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Marketing reporting software is dying, says InsightSquared CMO

InsightSquared CMO discusses the importance of vendor-agnostic reporting and why marketing-only reporting software is dying.

The marketing industry has seen its fair share of disruption during the past several years, including the rise of marketing automation, account-based marketing and a closer alignment with sales. With that change, marketing reporting has evolved, as well, and the software that operates marketing-only reporting is on its way to extinction, according to InsightSquared CMO Joe Chernov.

A long-time marketer, Chernov has worked as CMO and vice president of marketing for several companies. He presided over the marketing department for both Eloqua and HubSpot Inc. during those companies' IPOs, and was the character dubbed 'Trotsky' by Dan Lyons in his bestselling HubSpot tell-all Disrupted, before ultimately leaving the company.

Chernov, who declined comment on that phase of his career for this Q&A, has been the CMO of InsightSquared since September 2017, and he is working to move InsightSquared into what he calls the "fourth generation of marketing."

As the marketing landscape has changed, how has the role of the CMO changed?

Joe Chernov: The role has changed in that the metrics that marketing reporting is responsible for have changed. The way marketing is being judged -- not measured, but judged -- is closer to revenue than it was five years ago. It's not just ROI; they expect marketing to be thinking like the head of sales.

A good way to put it is, I took a ski lesson, and the instructor said a really good skier can lose a ski down the mountain and not realize it until the bottom -- you have to have that balance. Those roles of marketing and sales need to be so close together that if you drop one ski -- if you lose the head of sales or marketing -- you can continue the course of business undeterred.

It's not just ROI; they expect marketing to be thinking like the head of sales.
Joe ChernovCMO, InsightSquared

That's how marketing has changed. There was a time that the big talk was about sales and marketing being aligned. It's no longer about alignment, but about the integration of the functions -- you should be able to drop one ski and not realize it.

When it comes to software, why is marketing reporting dying?

Chernov: My thinking is marketing-only reporting as an industry is dying because that type of reporting is baked into the actual marketing tools that teams use. Why would you expect or need a marketing reporting solution when you should be able to get that out of Marketo or HubSpot or whatever tool you're using?

Joe Chernov, CMO, InsightSquaredJoe Chernov

It's just too small of a space. Along the way, companies are providing marketing admins with a more sophisticated dashboard than what they're getting out of marketing-only reporting. There's no room left for niche marketing reporting [in] specialty shops.

The reporting a CMO does isn't "Should I put my next dollar in Twitter or Facebook?" -- that's marketing-only reporting. I should think of social advertising as a reputational investment or a demand generation investment. It's a decision at that level -- not which channel should I fund next, but what role this investment plays in our business. That decision informs the entire strategy.

When choosing to invest in customer-centric technology, what are you looking for?

Chernov: What a CMO needs is revenue-deep marketing reporting. That's what's lacking [with] marketing automation vendors and native reporting within marketing tools.

I look at my martech stack with this in mind: I don't use native reporting from any tools in our martech stack in my executive meetings because of a lesson I learned at Eloqua. I presented to our CEO, and in a meeting, I used a variety of reports from different vendors because each vendor had perspective on that aspect of marketing.

At the end of the meeting, my CEO said "Just to let you know, I have taken everything you reported with a grain of salt because you have different sources for every report, and what that tells me is there's a risk you're cherry picking your sources and only selecting ones that make you look good."

It was a good lesson because it let me know that, at that level, with someone removed from the day-to-day, that they don't know which source is most reliable, and their antenna goes up, and they become skeptical.

What are some of the challenges that a CMO faces?

Chernov: It's one that keeps me up at night, and it's this generation four of marketing reporting that we're entering.

Generation one marketing is referred to as arts and crafts -- make that logo prettier marketing. Generation two is Eloqua and KPIs and leads generated. Now, marketing can prove some impact on the business. In generation three, it's providing marketing-level reporting, and how does marketing reporting measure itself that is consistent with what the sales department does?

What's next -- and I'm dogged on this -- is this fourth generation of marketing where we'll be measured and responsible for one stage deeper, and that's customer retention, revenue from the customer base, expansion within the customer base and referrals from customers.

What we're focused on in 2018 is being ahead of that curb and being the standard for customer marketing. It's a challenge because, at InsightSquared, I'm measured on new revenue generated.

This was last published in January 2018

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How have the changes in marketing technology affected your tech stack?
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It's not good enough to define marketing ROI based on customer acquisition cost compared to the financial result; ala sunk cost dollars and 'after the fact" result/reporting. As the consumer continues to become increasingly more "digitally empowered", it is an imperative to have as close a digital relationship with the consumer as possible. Near real-time; actionable intelligence, data feeds that matter, people, and machines who know how to embed AI into the loop for automation and decisioning. Time series DB and the like.
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"...being ahead of that curb..." Apparently editing content is no longer a marketing priority. But seriously, measuring intangibles has always been a challenge, and always will be. By definition, branding deals with a number of intangibles: reputation, image, awareness, visibility... all are still important - and will continue to be.
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