Digital transformation is an organization-wide effort, but it starts with the leadership of marketing.
From vision creation to team empowerment, CMOs and marketing leaders are poised to drive transformation within their organizations but not all are well-versed in how to approach this transformation.
This month on Revenue Rebels, Rhoan Morgan sits down with colleague Eric Hollebone, Chief Marketing Technologist and VP Marketing at DemandLab to motivate and empower marketing leaders to lead digital transformation from within. Listen as they discuss:
- Why marketing is the ideal candidate to lead digital transformation
- How to get the organizational buy-in needed to lead your transformation efforts
- The role data plays in this transformation
- How to transition from strategy to execution
If today’s episode inspires you to begin your transformation journey, access your complimentary copy of the Change Agents Book and Playbook to get started.
About Our Guest
Eric Hollebone, Chief Marketing Technologist, VP Marketing, DemandLab
Eric brings DemandLab’s Revenue Ecosystem® Framework to life for our clients by integrating strategy, technology, and data across the marketing, sales, and services continuum. By leveraging enterprise data architecture and developing growth engines to drive digital innovation, Eric designs and customizes solutions for the entire length of the customer journey—from creating awareness to increasing revenue to enhancing loyalty and customer lifetime value.
Unable to listen? Read the full interview transcript below:
Rhoan Morgan: Welcome back to another episode of Revenue Rebels. Today, we're sitting down with a colleague of mine to discuss a topic that's gained a lot of attention in the marketing community over the past few years, digital transformation. So, we're talking with Eric Hollebone. He is our Chief Marketing Technologist and VP Marketing here at DemandLab, and he's responsible for bringing what we have created and call the revenue ecosystem to life for our clients by integrating strategy, technology, and data across marketing, sales, and service.
By way of quick introduction, Eric and I have known each other for over 10 years, and he's been at DemandLab now for over two years, working really closely with me, guiding the technology and services vision of the company. So, for our listeners today, this format is going to be a little bit different than it usually is. Eric and I will discuss the impetus to writing the book that he and I worked on together called Change Agents, its relevance today, and the current state of digital transformation.
Eric, do you want to just give a brief introduction of yourself to the listeners?
Eric Hollebone: I'd love to. So, hi, nice to meet you all. Just to go back into my background and why I care so much about this topic, I've been around this industry for about 15 years and in martech for 10, since it began. And really, what keeps me thinking about this space and why we want to talk about this today is we're all trying to figure out how, as marketers, we want to make sure we have impact. And digital transformation is one of those techniques; it's a game-changing technique that allow people to build the skills they need to deliver value. But we're also coming up on an interesting inflection point where marketing technology has been around for several years and it's into a maturing mode, so how does this still translate? How are people still getting value out of digital transformation, and if you have yet to take it up, how can you get on to this path?
So, that's where I come from, and just to lay it out there, I don't consider myself a typical marketer. I come from the engineering side, so the science is my part of the marketing cube, but I much appreciate that there's an art to this as much as anything else, and it's when you blend the two that this works. So, this is a topic for all, both the scientists and the artists out there.
Rhoan Morgan: Mm-hmm. Yeah, and I'm really excited to be doing this show with you, Eric, because as I was thinking about having the conversation with you and bringing you into the podcast, I was remembering, and you might remember, during the early meeting when we were first discussing the role here, and I shared my deck with you, which looks completely different today than it did over two years ago, but it was a deck all about our new vision and where I wanted to take the company. And we were instantly on the same page. It was really exciting to be talking to somebody that had the same vision and believed in it as much as I did. And I didn't realize it back then, that we were actually talking about what now everybody is talking about, digital transformation, and sort of the critical components of really getting to what we kind of think of as the holy grail of that really incredible customer experience and customer journey. So, I'm very excited to have you joining us today to go through some of this stuff.
Eric Hollebone: Yeah, it's awesome. And I think the big a-ha moment for both of us, especially for me, was the linkage between digital transformation in a marketing sense, or expressed in a marketing way, really for me, turns out to be customer centricity. Rethinking how marketing delivers its approach to its efforts and how it really engages with clients and prospects. And so, to me, those two are, it's synonymous.
