Hiding in plain sight. That’s how Jeff Schmitz describes the essence of Zebra Technologies. Whether it’s mobile computers in the hands of store associates helping shoppers find what they’re looking for, scanners confirming a patient is getting the right medication at the right time or mobile printers making your rental car return an efficient experience. Zebra is in places people often don’t realize.
Zebra’s Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Schmitz began his career as an engineer and with his understanding of the systems, he was pulled into the product management side. Fifteen years later, he became the global marketing leader for that company. Over the past decade, he’s been a general manager, overseeing many different product business units. Jeff’s background as general manager and connection to revenue has been helpful in driving Zebra’s marketing and brand transformation.
Jeff loves the opportunity at Zebra to leverage the portfolio, finding ways to have each individual part work together to solve the customer problem. He describes it as the ability to leverage the product portfolio, the data from those devices, and to build intelligent solutions that enable better outcomes through real-time decisions to solve key problems.
Zebra’s work with the NFL is a great example of this. Zebra’s RFID technology tracks all players and footballs to enable the NFL’s Next Gen Stats throughout the season. This provides coaches, broadcasters and fans better visibility and insights into the game.
During our interview, we discuss Jeff Schmitz’s vision for marketing and Zebra Technologies as a whole. We also discuss brand transformation, the importance of the channel and how creating a great marketing organization is closely connected to the business.
What are critical areas CMOs need to focus on?
When I joined Zebra, I asked my team two key questions:
- How do we ensure our strategic marketing activities influence revenue?
- What metrics should we focus on to convey this current and future influence?
As part of answering these questions, we created a marketing vision called 20/2020, which defines how marketing will influence 20 percent of revenue by 2020. Using metrics to make better choices is a critical part of this vision, and we are making great progress to achieve this goal.
From my perspective, it is also important for CMOs to educate their executive teams on how modern digital marketing teams can be a source of revenue. Search engine ranking, share of voice, etc. are all important to marketing, but we need to ensure our executive teams understand the value of all of marketing’s deliverables. Executive teams live and breathe numbers, and CMOs need to talk in terms of numbers and revenue influence.
How do you succeed in the channel?
Eighty plus percent of Zebra’s business is driven through the channel. We have a multi-pronged approach to build our channel engagement. One is building our brand awareness. For example, if somebody knows Zebra makes the best scanners and tells a partner, “I want to buy a Zebra scanner or mobile printer,” the channel is going to fulfill that quickly because they want to move onto the next deal.
In other cases, a customer may ask the partner for advice on which scanner to buy. It is here when having a strong brand and a strong value proposition to the channel helps influence the channel and that’s where marketing can also help. If there is preference for Zebra, then we’ll win in the channel.
It’s all about driving loyalty. We’ve ramped our loyalty program and it’s critical to our success. The program that defines how we work with partners is driven by our marketing organization, and I think it’s a benefit to Zebra to be structured this way. In the end, we want to understand the transitions that are happening in the channel so we can better intercept that and help our partners.
We also work closely with our partners to identify new sales and marketing opportunities. As an example, through our partners, we know that more and more customers are purchasing online like the B2C world. What this means is that we can leverage marketing from a digital and analytics perspective to understand how customers are operating and what they’re buying. For the CMO, this means there’s an opportunity to be more responsible for eCommerce revenue, where sales people may not be directly involved.
We have hundreds of thousands of customers and with the support of over ten thousand partners, we can extend our reach. We can also create a digital relationship with them through marketing. As more of the business turns to ecommerce, a lot more of that revenue can be attributed to digital touchpoints across the funnel.
For example, we are going to see fulfillment and purchases done completely through marketplaces and websites. We’re talking about influenced revenue today but over time, I think CMOs are going to be talking about real, direct revenue as buyer behavior evolves in B2B.
Why are digital and analytics skills important for CMOs?
Driving a digital relationship with customers is key to a company’s success. It’s not about peppering customers with emails. It’s about keeping them engaged. Digital is not just a website, SEO or SEM. Those are important pieces but in the bigger picture, it’s about deriving a personal relationship from engagement.
How can I bring more value to each customer engagement? What can we give you in exchange for building that relationship with me? As that relationship deepens, an upsell conversation becomes painless.
Customer analytics are important because you can never engage with every partner and buyer face to face. Analytics can help you understand what’s happening today and how you can better serve them in the future. For example, we collect NPS scores from customers as well as partners today. We also look at what other insights we can derive from point-of-sales data. Ultimately, we need to understand the customer and partner journey and personalize the messaging in that customer journey to help all of us succeed.
