Jason Hemingway is the CMO at Thunderhead, an enterprise software company specialising in insight into the customer journey.
Econsultancy caught up with him to find out about what his role entails, how he came to work for Thunderhead, the brand customer journeys he finds most impressive, and his takeways for marketers working to optimise the customer journey.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Jason Hemingway: I lead marketing at Thunderhead, overseeing all aspects and running a global team for our leading Customer Engagement technology. The team and I have, over the last few years, pioneered a completely new technology category – customer journey analytics and real-time journey orchestration.
It’s a fascinating place to be, one that keeps us very busy. It’s a rapidly evolving space that I feel we’ve helped shape, as customer relationships and the end-to-end customer experience become paramount to brands who want to survive and thrive. Tech, especially with the opportunity brought by AI, has a great role to play in changing the marketing landscape, but largely it needs to focus more on the needs of the customer, not just those of the brand. I’ll get off my soapbox now…
Not many people realise that we’re actually a British technology business. I’m a big advocate of London’s tech scene, which has grown so much since I started my career. Despite being a Brit-tech business headquartered in Soho, London, we’ve got a global footprint, with offices across Europe; our development HQ is in the US, and we have customers from around the world.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
JH: I sit on the executive leadership team and report to the CEO, Glen Manchester. I work closely with Glen, as well as our COO and CTO on our own customer engagement agenda, driving the global marketing strategy for the business.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
JH: As CMO, being able to listen and disseminate information quickly is critical. I need to focus on what’s important to the business and make marketing decisions based on an understanding of the wider company objectives, as well as staying close to what our customers are doing and the latest market trends.
We have a weekly senior leadership meeting that allows me to maintain a holistic view of what’s happening elsewhere in the business. Being able to influence strategic decisions and contribute to this meeting is a really important part of my role.
Strategic thinking and staying above the tactical side of things is imperative to be successful, and I think creativity and the ability to present a strong story is key. In technology things move fast, so I’m asked to make decisions quickly, and must be able to gather facts and prioritise important information.
And of course, inspiring and empowering your own team is hugely important. You’ll have to ask them about that…
Tell us about a typical working day…
JH: A typical day is very busy! I leave the house at about 7am and spend my train journey answering any urgent emails, checking the calendar or sending questions to my team regarding anything that may have occurred to me overnight (which happens a lot).
I get in at around 9am and start by focusing on the main priority of the day, despite my natural preference of working late, given I am a night owl! My days are pretty full with meetings on a myriad of topics, but I make time to prioritise the important tasks and projects. I also travel a lot, so when I’m in the office there’s plenty of people to catch up with.
As a fast-paced business, things can move quickly; I’ve become used to that and go with it. I enjoy meeting customers and partners and we often have lots of visitors to our HQ. I usually finish up at around 7.30pm.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
JH: I love that no two days are the same and I love being part of a successful tech business that I’ve seen grow from the start. I’ve got an enormous amount of pride for what we’ve achieved so far and the culture we’ve built in the business – it really does feel like a family.
What sucks? Not much. We’re good at learning from what’s not worked and not beating ourselves up about it – it’s all part of the process. I suppose the one thing that’s always hard is time. We’re a restless bunch and there’s only so many hours in the day – it’s important to find the time to switch off, and that can sometimes be hard.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
JH: A big goal of ours has always been to build a new category and lead it. I’m happy to say we’ve done that, as evidenced in our leadership of the new Forrester Wave in Customer Journey Orchestration.
On the KPIs and metrics side of things, we’ve got all sorts, from the very tactical, such as conversion rates and CSAT, to the highly strategic including customer lifetime value and customer retention.
Overall, I think there’s a trend in the market towards more long-term, value-driven metrics, which I think is good for marketers, the businesses they work for and ultimately, their customers.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
JH: Cloud tech means better collaboration with our global teams – Slack, Office 365 and Salesforce mean we’re all joined up in our approach to sales, service and marketing.
We use our own solutions, ONE and Intent Analyzer, to understand our customer and prospect journeys and to ensure that their experience with us is contextual and relevant.
How did you end up at Thunderhead, and where might you go from here?
JH: OK – here’s the abridged career path. I started at Dow Jones News, setting up trading room computer screens for dealing room traders at investment banks. It was character building to say the least… I took my first job in marketing there and it was a great place to learn the trade. I got involved in all aspects of marketing and had some great people around me. I moved from there to IntraLinks, a fintech platform for secure document sharing and collaboration, to run European marketing until their IPO.
I was poached from there by a senior marketer whom I’d worked with previously and ran the European and APAC marketing team at Thunderhead before becoming CMO about three years ago.
It’s been quite the ride so far and I’m not done yet. Perhaps one day I’ll move into something less fast-paced, or maybe sail around the world, but for now I’m very happy being part of a great Brit-tech story.
Which customer journeys have impressed you lately?
JH: I think the best journeys are those that provide a seamless experience wherever and whenever you choose to interact as a customer. They’re the journeys that make things easy, provide you with the service you expect, and learn from your experiences to continually improve them. They treat you like a human being, not a ‘target’, and it feels like they want to develop a relationship based on building trust.
Virgin Atlantic consistently offers me those quirks that make me smile – their branding and cheeky messaging means they make flying a pleasure. I’ve been flying with them for years. They send me great offers, and are on point with their relevancy, plus I like their app, website and the call-centre experience is always positive. My loyalty is rewarded and I keep going back for more. There’s a true exchange of value for me with Virgin Atlantic. They’re not perfect, but they do a pretty good job.
Other than to buy your software, do you have any advice for marketers optimising the customer journey?
JH: Sadly, I think many people pay lip service to journeys, when all they really mean is a pre-programmed, linear, campaign workflow in marketing. What needs to be understood is that customer journeys are fluid and can’t be “managed” like this.
This gets to the heart of the emerging area of journey orchestration, something Thunderhead has pioneered over the last few years. Journey orchestration is about understanding customer intent as they traverse your brand. Be that online or offline channels, and coordinating the appropriate in-the-moment response across the business to help the individual customer achieve their goal. Doing this at scale across the end-to-end customer journey is where technology fits in.
But it’s a different way of thinking, it’s moving from an ‘inside-out’ way of looking at customers to more of an ‘outside-in’ approach, an approach that aims to deliver value to customers at every point. However, it’s an area of marketing that’s certainly gaining momentum as it’s a key that can unlocks a truly ‘customer-led’ strategy.
So here are some thoughts to take away:
- Understand that it’s not your journey, it’s theirs (your customer’s).
- Real customer journeys are omni-channel and span the entirety of your business.
- Use technology to take a look at your customers’ ‘real’ journeys – real-time customer behaviour will probably surprise you.
- Insight without action is useless, so use what you learn to figure out a strategy. Where are the journey hotspots, and where can you start to use what you learn to orchestrate seamless experiences across your customer journeys?
- Look at long-term value metrics across the business to assess success.
And lastly – don’t think you have to do it all at once. You don’t have to change everything in one hit – find a starting point, go from there and the results will follow.
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