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Q&A: Pantheon’s CMO on data-driven marketing

In this interview, Christy Marble shares how brands can use data-driven marketing to engage and delight customers.

7 min read

Marketing Strategy

A person swipes a credit card inside a salon..

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Data has become essential to marketing today, but the most important aspect of data-driven marketing is how it helps brands provide customers value.

That’s according to Christy Marble, who is the chief marketing officer of Pantheon, a WebOps SaaS platform. In her words, Marble’s job is to “spearhead the company’s growth by bringing Pantheon to people who are inspired to harness the values of the open web to make an impact on the world.”

Marble and her team lead the go-to-market programs that bring the company vision to life and delight customers at every stage of the customer journey. Finding innovative ways to connect with and engage customers through data-driven insights is a big part of her day job.

We asked her to explain how data has reshaped marketing and the ways that brands can use it to better engage audiences.

Are marketers too concerned with analytics?

Christy Marble, CMO of Pantheon

No. The most important analytics give us insight into what our customers need, experience, and value. It’s people who interact with our marketing activities.

When they willingly share information about themselves, it’s our responsibility as marketers to honor that by using those insights to continually improve the value we bring them.

We earn trust, advocacy and business results when we authentically apply insights to understand our consumers so well that we can predict and deliver an extraordinary experience. 

For example, I’ve been traveling a lot lately. I recently got a great rate at a hotel that was undergoing a remodel. I’m a member of their loyalty program, so I took the risk.

When I arrived, there were signs in the lobby that asked guests to excuse the disruption due to construction. While I was there, I felt no difference in the experience. I had a great stay, the staff was lovely, and the hotel met my needs. 

Following my stay, they emailed an NPS survey request. I don’t always complete these, but this time I did. I gave them the high scores they earned.

The hotel manager responded with a really nice note, expressing gratitude for my feedback and telling me they’d share it with their broader staff. Imitation is the purest form of flattery, so I forwarded that thank you note to my team at Pantheon.

It was such a great example of using insights to deliver an extraordinary experience. I willingly shared information and the brand responded with an experience that made me feel good about being their customer.

Maybe we should think about the human return on investment: HROI. That means using our analytics in a way that leaves people feeling good about their  interactions with us. 

Where does the demise of browser cookies leave data-drive marketing?

There are brands that treat consumer data with respect and act with high regard for customer privacy. Those are the companies that welcome privacy regulations and were first movers with GDPR because customer experience is core to their values.

For the people inside companies like those, these industry changes present an opportunity to differentiate, and rise above the noise.

In this era of digital marketing, brand and consumer experience are intrinsically linked.  

Buyers continue to prefer to do anonymous and non-anonymous research — to try things before they buy them. The rise of product-led growth is a great example of this.

The best digital marketing brands are focused on the shopping experience. They strive to reduce friction in the process by anticipating likely questions and needs before the customer knows they have them.

These marketers run champion-challenger tests of different journeys for different personas in order to learn and to deliver the right content at the right time. This is not once-and-done, but continuous process improvement by  marketers, designers and web engineers who wake up every day excited to make the experience better for people who interact with our brands. 

One thing our team has recently been testing and refining is our chat experience. How do we unobtrusively ask and then quickly guide people to what they seek? “Gosh, I wish there were a quick video explaining this”  or “I’d love to ask a customer.”  Let’s serve you up a video or introduce you to our customer forum where you can ask an expert. 

How can CMOs ensure that creativity and human connection are at the heart of their data-driven efforts?

The role of the CMO has really expanded over the past decade with responsibility for executive priorities, corporate performance, market making, martech and webtech stacks, context shifting and prioritizing can be challenging. 

But first and foremost our companies need us to represent the voice of the customer.  What has worked for me is to keep it simple: Think. Feel. Do.  

We like to have some fun and think of some really bold, out there ideas. When people feel good about the interaction, they feel included, they feel valued, and they want to tell other people about it. They want to share that experience for you. And that’s the ultimate win in marketing. 

How does your background in social psychology shape your work as a CMO?

Growing up, my mom and aunt were social workers, and so many of our dinner table conversations revolved around human issues. My undergrad degree is also sociology.

I’m fascinated by the way people think, the way people act, and the things that fulfill people and give them purpose. That deep curiosity drew me to marketing, and it’s been a great fit for me.

There’s quite a bit of research involved in both sociology and marketing, asking why and forming and challenging hypotheses. While the tie to cloud technology may not be immediately apparent, it is actually highly congruent.

That is because the best SaaS solutions disrupt the way people think about and go-about doing things. That shapes my work as a CMO. As a CMO, I love the challenge of helping people see and experience new ways to do things. 

What brands are doing a good job of marrying creativity and data-driven marketing?

I’ve been watching Chief. They are a private leadership network for executive women. They know their audience well and they target them effectively. Their marketing content delivers value, which makes me feel that their product is likely to do the same.

Their current campaign is simple, but effective utilizing social advocacy, customer advocacy, potentially influence marketing and a lot of customer advocacy and referral marketing.

One of the customer advocacy elements of their campaign is the selfies posted on LinkedIn by each new member. They share gratitude for being accepted into Chief, while wearing the distinct forest-green sweatshirts with a golden Chief wordmark embroidered subtly on the front. (Each new member receives a sweatshirt in their onboarding kit.)

It is a great example of purpose-driven marketing. It honors the brand purpose and brings value to the customer in every interaction, before and after you choose the product. Great data-driven marketing continues to deliver value even after the deal is signed.

This applies in B2B, B2C and partner-driven marketing.  We are all interacting with humans.  It’s people who buy our products and services. It’s people who use our products and services.  

This interview was edited and condensed. For more insights from marketing leaders, subscribe to our free newsletter.