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ben_plummer_headshotBen Plummer is CMO at Host Analytics. When they got in touch with us about contributing to CFO Essentials, we had a chance to speak with Ben about his experiences in the chief marketing share.

You won’t believe what happened next!

What are your biggest challenges at Host Analytics?

When I joined the company last December, the three areas I prioritized right away were:

  1. Getting a handle on the actual metrics that the business and marketing needed and were going to be measured on. I wanted to get a clear understanding of historical metrics, as well as plan for the future and create a methodology that is meaningful.
  2. Leveraging our customer assets. We have over 600 customers – from small IPO-track startups to Fortune 500 companies – that do extraordinary and unique things with our product. We also have deployments of every size, from a handful of users to organizational wide use of our enterprise performance management (EPM) platform. As CMO, it’s vital to learn how our customers use our technology.
  3. Ensuring trust as customers moved to the cloud. We were one of first vendors to make our portfolio available in the cloud, so there were a lot of challenges, especially when you consider that our customer base is more conservative about hosting their data in the cloud. This greatly influenced our market positioning and how we approached customers and prospects.

Did you have any reservations about the cloud? Did you have concerns regarding security or adoption from your customer base?

Overall, we didn’t have reservations because it’s where the industry is headed and we know that our platform is solid.

However, our customers are fairly conservative, as I mentioned, so there was some initial hesitancy on their part when it came to moving data to the cloud. We worked hard to build their trust in our cloud-based portfolio, doing a lot of client testing and verification to ensure data quality, audit capabilities, and data availability.

On that last point, the industry won’t tolerate low rates (80%) of system availability. While nothing is 100%, our availability is at 99%.

Ultimately, customer concerns about moving to the cloud have lessened, but their requirements for a solution like ours have not.

What Are Your Top Priorities as CMO?

First, to ensure that the market accurately hears our message. Specifically, we want our audience to understand that performance management goes beyond ops and finance.

Second, I focus on customer success. We have a significant customer success team at Host Analytics that’s dedicated to cultivating customers for life. This includes ensuring customer satisfaction with every team across the company.

Third, we focus a lot on modernizing the user experience, that includes looking for ways to expedite adoption of our product and reach wider audiences.

How has your background in information management informed your current role?

I’ve been involved in business analytics since 1992. Innovation in that market has been amazing and has empowered everybody.

The ability for a person like myself to access data, prepare and organize it for usage, and utilize it in various ways to understand my piece of the business is absolutely critical.

Analytics are at the core of everything we do.  And today, marketing analytics are less about one-offs and more about building analytical capability into the tech stack.

What advice would you have for new CMOs at startups (or elsewhere)?

I would say that gaining a deep understanding of the metrics that drive the business, along with how the company addresses the major pain points their customers face, is one of the first places to start.

If I worked at a SaaS-based company, for instance, I would want to know which actions are driving subscriptions and renewals and which metrics the company and their clients are using to assess performance and success. Based on those metrics, I’d refine the positioning and marketing messages to reflect the market interests, customer needs, and company goals.

From there, consider the way you get your messages out to your audiences. Find out if they’re more likely to respond to mobile messages, webinars, and email, or if they’re getting their news from LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

The best marketing campaigns aren’t based on who uses the flashiest tools. It’s about reaching the right audience on the right platform with the right message at the right time.

What’s the biggest takeaway that you want your customers to have?

Enterprise performance management and financial planning are more than putting numbers in a spreadsheet.

In today’s world, there’s an operations component in every department. It’s no longer purely about things happening in finance; it’s also about all operational areas coming together and working in concert to build, monitor, and manage a plan, not simply automating more.

To understand how each line of business is performing across the company, CFOs and finance professionals can no longer rely on cobbling together a variety of tools to get the big picture. They need a complete solution.

Whether that solution comes from us or someone else, it’s clear that the old way of doing things is no longer sustainable.

Image Source (Creative Commons): Carol VanHook.

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