A marketing discussion being led by chief marketing officer
A marketing discussion being led by chief marketing officer PHOTO: Shutterstock

It's been a turbulent year for marketers, with disruption, security and customer data issues along with a myriad of other distractions and 2018 doesn't appear to be any less frenzied. Keeping your eyes on the prize has become more and more challenging and where you invest your organization's time and resources will be crucial to your success or failure. To help you ramp up for 2018 we spoke with CMOs in different fields to help better understand where their strategic focus will be in the coming year.

Joe Hyland, ON24

Headshot of ON24 CMO Joe Hyland
Joe Hyland

Hyland is the CMO of ON24 where he is responsible for the company’s business development, growth and go-to-market strategy. He has more than a decade of experience at start-ups, including financial supply chain company Taulia and workforce management company Kronos.

I’m looking at 2018 as the year we humanize marketing again. There’s a LOT of hype in the market today around artificial intelligence (AI)-this and chatbot-that, and while that technology may be cool, I’m finding that it’s not really telling us much about our buyer and whether they are ready to talk to salespeople. 

Next year, I’m looking across my MarTech stack to understand what’s driving high-quality, people-to-people engagement and helping us find our best leads. Then, I’m focused on cutting out the tools that just create false signals, weak data points and add to the noise. Making this shift toward quality is a significant part of achieving my second main objective for 2018 — tightening our relationship with sales and taking an even bigger role in driving revenue. 

Sales has always been a relationship game, and by having a more personalized approach, I believe our marketing team can help us get much closer to the customer earlier in the funnel and accelerate the buying cycle. That’s what will make us successful in the New Year.

Stephanie Bohn, VidMob 

Headshot of VidMob CMO Stephanie Bohn
Stephanie Bohn

Bohn oversees all marketing and communications initiatives as chief marketing officer for VidMob. In her role, she is tasked with creating a worldwide brand presence for VidMob and cultivating relationships for VidMob with key industry companies and media. Before joining VidMob, Bohn ran feature film marketing at Netflix. She has also held senior leadership roles at Rotten Tomatoes and Warner Bros.

My focus in 2018 is to build marketing solutions that drive revenue and make our sales, product and creative operations teams more agile. CRM should prove to be a very powerful tool for us in the year ahead. We are building a communication network that connects our platform with ESPs, social networks, push notification tools and lead gen software to enable timely, personal and relevant messages that guide prospects along the customer journey and keep current clients inspired to create. 

We will employ polls and surveys to create opportunities to have a dialogue and solicit feedback. Innovative CRM tactics will also be implemented to forge deeper ties to our global community of video creators who are dispersed around the globe. With respect to email, one of our biggest pain points is the lack of video playback support. The email channel is so late to the video party, and we hope to see major strides made in 2018!

Christopher Willis, Acrolinx

Headshot of Acrolinx CMO Christopher Willis
Christopher Willis

Willis brings more than 20 years of experience growing companies in the technology sector. Before joining Acrolinx, Willis held leadership roles in marketing, creative, technical and business development at companies including Perfecto, Pyxis Mobile, KPMG-CT, ModelGolf and Cambridge Technology Group. 

As a global organization, with HQ in Germany, an early focus in 2018 is GDPR understanding and compliance. Working in concert with our COO, marketing operations and legal, we are putting in the work to ensure that we are ready for May 25. 

There is also a great deal of focus on our evolving our brand in the market. A clear and engaging customer experience will align with our platform's shift from a futuristic nice-to-have to critical success factor for large enterprises. 

Finally, we will be doubling down on Account-Based Marketing (ABM), with the intent of delivering high-touch experiences to our target prospects, while increasing the velocity of our funnel and sales pipeline.

Celia Fleischaker, PROS

Headshot of PROS, Inc. CMO Celia Fleischaker
Celia Fleischaker

Fleischaker has more than 20 years of enterprise software marketing experience. Before joining PROS in December, she most recently served as chief marketing officer and executive vice president for Epicor Software Corporation, a global provider of industry-specific enterprise software.

