It turns out an “ING” can be quite a thing.
Case in point: the role of a Chief Marketing Officer. For most of us, the word “Marketing” in this mantle concisely explains the individual’s responsibilities.
But drop the “ING,” and it’s a different story. Well… sort of.
In my conversation with Jennifer Griffin Smith, Acquia’s new Chief Market Officer, we discussed the distinction between these titles, and why the leading DXP added her – and this new role – to its roster.
We also covered what she sees on the roadmap for Acquia, how composable is shifting the conversation, and why she’s excited about showing customers the “art of the possible.”
Jennifer joined me via Zoom from a comfortable, unassuming home office. Originally from Europe, she’s been in the States for quite some time.
“As you can tell by the accent, I'm British,” she said. “We came for two years, and here we are 14 years later.”
For more than two decades, Jennifer has focused her superpowers on marketing for technology companies, with a deep focus on go-to-market strategies for both public and private companies. In her previous stints, she served as Chief Marketing Officer at Alfresco (acquired by Hyland), Software AG, and Progress Software – which owns the Sitefinity CMS.
In her most recent CMO gig at Brightcove, Jennifer led the video streaming platform’s global marketing organization. This included product marketing and strategy, customer GTM programs, and new business, brand, and marketing communications.
Given her legacy of leadership at content and digital experience vendors, I asked her what made the Acquia opportunity so enticing.
“I've spent some time with Acquia as a consumer, not just as a marketer or a business person,” she said. “I'm fascinated by the changes in how we want to purchase, learn, and engage with content. And I think, the way I live – my life – has changed so drastically in the last five years. Most of that is obviously through the pandemic, but just in my own need for time, and levels of service I expect, whether I'm researching a college, purchasing a shirt, or a car. Whatever it is, my expectation has changed. Then I look at the demographic of my 12-year-old son and the younger generation, and it will change again. I'm genuinely fascinated by digital experiences, and how we can bring it together as a consumer.”
Getting down to brass tacks, I wanted to understand the new role of Acquia’s Chief Market Officer. How did Jennifer see it – and more importantly, what signal is Acquia sending with this expansion to its C-Suite?
First, it’s worth noting that the rise of the Chief Market Officer is a relatively new phenomenon, much like Chief Experience Office, Chief Revenue Officer, and Chief Growth Office. In a 2020 Forbes article, Christine Heckart – then the CEO of Scalyr – noted that “heads of marketing must, first and foremost, be chief MARKET officers, not marketing.”
Jennifer reflected on my question but started with a caveat: “Each CMO position is unique, and it's based on where the company is, and what the board and the CEO feel like they need. So it's hard to compare, because companies are different. But in my experience, most of what’s required in marketing is about the execution, right? And it gets into ‘how do we get the best return on our spend? What's your CAC? What's your ROI?’”
Again, the “ING” is the key here – and for most organizations that have embraced the Chief Market Officer role, it delineates the focus on tactical marketing execution from the strategic market objectives and KPIs that drive growth.
“Now look,” she continued, “everything results in pipeline, bookings, revenue – however you want to measure it. But I think over the years, we’ve become too focused on the execution piece. When we first had our conversations, I loved that Acquia reflected what I've learned in my many CMO roles: you cannot be successful in any of your program execution if you don't understand your market.”
The relentless creep of the marketing team ecosystem also stymies this execution. To Jennifer's point, we’ve accrued a range of discretely focused areas like product marketing, communications, brand, field marketing – and most are solely concerned with execution. And as Jennifer pointed out, most of these marketing professionals have never consumed the product, nor understand what a customer does with it.
So back to the question at hand: what does it mean to be a Chief Market Officer at Acquia?
“For me, the Chief Market Officer is hyper-focused on the market and the customer and how we can really help them,” Jennifer said. “But then it spans a much bigger role across connecting different teams all for the outcome of the customer, and making sure everybody understands what we're building. Because we're not building it for us.”
What seems clear about Acquia’s decision to hire a Chief Market Officer is that it has reached a pivotal point in its growth – one that demands a deeper commitment to the market while maintaining the execution of its marketing. With Jennifer, they get the winning balance of a seasoned marketer with an analytical mind geared toward growth.