Digital transformation in marketing equals customer-centric driven organizations. And digital transformation leads us to a whole bunch of things about, it's not just about taking things online and making them digital. It's not about taking a paper process and just making a digital form of that. It's actually thinking about how do we reimagine the experience the customer may go through, and how do we deliver it different, and how do we both, both the company and the prospect or the customer, gain value from that transaction? And that has to propagate through the entire organization, so it may start in marketing, and we'll get into why I think marketing should lead this in a little bit, but it comes down to who knows the customer better at a global scale in the department. And it's about moving forward through this digital transformation by becoming customer-centric.
Digital transformation in marketing = customer-centric driven organizations. It's thinking about how we reimagine the experience the customer may go through, deliver it, and gain value.
It's also about our business models have taken us so far. So, if you think about what's gotten you to this point needs to be rethought to get you to the next level of growth or that incremental step in performance, and we need to think about what techniques and how we're going to do this, and it's about thinking differently, and digital transformation gives us that opportunity to think differently.
Rhoan Morgan: I was actually just reading, of course, the most recent Harvard Business Review, which talks about – the title or the cover page is, “The Age of Continuous Connection,” and they talk about a few different strategies, of course, that the writers have come up with, but it folds right into that, which is it's critical for us to rethink the business model. And we have the technologies to do this and to deliver on what the customer's looking for.
It was very soon after you joined that we were able to refine and articulate the vision of delivering on the customer journey, that companies, especially technology companies, especially in the marketing automation and CRM and experience space, have been talking about for years and trying to deliver on, but it's challenging, right? There's a lot to try to deliver, and there's a lot of technology and a lot to wrap your hands and your head around. We started to share the vision of how to pull all of this together with the team internally, with our clients, and then with the larger community, and then we eventually wrote Change Agents. And this was a really exciting process to go through with you. I kind of think of it as a field guide for CMOs today. Talk a little bit about, from your perspective, the ‘why’ in terms of writing the book and what that experience brought for you.
Eric Hollebone: Well, it did two things, and I'll first talk about how it affects CMOs. And I think it comes down to what I alluded to earlier, that who's the right person to lead this effort within an organization, this becoming customer-centric. And it naturally falls to, who at the executive table represents the customer the best? Who recognizes what a customer needs, what we're supposed to be in tune with, and what their requirements are, and if you look around at all the positions at the head table, it seems to fit with the CMO the most. But that brings us to not all CMOs are well versed in how to approach a transformation like this or even well versed in what technologies are available or, even further down the road, how would you go about bringing change management and other transformational details into this process.
Digital transformation is a company-wide endeavor. It takes a whole bunch of people, but it starts with the leadership of marketing. And not all CMOs are ready to step up to that task, so we came out and said, "How could we help people build a step-by-step guide that would take them through all the thought processes that they would need to understand, both the gains and the possible pitfalls, to go through in building a technology transformation for their business?" So, that's how we came to it. It's people need to become familiar and leaders in their profession before they can lead their team about digital transformation for their own organizations. And of course, every organization is unique, so the strategies apply at a broad scale have to be customized to that organization in order for it to succeed.
Digital transformation is a company-wide endeavor. It takes a whole bunch of people, but it starts with the leadership of marketing.
Rhoan Morgan: Mm-hmm. I'd also say that, I mean, we probably wouldn't or couldn't have ... We could have this conversation 10 years ago, but it would be a pipe dream. I mean, technology has changed, I think, such that now it is possible to put something like this together. And we started thinking about this a while back, and we wrote the book in 2017. It's still relevant. We were just at the Adobe Summit. They were talking about exactly the vision and the philosophy. This was validated throughout just about every session I attended and especially every keynote, and for me, I think that it demonstrates that it's more important than ever. We have now the capabilities. We have the drive and the need, and so that's also why we have developed the playbook. And we'll talk about that maybe a little bit later, but that companion guide is then the tool set to get you to be able to execute through something like this.
What was your thought coming out of the Adobe Summit and talking to other people at the Summit in terms of reflecting back on Change Agents book and our thinking and what we've been working to deliver to our community in terms of thought leadership and then also, obviously, with our clients?
Eric Hollebone: I would go back and say there's two things. One, it's really important for the CMO to lead this effort and be to make very close connections with the CIO. Together, that's a duo of a team at the leadership level that's really going to empower this transformation. Even Adobe and Microsoft at that Summit spent a lot of time trying to understand the strength of the other. Adobe really understands the CMO, and Microsoft understands the CIO. Together, these two companies are trying to work out how to approach them as a pair, not individually. They've come to recognize that they're better together in leading this effort.
