Brocade CMO: Where marketing and IT meet in the truly modern enterprise

Christine Heckart knows about the intersection of marketing and IT: As a CMO and one-time CIO, she serves up lessons on cloud, marketing and customer data.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Christine Heckart, Brocade's chief marketing officer, gets the business alignment thing as well as the partnership with chief information officers. Why? She has led both IT and marketing.

Heckart is a chief marketing officer now, but has led information technology as well and filled operations and general manager type roles. Covering that ground within an enterprise is going to become more common.

Here's a look at some of the highlights of my chat with Heckart and the key technology and marketing lessons:

Where marketing and information technology meet. Heckart made it clear that the two sides need and enable each other. She should know: Heckart was a CIO and CMO. "They have to collaborate in different areas to enable that digital transformation," she said. Cloud, mobile, social and big data are sales drivers as well as technologies revamping IT.

"The IT department is very hungry to try and deliver as much value to marketing as it can," said Heckart, who noted that IT's primary customer has been finance, sales and engineering. Given that tradition, marketing departments went out and acquired cloud tools to do their jobs.

Interfacing with customers. Heckart, who works at what would be described as a business-to-business technology vendor, chafes at the B2B and B2C acronyms. "Both of those terms have yesterday written all over them," Heckart said. "It's really B2Me and everyone is a consumer in the way they are interfacing with technology in the world." Heckart said it's important that companies know who their buyers are and then intercept them wherever they are. "Whether that customer is on ZDNet or Nordstrom, they will get Brocade ads," she said.

Also: Brocade CMO explains budgeting cloud apps through IT vs. marketing

Marketing has to be more than ads though. Heckart said there is an inverse relationship between what can be measured and what actually ads value. For instance, clicks on a Web site are measurable, but that data isn't strategic. That information is insight to what customers are doing, but the key is to look backward and forward to create trend lines about when is the best time to market in the future. Software has a buying cycle that takes months, but hardware can take years. The most valuable data gives Heckart insight to trends and when a customer is ready to buy.

The most valuable tool. Heckart said marketing's most valuable tool is its own Web site. That reality is one reason that she rebuilt Brocade's site to optimize for mobile, search engine optimization and social. "The Web site is your best mouse trap for correlating and understanding who's coming to your site and linking that data to customer information you already have," she added.

The role of the marketing department. Heckart said that the ideal goal of the marketing department is to drive growth and predict the future. She looks at what's happening with technologies such as processors, mobile devices and digital business and then sketches products and services to capitalize on that trend. "CEOs look at marketing as a growth engine. We need to figure out where the market is going tomorrow and find areas of opportunity," she said. "True marketing is about getting the company positioned for the future."

Customer data is messy. I asked Heckart what she'd do with a magic wand. The answer: Clean up customer data. "Customer data is very dirty. Even if you're cleansing, it gets soiled again," said Heckart. The challenge for all companies is keeping track of customers that may or may not log on, may go by a few different names and bought products through a channel instead of direct, she said. Digital transformation depends on good customer data. B2B companies face a large challenge on customer data due to various sales channels. A company like Amazon has more direct customer data because you have to identify yourself to buy. Clean customer data is even a larger challenge if there are various silos and systems holding information.

Gut vs. data with CMOs. Heckart said the decisions that are made by intuition vs. data depends on the level. She prefers a hybrid approach where you may start a process based on gut feel and then let the data win to narrow down the options.

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