Navigating the Future of Tech Marketing
- Role evolution. CMOs have shifted from branding to front-line business strategies, key to increasing market share.
- Tech influence. The tech industry, especially post-COVID, has redefined marketing through virtual events and a surge in martech tools.
- AI in customer experience and AI in digital marketing. AI is not replacing but enhancing roles, offering efficiency in content creation and translation tasks.
When most people think of the C-suite in companies, they envision roles such as CEO and CFO. However, in today’s digital environment, where businesses fiercely vie for customer attention and loyalty, the CMO has emerged as a pivotal and prominent position within a company.
Today CMOs are responsible for more than internal branding, they are on the front lines of business growth strategy and are the key to increasing a businesses’ market share.
To get an insider’s perspective on how the marketing landscape has shifted over the past few years within the tech industry in particular, I sat down with Holly Fee, vice president of marketing, at Infragistics, Inc.
With over 20 years of creative experience launching successful marketing campaigns for clients such as Johnson & Johnson, McNeil, Vistakon, Procter & Gamble, Merck and more, Holly is now responsible for executing Infragistics’ global marketing strategy. She has experience ensuring the company’s brand attributes are supported in new business pursuits, and reinforced in the marketplace through multiple channels, including, advertising, public relations, digital media, events and sponsorships. Below we discuss her career and how both the tech and marketing industries have transformed in the years since COVID and where they are headed.
Editor’s note: the author is a UX Fellow at Infragistics.
Creative Roots to VP of Marketing
Tobias Komischke: To get started, tell us a little about yourself. Why did you choose to do what you do and how did your career lead you to where you are today?
Holly Fee: My initial aspirations weren’t marketing-related — I actually began my career in the creative field with a passion for design. I spent many years working for a marketing company, primarily focused on integrated promotions and events. However, the advent of the internet marked a significant turning point for me. I had the opportunity to work on groundbreaking projects, such as developing the first digital presence for brands like Splenda, Pepcid and ACUVUE. This shift allowed me to experience a whole new world, where we were creating online content and games, newsletters and digital ads that expanded the reach of our offline campaigns.
When I joined Infragistics, I brought along some marketing experience, but what really drew me in was the opportunity to dive into the tech industry and enhance my digital expertise. Reflecting on my time here, one standout aspect is the incredible learning culture at Infragistics. Surrounded by very smart individuals, everyone is approachable and ready to lend a hand. Our CEO sets the tone by actively engaging with the team, sharing ideas over lunch, and encouraging an environment where questions and challenges are not just welcomed but embraced.
As I settled into my new role, I embraced this culture and started asking questions, dissecting our strategies, and examining how our creative and marketing efforts were perceived on a broader scale.
Over time, my role shifted from a primary focus on creativity to a more comprehensive one, involving coordination across creative work, metrics, project management and team dynamics. At this time, I knew I needed to make a change, so I employed the help of my mentors and broadened my skill set through pertinent courses in marketing and analytics. This journey marked my evolution from creative director to my current role as vice president of marketing.
Related Article: AI in Data Analysis and the Evolving Role of the CMO
Tech Marketing: Evolution Amidst Pandemic and Tech Boom
Tobias: How has the marketing landscape in the tech industry changed in recent years, especially with the occurrence of COVID?
Holly: COVID definitely brought about significant changes. Remote work became the norm, eliminating the familiar routine of in-person meetings, spontaneous whiteboard sketches, watercooler chats, and casual cube interactions. However, it didn’t alter our core activities as much as it reshaped the way we approach them.
With the absence of traditional in-person events during the pandemic, we navigated through a series of transformations. Initially, we transitioned from all in-person to fully virtual events. Fast forward 3-4 years to now, and we’re witnessing the return of in-person events. This journey taught the industry invaluable lessons about the diverse reach and engagement levels of different event types. While virtual events can draw thousands, there is less focused participation. Targeted webinars attract a smaller but highly engaged audience, and in-person face-to-face interaction at events still plays a pivotal role in building relationships and fostering connections. Now that we know the benefits of both event types, we marketers can utilize both to have a more robust events strategy.