The other thing was how important data has become. It's just an amazing glue that's going to tie all of what we do together. Without it, we can't make the transformations we need to make.
Rhoan Morgan: In terms of data, I'm sure I've mentioned it on the podcast in the past, that I absolutely see this as such an important asset for any company. And that is only more and more true, I think, day by day. Right? Nothing can be accomplished without that.
And on that note, let's revisit data when we get back after we take a quick break to hear a little bit more about DemandLab. Stay tuned, everybody, for more about effectively leading digital transformation. I've got my colleague here, Eric Hollebone, and we will talk more about that when we return. Over to you, Paul!
Thanks so much, Paul! Okay, let's jump right back in with Eric Hollebone. So, Eric, let's talk about organizational buy-in. So, how can marketers get their organizations, leadership, top to bottom, everybody involved that needs to be involved, to buy-in to the need for digital transformation?
Eric Hollebone: Well, it comes down to, for me, it's about vision, goals, and buy-in. I mean, everybody's being pushed to deliver more, do more with the same budgets or even sometimes less, so digital transformation is an effort that requires a fundamental level of leadership from the top. But it's also about building a big tent, and what I mean by that is eventually, digital transformation and becoming customer-centric will ripple through the organization, and everybody will become part of this customer-centricity. That's the idea behind it.
So, you're going to start with marketing and your closest friends, maybe IT, maybe in sales, but eventually, it's going to propagate out even through the depths of finance and HR and so forth, and thinking about how they can participate in being a customer-centric value. So, the transformation is company-wide, and it needs a leader from the top down, which means it's about the CMO setting the vision and the goals and then listening as the transformation starts to the concerns and approaches of other departments and building a combined solution, a win-win solution, for everybody to participate in. So, to me, that's how they get to the company-wide. But leadership starts at the top, with marketing, for me, and then moves on into the other areas, as the transformation permits.
Getting organizational buy-in for digital transformation involves three things: vision, goals, and buy-in.
Rhoan Morgan: Well, how do you see the role, though, and this is a little bit based on both of our experience working with some pretty big companies working through the process of digital transformation, how do you see the role of CEOs in this entire sort of landscape?
Eric Hollebone: I see it in one of two ways. Either the CEO is going to empower the CMO to get it done, and if they don't see the CMO doing it, they'll do it themselves. It's that important to the outcome of the company. It goes to fundamentally affecting shareholder value and growth, and if the CMO doesn't pick up the mantle, it's going to be one of those things where the CEO is going to do it for them. There are some statistics out there that talk about who are the top two leaders of digital transformations inside organizations, and the second one is not what you'd normally think, which would be a CIO. It's actually the CEO. So, CEOs highly care about this and are motivated and the results that digital transformation will bring. So, it comes back to it's the CMO's opportunity to lead, to show that vision, to define those goals, and then drive the buy-in down through the lower levels, from my perspective.
Rhoan Morgan: Yeah. Yeah. I think you're right. And, in fact, we haven't had this exact conversation, but I have seen a lot of the initiatives being led or pushed in some ways by the CEO because they know how critical it is to roll out a digital transformation program organizationally wide, but the reason for that for them is the customer-centricity. It is the outcome of customer-centric experiences that they know are going to position them much more strongly in the market. And I think it may not be the first that is always the winner, but if you can get there before all of your competition, and competition is strong in all industries, I think the CEOs are starting to feel the heat a bit. That's my sort of thinking around their role.
Eric Hollebone: And to add something on to that, I think it's relatively easy to reverse engineer a product or a delivery or an offering. What's really hard to repeat is the customer experience that one company can give their clients over another. That takes energy and effort, and CEOs recognize that and see it as a source of driving revenue and growth and a differentiator in the marketplace. I think we'll see a lot more people get behind digital transformation as a results-oriented approach to delivering value for their shareholders.
Rhoan Morgan: All right, so you spoke a little bit about data being critical. As I said, I've always considered it a major corporate asset. It is now more than ever. So, how have you seen the role of data change over the last few years?
Eric Hollebone: I think it's gone from something that most people just took in passing to now something that's become foundational to what they do every day. It's become that important.
