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The Art of the Science

Release Date: October 20, 2020 • Episode #138

An often-overlooked fact about a customer’s journey is that the experience they have with your company doesn’t always begin with their first interaction with you – customers often become aware of your brand through various immeasurable actions. The creativity of your marketing is often the first impression a potential customer has about your company, so using the science of data to drive the art and creativity of your marketing can be very beneficial. Host Steve Walker welcomes guest Kirsten Allegri Williams, chief marketing officer for Episerver, for a discussion on how to drive creativity with data.

Kirsten Allegri Williams

Kirsten Allegri Williams
Episerver
Connect with Kirsten

Highlights

The “art and science” and the role of marketing:

“Marketing can can also be perceived as as a highly creative profession. But now, especially with digital, it’s about bringing that understanding of how the actions we want to create online, together with the artistry of the content and the campaigns that we deliver, really impact our customers. And so with all of the creative and technical choices that we have available to us, we have to find a way to scale. We have to find an intentional, systematic way that we can also reach that understanding of what our customers want, desire and anticipate their needs. That’s the science. “

The importance of “brand” and the conundrum of data:

“…the aim of the technology is to unlock the human creativity that can never be replaced by a machine. And yet the massive amounts of data that we have grow exponentially every year, and yet we continue to make less and less sense of it.”
The customer expectations are ever increasing and we just don’t have the time or the capacity to deliver irrelevant content to our customers. It’s just not acceptable. And an irrelevant digital experience is unacceptable. And so for the foreseeable future a brand’s digital experience really makes up the entirety of how it reaches its customers.”

Challenges for marketers:

“I believe that the the biggest challenges that marketers face today is how to connect all of the insights about the individuals that are interacting on the digital platform together with the products and services that we provide online. It actually becomes more and more complex because the number of touch points that a prospect or an existing customer can have with you is frankly infinite in terms of the variety of combinations, depending on where the customer is on their journey. So I think that in order to create the ultimate customer experience that helps you to deepen the relationship with your customer, be able to create that emotional connection with your customer, that that attracts them, engages them and can and advocates for them to be a customer long term, it’s so important to be able to bring all of the insights together across all of the functional teams that participate in contributing to the customer experience.”

Transcript

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Steve:
Here's something to get your brain going, your customers experience with your company doesn't just begin with the customer. It begins with your marketer's experience.

Kirsten:
We have to find an intentional, systematic way that we can also reach that understanding of what our customers want. That's the science. So it's also time to understand that organizations need to also think about the marketer's experience. How do we think about how marketers feed the creative?

Steve:
Customer experience as a blend of art and science on this episode of The CX Leader Podcast.

Announcer:
The CX Leader Podcast with Steve Walker is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at Walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
Hello, everyone. I'm Steve Walker, host of The CX Leader Podcast and thank you for listening. On The CX Leader Podcast we explore topics and themes to help leaders like you leverage all the benefits of your customer experience and help your customers and prospects want to do more business with you. An often overlooked fact about a customer's journey is that the experience they have with your company doesn't always begin with their first interaction with you. Customers often become aware of your brand through various immeasurable actions. The creativity of your marketing is often the first impression of potential customer has about your company, and you want it to be a good one. Kirsten Allegri Williams is the chief marketing officer of Episerver, empowering growing companies to compete digitally with its customer centric digital experience platform. And Kirsten is going to tell us more about how art and science can combine to create innovative and measurable customer experiences. Kirsten, thanks for being on The CX Leader Podcast.

Kirsten:
Steve, thank you so much for having me.

Steve:
Well, it's a real pleasure. And just getting to know you here a little bit before we start recording the episode, you have a really fascinating background for this topic. And I just was struck by that. But maybe just before we we get into the topic at hand, you might just introduce yourself to our audience and tell us a little bit more about your background and also give us a little more detail on Episerver.

Kirsten:
Oh, fantastic. Steve, thank you. So I have come with me to this podcast with over 20 years of B2B technology, marketing and business development experience, most recently prior to Episerver, I was the chief marketing officer of SAP Success Factors, which was the human resources line of business that SAP, where as a company I spent over 16 years of my career, but in that time have really spanned the entire landscape of the technology, ecosystem and platform of capabilities. So everything from industry go to market every line of business and buyer across our entire entire technology stack and business application software. And so coming into Epi, actually, about 100 hundred days into my new role as the chief marketing officer for the server. I'm so excited to be a part of the company at this crucial time in its history. And we have a company that is has over today over 5000 companies, eight thousand brands that we represent globally around the world. We are also on the cusp of finalizing our acquisition of Optimizely, the world's leader in experimentation and optimization. And so I'm excited to tell you a little bit more about what we're doing at Episerver and then with the combined capabilities with Optimizely heading in the future, it's an exciting moment to truly bring the art and science of marketing together to deliver the ultimate ideal customer experience.

