When choosing marketing tools, focus on process, not technology

Neura CMO Kris Bondi answers questions about the evolving role of a CMO and the modern challenges of the position.

In many companies, the role of a chief marketing officer has evolved beyond head of the marketing department into a technology decision-maker.

As a technology decision-maker with more than 20 years in marketing for different tech companies, CMO Kris Bondi knows a thing or two about marketing tools. But she prefers to support her employees' technology decisions, rather than make those choices for them.

"In reality, most of the tools we use, I won't touch," said Bondi, who recently joined artificial intelligence personalization company Neura Inc., based in Sunnyvale, Calif. "It's really about the people who are using them."

Bondi said she believes that by empowering your marketers, you can build a marketing technology stack that solves your business' specific set of problems, while maintaining flexibility to adjust to new marketing tools. SearchCRM spoke with Bondi about how she operates in her role as CMO and the importance of including the marketing department in technology decisions.

As marketing technology has changed, how has the role of the CMO evolved?

Kris Bondi: What technology has given us is the ability to deliver and measure the pipeline better, but a CMO that isn't focused on the business itself is doing a disservice to their company. When I say focus on the business, I mean that marketing teams used to be judged on leads. And, now, we're at the point of marketing being judged on sales-accepted leads and pipeline-added opportunities. As far as tools, it's about what tools can help enable that.

I truly believe that marketing should never be judged on how many leads go into the overall database, because if you give me enough money, I can put any number of leads in there. There needs to be some type of quality.  

Kris Bondi, CMO, Neura Inc.Kris Bondi

When choosing technology to invest in, what is your overall strategy as CMO?

Bondi: The tools we use need to fit whatever your particular business is trying to solve. We find out how we've been doing a process, and we base our tools and decisions more on what we're trying to deliver than, 'Gee whiz, wouldn't it be cool if we could include this tool.' It's rare, if ever, where you say, 'This is a cool technology. How can we fit this into what we do?' I've watched companies try to do that, and what they end up with is a lot of different tools and too many tools, and most of the department doesn't end up using them.

The reality is, even if there are good tools and products out there, if your marketing team isn't using them the way they are designed, at some point, someone down the road will say, 'We spent $50,000 on this and got nothing out of it.'

When did quality of leads become more important than quantity?

Bondi: There were two things that happened in tandem with that, and I can't do a chicken-or-egg scenario with it. But part of what has driven that change is when marketing automation came into effect, you now had lead scoring and market qualified leads.

You also had this idea that there was friction between sales and marketing departments. In some cases, it may exist -- it's a nice marketing pitch for a marketing automation company to say there is friction.

But over time, sales development reps began reporting to marketing, and when they report to marketing, there tends to be more focus on the quality of the lead. When you have a demand-generation person sitting across from a sales development rep and they're working together, you'll have more focus on the quality of the lead.

What are the biggest challenges a CMO faces?

Bondi: I can only speak for myself, but I'd say one of the biggest challenges is needing to move quickly, but making sure that what is being implemented is still well-thought-out.

It's much easier to build technology into the process than to find something cool, get it and try to figure out how it's going to fit in.
Kris BondiCMO, Neura

Where technology falls into place with that, when you're making a technology decision, there's a balance between wanting to get the right [marketing] tools in and, at the same time, not just saying 'Yes' to everything. But you also don't want to miss out on something because there wasn't time to think about how to use it.

There's a lot you're trying to do at once. You want to continue to improve and, at the same time, not derail the process.

How do you evaluate your tech stack and what to remove or add?

Bondi: Usually, what happens is someone on the staff finds something and says that we should consider X, Y or Z. I might be the budget part of the decision, but those who are using the technology will bring recommendations to me.

It's much easier to build technology into the process than to find something cool, get it and try to figure out how it's going to fit in.

When we decide there is a need, I may have a voice, but I'm not the decision-maker. For example, [at Neura], we're about to implement marketing automation this week, and the director of demand generation picked that technology. I'm happy to give an opinion, but he's an expert, and I should be giving the green light.

If it's something I have experience with or that I've heard of somewhere, I may bring it up to see if it makes sense for us. But we tend to have a problem before we have the technology. You can have more software than you need -- I call it the curse of the cheap or free tool.

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