If you don’t disrupt yourself, somebody else will. Evan Brownstein is a true believer of this saying. Currently as the Global Head of Marketing at Wipro, and with deep experience leading ad agencies, technology companies, and business process companies, Brownstein has plenty of first-hand experience observing and capitalizing on industry disruption. Because of his experiences, he sees the future of successful marketing organizations not as marketing, but as a growth engine.
At Wipro, Evan Brownstein applies his growth philosophy internally and externally. In our interview Evan Brownstein shares his observations on how CMOs can unify sales, marketing, and technology teams to grow the business. And part of this approach is to move on from the CMO role, and instead focusing on what the chief growth officer role looks like.
In this wide-ranging interview, Brownstein shares his thoughts on the changing responsibility of the CMO, improving customer experience while reducing costs, and why marketers are in the perfect position to lead the growth function.
What is the business imperative for creating a unified growth team?
So much of our customer experience, especially in B2B, became digital about five years ago. Businesses started asking the CIO or CTO to improve the customer experience. The CIO and CTO focus on innovation, building great tools and platforms, but they need that strategy and that vision to guide it.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve been in where the CTO and the CIO had been asked why something isn’t achieving business objectives and they’ll say, “The technology is working exactly the way we designed it to work.” And it is, and that’s the problem: the growth focused leaders aren’t doing the design work.
The organizations that we’re seeing have the most success, including our own, are the ones that integrate the technology team, the sales team, and the marketing team, into one unified growth team.
Companies taking a holistic view of business process, technology, and customer experience know it’s about growth, not marketing. It’s about outcomes: demand generation, pipeline growth, sales cycle compression, increased win rates, loyalty rates, margins, and creating value add.
Every organization has woken up to the fact that marketing was the last business unit, after IT, that was held to non-traditional, fuzzy metrics. Marketing for years got away with being measured by awareness, impressions, etc.
Once you align marketing and sales, rather than have one be subservient to another—once you realize that marketing and sales is one continuum of the customer journey—that’s when you arrive at the growth officer role and a growth function.
Why is marketing in the position to create the growth team?
The technology teams have a clear understanding of what was built and how the system works. The sales team has a clear understanding of what needs to happen to close a deal. And marketing has a clear understanding of why a business is building their solution.
Our customers didn’t wake up this morning thinking they need a better platform or a better process. They woke up this morning thinking, “I need to sell more barn doors,” or “I need to sell more hydraulics to the airlines,” or “I need to greet guests better at my hotel.” That’s the why.
What marketing brings to the table, what nobody else has, is we’re the ones with decades of experience in storytelling and explaining purpose. Thanks to the whole strategic planning revolution in the 90s, we’re really good at approaching problems with the outside-in perspective.
Technology and sales organizations take a very inside-out approach. The technology team builds something internally and the the sales team says, “I’m selling this. I have to make this number.” It’s inside-out.
For two decades, marketing has been asked questions and listening.
“Alright, people, what do you think? What do you want?” This outside-in and demand-driven perspective is what marketing excels at better than anyone else. Understanding the why helps marketing teams drive the growth function.
As a technology and business processes company, how did Wipro transform into a customer experience company?
When Wipro was founded over 70 years ago it was a consumer packaged goods company. This means customer experience has always been a part of our DNA, as opposed to other companies that were pure technology, pure consulting, or pure business processes from the start.
We saw that in order to do customer experience well in the 1990’s, it was about improving customer service. Then it became about doing that better, more efficiently, and more effectively, so Wipro became a business processes powerhouse. And then in the 2000’s, we saw technology becoming the real driver for people’s experiences, so Wipro became a technology company.
Now, Wipro is well known as a technology, business processes, and consulting company. But we realized about 18 months ago that in order to truly deliver a superior customer experience, to really understand what our clients really needed, it wasn’t enough to just have the technology and business processes, we needed to have that creative team. We needed the design-thinking team, i.e. the innovation team.
We made a business case for it, and our board of directors and our CEO saw the potential. Over the past 18 months we’ve invested a lot of money in acquiring people, processes, and platforms that are customer-centric and network-centric. And then, we use our technology and business processes as the resources and the toolbox to drive what we deliver to customers.
Marketers and CMOs today must play the role of the architect. As the architect, we create tip-to-tail marketing solution set that covers the entire customer journey. We must also leverage these technologies to answer tough questions. For example, when my CFO comes in and says we need to cut costs by 30%, and then two minutes later my CEO says we need to improve our NPS score by 28%, we can do it.
How do you manage competing idea of KPIs like customer experience (NPS scores), while also cutting costs?
It’s possible with when marketing is responsible for the customer experience, the underlying business processes, and the underlying technology.
From a data-driven perspective, driving down costs and improving customer satisfaction actually goes hand-in-hand.
At Wipro we’re moving from NPS scores to ease-of-use scores because our customers and their end customers want to take friction out of the system [bolded to be used as pull out quote]. They want to take complexity out of the system, making it easier to do business. When we do that, we’re simultaneously taking cost out of the system by doing less.
For example, instead of sending out 38,000 emails to our entire observable universe, we’re sending out 6,000 to the prospects who have been scored as the most promising. Not only do we have a higher success rate with those 6,000, but some of the 32,000 will be less irritated by us.
If you’re at a clothing store and the clerk comes up to you and says, “Hey can I help you?” and you say, “No, thank you, I’m just looking right now,” and then three minutes later they ask, “Can I help you now?” and they keep doing it, at some point you’re going to leave the store and shop somewhere else.
We have higher expectations working in B2B. If I send something that’s not meaningful, not relevant, or at the wrong time then the perception of Wipro is, “You should know better. You’ve got the data to do better than that.”
On the other hand, when we’re consistently sending the right message at the right time through the right channels, it’s personalization at scale. Our audience, after 12 or 18 of those touches, they start thinking, “Wipro knows me. They get this. I’m going to take this to the next stage with them.”
So by sending less, we’re saving money and improving satisfaction. When approached properly, the mandate to reduce cost and the mandate to be simpler are actually complementary.
How do you use data to make impactful marketing decisions?
There’s this tension, especially in B2B companies, between marketing’s role and sales’ role. Sales is out there being judged by revenue and win rates, and they are looking to marketing for help. And marketing responds by saying they’re creating a lot of awareness and positive predispositions.
But how do you measure that? Today, we’ve got the data, we’ve got the analytics, we’ve got the tools to measure the effectiveness. We can measure the effectiveness down to the sentence in the email or the brochure. We know what’s working and not working.
From the 38,000 foot view it involves getting to know customers. We’ve identified a really good process, based on Clayton Christensen’s Jobs to Be Done model, and we work closely with a couple of partners who have proprietary models.
We start with segmentation and customer personas and then we dive in, figuring out who our customers really are, not who we want them to be. We ask, “In order to be successful, in order to hit these revenue goals, margin goals, growth goals, etc., who do our customers need to be?”
From there, we do customer journey mapping. Let’s say the average journey is 12 to 16 steps. We use a powerful analytics engine to identify three things that we can impact now.
Why three things? There’s not an organization in the world who has the bandwidth and resources to positively impact the entire customer journey all the time, so what we’re really trying to do again is be more cost-efficient and more effective with our target audiences.
With a combination of the analytics, some automation and some AI, we can do this at scale.