He might not be a household name, but the marketing campaigns he has created certainly are known far and wide. The marketer is Nick Utton, and the campaigns created under his CMOship were E*Trade’s “talking baby” and MasterCard’s “Priceless.” In 2012, he was ranked as the #2 marketer in ExecRank’s annual “Top CMO” rankings.
Today, Utton is CMO at Houston-based BMC Software, where he was signed on last November to work his magic in the B2B space, spearheading the launch of the company’s new brand and market positioning. How is he doing? “Optimization is an aspiration, and to get perfection in marketing is an unattainable goal,” said Utton, ”but we want to move toward it.”
CMO.com had the opportunity to talk with Utton recently about what’s he’s done and what he’s doing. The full interview follows.
CMO.com: You’ve had quite a career already. Could you give us a quick thumbnail of how you arrived at BMC?
Utton: Sure. I was at E*Trade for nine years, through seven CEOs, and experienced a couple of challenging times in terms of the financial markets before I left. Then I did a consulting project for Bain Capital at Genpact, a company based in India that does business-process outsourcing. It’s a fantastic company, and I really enjoyed the couple of months I did there.
CMO.com: Then what?
Utton: I went to work for Media Link, where Michael Kassan and Wenda Millard have created a phenomenally interesting and valuable consultancy practice that is at the intersection between Silicon Valley, Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and Wall Street.
I did that for seven months, then I got a call from the Bain Capital guys again, who said, “Look, we own a company, which we paid nearly $6.7 billion for, called BMC Software, and we need some marketing help,” as they were working to reconfigure the strategy, structure, process, etc. I met with the worldwide head of sales and marketing, who is an impressive and charismatic professional, one Paul Appleby, who asked me: “Would you consider being an interim CMO for a couple of months to help reposition BMC and develop a digital transformation plan?”
CMO.com: Interesting. So how did that go?
Utton: The next thing I knew I had a consulting gig for a couple of months. The mandate was for me to configure a plan to reposition BMC as a major, superior, innovative, software solutions provider. They wanted me to do it in time for their major user conference, which was in four months. The short version is that we came up with a repositioning and transformational plan that they liked, so they asked me to consider staying on permanently.
CMO.com: Was that something you were interested in?
Utton: Well, I wasn’t really looking for a full-time job, but the opportunity was huge, and they brought in some very impressive executives. When you have an A-level executive team that is refreshed, reconfigured, and motivated, all aligned with the CEO, Bob Beauchamp, and you’ve got Bain Capital with intellectual capital and investments behind it all. That’s hard to pass up.
So I said to myself, “Hey, it’s technology, it’s B2B, and I’ve never done something like this, so why not?” That’s how I got here.
CMO.com: Interesting. So I understand BMC specializes in business service management software—IT service management, data center automation, performance management, cloud computing management, that kind of thing. How does a guy from E*Trade and MasterCard deal with that?
Utton: My original background is packaged goods, as in Unilever, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cadbury, and Revlon, where you have some [control of the marketing mix]. Then I moved to financial services, where you’re not in control of all the elements of the marketing mix. Not every marketer can manage that transition. I was fortunate enough to handle it, but there was a learning curve. I mean, when I got to MasterCard I went to what they called “bank school.” So I said to the folks up there, “Guys, I want you to go to marketing school so that we all speak the same language.”
Now, when I moved to the B2B environment, I realized that the same principles of marketing are all there—segmentation, strategy development, customer satisfaction, superior solutions, pricing, maximizing shareholder value—all that lovely stuff. But, at the same time, your target audience is a B2B buyer. And, in our space, there’s traditional IT with the business side of things playing an important role in IT purchase decisions.
We’ve all heard the projections about what the CMO’s software spend will be over the next couple of years. Now you’re getting business teams buying IT solutions because the outcomes that they’re looking for can be met by technology solutions—innovative technology solutions from companies like BMC and others.
CMO.com: So marketing technology in B2B is something you have to learn as you go?
Utton: It sure is. I have been on a crash course in technology school, and, at the same time, I need to get the marketing folks to figure out how to convince traditional IT buyers and business buyers to buy our solutions. In fact, one of the tenets of our repositioning is: “Either your business is digital or you die.” Because, let’s face it, the elevated role of technology in modern life means the impact and outcome of business services has never been more visible or valued.
CMO.com: What does the new customer journey look like on the B2B side, especially when it comes to mobile?
Utton: We look at it as a universe of current potential IT buyers—pick a number, say 150,000 folks—that we know are direct influences, direct decision makers, etc. So BMC.com is our storefront, but with a mobile component because the people who are using mobile devices and applications want to use this in their own time with whatever device they want.
Our approach is that we’ve got our classic Web site, but the linkage of mobile, big data, and cloud is huge. Then we’ve got communities. We’ve got tens of thousands of IT professionals that interact with us via community sites. We’ve got B2B communities, we’ve got B2C connect, and the linkage of all of this is important. We want to make sure that the universe of current potential IT buyers understands that BMC is a technology innovator. That we exist. That we understand their digital journey and have innovative solutions that help. That we interact in whatever way and on whatever platform or channel is necessary.
