe, instead of holding our prospects and customers and making sure they complete this rigid customer journey, what marketers need to do is perhaps focus on using behavioral data, that would really help us deliver the right message, the right channel, at the right time.
That’s exactly what my next guest, Judd Marcello, the Executive Vice-President of Global Marketing at Cheetah Digital, talks about in this episode. He believes that the customer journey does not exist. So, what do we do instead? He says, what we can do is we need to figure out and understand why data is so important and what types of data that marketers should really be leveraging to ensure that we’re delivering that right message. Most importantly, perhaps, how do we leverage data that can help us develop this really good dynamic mix of activities and interactions between our brands and their customers that’s going to drive that powerful engagement at every single touch point regardless of where it takes place.
It’s a fun one. My name is Eric Piela. I’m the host of the Actionable Marketing Podcast and the Brand and Buzz Manager here at CoSchedule. Fun times. Let’s introduce you to Judd because it’s time to get AMPed.
Hey, everybody. I hope you were excited to get AMPed. Another fun episode and my guest today is Judd Marcello. He’s the EVP of Global Marketing at Cheetah Digital. Judd, welcome to the show.
Judd: Thank you, Eric. Happy to be here today.
Eric: Where are you calling in from today?
Judd: We are located in Chicago.
Eric: Chi-Town, The Windy City. I don’t know. I wouldn’t know. See, I’m calling from Fargo and I always argue that Fargo is The Windy City, we just don’t have the notoriety that you do at Chicago there because a calm day is like 10–15 mile of winds here. I don’t know about Chicago.
Judd: It’s funny. I’m a New Hampshire native and I’ve really lived in a lot of places all over the world and I’ve only been in Chicago for about two years now. I have learned that The Windy City nickname isn’t about weather at all. It actually relates back to a time there used to be a lot of politics here and a lot of blowhards. The Windy City refers to a lot of politicians doing a lot of talking.
Eric: My mind is just blown. I had no idea. If anything, our listeners will learn that interesting trivial pursuits.
Judd: There you go. My job’s done here, Eric. Thank you everybody.
Eric: I had no idea. I love it. Thank you for enlightening me. I’ll never make that mistake again. I love it, Judd.
Judd: I didn’t know either.
Eric: Thanks for sharing that and thanks again for coming on the show. I’m excited to dive into this topic, this customer journey doesn’t exist. It is funny that this concept of this journey that customers go through, our listeners, the marketers listening to the podcast, and even internally here at CoSchedule, we love to use that terminology. We actually use an automation platform and I think the terminology they used is journeys, what journeys are we going to put our prospects though. There’s just this mentality and these parameters of how we think about it.
I’m excited to discuss with you about maybe how that’s been completely blown up, with the how consumers are interacting with brands, and love to pick your brain there. But before we do so, Judd, you’ve had a fascinating background. I did some creeping on LinkedIn as I always do, and you’ve been awesome, just dossier of experience, and I love for our listeners to get to know you. Talk about your introduction into marketing and how you ended up at Cheetah Digital.
Judd: You got it. Yeah, I really do have the diverse background, actually, when I think about it. I started out my career over 20 years ago now. I think I graduated in college in 1994—seems like forever ago—and I have been in marketing for the majority of my career. The first half of my career, I was in B2C marketing, and I used to manage brands or lines of products for some big brands here in the US.
Then just by way of some really unique circumstances, my wife and I took off and start living around the world. We spent about five years in Sydney, Australia and I’ve managed a couple of brand lines there for Canon, the camera company. It was a great experience living in Australia. Loved it. If anybody hasn’t been there, put it on your travel bucket list. You have to spend time in Sydney.
Again, more unique circumstances, we moved from Sydney to London. We lived in London for about 5½ years and that’s where things got really interesting for me from a career standpoint because as I said, the majority of my career has really been B2C marketing. When I got to London, it was about 2009. The iPhone just come out a couple of years before that, social was becoming a thing from the marketing perspective, blog, content marketing really starting to take hold, and I got interested in it.
I got interested from a B2C marketing perspective and I was like, “Where is this coming from? Who’s creating all this stuff? Who’s creating the tools for you to do this?” That’s when I started looking at B2B martech firms.
