Identify the need before you market the benefits - words to work by. Phil Bienert, CMO of GoDaddy, shares how a company with 14 million customers uses personalized marketing.

Over the past five years, how have you instructed your team to think about crafting the right message and putting it in front of the consumer at the right time?

First of all, it's never a context where a CMO can tell everybody how to do this. It's setting a vision. We've certainly invested very heavily in enablers to pull this off. We brought in our CTO, who's one of the best data science minds in the world, to build out all of this technology - the databases and operational capabilities. It's a lot of foundation work we've done. In the last year we've been able to do campaigns and put things to work and figure out how to improve them. When you talk about how to drive the transition, it's building the enablers and hiring the right talent.

It's pioneering this approach; we're building those capabilities in-house. It started with let's try a couple of campaigns, then realizing what worked and scaling them. The team has embraced that direction and the results show. When I joined the company we had one version of our home page, by the end of 2013 we had 300 versions of our home page, and now we have 3 million versions of our home page. We've always been an early adopter, with Super Bowl ads that drove digital engagement before anyone else was doing that.

How does data affect your content strategy? Is there such a thing as too much data?

The initial answer is no way. It is a balance between art and science. A lot of what I've been driving has been getting the right message, to the right customer, at the right time. Transitioning from really good funnel management to what we call micro-funnels. The technology is an enabler for us.

Here's an example - we're a company that is focused on the very small business, the mom and pop business that is largely underserved. Our mission is to enable these people to be successful and grow a digital identity. If you don't have a successful digital identity, you're going to go out of business. It's an audience that doesn't understand technology, but they know they need technology. We are enabling our reps to know that this profile needs to have the solution of A, B, C, or D. The art part is how do you have that dialogue with the person. Even though two businesses have the same needs, how you provide the context and communicate with them. We've done demographic and industry data analysis, but we've also done psychographic segmentation and technographic segmentation. We know how someone needs the product, the psychographic profile tells our reps what mode they're in, and the technographic side tells us Customer A who needs SEO isn't comfortable with technology from their call patterns versus Customer B who we've seen go in and configure a hosting server to serve their site. That is where the art and science comes together when you have a customer base like ours, with a database of 14 million people. It gives us an opportunity to successfully message these folks.

How can you address a non-technical audience with a technical product?

It always starts with identifying the need. I get marketed to from companies who go straight to benefits before they figure out whether I have that need. I gave the example of search engine optimization. So, three need SEO, one will say I need that and you give them the product. Another will say I need to perform better in Google - that's also SEO. A third customer says, I need more customers, and the solution is still SEO. The first one says I need to be on the first page of google results, the second says I need more customers from search, and the third says I need to get more customers and am not sure what will work. That is one simple example of identifying the need in the customer's terms. That will help you figure out how and when to get to the benefits. We're doing that for 14 million customers with a huge variety of solutions. When you're small you can learn a lot from your customers because you're close to them, but at our size you need to take time to figure out what are you trying to solve for them.

How did you get into marketing?

It's funny - I think I've always been a marketer, but I didn't realize it until I went to business school. As I reflect on things I've done even in college and high school, before I went for my MBA, that idea of a great product and finding ways to reach and engage the right people was something I've been doing for years. Then, once I was in the academic environment of the MBA I realized that's what I was doing. Even then I didn't intend to be a marketer. My jobs were strategy, corporate development, and product development.

When I look at when did I become a marketer and on a track to become a CMO, it was probably when I started getting engaged in digital in the early days of the Internet. I really got bitten by the digital bug in the early days when I was at Volvo. What always fascinated me was this idea of being able to really use data to drive decisions about the marketplace and use technology to be able to craft a customer experience that was really unique and more personalized, on a one-to-one relationship. I think coming up through my career as a digital person first and a digital-first marketer has made becoming a CMO really appealing for me, because digital is a foundation of successful customer engagement and marketing. That's what makes it exciting to be a marketer today.

Rapid Fire - what's your take on these industry trends?

Programmatic Advertising: I think it's here to stay, but I think there are lingering doubts that have not gone away about whether it's truly more effective than doing a scatter buy.

Wearable Tech: Going back to my earlier comment about what's the customer need you're solving for, it's too early to tell.

Personalized Web Experiences: Trending up - it's the future and anybody who's not embracing this is doing a disservice to their customers.

Snapchat: I think there is an opportunity, but you can't approach it how you're viewing other social channels.

Phil Bienert is the CMO of GoDaddy. He has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and has worked with leading brands, including AT&T, Citigroup, Volvo, and Ford.

Published on: Mar 29, 2016