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Episode #106: Adding Customer Value, with Jodie Sangster

Grad Conn

March 26, 2021  •  18 min read

As marketers, we’re tasked with representing our customers. That’s why it’s important to consistently add value to the customer experience. Jodie Sangster, CMO for IBM Australia / New Zealand, steps us through this customer value obligation. Plus, we talk about data-driven marketing, discover a brilliant idea for breaking down organizational silos, and learn about the history of the famed IBM “Think” slogan.

Jodie Sangster is an experienced executive with a diverse background in law, marketing, customer experience and digital transformation. You can follow her at: twitter.com/jodiesangster

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad
All right, welcome to the CXM Experience. And as always, I’m Grad Conn, your host and CXO, chief experience officer at Sprinklr. And today is one of my favorite kinds of shows because we’re doing an interview. And I just love interviews because I always learn a ton from it. Always have a really good time. I’m particularly excited about today’s guest, who is Jodie Sangster, and she is the CMO for IBM, A/NZ which is Australia, New Zealand. And she’s also the head of brand for APAC. Welcome, Jodie.

Jodie Sangster
Thank you. very delighted to be here.

Grad
Really? Great. I’m glad you’re delighted. Let’s see how you feel in 15 minutes.

Jodie Sangster
It’s nice and early in the morning for me. So, I am ready to go.

Grad
I appreciate you, I appreciate you doing this to start your day. Hopefully this will get your day off to a great start. And you’ll have an awesome day. And you’ll be able to look back at the end of the day and say, Boy, I’m really glad I was on the CXM Experience with Grad because that made this day, the best day of the week.

Jodie Sangster
That’s the aim. That’s the aim of this morning.

Grad
You work at IBM, amazing company. I almost worked at IBM. I was about to work at IBM, and then I switched gears really quickly at the last second and ended up at Sprinklr. But one of the great companies of all time, and I’ve got nothing but admiration for IBM and its amazing history. I’ve always actually wanted to visit the place where they make the mainframes in Poughkeepsie. But it just keeps slipping through my fingers. But it’s on my list.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk too much about IBM. What I really want to do is talk about you. What I find super interesting as I talk to different CMOs and other marketing leaders is the story of how you got into marketing. Why you decided to go into marketing. I’m always really interested in how people define marketing. I’ve yet to have the same definition repeated to me. So that’s always really interesting to me. And then we’ll talk a little bit about how customers are changing today. And all the challenges we face with all the customer evolution that’s occurring. So, let’s start with why marketing. Why did you get into marketing, of all the jobs? Let’s face it, this is not an easy job. Of all the things you can do in life, why marketing?

Jodie Sangster
It’s a funny one. I’ve actually had a backwards career. I’ve done things in reverse. I started off as a lawyer.

Grad
Oh, that’s cool.

Jodie Sangster
Yeah, I was a lawyer. Very interested in privacy, data protection, how you could use data, etc. And that’s where the whole customer piece came in. Started off doing that. After various jobs, I then ended up as the CEO of the Marketing Association. That was very much kind of looking into the industry. It was far Australia, and really understanding what the trends were, where’s all this going. What can we do to help marketers advance? And what kind of new skills do they need? What do businesses need to do to invest in marketers to make sure that they’ve got the best talent in their organizations. And then from there, I became a CMO. So, I’ve done it a slightly different way around. And you know, what’s been fascinating going into marketing from running a Marketing Association is exactly what you just said. It’s actually a much harder job than I think anyone gives it credit. Because you are across so many…it is vast in terms of what marketing now sits across in terms of really making sure that we’re engaging our customers. And I don’t think that’s an easy job at all. And it’s changing every month. There’s something new that we need to take on board or something new that we need to do in technology, or something new that we need to do in data. It’s one of these constantly evolving roles. But look, I love it. And I’m glad I found myself here.