When I moved to London, I said, “This is an opportunity for me to break from what I’ve been doing. I’m going to move to B2B marketing side. For the last 10–12 years or so, I’ve been doing all B2B marketing and I again am really fortunate to work for one of the most legendary and well-known B2B marketing companies, ExactTarget. I ran marketing for ExactTarget throughout the immediate region for a number of years, then just made a ton of industry contacts.
After 10 years of living outside the States, my wife and I moved back to New York City, led marketing for a startup there for a number of years, and then my contacts—it’s all about your contacts and who you know—from my ExactTarget days, two people now are principal in the Cheetah Digital operation. One is our Executive Chairman. His name is Peter McCormick. He is one of the co-founders of ExactTarget and our CEO, Sameer Kazi, who is a long-time executive at ExactTarget, who created the services business there. They worked with a private equity firm, Vector Capital, to go buy what was called Experian Marketing Services, our current company. While it existed with Experian, went to buy Experian Marketing Services away from Experian and we recast it as Cheetah Digital into the market, back in June of 2017.
What’s really interesting about that is the company, Cheetah Digital, we’re a 20 year old company. We started out as CheetahMail, one of the pioneers of digital marketing and the enterprise BBSP market back in 1999. We had a great run at CheetahMail for a number of years and then bought by Experian sometime around 2004. Sat inside Experian for a number of years, a lot of product development, a lot of growth within that side of that organization, and the timing was right to pull those assets, the products that our current platform, Marketing Suite, in CheetahMail, pull those out of Experian and then turn us into what we are today, Cheetah Digital. It’s been a really unique time.
Eric: Absolutely. Wow. What awesome experience and good for you, the diversity of both B2C and B2B, and your expertise. You could be a fantastic guest to talk about this as well, so I’m happy you came in the show because we want to talk about the idea of customer journeys. We were trying to predict how a customer will go through our funnel. We’re trying to create experiences for them. But really, I think we understand that, as the number of channels are increasing, the buyer is probably a lot of erratic. They’re jumping around from experience to experience. How do we manage that? What are your thoughts around a customer journey and what are some of the things that marketers need to be thinking when it comes to thinking about that experience when they interact with the brand?
Judd: Great question. First of all, as a marketer, I love making a very compelling and provocative brand statement. I think some of the best marketing has great drama in it. Stating that the customer journey is dead is so provocative and it can mean so many things to different people. So, I love those kinds of statements. But the fallacy of them is, just even talking about a thing like a customer journey, I think one of the traps we’ve fallen in as marketers is that, these phrases become commonplace, like a customer journey. Sometimes, it’s really hard to talk about the experience that a consumer or customer has with a brand or just in their shopping environment. We get, like I said, locked into terms like customer journeys.
So, who knows? Maybe customer journeys never even really existed but I think that the way they’re interpreted or have been interpreted for a long time is that, as marketers, we can be so bold to say that we could actually predict the path that a consumer or a customer will take, from researching a product to buying a product, and we could design the experience for them and lead them down that path.
Now, maybe that did exist at one point, but I really don’t think it does anymore. Reason being is that now, consumers have more tools that they’ve ever had before, to either research or access products, or be influenced by other consumers, whether it’s review sites or whether it’s posted on Instagram. Consumers can dictate the journey, or the experience, or whatever it is, more than they ever have at any point in time, just because of the digital channels that exists and information being everywhere that they operate in life.
I think that from a marketing standpoint, it’s again almost a fallacy to think that you can prescribe a journey that they’ll take. I don’t think that means that as marketers, we have to be reactive all the time. There are certainly things that we can do to be proactive in terms of using data to drive smart insights, using technology from a machine learning or AI perspective, to help put marketers in a position where they can provide a great experience no matter where the customer/consumer is, at any point in time of their buying or researching experience.
Eric: I love that. Is that vice then? Maybe it’s not this extreme. I mean, do we abandon the idea of creating a customer journey and trying to leave them down or is it say, “You know what? Let’s create that just in case.” But we’re smart enough to know that customers are going to do whatever they want to do. If we don’t do that or we create them as like, “Here’s the optimal experience that they happen to follow our journey,” knowing that they might not, what do we focus on instead? Is it this behavioral data?