A key focus for CMOs in 2018 will be driving strategic alignment across the organization to create an improved customer experience. It’s essential that everyone in the company — from externally facing sales teams to back-office operations — understands your brand value and delivers positive customer experiences at every touch point. CMOs will be critically evaluating strategies that deliver frictionless, personalized buying experiences to build brand loyalty. 

We can expect voice of the customer (VOC) to reach a tipping point and crystalize as a crucial component of any strategic marketing plan. As a widely leveraged tool in the modern brand marketer’s toolkit, VOC informs go-to-market strategies, secures high-quality leads and delivers world-class customer experiences.

The New Year will also introduce opportunities to incorporate cognitive applications, which will help companies better understand buyer preferences and engage more personally with customers. It’s an exciting time to be a marketer with technologies that help to improve our relationships with customers at a personal level.

Joe Chernov, InsightSquared

Headshot of InsightSquared CMO Joe Chernov
Joe Chernov

Chernov joined InsightSquared from HubSpot where he served as VP of marketing. He held a similar role at Eloqua. He saw both companies through their IPOs. Between Eloqua and HubSpot, Chernov held the VP of marketing position for mobile infrastructure startup Kinvey. The Content Marketing Institute awarded him “Content Marketer of the Year,” and AdWeek named him one of the 100 most creative people in advertising.

Much of our long term success comes down to customer marketing. Why? Well for starters there’s no public enterprise SaaS company with lower than 80 percent renewal, according to Tomas Olszewski, Frontline Ventures. Renewal is the lifeblood of a SaaS business. And yet my stunted perception of customer marketing left me thinking it was little more than monthly email newsletters. But I was wrong. 

Fortunately, there’s no better time to invest in customer marketing than now. You see, your customers are the perfect audience for account-based marketing (and what business-to-business marketer hasn’t read about ABM?). After all, you have reliable contact information and deep intelligence on every single one of them. 

At InsightSquared, we know that when certain roles use our product, renewal is assured. Customer marketing can help us expand usage throughout an account. We know that when an account tops a certain threshold of usage, renewal is assured. Customer marketing can help increase product usage. When know that when a customer uses certain features, renewal is assured. Customer marketing can increase feature adoption. We also know what customer behaviors are correlate negatively to renewal. Customer marketing can help mitigate these behaviors, sometimes even before the customer realizes there’s a problem. That’s why 2018 is the year of customer marketing for us.

Michelle Huff, Act-On Software

Headshot of Act-On Software CMO Michelle Huff
Michelle Huff
Huff is CMO of Act-On Software, where she oversees the company's brand, demand and customer expansion marketing efforts. She has 17-plus years’ experience helping companies, including Salesforce and Oracle, connect customers with technology solutions to grow their business. Prior to Act-On, she was GM of Salesforce’s Data.com division after having served as the VP of marketing for the group. Prior to her tenure at Salesforce, Huff was a senior director at Oracle and a senior product marketing manager at Stellent (acquired by Oracle). 

One of my primary focuses for 2018 is on implementing a customer-centric mindset across the organization. In today's world of digital disruption and innovation, having a keen focus on the customer and the experiences they have with the brand is critical to competitive success. While it sounds like it should be a common-place strategy within an organization, not many companies have truly embraced it or are doing it well. 

A strategy that puts the customer first requires the business to put themselves in the shoes of their buyers and focus on the overall experience including marketing, sales and customer support interactions. A customer-centric approach not only helps to build customer satisfaction and loyalty but it helps to maximize customer lifetime value.  

Part of this customer-centric transformation involves shifting from personalization to individualization. We're continually thinking about how we can take a more individualized, one-to-one approach to marketing and build customer experiences that look at each buyer as an individual. We have enough data on our buyers to be able to individualize our marketing engagements and not just personalize a message based on a persona or segment. 

