Beyond the technology, the art of customer experience

Darren Guarnaccia

In the upper right of Gartner’s latest magic quadrant analysis of web content management (WCM) providers — in the top of the “leaders” quadrant — there are three companies: Adobe, SDL, and Sitecore. If you’re an enterprise marketing department looking for a web platform, odds are you’re talking with one or all of these vendors.

What’s interesting, however, is that if you’re thinking about a broader marketing technology backbone for your company — something that marketing automation and integrated marketing management platform providers have traditionally competed for — you may now be talking with these WCM providers too.

Because increasingly, WCM companies are taking their foundation of content — lauded as the currency of modern marketing — and building a skyscraper of “customer experience” digital marketing capabilities that cross channels and touchpoints.

So I was delighted to have a Q&A with Darren Guarnaccia, SVP product marketing at Sitecore, to pick his brain on the evolution of content management and marketing’s relationship with technology.

Can you tell us a little about your background and your current role at Sitecore?

I’ve worked in digital marketing technology since 1997, when I implemented some of the early enterprise web delivery solutions, like Broadvision, and digital commerce solutions. I’ve been in leadership roles in product marketing for top marketing technology companies for about a decade. Today, I lead Sitecore’s strategy team and manage our corporate development functions.

What have been the big changes in web content management over the past two years? What changes do you predict for the next two?

The last two years have been so exciting. Sitecore customers and partners think beyond the web page, and think about customer experience. With content as its currency, content management has become the core to experience management and has embraced and extended beyond the page to mobile, email, social and even offline channels. It’s moved from managing web pages to supporting marketing goals, like improved conversions, more effective marketing spend, and delivering better marketing qualified leads to sales.

The next two years are going to be about incorporating more customer intelligence into digital experiences. As more pressure is exerted on the CMO to deliver more value to their organization, these leaders will look to marketing technologies to help achieve their goals. They will want to automate certain customer experience interactions.

The next two years are going to be about incorporating more customer intelligence into digital experiences.

With the rise of big data, and machine learning technology, I see the potential for better tools to guide marketing teams to more quickly adapt to changes, increase marketing effectiveness based on real-time data and incorporate customer intelligence and interactions back into their digital experiences. Marketing and customers have increased expectations and will require innovative technologies to meet them.

As Sitecore continues to expand its product line beyond web content management, what new challenges do you face?

The greatest challenge is helping customers work through the change management that comes along with all the new technology. Sitecore offers a set of service offerings and methodologies to help customers move up our Digital Marketing Maturity Model. We heavily invested in this method for the past few years to offer a guide to help improve the engagements and experiences our customers offer. It’s amazing and fun to sit in a room with our customers and watch their eyes light up on when they start to really envision what they can achieve.

The greatest challenge is helping customers work through the change management that comes along with all the new technology.

With your customers, how has the relationship between IT and marketing evolved? Are there certain practices or approaches that you’ve seen be most effective?

I’ve seen two major trends. The first trend is a full end-run around IT. These customers are going out and acquiring SaaS offerings and just getting it done. This works well for a while until they want to move deeper into digital marketing maturity where greater integration and owning the customer intelligence is required.

The second trend, and the more successful one is where IT acts as an internal consultant to marketing, or marketing has a marketing technologist. As Yo Gabba Gabba would say, “Working together, doing it right, teamwork teamwork.”

In these scenarios, marketing expresses the business outcomes they need to achieve, and drives the process. The IT experts advise and recommend, with an eye towards governance, security, sustainability and durability. These types of engagements work well, and have far greater success rates.

IT experts advise and recommend, with an eye towards governance, security, sustainability and durability.

As technology plays a greater and greater role in marketing, how is the marketing department itself changing? New roles? New skills? New ways of organizing and managing the department?

I see a trend of business savvy IT teams and technology savvy marketing teams on the whole. I also see the rise of marketing technologists, which you champion.

As companies shift towards orchestration of the customer experience across channels, someone will quarterback the experience, and we’re seeing more and more companies with a dedicated role that seeks to manage it holistically. The smartest organizations begin to think about how to tear down the silos between channels, and make it a continuous customer conversation, instead of 10 unrelated ones.

We also see the marketing departments starting to get their own data analysis teams. The business analyst becomes and even more valued role. Increased predictive capabilities from many vendors require marketing to get better at this. As I predicted early on in my career, data-driven optimization with real-time decisioning is the next frontier for marketing departments.

How are all these changes effecting the culture of marketing? For better? For worse?

In a lot of ways, worse but there is hope for the better; ownership is difficult, there are still huge gaps in the comprehension and benefits of digital marketing that really challenge organizations.

Today, marketers have so much technology and complexity to deal with, they are lost in the science of it all. Marketers have always been part mad scientist, part artist, but the art elements have been drowned in the sea of technology.

Marketers have always been part mad scientist, part artist, but the art elements have been drowned in the sea of technology.

When marketing really embraces the tools, they can get back to the creative and strategic art of marketing, but now will have the data they always wanted to make the best decisions.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to a CMO to prepare for the future of the marketing, what would you say?

Understand, respond to and improve your customer’s experience. If you can own the experience that they co-created you’ll have lifetime customers.

Thanks, Darren!

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