Statistical Data Analysis

Data analytics can make the CMO go-go

It’s fair to say that Birst chief marketing officer Carl Tsukahara isn’t short of opinions. He has strong views on the CMO role, on the new digital tools, outcomes and plenty more. On a recent visit to London I spoke to him for an hour.

Tsukahara joined San Francisco-based Birst earlier this year but he’s a tech marketing veteran, having led worldwide database marketing for Oracle, been CMO at Monitise and Vitria, and having consulted at Microsoft, Workday and others.

Today, aptly enough considering that Birst is a leader in business intelligence, he’s most exercised by the evolution of predictive analytics.

“I love this category and everybody has got to rethink how they’re using data,” he says. “CMOs are under pressure. Expectation with customers and prospects has changed, probably for good in both senses.”

He’s also bullish on the marketing chief’s role saying that “CMOs have the largest disposable expense base in a company and make a huge bottom-line difference to the business”.

Of course not all CMOs are created equal but Tsukahara sees a carpe diem moment stemming from the marketing technology explosion.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” he says. “At Birst, product strategy sits under the CMO. CMOs have a chance to seize this and lean in to a senior executive role. Having data and analytics are fundamental to this. Before, we were too far from the customer buying centre. We were the guys who built the nice brochures and website. It’s no knock on IT but we are much closer to the point of revenue than the CIO.”

He says his first hire at Birst was a data scientist simply because the new data-centric tools are making marketing a more scientific and evidence-based affair.

“It means I spend a dollar and can find out how much that will drive a profitable booking to a company. When marketers don’t have data they thrash and they don’t know what’s going on but today we can see a micro-segmentation of the buyer’s journey. That doesn’t mean events are dead and in some of these cases there’s no exact science but I can tell you straight on that having that 80 to 90 per cent certainty is better than guessing.”

It’s not even just the upside that makes the data so powerful. It also means that as well as good campaigns being measurable, bad campaigns can quickly be pulled.

“What people fail to realise is you have to stop the bad: if it’s not working, stop it now. You think something is hot but after two months it’s produced nothing. You need to stop the bad and accelerate the good.”

He has qualms however about some of the sentiment analysis tools that collect multiple feeds and attempt to show what consumers think of a brand.

“Social is extremely important but with the scoring tools some of the roll-ups are crap,” he says.

Better data alignment can also prevent time being wasted.

“Marketers have had a historical beating not just from sales but finance and the office of the CEO and one of the reasons the ‘disconnects’ take place is everyone has different views,” he says.

“Everyone has a different chart so the meeting diverts into ‘where did you get that data from?’ So 45 minutes spin past and the meeting that was supposed to lead to billings didn’t. You had 20 million impressions: did anybody buy anything? Alignment around data is so critical across different domains; you’ve got to get your own people aligned.”

He’s also sceptical about pledges made for another modern marketing approach – account-based marketing.

“ABM and all those things are important but I don’t believe it’s the golden paintbrush. In some territories of the world it works, in some others not so much.”

Finally, despite his bullishness, and perhaps this is a surprise, he’s also not a proponent of shouting out the modern meme that CMOs might be the next generation of CEOs.

“I don’t generally think that way. If I’ve proved my revenue worth, the rest of the things will take care of themselves. What I do tell our team is that the right sort of CMO can do a lot more to help the real issues with the company: selling more, making it more profitable, delivering growth, a higher share price and leading this category.”


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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