There’s the holy grail of like you pull the lottery machine, and instead of three cherries, what you have is the right message, at the right time, and the right channel. That’s the jackpot. How do we do that then? What are the things we should be focusing on then if it’s not necessarily a formulae I could journey? What is it instead, Judd?
Judd: Everybody ask that question. I would argue that there probably isn’t a one direct answer to it. I’m going to reply to this, but I’m walking a fine line here because I work for a technology company and we sell marketing technology that helps marketers overcome some of the barriers that you and I are talking about now.
Some of this maybe a bit biased, but I’ll try to be as objective as possible. I don’t think it is a journey. I don’t think it is any one tool that can actually deliver on what a consumer wants. I actually think it’s a number of things. Having experienced marketing from a B2C side really helps me from a B2B perspective when we think about how do we express this to clients and prospects. Being able to think from their point of view, I think has been really helpful to me in finding the right way to articulate this.
I’ll try to deliver this from a B2C market or perspective. It’s a collection of things. It’s being able to create a very unique and compelling brand experience. Remember, a consumer or customer don’t care what channel you’re in. They don’t think, “I’m going to look at this brand from a mobile perspective.” We think like that as marketers. But it’s about creating a consistent but unique brand experience for that customer or consumer, no matter where they are in their process. Always doing that. They look at the brand from just one point of view.
It’s then being able to deliver the right messaging, whether it’s the right messaging in terms of personalization, or mode of messaging as you said, right place, right time, right message, that stuff that people been trying to solve for years, that’s a big part of it. In order to get that right, the level of personalization that you have to have, hyper personalization in your effort, is significant.
Sure, we’ve talked about one-to-one marketing, or one-to-many, or personalization at scale, or whatever it is, this is where technology plays a real role, whether it’s, like I said, AI or ML, or just your ability to manage and segment data, and provide the right kind of content, the right kind of offers, all of that stuff. It’s a massive chore to orchestrate all of that. It’s almost beyond the marketer’s capability to do that themselves and this is why they come to companies like us or other companies to look for technology solutions to help them do it.
I think from my point of view, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, one of the other components here is around creating a real connection with your brand and your customer. That connection has to be an emotional one, like B2C marketers think in terms of the rational message that we need to sell, hearing the things that back up why my product is great.
Then there’s the emotional message that they need to deliver. The one that connects the brand and a customer in a way that’s beyond a transactional purchase or a habitual purchase. It’s something that helps a brand create a connection where the consumer will always come back to them even if they might screw up at one point or they don’t have the actual product that they want today, but the customer says that, “There’s no way I’m going to this other brand. I am so loyal here. I have such an emotionally loyal connection to this brand, that I’m going to stick with them no matter what.” This may actually be the pinnacle of marketing success for today’s B2C marketers to create that level of emotional loyalty to the customer.
Eric: Do you think that level of emotional loyalty exist in B2B?
Judd: In B2B? Let’s put it this way. I think it’s less so, because we’re using tools to help us get the job done, and if those tools don’t work, we might go look somewhere else. I think that’s just the rational approach today, just from a buying technology standpoint.
But I’ll say this. I’ll use an experience that I had a long time ago in ExactTarget. I think that the culture inside ExactTarget, inside the company really permeated throughout the client base. If you’re a company that really lives and breathes your purpose, your clients will feel that on a day-to-day basis and they will want to be a bigger part of your overall offering or just way forward.
Our tag line for our company that I created is ‘Dedicated Marketers.’ I’m the marketing leader for a company that sells marketing software to some of the world’s best B2C marketers. I take that really personally. We try to create that level of empathy with our clients because someone like myself, I’ve done their job and the majority of the people in our company have either bend marketers to work in the marketing technology industry for years. I think that’s one way to create that connection by living and breathing that in a day-to-day basis.
Also, if you look at the state of just overall marketing, people say B2C, B2B, B2H, B2Human, or whatever the hell that is, I think those lines are being blurred in terms of the decisions that we make today can be influenced by a more empathetic marketing.
