LAS VEGAS -- In dismal disarray just a few years ago, wireless carrier Sprint's recent comeback involved poaching Paul Marcarelli, more famously known as the Test Man character in rival Verizon's television commercials from 2002-2011, who is most recognizable by the catchphrase "Can you hear me now?"
After a big bounce from one of 2016's most memorable television and digital ad campaigns, the company is well on its way to recovery.
Speaking at this month's PegaWorld 2017, CMO Roger Solé told the story of how, in 2014, Sprint was losing money and customers by the millions annually. Thanks to network improvements, an award-winning ad campaign featuring Marcarelli, along with a CRM and martech stack systems makeover to support its 13,000 service reps and 22,000 stores that serve 60 million customers, Sprint reduced its previously industry-worst customer churn rate to more respectable levels, and also increased its Net Promoter Score by 50%.
We caught up with Solé to find out more about his story, as well as how enterprise technology will help Sprint hold onto its hard-fought gains to keep the company's comeback on track. He also offered insights for other companies facing similar challenges in competitive markets.
How has the role of the CMO changed with the introduction of the latest wave of martech, including AI, analytics and automation tools?
Roger Solé: Before, it was a mix of analysis of microtrends, plus a lot of inclusion and insights. Now, it's becoming more big data and analytics driven. It's not so much about the experience that you had or the insights that come from all the conclusions you had done before. It's much more about having the ability to structure an organization that can continuously try out things and change course depending on the result, almost real-time.
This requires a big change in mindset. The big idea doesn't matter sometimes. It's more about the learning machine that always allows you to test your ideas. It's a big cultural change.
With so many choices, how do you choose which martech tools and services in which to invest?
Solé: There's no such thing as a magic solution; it's all about evolving and transforming continually in a way where you maximize technologies and, at the same time, optimize what you have. There is art with the science.
What are the biggest challenges a CMO faces right now?
Solé: On the advertising side, the challenge in this digital world is reaching a fragmented audience across many different digital media. It requires a different approach -- much more analytical -- to drive the campaigns and to measure your ROI.
Similarly, internally, it's adjusting to this new mindset of machine learning, continuous learning all the time, without a lot of attachment to preset strategies.
When evaluating your martech stack, how do you decide what to add and subtract?
Solé: We need to work much closer with the IT department because they know the technologies better, especially the legacy systems. It's [by] working with them that we figure out what to stop using and what to start using. There is [symbiosis] between the CMO and the CIO; they must work together because everything's much more technological now.
You got a big bounce with your celebrity switcher, Paul Marcarelli. How will your group's technologies assist Sprint in sustaining the gains you made with last year's campaign?
Solé: On the advertising side, it's more how do we evolve our campaign to keep it interesting, and we're already doing that.
In terms of technology, we have been leaning heavily the last six months on digital campaigns, continuous test and learning. Eventually, the great idea of using Paul becomes less relevant once you get to personalized one-to-one treatments and one-to-one advertising using Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or even paid search. It's all this continuous learning that will help you get to the next level.
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