91: Digital Marketing: "Embrace change or Play Russian Roulette"

This is the second part of a two-part conversation with Acquia's Chief Marketing Officer Tom Wentworth. In it we discuss Tom's understanding of data-driven marketing, the rise of the "Chief Digital Officer",

You can listen to part one, in which Tom discusses his background in computer science, his perspectives on the early web, the rise of the content management system, and how open source solutions like Drupal remove risk and add innovation for businesses.

Both parts of this interview were recorded at Acquia headquarters in Burlington, Massachusetts in March 2013.

Fact-based decision making

On the importance of data, Tom says whether 'big' or 'small', it makes a huge difference: "The more we understand about our customers, the better we can market. The core of Tom's understanding is to move Marketing "from a culture of speculation to a culture of fact-based decision making. I've gotten good at building a team that knows how to look at data, understand data, and use data. Marketing is a lot now about the technologies that can make us more effective, make us more data-driven, and help us deliver a better customer experience."

Digital disruption? Hello, Chief Digital Officers!

Digital technologies, and the shift to moving the core of business to digital is disrupting every industry. The move to having a "Chief Digital Officer" began, according to Tom, in the media industries, where they had to confront digital distribution and consumption of their products early on. The idea of a Chief Digital Officer is now making its way from media companies to health care companies, financial services companies, and higher education companies because digital is so transformative for their businesses.

Some CDOs fall more on the CMO side, some on the CIO side. Ultimately, says Tom, CMOs will have to embrace digital to guarantee success. "Whether you're a super-technical CMO or a CDO, the real important point is embracing technology and digital transformation. Don't shy away from it, because it is inevitable that digital is going to disrupt your business."

The first part of the Chief Digital Officer's role, "is to build up a team that equips the organization with all these transformative digital capabilities: from web platforms like Drupal to social media monitoring, to big data and analytics, to CRM. The CDO needs to harness all these digital customer touch points and arm each of the departments in an organization to better achieve their goals through digital technologies."

The second part of the CDO's job is to play a central role in knowing what's working, what are the right tools to use, "It's a hybrid of what the CIO used to do, from a tools and technology standpoint, with what the CMO should be doing around data and customer experience."

Tom Wentworth open source

Beyond websites, Drupal as a platform

"The Drupal community has built an incredible platform. As a CMS guy, when I look under the hood, the technology is fantastic. When I look at something like Spark [a huge leap forward in the Drupal content-authoring experience], it's clear to me these things couldn't happen without a passionate, super smart, active community."

"Drupal has an opportunity to become the 'connective tissue' of digital marketing. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of technologies that marketers harness to solve their problems; the problems around customer experiences, analytics, multi-channel delivery ... there's all sorts of categories. Drupal is a platform that helps you connect all the things that you need to deliver a fantastic experience through your website, mobile devices, social networks, and social communities. Drupal has modules that connect to all these other things: web analytics, CRMs, marketing automation," and so on. "If I can connect my website directly to my CRM, I can show them something that is directly and personally meaningful to them. That's an integration point that's available in Drupal today.

The biggest strength of the Drupal platform is that it's so flexible, you can integrate with so many different things. Your alternative is to buy the 'TV with the VCR built in'. When DVDs come out, "you've got a TV with a useless VCR." Drupal gives you "the flexibility to pick the right tools for the right job ... and those tools often change because marketing moves so fast."

Embrace change or play Russian Roulette

"Drupal is the perfect platform to embrace change. You have the freedom [because it's open source] to pick a platform, and not be locked into something for five years. When you're an organization, investing in proprietary software is Russian Roulette. It's only a matter of time before your vendor changes their mind about what they want to do with their products," and that can't happen to you in open source. You determine what needs to be done when because the software is yours to own and control.

Choosing open source is a 'future friendly' choice

"Marketing moves too fast for vendors who don't have the agility a community has. It moves too fast for proprietary technology to keep up. Open source is a different- and better way. Marketing hasn't had to think about open source in the past. It's been more the CIO's 'problem', right?" :-) ... "But as a marketer now, I like freedom. I like to know I'm not locked in. I don't want the TV/VCR combo. I want something that gives me the ability to pick the right tools for the job, and change those tools if something else disruptive happens."