Steve:
Yeah, I was just going to say your personal passion in your professional training is quite appropriate for our topic today. So I think our listeners would enjoy to learn a little bit more about your personal passion, too.

Kirsten:
Yeah. Thank you, Steve. So in the in my entire life and career, I have always tried to keep a balance of what am I personally passionate about outside of work and how to bring that also into my daily work and in my profession. So, for new listeners who don't know me I'm also a classically trained opera singer. I'm a mezzo soprano, and I got my master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music and I continue to perform at a professional level. Most recently last year actually performed at Carnegie Hall. It's I think it's the fourth or fifth time that I've sung at Carnegie Hall. And I've also graced the stage at Lincoln Center as well here in New York City. And I've just always maintained a professional singing career while I have also continue to progress in my career in marketing. And I think that now, even more than ever, is a time where businesses have to innovate. We have to be able to bring new creative ways to deliver our message and our stories of the impact we're creating for our customers. And I do believe that now is the time to bring that artistry and creativity together with how we can deliver that experience online. Where especially given, you know, in light of where we are with the global pandemic, everything has to pivot to an online digital experience. So I think now's the time for all of us to step outside of our comfort zone and find that deep artist within.

Steve:
Well, that is a great lead up to our topic today, which is how CX truly is a combination of art and science. And I thought in the intro too is very interesting that we talk about how customer experience really starts well before the first conversation, particularly in a digital world. But why don't you give a little more color around, you know, the ways that CX really is a blend of art and science for our listeners.

Kirsten:
In my role as a marketing leader, I believe that I've always inhabited that spot between vision and also real world execution. I mean, as I mentioned before, I'm an opera singer. It's a highly disciplined profession. Marketing can can also be perceived as as a highly creative profession. But now, especially with digital, it's about bringing that understanding of how the actions we want to create online, together with the artistry of the content and the campaigns that we deliver, really impact our customers. And so with all of the creative and technical choices that we have available to us, we have to find a way to scale. We have to find an intentional, systematic way that we can also reach that understanding of what our customers want, desire and anticipate their needs. That's the science. So it's also time to understand that organizations need to also think about the marketer's experience. How do we think about how marketers feed the creative? We feed the campaigns that help drive demand generation and interest in our products and services, we feed the content we feed as marketers, the digital experience. So it is time truly for a system of differentiation that that also is empathetic to the creators by empowering them with the insights that tell them why their art is actually making an impact or recommendations of how we can anticipate the customer's needs. And I think that's something that all marketers frankly struggle with, which is how do I serve the right content for the customer anticipating their needs and also being able to optimize their entire customer journey throughout that experience. And the because of the number of data points that a marketer actually has to rationalize to make, that those decisions of what content or experience to create the possibilities are infinite. And so the capabilities that we're bringing together to create and optimize an outcome driven digital experience is truly a game changer for the industry. I'm excited to be a part of of Epi. Now, this is a critical moment and we are bringing together all of the capabilities that a marketer, a content editor or web developer, the entire digital team, what they need to be able to create that blend of art and artistry, the art of content creation, together with the science to eliminate the guesswork in the digital experience.

Steve:
We've always been on the path of trying to make marketing more scientific, and yet there's still an art element that that's always there. In fact, you're actually not really eliminating the artistic part. You're actually creating more demand for the artistic part to keep coming up with innovative ways to test and to rapidly experiment. So the whole digital transformation that everybody has had to adjust to due to COVID really does just play right in to what you're trying to do. One of the concepts we talk about, just generally about customer experience is personalization. In general, if you're trying to have a better experience, you can make it more personal for each customer. How does personalization in your mind improve the customer experience?