Marketers don't turn around anymore without thinking about the data they need. But what I don't think they've elevated themselves to is appreciating it as much as a financial asset as maybe you or I do. And with that, I mean, financial assets depreciate in value after you create them. Well, so does data. It goes stale. It goes out of date. It goes useless. And there's also a price to acquire it. So, it costs money to build your data. The moment you stop renewing it, it starts to degrade in terms of an asset and a performance value, so it's something that I think has now become fundamental to most marketers. Anybody, certainly, on the demand gen side of the house and the ABM side of the house couldn't do their jobs without the underlying data to help them make the decisions about how to approach a client or what campaign might work better, or how do I make that campaign better than the last one. It's all driven by that fundamental, underlying value of the data that's provided to do those personalizations.
So, I think modern marketers need to be skilled in it. They don't need to be data scientists, not yet. That may be down the road for all of us. But we need to have an appreciation of what data can do for us, and I want to come back to just one last point is I always like to think about data is knowing this piece of data, what could I do as a marketer differently? For instance, if I knew somebody's preference on the type of solution they want to buy, be it a pricing model, I could offer different types of products into the marketplace that would better suit my customers and thus get better uptake. So, it's always those kind of things. What could I do better knowing this piece of data? And that's the fundamental question I hope a lot of marketers will start to use.
Modern marketers need to be skilled in data – all we do is driven by that fundamental, underlying value of the data that's provided to do those personalizations.
Rhoan Morgan: We're coming up to the end of our time, unfortunately. I'd like to ask just one more question around getting into execution. So, the book, “Change Agents” talks a lot about strategy and sort of kind of gearing up and getting ready to deploy something. How can you move that into the execution phase?
Eric Hollebone: I think it starts with keeping your eye on the goals. What I mean by that is by designing your systems and your efforts with the goal in mind and then working backwards, it kind of dictates what the execution would look like. So, it starts with, if you want to grow revenue by 13% or something this year, then you've got to break that up in the execution phases of what do we do this quarter; what do we do next quarter; how do we make sure that each quarter's producing enough revenue to do that? And then that further breaks down into what campaigns should we be running to produce those more people that sales could …
So, it's basically a work back from the goals that were set at the beginning of the transformational state through a sort of an execution pattern of taking the large goal and making it actually something that a marketer can do in a day and have an impact at the end of it. So, it's about really taking apart all these puzzle pieces, laying them out so that we can actually get them done, knowing that they're going to all build back up together to produce that overall result we're looking for. So, it's about setting the goals, breaking it down, and then putting it all back together and driving revenue that way.
How can marketers move from strategy to executing digital transformation? It starts with designing your systems and your efforts with the goal in mind and then working backwards.
Rhoan Morgan: Can you talk for a minute about the playbook?
Eric Hollebone: Certainly. So, the playbook is a CEO or a marketing leadership's guide to figuring out how to instantiate these major pieces. It's about how to include the right people, what vision you want to work for your company, but it also gets into the tactical elements about how would you go about taking a marketing plan and actually breaking it down into smaller pieces such that it becomes executable by your teams. And also about how you see yourself on a maturity model and moving up, starting with a goal today and moving towards becoming more highly customer-centric in the next days. So, in the book, there's a set of seven or eight tools that prompt thought experiments to customize for your company so that you can work through these details at a customized level that would impact your business, and by the time you've done all these tools, you've put together a solid digital transformation plan to get you started.
Rhoan Morgan: Awesome. Cool. Thank you for sharing that. I wanted to make sure that we were able to articulate that a little bit. I think that the listeners could likely get a lot out of it on ... and I could imagine that we could spend the next 30 minutes or three hours continuing to talk about this because I talk with you about this just about every day, but it was really fun to do this as an interview and to be able to share some of the thinking that you've got and that you've brought to DemandLab and in support of the team and the vision and in support of clients and also just the folks out there that are looking at our thought leadership, including our podcast. So, thanks for joining today, Eric. It was great to have you.
Eric Hollebone: Very much appreciated. Thank you for the opportunity.
Rhoan Morgan: Sure. And for our listeners out there that don't know, how could they reach you?
Eric Hollebone: So, available through email@example.com or on LinkedIn. The book's available for download off of our website. Any number of ways, but LinkedIn's probably the best.
Rhoan Morgan: Yeah. All right. Okay. Good. And a big thank you to our listeners for tuning in to Revenue Rebels. I'm your host, Rhoan Morgan. You can find me on LinkedIn by looking up DemandLab or searching R-H-O-A-N Morgan on LinkedIn. Thanks so much. Now, back over to you, Paul.
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