CMO Insights: Leadership for the CMO

an interview with
Stephanie Anderson Former CMO, Time Warner Cable

Sorry Kermit the Frog, if you think its hard being green–try being a CMO. The demands are relentless, the barriers to success are often as large inside the company pond as they are out of it and the timeframe for delivering meaningful results are a de minimis hop or two away. So finding a CMO who knows how to not just survive but thrive under these conditions is worth celebrating — which is exactly what The CMO Club did when they recognized Stephanie Anderson with their President’s Circle Award late last year.

During her tenure as CMO of Time Warner Cable Business Class, among other accomplishments Anderson reorganized her group, established a Customer Experience and Knowledge (CEK) team and most recently led the launch of PerkZone, a multi-dimensional customer loyalty program.  (Proud disclosure: TWCBC is a Renegade client and is part of the team that created and manage PerkZone!)  Here is my interview with Anderson conducted around the time of The CMO Awards.

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last 12 months?
I think when you are in any leadership role you need to spend the right proportion of time with key stakeholders and constituents to get the job done in a collaborative way, without being too far into the details or overshadowing your people.  I use my boss’s rule: 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.  A third of my time is spent with my peer group and up, making sure they all understand the strategy, focus, and priorities for Marketing, Advertising and Offers and 1/3 is spent with my direct reports (3 GVPs and 2 VPs) helping them with priorities and any people/budget issues, and 1/3 out in the market, with customers, suppliers, vendors, events, continuing education, etc.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?
Not any big surprises about what has worked.  But, one that continues to baffle me is that I have had challenges drawing a straight line conclusion that direct mail influences the web or overall leads, even though we have used purls, phone numbers, vanity urls – but over time, without the DM in our industry you start to see a reduction in overall sales related calls.

Drew: Big data is a big part of the CMO conversation these days.  How are you tackling big data?
This is a tough one.  We are revamping our database as we speak to not just be more encompassing, but really more searchable and friendly.  The data is useless without the ability to pull together the storyline and make decisions based on what you find out.  That is the challenge.

Drew: Innovation is a sexy word but not as sexy to a CEO as ROI.  Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?
Yes, and more importantly in my case our CFO (who has the office next to mine!).  I, myself, actually drive us harder than the CFO because I want us to always be spending on relevant, revenue impacting marketing initiatives.  I think the easiest and most enjoyable is SEM.  The toughest is loyalty and brand – but we do prove the link to revenue or reduced churn or improved consideration in everything we do.

Drew: Marketing seems to be getting increasingly complex in terms of ways to spend and ways to monitor. Has it gotten more complex for you and if so, how are you dealing with that complexity?
More sophisticated, not necessarily more complex.  The depth of knowledge you can glean from online activity to inform offline is sophisticated, and extremely useful.  We have one marketing team that has all digital and mass for that reason – because of the relationship between on and off line.  Also, while the analytics can seem daunting, the end results generally help you make better decisions overall, so now you may spend a bit more of your budget tracking, learning and understanding and less on the actual tactics because you’ve mastered and fine-tuned them.

Drew: How do you stay close to your customers when you operate in so many markets and have so many different types of business customers?  
Not so well on the low end, but we are changing that.  We serve very small, small, medium and large enterprises.  It’s easy when you are dealing with a national customer to be responsive, available, etc.  but in the mass world of transactional, very small and small, it becomes harder and pretty soon your relationship is boiled down to email and a monthly bill.  We do have newsletters, are building a value–added benefits program for small business and try to send them information that can help their business grow and/or stay healthy.  It’s getting better as we use campaign and life cycle management tools, but there’s always room for improvement.  Our job is collecting and keeping customers.

Drew: One of the big challenges a CMO faces is organizational, given all the different marketing channels.  How are you addressing these organizational challenges? 
I am going for Best in Class in this area.  I recently implemented what I call an “outside in” structure that takes the customers and competitors in the segments we serve into consideration.  So I have a lead GVP of Small, a lead GVP of mid-market and Channels, and a GVP of Enterprise and Carrier business.  They run the marketing end-to-end for their segment including offers, competitive, life cycle strategy and then I have two functional teams that are shared resources – one is mass & digital and the other is customer experience and knowledge for all of the database and research/retention etc.

It’s a new design, but I believe any structure that puts the customers/prospects at the core of it should work out!

Drew: Content marketing is a hot topic at the moment. Are you increasing your investment in this area?
Content marketing is hot – but not new.  Being in technology, that is the way we work – be relevant, educate and then solve.  I would say yes, we are increasing our investment here but not because we are following a content trend, but because our own thought leadership and solutions have advanced and we need to be able to tell our stories quickly and with the prospect or customer in mind.

Drew: As CMO, have you been able to address the entire customer experience?   
Yes, I actually have a Customer Experience and Knowledge (CEK) team.  We work very closely to survey and research what customers/prospects want, pilot the findings in market and then implement across the company, working especially close with our care organization and field operations.  We all own the interactions as employees of TWC, but my team has the ultimate accountability to make sure we capture and harness the best experience possible and deploy that across our business.

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