In my role, I spent a fair amount of time with Chief Marketing Officers of technology companies. Much of the conversation is about their digital journeys - the growing sophistication of their lead generation engines and social marketing.
Every time I spend time with Chip Coyle, CMO of Infor, I get some of that, but I always walk away with a "human interest" angle - the creativity that still drives marketing, the human interaction with customers, etc.
In an interview I invited him to cover many of those angles
Chip, with Infor's broad product portfolio, I have heard you mention you handle almost 1,000 events a year. How in the world do you keep up with all of those events?
Our events range from very small, focused single-topic education sessions, to broader business-themed executive events, all the way to large industry shows and conferences.
I always say, in the age of high tech, you can't forget high touch. Events are one of the most critical customer touch-points. Even with all the information and interaction online, people still want to know, face-to-face, who they're doing business with, and to network and interact with their peers. Events fill that need and are an important tool to help educate customers and generate demand for our business.
Online engagement is great for tapping into pre-existing communities but we find that folks have a desire to get engaged with people outside of their traditional community. We see people in manufacturing wanting to understand the challenges faced by retailers, because they might be moving in that direction. Marketing folks want to better understand what sales people think about. In that context, events are a great medium because they bring together different communities to facilitate networking, brainstorming, and collaboration.
Chip, same with channels. Infor leverages airport marketing, billboards, digital marketing and so on. How do you manage such a broad range of channels and messaging?
From a brand perspective, we want to be available wherever, whenever, and however our audiences are gathering. We have tight governance over our investments to ensure our spending is balanced across traditional channels like events and trade shows and also newer channels like content syndication, online media, and social. Of course many of our sales and marketing people want to stick to tried-and-true channels, but we strive to innovate and analyze data to decide where and how to optimize for the highest yield.
Chip, your high-touch comments are fascinating, because we hear so much of the enterprise software buying process today is done online- doing research, gathering information etc.
That’s the reality; about 70% of the buying process happens online before any human is engaged. One way we can enable that is through storytelling, and having something interesting to say. We owe it to our customers and prospects to give our perspective on the important issues they face. We need our storytelling and messaging to be driven by the audiences and personas we see in the market. Our content should be conversation-oriented, engaging, and thought-provoking. Part of our job in marketing is to help our own experts and luminaries get their voices heard. Our executives are busy and count on us to help them package their vision for broad consumption. Storytelling is critical.
It has also helped evolve the relationship between marketing and sales. In the old days, marketing would pass leads from anybody who was showing a pulse. These days, with much of the buying process on the front-end, the leads we end up passing have much better insight though data we’ve collected so far in the process. It’s a much more qualified lead with actionable intelligence to help convert.
You have an advantage compared to many other companies in that you have an in-house creative design agency, right?
We are so fortunate to have one of the biggest design agencies in all of New York City under our own roof, Hook & Loop. The more than 100 people in H&L are not your typical software designers. We have a guy that did special effects for The Avengers movie, a Pulitzer Prize winner for info-graphics, and a designer for Kenneth Cole. They're not only focused on the user experience of our products, but also support our broader marketing and branding efforts. Everything from our website, advertising creative, customer videos, and our overall corporate identity. A pool of highly-talented creatives is unconventional for a software firm, but a big advantage for us. H&L helped with our brand advertising campaign, “No two clouds should be alike”, highlighting our deep industry specialization, and its importance to cloud software. No two clouds should be alike when you look at all of the unique needs of a given industry.
I've heard your CEO Charles Phillips say being headquartered in New York has been a huge advantage for Infor. How, as a marketing person, do you translate that location advantage?
New York is one of the most important, exciting, and influential cities in the world. We're proud to be headquartered here, and believe the heavy concentration of creative and design talent, much more than in Silicon Valley, is a major differentiator in a world driven by experience. Associating our brand with the great city of New York helps reinforce our global stature, not to mention New York is one of our biggest customers. Retail and fashion are major verticals for Infor, and we have a major relationship with the Fashion Institute of Technology, helping their students with the business and the supply chain of fashion design and production. This year we moved Inforum, our annual global customer conference, to New York City and expect more than 8,000 people. Our customers love to visit New York because there’s so much to experience, and when they see first-hand our innovation engine, it really highlights how different we are from a traditional IT vendor. (see my write-up on Infor's superb NYC facility - by itself a tourist attraction)