CMO.com: Can you give me an example of how that might work at BMC?
Utton: Sure. We have one product that is a self-service, incredibly innovative IT solution. It’s called MyIT, and it is designed to handle self-service, formless IT tickets—based on the classic open IT ticket approach. It incorporates social, and mobile, and cloud, and it’s predictive—and it’s linked to folks who say, “Hey, here’s how you fix or resolve this IT issue.”
The whole concept of MyIT was to take a mobile-first and social approach where you subscribe to IT services that matter to you, like locating the nearest printer, through a mobile device. One of our customers is Vodafone, which has deployed MyIT to over 100,000 employees. They have reduced calls to the service desk by up to 90 percent, and employees are using it to book services such as facilities or technology support. They are taking a “genius bar” approach to service, where employees with context- and location-aware apps can book an appointment with an IT professional at their location. This has led to impressive cost savings with fewer calls to the service desk, as well as improvements in employee satisfaction, which is way off the charts. It’s an example of how the power of cloud, mobile, and social has transformed the engagement between business and IT.
At the same time, of course, there are some applications that are more difficult to work through mobile, but mobile is an intermediary facilitator to allow resolution of issues, including predictive analytics, workload automation, etc.
CMO.com: So what you’re saying is that mobile is part of the whole B2B journey in some way, and you have to see where it fits for your particular company and market.
Utton: Exactly. It’s pervasive. Now, is it perfect for acquisition? No. Is it a piece of the acquisition puzzle? Yes. But it’s the linkages—Twitter meets Facebook meets LinkedIn meets communities meets IT professionals meets integrated solutions, etc. It’s everywhere, and you’ve got to make sure that it’s included in the mix and in a way that is better than the competitors.
CMO.com: What are your thoughts on taking all of the creative experience you have on the art side of marketing and bringing it to bear on this digitally transformed, optimized marketing world?
Utton: I look at four elements in marketing in terms of optimization: strategy, structure, process, and execution. Now, some folks said, “Gee, Nick, you did MasterCard Priceless and you did E*Trade Baby—you were so lucky.” That’s when I roll out the Gary Player quote. Player won, nine major golf championships, and he used to tell people, “You know what? The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”
CMO.com: That’s surely the truth. But how does that play into what you’re doing as a CMO?
Utton: My point is, I test extensively. I plan continuously. And some folks would say, “Well, hold on. What do you mean you test?” I mean at MasterCard we briefed five agencies, we got 32 campaigns back, and we tested two ads intensively using quantitative research. Pretty much the same with E*Trade. I mean, this stuff just didn’t just happen.
Now, folks still say, “Well, it’s more art than science.” And I will say, “The level of testing is intensive; the level of analytics that I’ve done before and am doing now is huge.” My guess is that it’s around 70 percent science complementing 30 percent art these days.
CMO.com: I would imagine that this kind of testing and measurement is even more important in the B2B space.
Utton: If you’re not careful in the B2B space, you could be wasting 80, 90 percent of your spend. So the testing that we do digitally is huge. If you look at our spend today at BMC, digital outweighs everything else. Analog is very, very limited.
But then you’ve got to have your positioning, so we pretest. It’s essentially the same testing methodology I used at MasterCard. I’m basically bringing these processes to the B2B space and pretesting. Instead of them being on a Web site and saying, “I think it’s right,” I’ve got some level of assurance upfront.
Now, just to be honest, even though I do all this testing, there’s no guarantee it’s going to work perfectly. But one thing I know is that at least it will meet minimum criteria. So while it might not be a homerun, I know it’s not going to be a disaster.
Utton: And then you’ve got the post-click, post-view issue of attribution. And you know you’ve seen the comScore numbers whereby very few people actually click on digital ads.
Now the question is, “Well, if they don’t click on them, but we know they’re on the page, what’s the attribution?” You know we’ve got to do modeling because I know I’m on their site. But I do know at the end of the day who visited the Web site, what pages they visited, how many seconds they spent on each section, what did they do when they were finished,” etc.
Therefore, a simple correlation with intensive analytics is alive and well, but you know we continually try and push ourselves to take it up to the next level because you’re only as good as your last plan, your last campaign.
CMO.com: Any final thoughts for our readers?
Utton: Absolutely. Put it this way: Mobile is pervasive, digital is pervasive, and you’ve got to make sure you optimize your mix with digital being an essential piece of both. It’s not separate; it’s fully integrated. There are no dividing lines, and you’ve got to make sure that it’s all optimized. Optimization is an aspiration, and to get perfection in marketing is an unattainable goal—but we want to move toward it.
The customer is king and queen, and they decide what they like, what they don’t like, and what they buy. So to strive toward perfection—we all work with the quants and quals and art and science to try and crack the code.