Eric: You talked about the beauty of the brand and developing that emotional connection. You also have juxtaposition of really more the analytical and leveraging the data and the technology to make sure everything is orchestrated and work together. You kind of have to blend this marketing artists with marketing scientists and the other work together to create this experience.
Maybe if we shift to some of that scientist in that and the analytical piece of it, if we talk about that hyper personalized experience the consumer now expects from a brand, what are some of the data points or what interactions or behaviors should marketers be using to help deliver that personal experience?
Judd: Excellent question. I think if there’s anybody out there thinking, “Hey, my next piece of martech software that I need to buy, how should I prioritize it, the decision-making process or the features that I should be looking at, it all comes down to data management. No matter what it is, you can have all the channels, all the bells and whistles, all the beautiful design, it really comes down to data management.
Going back to the journey question versus a, “Can you predict the journey? No, not necessarily.” You really need to have sophisticated data management and if you’re an enterprise brand that can handle massive scale and that knows how to leverage first-party data, can understand behavioral activity, can understand sentiment data, and if you have a, let’s say, reaching loyalty before, if you have a really strong loyalty program, you are continually creating this bidirectional exchange of data.
It’s not just marketers pushing stuff out and getting stuff back in. It’s about a bidirectional relationship when it comes to data. That data that you get, that is representative of activities from a specific customer, helps inform that the art component of what you’ve mentioned before, so that you can provide this really unique value exchange through a thoughtful brand experience that deepens the relationship. The data, without that, you’re never going to understand your customer and you’re never going to be able to deliver an experience that feels unique, personalized, and one that really connects with them.
Eric: Can you make it tangible for our listeners, Judd? For example, at Cheetah Digital. As EVP, how are you trying to use that brand and then tie in those data points to create this great and personalize experience? How are you doing that at Cheetah? Are there certain things you find that’s working for you?
Judd: Yeah. I think that’s interesting. We’re focused on B2B, so it’s a little bit different in a sense. We just launched a new website recently. We did a lot of survey work, a lot of research with clients, with just in the market, just to understand how prospects are looking for information. Our website has been set-up as a reflection of that. We track all visits, all page visits, visits to the site, all the traditional metrics to help inform how we can iterate on the website to create a great experience out of the gate.
When somebody lands, they are getting the message that they need and they’re getting access to the content that they’re looking for. I think the way that we take that forward is just review on a regular basis. What’s the interaction happening with our primary digital properties? How do we keep reconfiguring the experience so that it’s optimal out of the gate? That way, people land and they say, “Okay, I’m here, that message resonates, that content I’ve been looking for is actually a click away, now I want to have a conversation.”
If we can reduce the friction or if we can reduce the number of activities before somebody fills out a ‘request for a demo’ form, then we’re doing a good job delivering that smart experience to them based on what they’re telling us.
Eric: I love that you used that word friction. Actually, my previous guest before you was Roger Dooley. He just wrote a book about friction and the customer experience. I love that you brought that up. It makes me feel good when common themes and threads go out through multiple episodes and I think you’re right.
You brought up the website. I think something at CoSchedule is like, we serve different tiers of customers. Everyone from a professional blogger and a solopreneur to enterprise companies. The experiences and expectations of functionality varies. What we try to do is, based on who you are and what you’re looking for we completely customize and tailor the site to really hit on the things that are important to you and the problems that they might be experiencing based on who they are as a potential customer. There’s lot of different ways, so I love that. I love that idea and I love that feedback of reducing that friction, making it easier to interact and serving up the things that people are looking for right away.
Whenever I get a chance to get someone who’s in a leadership position in the marketing world, as Executive Vice-President of Global Marketing, obviously you’ve got a lot on your plate and there’s a lot of things that can pull your time away. I always love to ask, what are the things that you get most excited about as leading a global marketing team? What are the strategies or goals or things that you are really moving forward or you find that’s really a focus on for you and 2019? I think there’s a smattering of things that you can go, […] you could go chase down, but when you’re at your level, what are the things that you look for indicators of success?