When it comes to technology, the past three years witnessed an explosion in the number of platforms and martech tools, doubling the options available to us. The industry now boasts over 12,000 different tools, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Navigating this expansive landscape requires strategic focus — determining which of these tools are the right fit for our organization and where they can enhance our operations. It’s crucial to acknowledge that the inclusion of new tech comes with a price tag, significantly impacting costs and budget allocations — which is why it’s so important to understand what technology is the right fit for your company.
Related Article: How COVID-19 Changed Marketing
AI’s Role in Digital Transformation in Marketing
Tobias: Have those changes altered your role as marketing head within your tech company? What role does AI play?
Holly: Yes, these changes have certainly impacted my role as the head of marketing. We’ve had to place a stronger emphasis on digital marketing strategies and leverage AI in various aspects of our work. We’re actively engaged in growth hacking and seeking continuous improvements in our efficiency. The central question for me revolves around expediting access to answers: How do we streamline processes and gain insights faster?
It’s important to note that AI is not a replacement for any member of our team. Instead, it functions as a valuable assistant, augmenting our capabilities. One notable area where AI plays a pivotal role is content creation. It helps with repurposing lengthy blogs or articles into bite-sized pieces, which offers significant time-savings and serves as a dynamic tool, not replacing but complementing human creativity. It’s like having an AI assistant!
Additionally, AI proves instrumental in translation tasks. Websites, videos, voiceovers and marketing materials are streamlined, significantly easing the process and resulting in substantial cost savings. This not only accelerates the editing process but also enhances the overall quality of our work. Once AI has facilitated the translations, then we can have our employees go in to ensure the nuances of the material are accurately conveyed.
Related Article: How Is AI Changing Digital Transformation?
Data-Driven Decisions: The Power of Data Analytics Tools
Tobias: In a world of big data, how has data analytics and data science technology influenced your decision-making processes and strategies?
Holly: At Infragistics, we don’t just talk about a data-driven culture; we live it in every aspect of our operations. From optimizing campaigns and managing costs to understanding customer behavior, personalizing content, and fostering collaboration, data is our guiding force.
Our proprietary tool, Slingshot, plays a pivotal role by seamlessly integrating real-time data analytics into our conversations and projects. This is crucial as it taps into multiple data sources, providing a holistic view that goes beyond looking at data from individual platforms like CRM, marketing automation, social media, SEO and Google Analytics that are driven by different gatekeepers.
The creation of dashboards through Slingshot offers real-time insights into the performance of all our campaigns and a clear view of the customer journey. The ability to annotate, share and create tasks around these dashboards facilitates collaborative efforts within my team, enabling us to gain valuable insights and take action to optimize our marketing strategies promptly. This dynamic collaboration around analytics is a driving force behind our current business success.
Related Article: How AI and Data Analytics Drive Personalization Strategies
AI in Customer Experience: Enhancing CX Through Technology
Tobias: Pivoting from how new tech like AI impacts you to how it impacts your customers: in what ways do your customers benefit from new tech?
Holly: Consumers are now actively engaging with brands through a multitude of touchpoints spanning both digital and physical channels. Ensuring a seamless and unified brand message and experience across these diverse platforms is a key aspect of our strategy. Our marketing approach is centered around connecting data signals from a variety of sources. By doing so, we can craft personalized content and experiences that resonate with our audience across channels, meeting them wherever they choose to interact. Ultimately, our goal is to provide our customers with the best possible experience throughout their journey with us.
Related Article: AI in Customer Experience: 5 Companies’ Tangible Results
AI in Digital Marketing: Balancing Tradition and Digital Innovation
Tobias: How much traditional marketing is there left today — or has digital marketing already completely taken over? Do you think the change from digital to AI digital is as large as from traditional to digital marketing?
Holly: The balance between traditional and digital marketing is influenced by industry, goals and target audience considerations. Personally, I find that a well-rounded, comprehensive marketing strategy is often the most effective. As a tech company, our focus leans heavily towards digital strategies — which is about 75% of our efforts — while still acknowledging the importance of traditional methods.
