SDLs Paige ONeill Customer Experience Getting Cheaper
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SDL's Paige O'Neill: Customer Experience Getting Cheaper

7 minute read
Tom Murphy avatar

If you've been paying attention to the customer experience management arenaover the past two years -- and what marketer hasn't -- you've probably noticed the tools have grown far moresophisticated and far less expensive.

That helps to explain why 750 marketing practitioners signed up for SDL'sInnovate conference in San Francisco, where CMO Paige O'Neill hosted threedays of activities around CXM from training sessions and keynotes toconsultations and, of course, parties.

O'Neill has been at SDL for only about eight months, joining the UK-basedcompany after a 3.5-year stint as vice president for marketing at Aprimo before itsacquisition by Teradata. Before that, she was vice president for marketing at Aravo.

Challenges and Opportunities

CMSWire sat down with O'Neill at the conference to get her take on hermarket, her job, her preferred tools and her pain points as CMO in a red-hotmarketing sector. She also shared valuable insights on the role of conferences produced by technology companies.

Murphy: Customer experience has been coming of age for two decades. What game-changingadvances have you seen in the last year or two?

O'Neill: The thing I've seen happening recently that I think is quiteexciting is the cost of the technology is coming down. It used to be amultimillion-dollar, multiyear exercise that was really only available to thelargest, usually B2C companies that were able to get a big data warehouse, buildcustom technology and start to sort out their data so they can apply it tounderstanding the customer. Now, because of the access to technology, andbecause we have been at this for 20 years -- even though we haven't been callingit that for 20 years -- and because of the innovation coming out of everywherefrom enterprise companies to little startups, the accessibility has expandeddramatically, I think just in the last 18 months.

We're seeing now it's just a few months and a couple of hundred thousanddollars to solve these problems, if that. And there are price points even lower.So when that starts to happen, you're really at the crossing-the-chasm pointwith this technology. We've been talking about it a long time and now it'saccessible to mid-size and even some larger-small-size companies. I think that'sexciting.

Murphy: The recent move to omnichannel communication hasbecome an imperative in marketing, especially as it relates to customerexperience. What's your take on how SDL customers are adapting to that change?

O'Neill: I think they're driving that change. Every marketer I talk tohas digital as their top priority. I think we're in a unique position becausewe're a customer experience vendor. Our customers are pushing the envelope onthis adoption. I was just with the CMO of a very large CPG [consumer packagedgoods company] two weeks ago in London, and he's talking about digital 3.0within his own brand. So they're in their third iteration.

Their first iterationwas 'we've got to get our arms around the channels.' That was several years ago.The second iteration was social and 'we've got to get sharing' and 'we want toincite as many people as possible in our consumer base to participate.' Now,digital 3.0 is how do we segment the personas of our customers, understandwhat's important to them and custom-tailor context, content, experience so thatwe're having this one-on-one dialogue with them. That's the kind of conversationI'm having with all our customers, maybe not 100 percent, but the majority ofthem.

Murphy: Now let me ask you about the broader market. What percent of themarketers beyond your own customers are making this move? And how much moremarket is there for SDL?

O'Neill: On the one hand, I'm having these customer conversations,mostly with very large B2C brands. On the other hand, I go to conferences -- Iwas as  Forrester conference, and Gartner conference -- and you ask thequestion of who has their arms around a digital strategy, and almost no oneraises their hands. So I think some of the big brands that are some of ourcustomers who we're really working with on these strategies are down the road,but I'd still stay they have a ways to go. In the larger market, they probablyhave a digital strategy but aren't applying data to it in any uniform pattern,so they may not be measuring. They're trying to move to 'How do we get smarterabout the data, so we can understand what's working and what's not?'

Murphy: In addition to your own company's tools, what tools do you use toenhance the experiences of SDL's customers?

Learning Opportunities

O'Neill: Obviously, we use our own tools pretty extensively. We'vealso got Salesforce.com. We use Marketo, the marketing automation campaignsystem. We cross-pollinate that with our  own campaign system. Those arethe two that primarily come to mind.  We have quite an extensiveintegration with Salesforce, Marketo and our own software stack.  I'm ableto do the majority of what I want to do with our software -- web content,social, analytics, campaign.

Murphy: You've got 750 people registered to attend 'Innovate' here in SanFrancisco. This is the third of five in a road show for this conference. Andmany companies are holding conferences now. I'm wondering if you see this as acontinuing marketing trend with technology companies producing their ownconferences?

O'Neill: It's a great question and I hadn't really thought about itthat way before. But, yes. And at the same time, we are decreasing ourthird-party event spend. We are still spending on third-party events, and we dostill see some value in them. But when I look at our Innovate events -- we'vecompleted one in London, one in Amsterdam, we're in San Francisco, and we've gotTokyo and Sydney coming up in September -- they're a mix of roughly 60 percentcustomers and 40 percent prospects. After the ones from London and Amsterdam, wecame out of them with very solid prospects that accelerated in the pipeline. Theconferences are a sizable portion of the marketing budget, but a sizablereturn on the investment.

We did one last year, in San Jose, Calif. so we're expanding them. I can look atwho came last year, I can see where they were in the pipeline and what revenueresulted from that, and it's double-digit-millions in revenue. That's not thecase with third-party events. You're lucking to get one qualified lead from athird-party event, so that is why I would say yes, it is a trend.

I saw this atmy last company with the customer conference that we did. Eighty-five percent ofthe prospects that we brought to the conference closed. I hear it's a similarratio for SDL, but it's my first year. The reason is you're able to get thathigh quality conversation once you've got them here. They're obviously herebecause they're interested in what SDL has to say. Getting mind-share at theselarger third-party conferences can be very difficult and not as cost-effective.

Murphy: You've been the job for eight months. What is your biggest painpoint as a CMO?

O'Neill: I think it's always the same pain point. I'm just thinkingbacking on my most recent jobs and I think the answer is always data. I hopethat some day that won't be the answer because we're talking about makingtremendous strides in being able to leverage data, and we have. I've got moredata about the marketing results than I've ever had in my career --spreadsheets, automated programs, Salesforce.com integrations -- just anunbelievable amount of data to tell me success of programs and point to otherthings that we should be doing.

But we still spend an inordinate amount of timeas a marketing department trying to improve the quality of the data, trying toget more data, trying to follow all the myriad data rules around the globe.Because we are such a global company, we've got different considerations inEurope,  different consideration in Asia, in the US there's always talkthat we're going to impose more restrictions here. So that's part of ourthinking -- how do we get ahead of that? How do we get better penetration withinour target accounts of data. So it's always, always, a top consideration.