Know Your Audience Through Marketing Science

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CenturyLink Technology Solutions' new CMO, Becky Carr, takes a break from an ambitious rebranding effort—of the business division that is a primary growth engine for CenturyLink, the country's third-largest telecommunications company—to discuss how sales experience and data analytics help marketers know their audience.

What's your passion in marketing?

Knowing my audience. I absolutely lean toward the science of marketing. I apply science to understand what motivates companies in our market, what they want and need, and what drives their decision-making criteria. We work in a highly competitive market and in one of the fastest growing industries, which requires us to constantly monitor what's changing. Who are our buyers? What are they buying? Where are they going to buy it? And how do we stand out in a crowded marketplace?

How did you develop your interest in analytics, technology, and other scientific aspects of marketing?

I spent the first 12 years of my career in sales, primarily selling telecommunications services to Fortune 100 companies. At the end of the month you could see the numbers on the board. To get those numbers where you wanted them, you needed to work closely with different businesses to understand what they needed and how technology could be applied to help meet those needs. When I made the move into marketing, I took all of my sales prowess and applied it to marketing. It's a very analytical role these days, and it's certainly going to become a lot more analytical. In fact, in our business the CMO is one of the buyer personas we target. Marketing executives are making more and more of the company's technology decisions.

Was there an aha moment when the importance of knowing your audience hit you?

About 10 years ago I ran a client advisory board. It was made up of CIOs from Global 50 companies. We brought them together twice a year to review our strategic roadmap and investments, and to get their input. It struck me that those CIOs were fairly direct in saying that they didn't care about the technology, per se. What they cared deeply about was getting into Latin America, enabling a globally dispersed workforce, or achieving some other core business objective. They really schooled me on what was important to them.

How do you convey to your staff the importance of this customer-focused mind-set?

I talk about it quite a bit. I also implore every single person on my team to spend at least one day a quarter in a sales office and going on customer visits. It's so important to step back and understand how what we're doing in marketing translates to real life. It constantly gives you perspective. I recently brought someone on my team to an executive briefing with a very large company. The entire conversation was around their business and what their objectives are—and their objectives were not, “I want to buy services that let me outsource co-location to the cloud.” It was absolutely about their vision and growth plans. Participating in these discussions shows us that we have to understand our clients' business and then apply all the great features and benefits of what we do to what it's going to do for them.

What you're describing doesn't sound like traditional B2B technology marketing.

There's been a significant change in B2B marketing. Fifteen years ago, marketers, especially those in the technology industry, which is where I was, talked about all the great features and benefits—about how great all those shiny objects were. The lion's share of what we communicated occurred through our sales organization. We did very little direct marketing. That has shifted 180 degrees over the past several years. Today the sales organization needs to be equipped much more with business and financial acumen than with features and benefits information. Their clients are doing all that research online and already know features and benefits. It's become more of a business conversation.

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