We caught up with Ian to ask the usual questions and get an insight into his working life.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Ian Lowe: I’m the VP of Marketing at Crownpeak, and we’re the world’s only enterprise-grade, cloud-first Digital Experience Platform (DXP) that combines content management, optimisation, personalisation, governance and privacy in one. The primary objective of my role is to drive awareness, grow demand and extract maximum marketing efficiency.
I balance building brand awareness in a credible way with driving demand in an efficient way. In my experience, it’s not possible to invest in the brand until you have demand.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Ian Lowe: Crownpeak takes marketing very seriously. As a member of the senior executive team, I report to the CEO.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Ian Lowe: In today’s fast-evolving technology space, marketers need the operational skills to exert command and control of marketing strategy to manage the budget, drive results and execute at scale. We need to be able to understand the metrics to know what is and isn’t effective, which levers to pull, and design the processes and systems to reflect this.
Understanding audiences is also a critical skill. No matter how technology changes, you need to lead conversations and connect your audience with messages that matter to them. Beyond that, we must have a certain degree of creativity and ingenuity to bring innovation to the market whether that’s in new product ideas or provocative messaging.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Ian Lowe: I always start the day by looking at the news – both general and tech – to keep up to date and have an immediate understanding of what could come come up during the next few hours that I may have to deal with. It’s also a great way to identify potential earned media opportunities.
Then I look at our current business health – lead gen, pipeline creation, deal velocity, bookings – to validate our current execution and identify any key issues that need to be addressed. I have weekly 1:1s with my staff and all-hands stand-ups to make sure we’re aligned on priorities and execution.
After this, a bulk of my job is based around communications with stakeholders inside and outside of the company; synchronizing across departments, presenting at events, writing articles, creating content.
So, it’s that combination of having operational control and keeping tight on the specific issues that matter, as well as communication with all stakeholders.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Ian Lowe: What I love is that I’ve joined a company where we really have a technological and strategic advantage in the market. Marketers around the world are trying to move faster, hit more channels, engage in new ways, and the Crownpeak platform lets them move faster than ever before. But, importantly, that claim is backed up by our unique cloud-first and decoupled architecture. There’s nothing better as a marketer than being able to tell the world about a product that will actually make our customers’ lives better.
I don’t often think about what may suck about my job. In every environment you operate in I feel it’s a question of how fast you can move and that’s always the constraining factor, I think that’s endemic to the career rather than the particular position or company.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Ian Lowe: My goals are primarily around demand and demand quality. That’s what we do in marketing and that’s the big thing we can bring to the table from a leadership perspective – are you bringing that demand? Are you getting new deals for sellers and are those deals maturing?
So a lot of my metrics are based around that. When I want to understand how successful we are, we look at the revenue generation of the company as well as how our pipeline generation and currently available pipeline are looking.
Cost for each of these things is critical to maximizing the effectiveness of your team and budget. For example, what’s my cost for pipeline generation? How many dollars do I have to spend to get a dollar of pipeline? And by doing that you’re making sure that you’re operating inside an effective model. Especially important is a scalable model. As marketers we tend to have the highest variable budget inside organisations and we carry a lot of responsibility to spend the money wisely and get a good return; we’re a little bit like our own finance department – disciplined and controlled.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Ian Lowe: Excel! I do so much of my work in Excel. Whether its budgets, data exports from Salesforce or our analytics tools, or keeping everyone connected in a calendar, Excel so often ends up being the scratch space where all this happens. You need to be able to zoom in and out on every one of these elements, in my opinion. From a marketing perspective you’ve got to be comfortable with the numbers, digging in and understanding what’s actually happening to have meaningful conversations and bring credibility to figures when you talk to stakeholders, the CEO or the board.
How did you end up at Crownpeak, and where might you go from here?
Ian Lowe: I’ve always worked in marketing and technology, starting as a developer, then IT, after that I moved in to marketing operations, then digital marketing and now the full marketing stack. That evolution of a technical background and a marketing background works because, even when my role was technical, I was working in the service of marketing, and that really positioned me to transition to the marketing technology space.
When I started talking to Crownpeak I really liked their mission and vision. The technical credibility of our differentiated architecture really got me excited, not only for personal career growth but also to bring new market strategies about speed and agility to our audience.
An interesting time is developing for market leaders, and speaking generally in terms of where we go from here, we’re starting to see more examples of CMOs moving up to President and CEO roles. At the same time, we’re hearing that some of the biggest organizations are replacing CMOs with roles like President of Brands or VP of Growth. What’s happening is that marketing has moved from a brand-and-art function to an in-depth technological, data-driven organization. The next step for industry leaders is to take on P&L responsibility and broaden the scope of what marketing means.
Which digital experiences have impressed you lately?
Ian Lowe: I really like what Sephora has done with their preference management. By allowing their customers to be able to express whatever detail they want – their skin tone, their preferred colours, things they’ve bought in the past – they’re able to develop a real perspective on what works for that customer. Through this targeted customer experience you get profile or preference management that’s completely in the customer’s control and they’re happy to engage with Sephora because they get such great value out of that relationship.
Do you have any advice for marketers optimising the customer journey?
Ian Lowe: The key to effectively managing customer journeys is to be focused and work on a handful of key personas that capture the most valuable or largest share of your customers. I’ve seen lots of organisations with 10 or 15 or 20 different buyer personas, yet they struggle to personalise or optimise the journey. With so many personas, the complexity often overwhelms their capacity.
Take a look at the journeys and don’t try to optimise the whole thing at once. Use the data to identify the key transition or drop-off points where optimisation and personalisation can really drive results.
If you’re so early in the process that you don’t have analytics on the critical transition points, interview some of your customers and get into their headspace so you can understand why they’re engaging and not engaging at different points in your funnel. Pick from one or two points where you can have an impact on the journey and create great experiences there.
As you develop great experiences at key points, the value you generate against your measurements – greater conversions, higher retention, longer engagement – will fuel the next round of investments and improvements.
I’m not saying don’t think about our customer experience holistically – you totally should. But too often organisations try to boil the ocean and struggle to get to value in a reasonable period of time.
The age of agility is on us. As marketers we need to move more quickly than ever before, establish value and ROI, so we can earn trust and credibility for the next round of investments.