Kirsten:
Now, Steve, I think you just hit it right spot on, which is the aim of the technology is to unlock the human creativity that can never be replaced by a machine. And yet the massive amounts of data that we have grow exponentially every year, and yet we continue to make less and less sense of it. So you, with your background and research, can understand it's tough to to understand, like what's really happening in the market. How is the business environment changing? The customer expectations are ever increasing and we just don't have the time or the capacity to deliver irrelevant content to our customers. It's just not acceptable. And an irrelevant digital experience is unacceptable. And so for the foreseeable future a brand's digital experience really makes up the entirety of how it reaches its customers. Now, the customer journey, everything that we experience on our screens is everything. We need to make sure as marketers of that digital connection is always relevant – it's personalized. It follows through on the brand promise online. And so really taking on board how a customer does his or her research, how do they express the intent to buy something with their interest and then ultimately making a purchase decision. So COVID and the trends we're seeing with the pandemic, it's only intensified how relevant we need to create that experience. And the more we can think about what is our digital vision for the future, how do we get in ahead of what our customers need? We have to look at the technology solutions that can future fit us for agility. We need to move into this age of anticipation where we can leverage experimentation and artificial intelligence directly right into the hands of the marketer so that they can inspire that creativity in the moment. And I think that's what we all desires marketers is to truly create those inspirational connections, those deep emotional connections that we have with our customers.

Steve:
You bring up a couple of points that are really interesting to me. And one of them is that you talked about how much content and how much data there is out there and our inability to sometimes link that, and I assume that's right in the sweet spot of of Episerver and particularly with where you're going with your new acquisition. But can you give me just a couple of examples of of where that disconnect happens and how it impacts customers? I mean, and they could be B2B or B2C. I think, you know, another topic we talk about a lot on this podcast is that even though B2B is much more complicated, we're still talking about people and they draw from their B2C experiences and then relate that to B2B, for example, you know, when you can call an Uber and see where the car is, why can't I do that for my shipment that I'm expecting at my at my place of business? So just give me a couple of examples of where that disconnect occurs and how you guys address that.

Kirsten:
Well, and I would be remiss as a chief marketing officer, not to mention that Optimizely also brings with it some of the world's most prominent innovative brands like Peloton, Nike and Uber. And so when we think about this culture of experimentation and how we bridge that gap between what we're seeing in terms of a person's buying signals and their intent and how we optimize and personalize the experience, we need to be in a state of just this constant innovation and be able to to break down silos, not just in the tech, in the let's say, the operational workflow, but also how teams collaborate together that we can leverage the insights on a common platform, that there's a systemic way to rationalize the buying signals. You know, if you think about the departmental functions that exist within the marketing organization, you might have a content and campaigns team sitting in one area. You might have a different team responsible for optimization of your platform. And what data and insights are you seeing within the platform? Then you have the web development team itself that is in a constant state of trying to take – trying to be the bridge between the content that's been created, what insights we're gleaning, and then bring it together into the updated refresh experiences. In some companies, that connection point of bringing all of that together can take multiple weeks, sometimes months to actually say, OK, well, here's how we're going to deliver a new experience. That's simply just not the way we need to be thinking about digital agility in the future in this age of hyper personalization of experimentation and adaptation, anticipation of what the customers really need. So there is this creative burden, if you will, having to take all the data, having to having to rationalize that into creating the personalized experience and give a content editor, a content creator, the different types of variations that they need to actually produce that can create such strain. And then also an opportunity to really focus on what's the content that's actually needed, what content actually drives the complete conversion all the way through to a transaction and in some cases in actual point of sale online. And I believe now with the capabilities of Epi and Optimizely bringing together, we're able to help companies leapfrog what they need in a truly agile digital platform that delivers that customer experience. We've been able to leapfrog a lot of the way people have thought about how to aggregate content in the past. This is a new era. This is a new age where we bring content and experience and experimentation together.

Steve:
My guest on the podcast this week is Kirsten Allegri Williams, the chief marketing officer for Episerver. Episerver empowers growing companies to compete digitally with its customer centric digital experience platform. Kirsten, I have been having a fantastic and very enlightening discussion about the art and science of customer experience. And, you know, actually, one other thing I wanted to talk to you about, and this is one of my topics that I often explore with my guests is is how people organize CX in the organization. And it's kind of a conundrum to me because it doesn't seem to fit into the same place in lots of organizations. But you guys have chosen to organize this, obviously under marketing, which I personally think is where it belongs. But what are the benefits of of marketing, handling the CX function within your company, particularly within your company? In your experience, what do you think is the advantages of of having CX report up through marketing?

