CMO 2.0 Conversation with Steve Mann, CMO at LexisNexis

Written by on March 7, 2013 – 5:48 pm -

I have known Steve Mann for a few years now, and so it was great to have a CMO 2.0 Conversation with him now that he is the CMO for the research and litigation solutions at LexisNexis. Steve has a PhD in neurosciences and started out as a software engineer before joining the ranks of sales and marketing.

Based on his background in neurosciences and marketing, we started the discussion around what the perfect academic background might be for understanding and predicting consumer behavior. We settled on a mix of neurosciences, behavioral economics, cultural anthropology, and the arts.

With customers becoming increasingly digital and social, and taking recommendations from peers while tuning out corporate messages, marketers need to focus on becoming conversationalists and think about the value they deliver within those conversations. Marketers also need to become better listeners — and listening does not just mean listening for what customers want so you can add it to your next marketing offer. They need to listen to what the customer really cares about and then decide whether or not they can add value by becoming participants in that conversation. Marketers also need to become better conversation starters. They also need to realize that the most important conversations are not necessarily those conversations between the brand and the customers, but the conversations among customers and prospects.

Now that the most important content about products and services flows between customers, marketers also have to think differently about the content they put out there — ensuring that the content they create is re-tellable and can make its way into those customer-to-customer conversations that matter. They also need to think differently about their target markets in order to identify these conversation flows that matter.

In the legal space, 76% of customers who seek legal advice will use online resources to identify an attorney that will suit their needs. Being a business that has traditionally been fueled by word-of-mouth, with lawyers recommending one another and passing clients among themselves for ages, it is surprising that they have not been innovators in helping fuel the customer word-of-mouth that now leads to a majority of their new business.

Marketers don’t just need to do a better job at listening — they need to find the actionable insights that may lead to better products, better programs, and better relationships with customers. Marketing in general, needs to become more insights-informed.

When it comes to market segmentation, LexisNexis has thrown away the firmographic segmentation model in favor of a behavioral segmentation model, where they are coupling a segmentation model based on needs, attitudes, and behaviors of buyers with buying personas. Those buying personas are then the starting point for campaign development.

There are 4 fundamental metrics that LexisNexis is focused on when looking at social channels — strength, sentiment, passion, and the reach of a particular customer in a particular social channel. The strength refers to the percentage of brand mentions in a social channel. The sentiment is the ratio of positive and negative mentions. Reach refers to how many people are talking about your brand, and passion refers to how passionate they are — are they, for example,repeatedly talking about you.

As many other CMO’s I interviewed recently, Steve too is convinced that the fundamental premise of employees being the brand ambassadors only works when there is alignment between the internal culture and the brand value. If there is a dissonance between the two, the difference between the voice of the brand and the voice that’s put out there to represent the brand will cause confusion in the marketplace. Eventually consumers will shut down the communication rather than try to understand what the brand stands for.

Steve believes that marketers have had to go through a harsh set of realignments and realizations as to the ownership of brands. You can put out information about what your brand stands for, but it is the consumer that will disseminate that information, either positively or negatively, and thus control a good part of your brand. While companies still have ways to influence their brand, the brand’s influence over its own brand is not nearly as strong as it was in the past. In that process, marketers cannot sit back — they need to go and participate, in an authentic way that represents the core values of the brand in the consumer-to-consumer conversations that happen about their brand in social media.

We closed the conversation on the need for CMO’s to have good balance: Balance among our efforts to drive demand for our products and services, balance to deliver on brand promise, and balance in terms of the amount of effort that you put in customer retention. These all need to be weighed against the appropriate channels that CMO’s need to leverage to achieve their business objectives. CMO’s also need to become strong partners with the CEO and translate strategy into fundamental tactics that will support the business.

Other things we discussed include:

  • How law firms leverage social media as part of their business.
  • Where potential new uses of social media are in the legal market.
  • The importance of a having a well-developed content strategy.
  • What the proliferation of consumer choices means to consumer behavior.
  • The importance of keeping things simple.
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