Revenue Driver. Pipeline builder. Marketing with a quota.
Those are the words and phrases Lacey Ford uses to describe marketing today.
She got her start as an entry-level marketing associate for SBC Communications, which is now AT&T. There she had a chance to present a marketing analysis to the senior team and wound up with a bite from the marketing data bug. She never looked back.
Over the course of her career, she’s spent time on both the client side and in-house side. Today she’s the senior vice president of marketing for insightsoftware. Headquartered in Raleigh, NC, the company is a global, financial reporting and enterprise performance management solution provider.
She says her “expertise lies in scaling for growth and value creation through expert, in-depth data analysis and proactive ‘outside the box’ solutions – to surpass demand generation and revenue goals while building a strong brand and product awareness.”
Lacey Ford is my guest on this 38th edition of the Off Script Q&A series.
1) What has changed the most about marketing over the course of your career?
LF: The availability and use of data to drive decisions is the biggest change. In the past, it was more about using creative approaches to break through the clutter to reach someone in a broad audience. It’s now about identifying a specific target, understanding their motivations, and serving up the right messaging at the right time using the right tactic. You only know that by measuring and analyzing performance, then iterating your approach.
2) What hasn’t changed about marketing?
LF: While the channels have changed, the need to break through the clutter has not. It is still essential to make sure your message is relevant and timely and can stand out against the competition.
3) Do you think marketing has gotten harder or easier?
LF: Both. It has gotten easier due to the proliferation of marketing technology and the availability of data. Marketers can now automate many things to ensure they are staying in front of their audience and serving up content at the appropriate time. With robust tracking, marketers can now measure what’s working and what’s not in order to iterate the approach.
It has gotten harder because of the increased competition for mindshare. Prospects are bombarded all the time – email, social feeds, podcasts, tradeshows, etc. – it is getting harder and harder to stand out. And there is no longer a silver bullet. It’s not about the flashy Super Bowl ads, it’s about an effective mix of tactics to drive demand.
4) Is there an aspect of marketing that you think the business generally under-values or doesn’t recognize?
LF: Often times, marketers make their job look easy, so other parts of the business do not understand or appreciate the process that goes into preparing marketing tactics. We often hear things like, “just craft and send an email to customers…” or “we should just put that on our website”. To do things right, it is important to be thoughtful and thorough, which can take more than a couple of hours to prepare when done right.
5) Does marketing get held to a higher standard than other parts of the businesses such as IT support or legal? Should it?
LF: As a key revenue driver for any business, marketing should be held to a high standard. Marketers create the voice and look of the business – it’s essential to ensure that it’s appropriate and relevant. It’s also critical that it’s driving results. Not just in terms of mindshare, but in the form of opportunities and direct contribution to sales.
6) What attributes or skills do you look for in the marketers you seek to hire?
LF: Skillset definitely depends on the role, but attributes are fairly steady across the organization. Even without any marketing knowledge, I look for self-starters who have a passion for the “craft” and are driven to win. I like them to have an intense curiosity about their target audience and what will compel prospects to act. The marketing department is typically one with good, high energy, so it’s important to have the right culture fit as well.
7) With unemployment at record lows, are you finding it challenging to hire marketers? Any specific skills or functional areas?
LF: The one role that was particularly challenging to fill was Marketing Operations. It is becoming an increasingly critical function of any marketing department and requires a specific skill set. The person needs to be analytical and process-oriented, but also have a general understanding of the different marketing motions and the tools required. I was very fortunate to find my unicorn.
8) How do you measure success?
LF: Instead of just measuring ROI and marketing contribution to sales, we take it one step further. In my current role, I have fundamentally shifted marketing goals to focus on developing the pipeline, which has a direct impact on sales growth and overall company success. It also creates more predictability in the business. That means marketing now carries a quota, and we are held accountable for that on a weekly and monthly basis.
9) Lightning round: please answer the following in just a word or a phrase:
- One company whose marketing you admire is… (LF) Nike.
- One marketing tool you can’t live without is… (LF) not just one tool…I can’t live without tracking and measurement.
- If you weren’t doing what you do now, you’d be… (LF) a pediatric nurse.
- If you suddenly got 10% more marketing budget, you’d spend it on… (LF) building new channels and third-party advertising.
- If you suddenly got 10% more time to spend on marketing, you’d spend it on… (LF) product marketing assets like use cases.
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