Kirsten:
I believe that the the biggest challenges that marketers face today is how to connect all of the insights about the individuals that are interacting on the digital platform together with the products and services that we provide online. It's actually becomes more and more complex because the number of touch points that a prospect or an existing customer can have with you is frankly infinite in terms of the variety of combinations, depending on where the customer is on their journey. So I think that in order to create the ultimate customer experience that helps you to deepen the relationship with your customer, be able to create that emotional connection with your customer, that that attracts them, engages them and can and advocates for them to be a customer long term. It's so important to be able to bring all of the insights together across all of the functional teams that participate in contributing to the customer experience, including product and customer service and your sales organization. And so much of of marketing's biggest challenges is getting the customer experience right, because it no longer is. It not only affects the company's reputation, but also its ability to create business impact and revenue. So we all know the different scenarios where we might have created a bad customer experience because those touch points haven't been coordinated. They haven't been really well orchestrated within our organization. And I believe marketing's job is really to be the voice of the customer to make sure that those interactions with our company's brand is is truly positive.

Steve:
How have you seen the marketing and CX function enable that within complex organizations? How do you go about making sure that you're driving the collaboration across the functional silos within your organization?

Kirsten:
Well, first and foremost, I think it's important to understand that the role of marketing, the definition of marketing and communications has broadly expanded, especially over the past decade as the rise of digital has come into play. So when you think about the role of marketing and communications leaders, it's a multistakeholder requirement. So it's not just about serving our customers. We also have a strategic imperative to serve our communities, to serve the capital markets, to serve our colleagues, meaning our employees, in addition to our customers. So balancing all of the needs across those really strategic and important constituents is what has driven a change in the role of marketing and communications leadership. So the needs and the pressure is real. But what an opportunity as well, you know, where you can really take all the constituents that we serve. And I think the best guidance I would give is to work closely with all of your strategic partners across the c-suite, product, H.R. sales, customer success, and service. You know, I think that it's so important to forge those deep collaborations. Did I forget to mention the CFO? How could I? Your chief procurement officer? All of these essential operational functions to bring everyone together, along with your vision of where you want to go and how you're going to get there. And if I could give some guidance to the team, it's to try to isolate your quick wins versus your strategic roadmap and be able to show how everyone in your company plays a role in its success.

Steve:
Well, my guest on the podcast this week has been Kirsten Allegri Williams, and she's the chief marketing officer for Episerver. And Kirsten, we've reached that point of our show where we ask each of our guests to give their take home value. This is one tip, your best tip for the CX pros out there listening that they can take back to their organization and and implement and immediately enhance their program. So, Kirsten, what is your take home value for our listeners this week?

Kirsten:
The one tip I will share with your listeners is that there simply is no customer experience without experimentation. Every element, the digital experience from content and campaigns to promotions and products can be created by the marketer, experimented by the marketer, and also delivered and published by the marketer so that we can optimize every single element of the customer experience and be able to do that at scale. So I would encourage all listeners that if you are not embracing a culture of experimentation in not only how you work, but in the way in which you delivered the digital experience, I encourage you to do so.

Steve:
That's an excellent tip. And there's there's sure a lot going on in the marketplace that makes this more important than ever today. Kirsten Allegri Williams is the chief marketing officer for Episerver. Episerver empowers growing companies to compete digitally with its customer centric digital experience platform. If any of our listeners would want to get a hold of you. You're on LinkedIn, I assume?

Kirsten:
On LinkedIn. And Steve, it's been such a pleasure and an honor to be with you. Truly, it's been it's been so much fun. Thank you.

Steve:
And then I'd also encourage our listeners to check out your Episerver website and Optimizley. Can you give us a little tease there?

Kirsten:
Yeah, absolutely. Take a look at episerver.com. We have break down the acquisition of Optimizley where we are going in our strategic corporate direction and really for all of us, replace the guesswork with evidence-based outcomes. And I truly believe Episerver is the most modern digital experience platform in the market.

Steve:
Thank you again for coming on the podcast and given us such a great background information on where we ought to be headed with our CX programs and combining the art and science of of marketing and CX.

Kirsten:
Thank you.

Steve:
And if you want to talk about anything you heard on this podcast or about how Walker can help your business customer experience, feel free to email me at a podcast@walkerinfo.com. Be sure to check out our website, cxleaderpodcast.com, to subscribe to the show and find all of our previous 137 episodes, podcast series, and contact information so you can let us know how we're doing. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker. We're an experienced management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success. You can read more about us at walkerinfo.com. Thanks for listening and we'll see you again next time.

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