Judd: I’m going to start by saying the thing that I’m most excited about right now are people, people on my team. Since we relaunched Cheetah Digital in the market almost a couple of years ago, my marketing organization has undergone an absolute complete transformation from the processes that we had before to the technology we used, to the functions we created, but really, what mattered most is the people. We’ve built a really strong team here globally. I have about 65–70 people on the team around the globe and I’m really excited for them because after a period of real transition, people are starting to dig in now and really put the clients and our prospects front and center in the plans that we’re putting together. We have some great experiences that we’re going to be executing on and I’ve got some great people leading that. I’m excited to see what they do more than anything.
I’ll tell you, I think content is a big focus for us this year. When you talk about a company that says you’re dedicated to marketers, we want to make sure that the thought leadership we’re providing to people not only helps inform them on how to be better at their job everyday, but also give them insights on how they can advance in their career.
We like to not only think about providing great marketing content, but provide great content that helps marketers achieve more and get their next promotion. Content is a big focus for us this year. We are having our annual client summit in September and we’re going to be obviously launching some new product there but the experience that we’re going to create is gonna be extremely unique and give our clients something that is going to be really exciting from news that we’re pushing to them, but also opportunities for them to meet some of the other marketers around the globe that we work with. That’s really important.
Then I think, more than anything, it’s for my team just evolving the way that we go to market and just thinking more about things from a digital perspective and how we can continue to create a great environment online for our prospects to visit us, for our clients who use us, and to really set a standard for what B2B marketing technology, go to market strategies look like.
Eric: That’s great. I appreciate that, Judd. I’m always interested in and I’m always curious, and everyone has a slightly different answer and focus, but obviously […] a great place to go and love the idea around building those go to markets.
Maybe more of a follow-up process question. You have a large team there that you’re overlooking. Do you guys practice any agile marketing methodologies? How do you find that you’re able to execute on your campaigns, stay on task, stay focused, and hit deadlines? Are there any kinds of secrets that you use to make sure that your team is working efficiently or working on the right priorities?
Judd: Great question. We don’t have a defined agile process that follows a framework or anything, but what we do promote is management by performance. Within our larger team, there are subteams that are in-charge of launching campaigns, or executing on content projects or what have you. We have regular check-ins every week in regards to how are we performing, whether that is out in the marketplace, that are the campaigns and the programs that we have launched, are they as impactful as we hoped? Are they delivering the results that we need?
Being able to look at that on a weekly basis, helps inform people on what’s working and what’s not working, so we’re not constantly looking at flag indicators, we’re looking at lead indicators, and we can change things on-the-fly to make sure that we’re delivering a great experience in the marketplace. I think more than anything, it’s about prioritizing performance and then being able to see where your gaps are, your inefficiencies are, or what you need to optimize.
Eric: Awesome stuff. We probably need to wrap up here, Judd, but I do have a question for you. Obviously, this is called the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I love to leave our listeners some kind of actionable piece of, “Here’s what I should go do now.” If you have to maybe think of one primary thing when it comes to our marketers who are listening right now, who are focusing on maybe creating, maybe they’re a writer, maybe they’re a designer, maybe they’re a marketing manager trying to figure out their customers, trying to figure out their customer experience and how marketing plays into that. If you give them just one piece of advice of something to focus on, what would that be, Judd?
Judd: I would say, go dig through all your data and find the insights that are going to help you deliver a unique value exchange, to whoever listener you’re targeting. This idea of unique value exchange and making that a personalized value exchange is really what our job is today, and why people are going to keep coming back to you or stay with you.
Eric: Awesome. Great advice. If people want to learn more about Cheetah Digital and they want to know, “How to get my hand on this data,” or, “Maybe I don’t have the right data,” where can they go just to learn more about your company, maybe learn more about your thought leadership that you’re providing when it comes to customer journey, where should we point them to?
Judd: Come over to cheetahdigital.com. Sign-up for our newsletter, get access to all of our content, and also just inquire if you have any questions. You can find me at email@example.com and I’m happy to do consulting, better to ask me some questions.
Eric: Awesome. I appreciate your time here, Judd. Thanks for all the great insight when it comes to just those personalized marketing experiences. Of course, we all know that Chicago is not The Windy City because of the actual wind. Good stuff. I appreciate it and have yourself a good rest of the weekend.
Judd: Okay. Thanks, Eric. Thanks, everyone.
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