Jennifer assumes her role at a precarious time in the digital experience industry. The term “composable” has become a bit of a hot potato as headless content management systems align with other technologies to provide flexible, best-of-breed solutions to build their own DXPs. Organizations like the MACH Alliance have gained traction by providing a membership ecosystem of pure MACH (Microservices, APIs, Cloud Native SaaS, Headless) solutions – partially in response to “headless hybrid” platforms and all-in-one monoliths.
At the same time, enterprise DXPs have endeavored to position their offerings as more composable, taking a product-based approach powered by robust APIs. Acquia’s open source Drupal heritage already embraces tenants of the modular assembled web. So it may have a key advantage in the market mele.
I asked Jennifer what she sees as the biggest challenges for Acquia as it positions itself within this narrative.
“Composable to me, in my world, just means flexible, right?” she said. “It means I can build something that will be unique to me. But some of our customers of a certain size would be frightened off by that because they don't have the resources to build it – and they want something that is very easy to use, secure, and scalable, but gives them the solution right there.”
Jennifer also explained that utility is essential, and data is the key to everything. This applies to the broader tech stack of integrations that Acquia is building value around, from CMS to CDP. “I love our CDP,” she noted, “because it goes way further than any other marketing campaign reporting analytics tool that I've used and seen.”
Knowing she’s new to the job, I probed gingerly around the topic of AI – which is firing like a bullet heard 'round the DX world. While she said Acquia is pioneering more solutions on its open source roadmap, she reinforced the litmus test around value.
“How do we offer a usable AI technology that makes a difference to [customers]? What do they need to move their business, right? What do they need today, and what will it be tomorrow? And not in a way that is so futuristic that we just talk about it. We need to deliver something that brings value to them.”
If there’s one thing that Jennifer is resoundingly enthusiastic about, it’s community – from employees to customers to partners. In her short time at Acquia, she’s already experienced how Acquia is differentiating in the service category.
“Honestly – and I'm not just saying this – I've never been in a company where I've met so many customers and partners, and not had a complaint,” she said. “I went to my first customer and partner event in London, and I got to sit and talk to so many different people, and just hear what's important for them. Everything from a financial services company to a software company, even a university – and they actually shared what they've learned more broadly with other customers."
Quite a testament, and something that Jennifer is looking to build on. In her mind, this positive community feedback is manifesting into momentum for the company, demonstrating how they can support customers in attaining the impossible – and realizing the “art of the possible.”
“I'm excited about using our community and our customers to really tell these stories,” she expressed eagerly. “And unlike some of our bigger competitors, we can do it nimbly – and make it real, quicker.”
At the recent MACH Two event, I was inspired by the emphasis the MACH Alliance places on diversity and inclusion as core values. Technology companies have often embraced a more progressive stance, but it’s one thing to say it – and quite another to lead by example.
As a woman who has served in multiple C-Suite positions, Jennifer continues to shatter the silicon ceiling in the DX industry. She was quick to point out the importance of “talking the talk and walking the walk,” but this has always been an important focus of her work, and she’s managed to blend her corporate responsibilities with the growth and advancement of her teams on a human level.
“At one of my jobs, I was Chief Marketing and Culture Officer, because myself and the CEO had a fundamental belief that brand is inside out,” she said. “This was an open source company, and if we couldn't build a culture of people excited about what we're doing – if we couldn't nurture a community internally – we had no hope of building it externally.”
Jennifer also talked about Acquia’s focus on its people. This includes a Day One program where Acquia plants a tree for every new employee. It's just one of the company's many commitments to ESG initiatives, personal development, and nurturing diversity across its team.
We also reflected a bit on the impact of the pandemic on the work environment, and how Acquia is preparing for its next growth phase with a distributed team across the globe. Jennifer shared how Covid put everyone on equal footing, allowing people to achieve greater balance in their personal and professional lives.
“Acquia is a fully hybrid working environment, and my team is all around the world. I love that we can work very well virtually. Don’t get me wrong – I like seeing people face-to-face, too. But I really believe that Acquia walks the walk. And because of that, people are open. We might not all agree on everything, but we just have this culture of being in it together, which is so refreshing. It really is.”
Refreshing indeed. With an “ING.”