BlueConic's Cory Munchbach: "Whatever kept companies from evolving or adapting in the past was due more to institutional inertia than any sort of structural barriers"

“True business transformation doesn’t come solely from adding new technology, but by enabling better, more efficient ways of working,” says Cory Munchbach, COO of customer data platform (CDP) provider BlueConic. “Tools that automate segmentation and other critical tasks give marketing, customer experience and other growth-focused teams more time and freedom to experiment and the ability to act more quickly and nimbly when business conditions and consumer behaviors change.”

BlueConic is a sponsor of CMSWire's DX Summit spring event, taking place online on May 27. Munchbach will present a session titled, “Work Smarter, Not Harder: How a CDP Enables Operational Agility."

We spoke with Munchbach to hear her thoughts on improving operational efficiencies, the evolution of personalization and all-in-one marketing clouds.

A Front Row Seat to the Evolution of Martech

CMSWire: Describe the path that led you to where you are now. When did you know you wanted to work in the martech space? Was there a pivotal moment that led you here?

Cory Munchbach: To be honest, I ended up in the martech space by accident. I owe my start in this industry to David Cooperstein, who hired me as a research associate at Forrester covering the marketing and martech space. David was both a tireless advocate for me to have new opportunities throughout the company and a generous investor of his own time in my development. I had the opportunity to cover the so-called ‘marketing clouds’ and wrote the first Wave on that space; I’ve been steeped in martech ever since.

When I was ready to move on from Forrester, I wanted to get into a more hands-on role: the opposite of being an analyst. That’s when I decided to join BlueConic. The company was an early-stage start up at the time, so I knew I would get to see a wide range of company functions and challenges. Six-plus years later, I’ve never looked back.

CMSWire: Do you have a memory associated with the phrase “Work Smarter, Not Harder”? How did that come to shape your perspective on the customer experience?

Munchbach: I think if you’re around business long enough, you can’t avoid that phrase though I do think the real meaning changes over time. In the context of the work we do with our customers, true business transformation doesn’t come solely from adding new technology, but by enabling better, more efficient ways of working. For example, customer segmentation is crucial for creating personalized communications and tailored experiences at scale, but custom, multi-dimensional segments often take several weeks and thousands of dollars to produce. What if you were able to cut down that process to just 30 minutes of work and no cost? Tools that automate segmentation and other critical tasks give marketing, customer experience and other growth-focused teams more time and freedom to experiment and the ability to act more quickly and nimbly when business conditions and consumer behaviors change.

CMSWire: What has changed over the last decade to lead to personalization improvements that marketing and CX teams have made? What drove those changes?

Munchbach: Part of the challenge is what we mean when we say “personalization.” When I was at Forrester, the talk was about “individualization” and there’s not a clear consensus on exactly the scope of the term or discipline. But what has changed, crucially, is that personalization has evolved from nothing more than a hypothetical ambition for most companies to something that is now core to their strategy. That’s because the technology and data needed to support personalization in its various forms are now much more accessible, usable and effective. These advancements have made personalization (broadly defined) a given – it’s just another essential part of the marketing and customer experience toolkit, even though there remains ample room for improvement.

One-Size-Fits-All Marketing Clouds Rarely Fit Any

CMSWire: When it comes to blending broad marketing clouds with best-of-breed capabilities, what is your general advice?

Munchbach: I’m on the (broken) record about marketing clouds and the ways in which an “all in suite” is a fallacy. If you’re using technology to create true competitive differentiation, you need tools that are specific to your business and your needs, not a one-size-fits-all suite. With a marketing cloud, you just end up with a “frankenstack” of disparate technologies all built on different architectures that don’t work well together. It’s the equivalent of having to buy all the items on a shelf at a store, versus being able to pick your own outfits. There’s no differentiation when you buy what everyone else buys.

Building a best-of-breed tech stack may be a more uphill challenge in the beginning, but the payoff is bigger. In fact, a recent Garter study found that leading brands tend to have 55 or more products in their martech stacks. By comparison, less-savvy brands have a greater share of products from larger martech vendors among their portfolios.

CMSWire: Has the pandemic done anything to change your perspective on the customer experience? What are some unexpected takeaways from the lessons of this last year?

Munchbach: The pandemic reminded company leaders everywhere of the world's unpredictability and the importance of having teams and tools that allow for flexibility and speed in response to sudden market changes and rapid shifts in consumer behavior. It also revealed that whatever kept companies from evolving or adapting in the past was due more to institutional inertia than any sort of structural barriers. In fact, we’ve seen the pace of digital transformation accelerate by months or even years. Most of these transformation initiatives aren’t new, but rather took on new urgency. It just goes to show that when forced, most companies have the ability to not just respond, but respond well.

CMSWire: What do you most look forward to doing when pandemic restrictions are lifted?

Munchbach: That’s easy. Spending time with friends and family — and getting a haircut.

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