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Full-funnel marketing gains importance as CRM applications evolve

Longtime CMO Dave Karel of Clari answers questions about the changing landscape of marketing and the role of the CMO.

Evolving business applications open new opportunities for marketing across all industries, creating exponentially...

more potential touch points with customers, whose expectations grow as they arm themselves with more knowledge than ever before.

As the marketing industry evolves, so has the role of the chief marketing officer. Gone is the CMO's constant struggle to prove the importance of tech for marketing automation or lead generation to C-suite peers.

Now, challenges like keeping up with the constant uptick in technology and keeping that tech stack in line with goals and within the marketing team's ability complicate the CMO's role. Finding marketers that complement each other has become vital, especially due to the need to understand full-funnel marketing.

CMO Dave Karel, who currently works for sales forecasting company Clari, has witnessed first-hand this evolution of the CMO and the inclusion and importance of full-funnel marketing. Prior to Clari, Karel worked for LinkedIn as the head of B2B marketing. He was CMO for Bizo, a B2B marketing company, when it was acquired by LinkedIn more than two years ago. Karel has spent nearly 20 years in B2B marketing, with six years working as CMO.

As technology has advanced, how has the role of CMO evolved over the years?

Dave Karel: I came of age as a marketer as all these technologies were coming of age. During that time you had some of those early trailblazers showing what's possible with marketing in terms of driving real bottom-line impact for the organization.

CEOs and boards, over the period of several quarters, were getting acclimated to the science of marketing and really the advent of demand generation as a function. All of this technology was coming of age, everyone had big eyes with what's possible from a practical standpoint. In the earlier days when these technologies were coming of age, I remember a couple gigs where we had a very clear debate around whether it was too early to bring in a marketing automation system at the time.

Dave Karel, CMO, ClariDave Karel

In the early days it was fun and messy. For me, I always found myself making big technology decisions with little oversight. With that you can move very quickly, but there are also black eyes of engaging and piloting products that weren't ready yet, or piloting products that might have been ready but I wasn't ready for them. I've learned there's no replacement for taking time with your team to work with technology. I've never used anything where you turn it on and it goes.

So it started messy, but it's getting cleaner now. I've been through that cycle with new products. As someone who assesses a lot of technology, I know how to approach it. A lot of technology is maturing, and at this point I've seen and used a lot of it.

When choosing technology to invest in, what is your overall strategy as a CMO?

Karel: I have a clear vison at the minimum of what I need in my marketing stack and how I need to set it up and the kind of people I need to make the technology work. At the very core of any B2B marketer's tech stack is a marketing automation system, a CRM, website content management system and website analytics. There are also dozens of other tools and platforms a marketing team might be leveraging on top of this.

The bar has risen what we need to get done, but it has lowered in terms of acceptance. I don't have to arm wrestle with my CEO or CFO to invest in technology; it's understood.

Technology is such an integral part of not only budgeting, but it needs that TLC. I always want to be assessing things that are moving quickly, so you always need to know what's changing in the landscape, what's available, what the shiny new toy is.

I rely heavily on a CMO network; I'm part of a local technology CMO roundtable, and we have candid discussions about vendors and tech. It lets us all leverage our learning curves.

With that insight as a CMO and networking with other CMOs, what do you see as this next wave of technology to invest in?

Karel: Marketing technology is getting really good at the core of the stack, which is marketing automation. It's getting good at understanding how to set things up and measure things down stream. Data hygiene is getting better and how marketing automation works with CRMs.

The technology is getting really good at monitoring websites, and you can think of it as the website is the catcher's mitt of the demand generation engine, and you can never spend enough time optimizing the website.

You'll be set up to fail if you measure everything top funnel by [cost per lead].
Dave KarelCMO, Clari

In terms of the next wave, this isn't really news but it's all the [account-based marketing] stuff. I think we've shifted quite a bit from when someone can be a hero by driving leads and opportunities into the pipeline by casting a wide net and generating a lot of inbound. Now ABM is more than just the fad and there's a lot of marketing behind it. It's a big opportunity for marketing and sales. We're getting good at finding the target market for our product and what suite of companies do we need to sell into.

It's getting to the point that before we hire a sales rep, we want a clear point of view on the list of accounts we want to target. It's about turning it on its head and starting with the accounts we want in mind.

What challenge does a CMO face today? Is it the changing technology landscape or the changing workforce?

Karel: Where my head goes, the biggest challenge is definitely finding and securing talent. Especially when you're working with large teams, you need one person great at content marketing, someone great at demand generation and someone great at field marketing. The discipline has become so specialized. There are so many different places where you can find your audience; the old days there was one place they would gather.

The advent of online marketing opened up so many ways people were selling and consuming information online, it's now all about the buyer's journey and it has become very complex. That's why the notion of full-funnel marketing resonates with me. You need to invest to engage and educate your audience. To do that is challenging; there are so many destinations you need to be visible in and need to get smart early about which ones are important for your audience.

What is full-funnel marketing?

Karel: Full-funnel marketing is about acknowledging the buyer's journey. It's acknowledging that to lift the company's brand and be ready for those conversations. Especially with an emerging brand and growing customer base, I need to find my audience early in their buyer's journey. If I'm not participating early enough or getting good at finding it, then it's a fight with my competition that is trying to do the same.

Once a customer starts moving down the funnel, they will have a problem in their head they want answered and we need to be a part of that discussion and education. If you're doing really well at the top and mid-funnel, then you're going to get that lift when customers are looking at vendors and products.

You can think of full-funnel marketing as lining up your program dollars and content and teams to think about succeeding across the buyer's journey. You'll be set up to fail if you measure everything top funnel by [cost per lead].

*TechTarget offers ABM and project intelligence data and tools services.

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