Grad
I agree with you that it is hard because of the need to sit across so many different organizational silos. And CMOs are actually increasingly getting tasked with digital transformation, because they’re one of the few players in an organization that is touching so many different groups. So, they’ve got that different view. I think also what makes it really hard is that everybody else thinks it’s really easy.

Jodie Sangster
Yeah.

Grad
I don’t know about you, but everyone thinks they know how to do marketing. It’s unbelievable. And everyone’s got tons and tons of opinions. One of the nice things about being a lawyer is people rarely tell you how to be a lawyer. Right?

Jodie Sangster
Absolutely.

Grad
But marketing, it’s like I got 50 different points of view on how you should be doing your job. And of course, the trickiest thing about marketing, and I’d love to hear how you manage this, is that you can’t do everything. I have yet to — it may happen — but I’ve yet to run into a marketer who said to me, wow, I just had so much money. I did every single tactic I wanted to do. And I literally had extra money left over and didn’t know what to do with it. And all these extra people too. And we’re sitting around because we had no more things to invest in. I’ve never heard that. Right? So, how do you allocate? What’s your skill set and mindset as you think about allocation? How do you make choices between different tactics? Because they all can legitimately drive the business. It’s hard to tell them apart sometimes.

Jodie Sangster
Yeah, look, I would absolutely agree with you in terms of, there are so many things you can do. There are so many things that people want you to do. In an organization the size of IBM and with the number of business units within IBM, I mean, we’re a case study for that. There’s a lot of requests that are made of marketing. And then you have to then look at it and go, we can’t do everything, and we want to do certain things and do them really well. For us, it’s really about what are the big business objectives? Pick three, and they’re the business objectives that we’ll then support. And then for me, it’s about looking at the data, and what is working for us and what is not working for us. And really getting behind that. Because a lot of activities and tactics can sound like a good idea. You can get, for example, a huge attendance at something, or you can be reaching a huge amount of people in digital. But is it actually converting into the business result that you’re wanting it to convert into? And often the answer to that is no. So, we do spend retrospective time rather than consistently looking forward. We do spend time looking backwards and saying, Well, what has worked for us what hasn’t worked for us? And if it hasn’t worked, is there a reason why that hasn’t worked? Is it something that we did, and we could change or do better? Or is it actually just that sort of marketing at this time is not working for us? And that’s how we then kind of allocate and say this is where we’re going to spend our money.

Grad
Yeah, it’s interesting. This might be apocryphal, I’m not sure if it’s a data-based comment, but I’ve read a couple times that 98% of all marketing initiatives fail to reach their goals. And based on my experience, I don’t think that’s a crazy number, that could be true. So, I always jokingly tell my team, if we’re just failing 95% of the time then we’re killing it versus the industry average.

Jodie Sangster
That’s a little depressing, isn’t it?

Grad
It could be worse. Could be failing 100% of the time. But how do you manage that? There is a truism in marketing that you’re mostly failing all the time. Right? And then learning from that, and then recalibrating, and stuff like that. How do you handle failure with your team? And different leaders manage this in different ways. How do you get your team to be okay with trying things that might not work?

Jodie Sangster
I think it depends on the measure, to be honest with you. I think if you’re consistently going with just a revenue measure, then you can look at it and say, well, of the people that we reached, did those convert into sales? And you’re going to say, Well, no, obviously not everybody that we touch in marketing is going to convert into business. But it also does have a different objective behind it as well. I think it’s being clear about the objectives and making sure you’ve got objectives in there, which both obviously line up to the business, but also have some of those broader marketing priorities, which can be around brand, which can be around engagement, which can be about, in a b2b world, it could be depth into accounts, and reaching more people in the account. So, I think you can, with the measures, look at it…don’t use them as such a blunt instrument that it looks as though we’re not meeting every business goal. Because some of some of those business goals are not as black and white. Also, some of the marketing goals are not as black and white as the business goals.

