The CMO Files: Guillaume Roques, Salesforce

Get inside the minds of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job... and what keeps them awake at night.

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Guillaume Roques

 Organisation: Salesforce

 Job title: EMEA CMO

 Location: Paris, France


1.       Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Paris but my family moved around quite a bit within France when I was growing up, so I have a good understanding of both the city and the country of France. I didn’t really speak much English until I was an adult - I had a very French upbringing!

2.       What was your first job?
I started as a developer at IBM when I was just 17 years old (as an intern), and because I’d always been very involved in learning technology in my teens, I got a lot of opportunities I probably shouldn't have been given when I was so young.
Today, as the CMO of Salesforce EMEA, that background helps me work with developers as well as marketers. As a company, our goal is to create the best possible systems to help our customers create truly connected customer experiences - to make sure customer journeys are the best they can be. That's something I really like to be involved with.

3.       What was the first product you got really excited about?
When I was 10, my family hosted a Japanese exchange student and she brought with her a state-of-the-art Walkman that, incredibly, she let me borrow – a lot – and eventually left me the device when she left. I was constantly listening to music on it and it was my first experience of ‘high tech’ that applied to not just businesses, but to consumers. I think that was the beginning of my love affair with technology and the Far East.
Fast forward 20 years and I had the same experience when Apple introduced the iPod and then later on the iPhone. It still amazes me to think that the little device in your pocket, with its tiny computer chip, allows you to run both your life and your business, from literally anywhere, at anytime, on my phone.

4.       Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
My Dad gave me my first computer and encouraged me to learn how to programme it – something that wasn’t easy in the 80s! I loved (and still love) the power that computers provide to support the creative process. There weren’t many resources to learn back then - particularly in French - so I had to put in the extra effort to learn the code and teach myself. Coding also taught me self-reliance and logical problem-solving, which helps me today.
So, considering that my career has been based around technology, I’d say that the person who has influenced me the most is my father, but the device that has influenced me the most is the computer.

5.       What has been your greatest achievement?
Besides my three sons? Well, I taught myself how to code – I learnt all the algorithms and the theory behind building software. It wasn’t easy, especially as the books I used were in English, which I wasn’t at all fluent in at the time - so I had to learn two languages at once. But it’s been an invaluable skill for me and I believe the opportunities it opens up makes coding a life-changing skill. That’s why those initiatives available today - such as Stemettes’ OtotheB and CoderDojo, are so important.

6.       What has been your biggest mistake?
Like most teenagers, I didn’t listen to my parents and thought I knew best. Now I’m a parent myself, I can appreciate the wisdom of their advice. The number of mistakes I made are really too numerous to count, but I’m happy to say I’ve learned from most of them. There was one time, however, when not paying attention to them actually turned out for the best: against their wishes, I dropped out of university to join a tech company. This is a decision that I know they thought was a huge mistake - but one that turned out well in hindsight - which of course is always 20/20!

7.       What is your greatest strength?
I’m pretty adaptable and always looking to take on new challenges. I think that for a CMO, or for that matter anyone in business, this is really important these days. Thanks to the hyper-connected world we live in, customer expectations are evolving fast and businesses need to continually innovate to keep up. I also know that one of the things that really peeves me is when I work with people who don't understand that change is everywhere in technology. Get on board or get left behind!

8.       What is your biggest weakness?
I'm incredibly impatient and I do love to talk - which means that my direct reports often have a hard time getting a word in edgeways! I'm working on it but it's my natural personality to take charge and direct. In terms of impatience, that's definitely still a work in progress. Over the course of my career I’ve come to appreciate that the best campaigns are sometimes those that take longer to deliver results, simply because the change they’re driving is so disruptive.

9.       What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?
What many people don’t realise is that a CMO’s role is not just about pretty billboards and creative ideas. It involves technology, managing pipeline contribution, and most importantly, making sure that customers have a real path to success. Every customer now interacts with a company through multiple channels and departments. Think about it. Your receptionist might be responding to tweets about parking spaces while he or she greets guests and connects calls; your customer service support team is likely writing digital content to appear on LinkedIn or the company blog in between solving problems. Your digital marketing team is researching Facebook trends and ad results whilst they are creating their campaigns.
Every time you talk to a customer, every way you talk to them, you create a mass of data about every customer and their individual preferences.
So the job of the marketing team today is to work with the wider business to ensure all of this data is pulled into one single view of the customer so that at any stage of their journey the sales, marketing and service teams immediately have the customer’s history.
These specific insights today turn into bespoke, personalised content which increases customer loyalty and the likelihood that that customer will continue to vote for your business with their wallet and their word of mouth.

10.   Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
Though I’m not a big fan of quotes, one mantra that has always stuck with me is: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” Leading by example is the goal here. To be honest, the word “no” really bugs me, because I'm a total optimist, looking for the path to “yes.”

11.   What makes you stressed?
I am a pretty calm person and to be honest, I don’t tend to get stressed about work. I totally stress out when my kids are sick or not answering my texts! But I don't stress out about work, I'm much too chill for that.

12.   What do you do to relax?
One of the reasons I like working at Salesforce is that we believe in balance and mindfulness, so I attend crossfit sessions and spend time in our mindfulness room to clear my head before tackling the next session. I'm beginning to think they should rename it my office! We also believe in giving back and that's also great. Recently I challenged myself to swim the English Channel to raise money for charity. As well as doing lots of sport, I also like to read and of course I love spending time with my family.

13.   What is your favourite song?
I love all types of music but I particularly like listening to classical music. One piece I could never get tired of is Edward Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt’ Suite No.1, Opus 46: ‘Morning.’ But I'm a demon on the dance floor also!

14.   Which book taught you most?
I like to read about the lives of great leaders as I think you can learn a lot from their experiences. In that context I loved reading “Mémoires de Guerre” by Charles de Gaulle. It’s a very insightful read and an example of how great leaders are often molded by adversity - something I’ve learned through my own experiences as well.

15.   Do you have a team or sport that you follow?

16.   Which country would you like to work in?
I’ve been very lucky to have already worked in my dream location – the USA. I also love being able to now spend time in the UK and the other countries key to Salesforce’s success. I think one day I’d like to work in South Korea since it’s a country with such a high appetite for tech - plus, I love Korean food!

17.   Which company do you think has the best marketing?
Besides Salesforce (of course), I’ve been very impressed by customers who are combining our technology and data to deliver truly innovative marketing programmes. For example, SuitSupply uses Salesforce CRM across both service and marketing to deliver personalised service to their customers across any channel and targets their customers with the most relevant content and offers based on their needs and interests. I’m a customer and I can tell you that their level of personal, smart and social messaging is properly ‘tailored’ to each customer - and executed at scale through the use of technology. That’s the sweet spot that every company wants to get to.

18.   What do you love most about your job?
Salesforce is totally ‘Ohana’ – the idea in Hawaiian culture that family members are all responsible for one another. We all care about each other like a family and it makes working at Salesforce so awesome. I really believe it helps us deliver better results and keeps us working as a real team, focusing on customer success.

19.   What is your favourite book?

20.   What keeps you awake at night?