In terms of digital to AI digital: this is not as drastic of a switch. It’s more about enhancing what we’re already doing today, just taking it to the next level in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. AI is just another tool in our marketing toolkit.
Related Article: 4 Rules to Preserve Brand Trust When Using AI in Digital Marketing
Collaboration in Action: Unifying Departments for Brand Success
Tobias: As the marketing head, how do you collaborate with other departments within the company, such as sales, product development, or customer support, to achieve common goals and ensure a cohesive brand message?
Holly: Our company thrives on transparency, with overarching product strategies and goals clearly communicated from the CEO down to the entire team. As the head of marketing, a key aspect of my role is to help keep everyone in the know, ensuring that information flows seamlessly across departments. Within Slingshot, our cross-functional teams hold valuable discussions, housing our goals, projects, metrics and KPIs — all easily accessible to everyone.
Specifically for marketing, we’ve established dedicated areas in our tool where the team shares the latest brand style guides, messaging, upcoming events, and customer feedback. These pinned resources are the go-to for the most up-to-date and secure content and data, ensuring everyone can access what they need when they need it. This collaboration in Slingshot extends beyond marketing, allowing us to seamlessly share customer feedback between marketing, sales, and the product team.
Evolving Metrics: The Art of Measuring Marketing Success
Tobias: Has the way you measure the success of your marketing initiatives changed?
Holly: I think we’re sticking to our roots in many ways. It’s still a blend of quantitative and qualitative approaches. We analyze our customer journey. We track our metrics, our conversion rates, our click-through rates, the customer acquisition costs, campaign performance and cost efficiencies. We’re always looking at insights from customer feedback and reviews. Evaluating customer satisfaction and sentiment is important to us. This in itself is nothing new — however the way that we’re doing it is what is changing.
The transformation lies in our improved data-gathering capabilities, where we can now consolidate information into a single place. This allows us to streamline our insights, pulling different data sources and condensing 15 dashboards into just two or three comprehensive ones. The real-time aspect is a game-changer. In the past, data retrieval often lagged, making it outdated by the time we had it in hand for decision-making.
Skills for Tech Marketing: Learning and Development
Tobias: In your opinion, what skills or qualities are becoming increasingly important for marketing professionals in the tech industry? Where do talents acquire that knowledge? Is formal education still needed when the internet has everything you need to know? How do you nurture and develop those skills within your existing marketing team?
Holly: Having skills in data analytics is a must for everyone. I’d recommend a blend of solid marketing / business courses with dedicated data analytics training. Also, it’s not just about numbers; understanding the impact of AI in marketing is key. Where to use it, how to use it, and how it shapes your role are all vital aspects.
While formal education sets the stage, hands-on experience is priceless. If you’re in school, don’t underestimate the power of internships and mentors. Combining real-world experience with academic knowledge sets you up for success in landing a great job.
But the learning journey doesn’t stop after you graduate. Continuous education is essential for any level of marketer. Surrounding yourself with industry peers, participating in online and in-person events — all contribute to staying updated.
At Infragistics, we understand the need to stay current in the fast-paced marketing world. We provide various resources, including in-house coaching, courses, and opportunities to engage in online and in-person events. This commitment to continuous learning ensures that our team remains at the forefront of industry trends and innovations.
Future of Marketing: AI, Personalization and the Metaverse
Tobias: The final and inevitable question: What trends do you see shaping the future of marketing for mid-size tech companies? What does marketing look like in five years?
Holly: AI and machine learning is going to continue to play a central role, enabling more personalization and more data driven marketing. Things like GDPR, ethical marketing and sustainability are all going to become more important. Virtual and augmented reality is also something that is going to be interesting to watch. We’re just scratching the surface of it now, but there is a whole metaverse out there that we need to figure out.
Things have changed so much in the past two years, so it is hard to say what the next five will bring. But in my opinion the marketing industry will only continue to become more data-centric, more customer-focused and more technology-driven.
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