Grad
Yeah, that’s neat. I have an IBM…as I mentioned at the beginning, I’m a big fan of the company. And I have a little IBM story for you. Because of this problem, you can’t always know that something has delivered dollars. Sometimes people don’t get recognized for work they do, because it’s not revenue attached…or, not yet. And so I created an award…I had a monthly marketing team all-hands. And I created an award called the Think award. You see where I’m going here.

Jodie Sangster
Ahhhh. I like this.

Grad
And so what I did is I went on eBay, and I found all these…I think it was the Eames’. The Eames’ designed one of the Think plaques that people would have on their desks at IBM. They were designed by the Eames’. And there’s a ton of them available on eBay. And so I scooped up…not as many anymore though, because I scooped up like hundreds of these things, and bought them all. They all came in various conditions, and also different languages. They came from all around the world, all different colors. They’re a rounded edge plastic thing with a metal frame in it. And then what we would do is that when people did something cool, I would recognize. usually three or four people, with a Think Award. And they proudly displayed them on the desks. And actually, Randy, our producer, if he turns his video on near the end, you’ll see there’s a Think plaque behind him. That’s one of the Think awards that he won.

Jodie Sangster
There you go.

Grad
It was a neat way to recognize people who are still doing cool stuff, but maybe we can’t always put a goal on it. And people seemed to like that. Alright, so it’s time…

Jodie Sangster
Just on that think story. Actually, I just heard this the other day where that idea of think came from. So obviously “think” for us is a masthead brand for innovation, leadership conferences, etc. But it came from Thomas Watson, sitting in the boardroom, when he was sitting around the room going…IBM is one of those companies that continually reinvents itself. And they were sitting in the boardroom looking at what’s the next step for IBM, and he stood up and said, Guys, I need you to think. And that’s where “Think” came from. And I actually just learned that like two weeks ago, so there we go.

Grad
That’s a great story. And then it ended up being signs. And it’s just such a great slogan. So, let’s talk a little bit about what marketing is. This is something I’m also super interested in. I have yet to find two marketers who define marketing the same way. They’re often within the same orbit, and in the same solar system. But rarely are they the same planet. So how do you define marketing? If someone were to say to you, you’re in marketing? Oh, what is marketing? How would you describe it to them?

Jodie Sangster
I think this is a really difficult question. But I think broadly, as marketing, you are the representative of the customer. That’s broadly how I put it. So, you are the one in the organization who is going to sit there and say, what are we doing? What is right for the customer? And then working backwards from there. You’re going okay, what is the information we need to provide to the customer? How can we make ourselves more valuable to the customer? How can we engage them? How can we invoke emotions in our customer? And that’s why I think marketing has become so broad, because it’s not about, I’m going to go out and sell a product. It’s about actually looking from the customer backwards, as to how the company can be valuable to the customer. So that you are going to be more top of mind.

Grad
I love that. That’s fantastic. And that is a nice segue into our next topic, customers are challenging these days. Customers are changing. I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you see customers changing and the ways you’re thinking about reacting to that and working within that new context.

Jodie Sangster
So the great thing is, as marketers, we are also consumers. And we know how we’ve changed, and we know how we are expecting companies to interact with us, and how we are expecting them to be valuable to us. So I think the change from a customer’s perspective… I often hear people saying, customers now expect companies to be personalized with them. To really get down to a personal level. And I don’t believe that’s strictly true. I think what customers are expecting are that we are valuable to them. Because it’s not possible for every company to get to the level of experience that they can be personal with every customer. But I do think that they have a responsibility to be valuable to a customer. So, for me, I think that’s what we should be focused on as marketers and thinking through with the programs that we’re putting out there. And really questioning ourselves, is this valuable to the customer? Or am I just trying to put something out there that’s valuable to me?

Grad
Interesting. I love that framework.

Jodie Sangster
I’m not sure I answered the question, actually. I forgot the question halfway through. So, I’m not sure if I answered it or not.