Zebra Technologies recently refreshed its brand. Can you tell me more about that process?
Brand is crucial. We recently refreshed our brand, and the focus is on how we give a performance edge to the front line of business. To the nurse, sales associate, and the logistics person, we deliver industry-tailored, end-to-end solutions in retail/ecommerce, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, healthcare and other industries to intelligently connect people, assets and data to help our customers make business-critical decisions.
We are also focused on where we see the next wave of innovation happening. Twenty years ago, Zebra put the first UPC label on a box, and we shifted that box from the physical world into the digital world where it can be tracked. We’ve also helped the NFL innovate with player tracking. We needed to reposition our brand so it resonates with Zebra’s movement from a product company into a company building solutions.
Because you can’t launch a brand in a vacuum, we worked very closely with our company leaders and our partners to make sure the new brand reflects the essence of Zebra. We’re celebrating the launch and people feel it.
Oftentimes, product companies focus on the benefit of the product and spec sheets. We thought more strategically as we created our new tagline: “Capture Your Edge”. We wanted that to resonate on an emotional level, not a spec sheet level. We want it to be durable for the complex solutions we sell in our different verticals.
The next step is getting people to be great at storytelling, and more specifically, telling the Zebra story. You need employees to talk about your company in the way you want to position your brand. We teach our employees to be brand ambassadors so they can share engaging stories around how our products are helping nurses deliver great patient care in hospitals or providing supply chain leaders more visibility into their operations.
For example, a Zebra team member shared our company story while on a plane. The person next to her worked in the film industry and ultimately included Zebra technology in a major motion picture. You’ll see Zebra location tags that track people in the most recent Bourne film. All this happened through great storytelling!
Overall, I want our team to tell stories and get better at it. It’s not enough to run display ads on the brand, your team has to be telling the story. One of the ways we help our team build their storytelling skills in through a video series we created as part of our brand ambassador program. The videos depict elevator pitches between a team member and myself. They take place in the actual elevator and pitches are stories about how Zebra is positively affecting front-line workers.
The goal is for employees to share these stories when they talk about Zebra. An unexpected outcome of this tactic is that sometimes people think there’s a camera on when I walk into an elevator with them. It’s all fun and gives the team examples of stories they can tell. We have also provided a new corporate deck, sales trainings, and trained all our agencies on the new brand and storytelling opportunities.
How did you decide on the brand message?
I worked with a core cross-functional team, including sales, marketing, the technology office and the business units. We set out on a journey to look for the right balance of being aspirational and benefit focused while celebrating our channel, and we determined the scope of the message. Then we broke it down, looking at each unique brand element including how we provide purpose-built design, leverage data from our devices, create collaborative environments, real-time guidance and our eco-system.
The umbrella story is: we know the world is changing, and it’s moving toward an on-demand economy. A few years ago, people were happy with two-day delivery from their eCommerce provider. Now people expect packages in one day, and soon it will be a matter of hours. What’s exciting today becomes expected tomorrow.
The way that companies were initially dealing with that is by building out core systems including Enterprise Resource Planning, Electronic Medical Records systems and Customer Relationship Management systems. These so-called “systems of record” often lack real-time data from the edge of the enterprise. To meet the needs of the on-demand economy, it’s this real-time data from the edge that is required. For the retailers, manufacturers, transportation and logistics and healthcare teams we serve, the edge represents where they interact with their customers and that’s where the innovation needs to happen. That’s where the Zebra brand lives.
We asked, “What makes Zebra unique?” And we built a message around that. In summary, we built the message, worked closely to get buy in, and made all our employees brand ambassadors.
How do you approach adopting new marketing technology?
The first thing I ask is what does it do for me and how does it influence revenue? If it is connected to a metric I can drive, like revenue, now you have my attention. Does this help reach my vision and goal of 20/2020?
It’s also important to try new things. We’ve looked at tools that personalize the web experience and content we serve up on our website. This year we’re experimenting with AI to help us with ad buying. You have to be trying new things all the time.
How do you build a great marketing team?
A great marketing team stems from picking the right people and spending enough time together to build trust. Teams need to trust each other to try new things and take calculated risks. Everyone on the team must have each other’s backs. It is critical to take the time to build that trust.
Also, every group needs a vision. The question I get all the time is, “Where are we going as a company or as a marketing team?” You must be able to answer that repeatedly to get everyone on the same page.
Next, you want to have a good organizational structure that supports the vision. And lastly you need to celebrate wins and make sure you’re having fun along the way.