Paul Gottsegen on stage giving a talk at a recent technology conference.
CMO Paul Gottsegen shared his fundamentals for marketing success with CMSWire.

Paul Gottsegen has viewed marketing's role through the lens of an executive at some high-profile companies.

He's currently the executive vice president, CMO and chief strategy officer for Bangalore, India-based Mindtree, an $800 million technology services company. He also served as CMO at Infosys and vice president of marketing at HP and Dell.

Gottsegen knows quite well the challenges marketers face in the digital era.

"It’s clear that many marketing leaders find it challenging to wade through the vast amount of possibilities and create a workable stack that delivers results," Gottsegen said in a recent interview with CMSWire. "It requires an artful blend of strategy, trial and error and reskilling the marketing team."

Business leaders, he said, put "huge pressure on marketing to prove the value of the effort." That, Gottsegen added, leaves marketers with a "day-to-day challenge" to "effectively deploy a reasonably-manageable suite of tools and have a fluid dashboard to show results for both demand generation and awareness."

Great Storytelling, Commitment to Tech

headshot of Paul Gottsegen
Paul Gottsegen

We caught up with Gottsegen on the topics of marketing leadership, technology and storytelling, among others.

CMSWire: You've made some great points about leadership in marketing. What do you say to marketers who feel constantly pressured by raw KPIs? What other areas can/should they be striving to be great at?

Gottsegen: Be mindful of “vanity KPI’s” such as number of online impressions. In the end, the marketing person has to be accountable for revenue growth. 

That means hard data on marketing generated leads that lead to sales pipeline and ultimately wins. Just as importantly, being able to track wins that are influenced by marketing regardless of the original lead source. Don’t ever stray too far from revenue.

CMSWire: With all the hype around MarTech, is technology even the most important thing for today's marketer? What do you rank as the top-three important things for marketers now?

Gottsegen: To be a successful marketer in today’s landscape requires three fundamental skills:

  1. First, you have to be the leader in creating and telling the story about your brand. It’s a bit like being a detective: you have to ask a lot of questions to both clients and company-experts and peer through the cracks to piece together a differentiated message. It has to be clever in the creativity without being kitschy, and you have to be the lead evangelist. 
  2. Secondly, technology has reinvented marketing. There is huge power to it, but it takes a commitment to learn. Easier said than done. I’ve noticed as I interview candidates that the marketing world is bi-modal: people are either up-to-speed on MarTech or don’t know a thing … danger. 
  3. Third would be knowing how to optimize your marketing budget. Every team in the company will be screaming for more marketing, more event sponsorships, more resources. Having a budget that reflects your strategic approach, carefully balancing priorities, constantly adjusting, bravely placing some large bets, it’s a crucial skill.

CMSWire: What do you suggest marketers/CMOs do to become good storytellers? Who in the organization can they turn to for help? What kind of forums/strategies work for engaging with clients and company-experts (conference calls, live events, etc.)?

Gottsegen: Step one is to read this 36-year-old book: "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind." It’s timeless and will make you book-smart about the difference between positioning and merely using superlatives. 

More importantly, find a marketing person in your organization that’s been through it all and take every opportunity to learn from them. The key is making it an iterative process both with internal versions and after many pilot runs with customers. 

The most impactful storytelling wins I’ve ever been part of took more than 30 iterations each. Direct interaction with a mix of clients, sales and engineering teams is crucial, and always start by understanding the mission-critical pain point you’re trying to solve. Sounds so intuitive but you’d be surprised.

CMSWire: What kinds of signals do you get that some candidates aren't prepared for the technology aspect of marketing? What should they know? Are education institutions behind in bringing in MarTech to the curriculum?

Gottsegen: It seems that a number of schools are developing marketing technology into their curriculum. But as I’ve mentored many college kids who are aspiring marketers, I’ve strongly encouraged them to select a few areas such as automation and SEO and invest some time independently to more deeply understand them. 

This would give them a definite advantage, and I wouldn’t expect them to be an expert. All that said, I was referring to more experienced marketing people who just haven’t yet caught the MarTech bug, but it’s no longer optional.

CMSWire: What can marketers/CMOs do to prove they deserve their money?

Gottsegen: Bring more deals into the sales pipeline, and show that you’re increasing the win-rate of the large deals in your pipeline. The toughest nut to crack is proving the worth of the brand umbrella. Everyone in the company wants and expects it, but the age-old burden of marketing is to find effective ways to show progress. We’ve got a multi-dimensional dashboard that works quite well.

CMSWire: Your interview in Forbes also mentioned marketing's role in the C-Suite. Where do you see that now and in the future?

Gottsegen: When the CMO has a seat at the table on the CEO’s staff, it sends a strong signal to the marketing team and the entire company that focus on the market and orientation toward the customer is paramount. 

We are all so used to the word "marketing," like "digital," that we forget the essence of what it means is to know and communicate what is happening in the MARKET. In the C-Suite, the team needs to look to the marketing leader as the best source for understanding how to gain competitive advantage. 

The other crucial C-Suite role for the CMO is protecting and nurturing the brand. It’s a huge responsibility, and there should be no question who is accountable.

CMSWire: Employee experience is a big topic now, too, offering your employers' a great experience just as you strive for your customers. Do you see marketers — supposedly experts in customer experience — as playing a role in an organization's employee-experience efforts, or do you see that more for HR/internal communications?

Gottsegen: Internal communications needs to be driven by marketing, because the skillsets needed are a perfect match. Creatively evangelizing and building organizational pride is right in our wheelhouse. 

However, this broader topic of owning the full employee experience would be something that HR would own. As a company strives to be a "great place to work," it would include elements like facilities, training opportunities, high-potential tracks and others that HR is bred to cover, and would end up being a distraction for the marketing team. Focus is important. We can’t do it all!