In 2018, we will start to evaluate and use artificial intelligence to tailor the message, timing and delivery channel to each individual, rather than segmenting based on demographic data. Our goal is to accelerate marketing engagement and performance by leveraging big data and machine learning to recommend optimal engagement windows, to recommend lead scoring values and to recommend content and offers best suited to each individual buyer. We’re turning a customer’s digital footprint into a thumbprint, so to speak. 

Another big focus for 2018 is GDPR compliance. The new regulations are not just for organizations and marketers based in EMEA; they impact everyone who markets to anyone in the region. With this in mind, we are addressing this from a product perspective (as a marketing automation vendor). Additionally, it's key focus for my own marketing organization to makes sure that our systems, processes and tools support our marketing efforts in the new world of marketing under GDPR.

Ryan Bonnici, G2 Crowd

Headshot of G2 Crowd CMO Ryan Bonnici
Ryan Bonnici

Bonnici joined G2 Crowd as chief marketing officer in December. His experience stems from years spent in senior-level marketing roles at Microsoft, Salesforce and Hubspot. Bonnici is both a published writer and keynote speaker, writing and speaking on innovative marketing strategies and SaaS.

I'm a big fan of the end of the year. It's a great time to reflect on your wins and learnings from the year, while also getting ready to plan for the upcoming year. With 2018 just around the corner, millions of businesses around the world are also going into planning phase; reevaluating their existing software tools and business services, and considering what they should stop, start and continue doing. One of the core things we will continue to focus on is how we ensure each of those buyers find the tools and services that are the best fit for their business.

There is an even bigger opportunity for us to engage those business buyers that have a problem to solve, but don't realize software and/or services may be a solution. Helping get the G2 Crowd brand and value to resonate with these professionals, using a variety of content and inbound marketing strategies, will be a key area of focus for my team.

Sarah Kicinski, PostcardMania

Headshot of PostcardMania CMO Sarah Kicinski
Sarah Kicinski

Kicinski is the chief marketing officer of direct mail marketing firm PostcardMania and has helped grow the company to a $45-million industry player employing more than 200 people. She heads up a team of 10 in PostcardMania’s marketing department.

This year I’m going to be focusing on our SEO efforts. We had a terrific 2017 with leads up 47 percent and a decrease in marketing expense by 5 percent. It was the first year in a very long time that sales had nothing at all to complain about! (ha!) 

Now that things are going great and sales is busier than ever, we finally have the time to move some of our resources over to our SEO efforts. We’ll be doing everything in-house and using existing personnel to write terrific copy and work on link-building. In the past it has been hard to justify putting major resources into SEO since the results were never immediate, and we always needed more leads right away.  

We’ve been slowly implementing better SEO practices over the last four years (and seeing steady improvements in rankings), but this year we will really ramp it up. I know it’s the best long term investment for us as a company and will land us in a solid place by the end of next year. There’s nothing better for the long term than great SEO (who can argue with free leads?) and I’m excited that all of our other fires are finally out and we can afford to focus on it for 2018.

Peter Isaacson, Demandbase

Headshot of Demandbase CMO Peter Isaacson
Peter Isaacson

Isaacson has more than 25 years of marketing experience in both B2B and B2C marketing, ranging from branding, advertising, corporate communications and product marketing on a global scale. As CMO for Demandbase, he is responsible for overall marketing strategy and execution, including product, corporate and field marketing. Prior to joining Demandbase, he was CMO at Castlight Health. 

Our strategic focus for 2018 is to advance the ABM conversation: As more and more CMOs are moving beyond the question of “why ABM” to “how can we do ABM better,” it will be important to offer more education and new tools and technology to support those needs. 

Connect the data, in today’s marketing world, we have a huge amount of data at our disposal, which continues to grow exponentially, but our ability to wrap our heads around that data doesn’t keep pace. We’ll need to find better ways to connect and ingest all that data to create meaningful insights so we can take action.

Automate more marketing activity. Once we can connect all that data into insights, we’ll need to turn those insights into automated action and use specific actions as triggers for a marketing activity. Instead of relying on a step that requires human intervention, we’ll want to have automatic triggers that initiate advertising, website personalization or sales activity.