Grad
Your comment which…actually I’ll challenge you gently and respectfully on the beginning of your answer. Because your answer was we all know how customers have changed because we’ve all changed. I accept that’s true for you and me. I’m not sure that everybody in the company gets that. I’m constantly having bizarre meetings with people who still don’t think Facebook’s a thing. I think it’s a little dangerous maybe to assume that everyone in the company is all at the same level of understanding how people are different. How do you make sure that your peers and everyone is on the same page that you’re on? Because I think marketers tend to be pretty hip with that stuff, but not everybody else is.

Jodie Sangster
Yeah, but I think you can use that to your advantage. Because pretty much, particularly in an organization the size of mine, you’ve got a very good cross section of what the consumer looks like. And you’re 100% right. We may assume because we are dealing with digital every day that everyone understands social media, and everybody understands what the new technologies are, and what they should be engaged in. But you’re right. I mean, you look around a company. And actually, not everybody is engaged in that area. And not everybody is buying online. Not everybody. And I think that’s important to take into account. So, you can actually use that to your advantage, within an organization. Understand there is a diversity out there. And the diversity is the segment of customers you’re dealing with, but it’s also how advanced they are. And we can’t make assumptions that everybody is at that same stage.

I think your question has got a slightly different spin on it as well, which is how do you keep a company up to speed with what’s going on, and where we need to be playing? And I do think marketing can play a role in that. And I would do that. I might answer that in a very kind of small way that we’ve done it within our organization. For example, we know we’ve got to be more visible on social media. And not everybody in the organization is on LinkedIn, or is on Twitter, or whatever it might be. So we’ve actually — in our marketing team — we’ve partnered up our marketers with people within the organization, executives within the organization. And partnered them together so that we can pay it forwards. So, we pay it forward, the idea that the marketer can be helping somebody to become more efficient in social, can be helping them to craft a post, and it would be easier for them. I had a great conversation the other day with somebody within IBM who said, I really want to be on social media, but it’s that fear that I sit there and I write something and I’ve got to press send, and it goes out to the big wide world. And it’s true, right? A lot of us feel like that. And you know, it’s a small way, it’s small things that you can do like that, in organizations that will go: Actually, we can help you to take that next step and build your profile or be more confident with the new technology that’s coming through.

Grad
That’s a great idea. It’s also a great way to get the marketing organization embedded more deeply across the org so you break down silos. I’ve never heard of that idea. Actually, there was one time…I worked at Microsoft for a long time. And I had the weirdest meeting with someone once, where we were talking about LinkedIn. We were doing social selling, and I was going on about what we’re doing on LinkedIn, and all the strategies. And with a deadpan face he said to me, You know, I’ve never actually been to LinkedIn.

Jodie Sangster
Yep.

Grad
And I said, like lately? And he was, no, never been to LinkedIn. Never even gotten to the page. Never even looked at it. And I was like, wow, that’s lifetime employment. I tell you. Not worried at all. Amazing. He’s still there, still doing very well. It’s just very strange.

Jodie Sangster
And still not on LinkedIn.

Grad
And still not on LinkedIn. Well, Jodie, this has been fantastic. And I want to thank you for your time and your ideas. I love that you shared those things with us today. And it was really great to have you on the CXM Experience. Any last words? Or any last thoughts for listeners?

Jodie Sangster
I don’t have any last thoughts. But I tell you what, I will be tuning in because I think it’s this sort of sharing…you just pick up, thinking of other marketers and people dealing with the same issues. And it’s those little gems that sometimes you can go away with and go, You know what, I can do something slightly differently. So, thank you so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Grad
That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing those insights, some great ideas in there. I really, really enjoyed that session. I really appreciate your time. So, our guest today was Jodie Sangster, CMO for IBM A/NZ. And for the CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr. And I will see you…next time.

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Grad Conn

Chief Experience Officer, Sprinklr

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