Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three-part interview featuring Tim Kopp. In the first installment, Kopp provided some expert advice on how SaaS companies should rethink the analyst model.
“Not to date myself, but when I started in marketing twenty years ago, it was a totally different world,” says Tim Kopp, former CMO of ExactTarget, advisor, board member, and General Partner at Hyde Park Venture Partners. “Back in the day, when Procter & Gamble was considered best-in-class at driving to a brand experience through customer segmentation, we had five mediums: television, print, out-of-home, radio, and other,” he recalls. “You could reach 80% of your consumers by just hitting television and print. It was a world in which consumers didn’t have a lot of choice and you could get away with a one-size-fits-all message.”
Of course, marketing has changed dramatically since then, and Kopp has been at the forefront of the evolution, holding leadership roles with both massive consumer brands like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and a wide variety of software startups. During his six years as the CMO of ExactTarget, he helped increase revenue dramatically from $47 million to well over $400 million. This growth ultimately resulted in one of the largest SaaS IPOs on record and the 2013 acquisition of the company by Salesforce to the tune of $2.7 billion.
“Digital marketing didn’t exist when I started,” says Kopp. “Back then, it was about how to work with the business line owners to use technology to help drive and improve their business. And then suddenly it became, ‘Let’s launch a website and build an email program,’ and because of the technology – it sounds very obvious now – customers took control of the brand experience. They could decide when and how they wanted to tune into your message. From TiVo on the television side to everything that happened with digital, the entire dynamic shifted.”
The State of Marketing: Three Key Trends
There are a lot of moving parts to digital marketing, and the playing field is evolving all the time, but Kopp has identified three key contributing factors that are driving the most massive changes in contemporary marketing: exponentially increased access to data, new CMO blood, and the integration of B2C strategies into the B2B world.
Data: The Right Balance Between Art and Science
“Everything is moving to the more targeted, specific, and direct sale,” Kopp says. “It’s super measured and super quantifiable. Company leaders and boards are putting down mandates saying that if something can’t be measured, it’ll be cut. This creates massive pressure on marketers, but there’s a lack of the right skill set. Marketers aren’t mathematicians (and agencies certainly aren’t either), and people wind up running away from the things they aren’t good at.”
On the other hand, while Kopp acknowledges the importance of measurement and accountability, he also believes that as artificial intelligence and machine learning get smarter, the marketer’s role is going back to creative. “Five years ago, predictive analytics didn’t exist. There was no such things as a marketing cloud and the data silo problem was real,” Kopp explains. “Because a lot of those challenges have been overcome, the pendulum has been swinging back to where I would probably take a creative over an operations person.”
Kopp sees a marketing future that combines the best of data and technology with strong creative. “If your data is garbage, you can’t do machine learning,” he says. “So, there will need to be a lot of work done on the ‘plumbing of marketing’ to make sure that the data is straight and the pipes are connected and working in real time. That’s the developer side. On the other side, you’ll have really good creatives, and then machine learning can do a lot of what existed in the middle – what agencies are doing a poor job of today with spreadsheets and so forth.”
The New CMO: Gray Hair Optional
In addition to the data piece, Kopp points out that we’re in the middle of a massive changing of the guard among marketing leaders. “It sounds ridiculous now, but twenty years ago every CMO had gray hair,” he says. “It was sort of like everyone had to wait their turn, like a tenure-based system. Now, the CMO is often the most youthful person in the C-suite.”
“The digital marketing natives of ten years ago are the CMOs of today because they learned how to do that measured marketing,” Kopp says. “The ones who didn’t gain those skills have become thought leaders or are developing creative for an agency. They just don’t have the tools in their toolset to understand the math and science of today’s marketing.”
B2C Influence: The Best of Both Worlds
Finally, Kopp says we’re seeing a convergence of B2B and B2C marketing in which B2B marketers are adopting strategies and tactics that were once the exclusive realm of their B2C counterparts. Having worked in landmark companies on both sides of the fence, Kopp has unique insights into how the behavior of buyers – whether as B2C consumers or B2B customers – are continuing to shift toward a democratized buying process that takes even more control away from brands and requires a whole new set of marketing skills. “The real magic,” he says, “is in figuring out how to merge the best of B2B and B2C. The best marketers have that fusion. They understand that everybody is on a path to buy something and you need to map to that.”
“I think the role of the marketer has to be the most challenging role in a software company today,” Kopp admits. “You have to be really good at creative, at measuring and optimizing, and at adapting. You have to take tons of input from external sources and be an expert at communicating that back out to the relevant parties. And you have to be incredibly strong at prioritizing. It’s a really challenging skill set to build.”