Oracle Marketing Cloud offers a complete suite of powerful solutions that provide marketers with a comprehensive view of customer interactions, orchestrating the right experience for each customer and helping attract ideal customers that spend more, stay loyal, and become brand advocates.
Amity had the chance to sit down with Peter Armaly, Principal Transformation Advisor at Oracle Marketing Cloud to find out how its Customer Success philosophy is evolving, and how it has managed to keep the customer at the heart of its work throughout its evolution.
Can you give us a brief overview of Customer Success at Oracle Marketing Cloud?
Brief won’t be easy, but I can try! Oracle Marketing Cloud and the marketing industry are currently going through an immense transformation. At Oracle Marketing Cloud we’ve undergone an effort to integrate various technologies into a single platform that enables our customers to accelerate and optimize the way they find and nurture prospects in a more personalized, targeted, and automated way. The transformative power of our platform is that it can be the catalyst for our customers to internally reimagine and redo their marketing business practices so they operate from very granular customer data as the central starting point for campaign and lead management, and their ongoing efforts around customer nurturing and encouraging advocacy. This approach meshes well with the transformation that is being forced on the marketing industry today. The speed of the internet and the hyperactivity of social media generates enormous pressure on marketing organizations to listen more, react sooner, anticipate earlier, and stand out from the crowd in the messages they convey. Additionally, there are approximately 4,000 marketing technologies available, so customers are not only being inundated with data but also a lot of noise on how to exploit that data. They’re also faced with pressure to improve the way they measure their impact on customers’ businesses as well as their own. Ultimately, they need to do three things extremely well: They need to get even closer to the customer. They need to massively scale. And they need to be able to quantifiably prove their efforts affect bottom line. Too many marketing organizations struggle to make sense of the overwhelming amount of data available and how to make it actionable, and Oracle Marketing Cloud’s promise is to help address this challenge.
Can you tell us a bit about your responsibilities at Oracle Marketing Cloud?
My title is Principal Transformation Advisor, which is a new role on a new team at Oracle Marketing Cloud called “transformation services.” The service is designed for large, strategic customers who are using our products but would benefit from guidance on how to “transform” their marketing operations so that they can be better-equipped to tackle marketing challenges – like the one I described earlier – through the Oracle Marketing Cloud platform.
How did you get started in Customer Success?
I’ve been in IT-related roles for over 30 years now, and I’ve been in the software vending business since about 1998 when I joined BMC Software. I was a pre-sales consultant and focused on helping sales land customers. Around 2007, I decided to move into the post-sales world because I wanted to get closer to the product, to the value proposition, and to the customer challenges that can be addressed through software. Soon after I was asked to build a new service and hire a new team for a fee-based offering called Technical Client Services. We worked with customers to understand their business goals, why they bought our products, and the struggles that they faced, and then built action plans that we executed over the course of a year. Our mission was to own and manage the customer’s post-sales attempts and efforts to achieve success with our company’s solutions. That was my first formal exposure to Customer Success. I had a couple of related roles after that but it wasn’t until I joined Eloqua in 2011 that I encountered a customer success model that truly worked (editor's note: Eloqua was acquired by Oracle in 2012). The Customer Success organization deployed 1:1 and 1:many models and Customer Success Managers (CSMs) provided the right information to the customers who needed it, when they needed it. Eloqua did a great job of putting in place an approach that was proactive. That’s when I had the opportunity to work with such Customer Success luminaries as Paul Teshima, Chad Horenfeldt, Jocelyn Brown and Kia Puhm. It was a transformational period for me because I realized that with authentic engagement, intelligence, and technology you can scale this kind of thing.
To learn more about Eloqua's Customer Success story, download our white paper: From $0 to $1 Billion, Scaling Customer Success at Eloqua
How is the Customer Success team structured at Oracle Marketing Cloud and has that evolved over the past years?
It’s evolved immensely and especially so since Catherine Blackmore joined Oracle Marketing Cloud back in August of 2015. Catherine is our Global Vice President of Customer Success and the person who’s driven the new framework I mentioned earlier. There are five products that comprise the Oracle Marketing Cloud platform, and Catherine has been the driving force behind the break down of customer engagement silos around each product.
The evolution is happening very rapidly within this new framework, which has four components: Purpose, People, Programs, and Platform.
The Purpose component is our guiding principle and it’s the answer to the question “what exactly are we trying to do as an organization?” It gives everyone a reference point to look at and ask if what they are doing for the customer is aligned with this purpose statement.
Our second component is People - those who make up not only Customer Success but also everyone we interact with in Customer Success – Sales, Professional Services, Marketing, etc.
The third component is Programs and that refers to the segmentation model we follow. One program we have in place, which I think is pretty sophisticated, is called Boost. It’s a self-serve platform of informational material that provides customers with step-by-step guidance on how to utilize the product.
Finally, the last component of the framework is the Oracle Marketing Cloud Platform itself. I like to think of it as a living organism, which provides us with a reason to exist but also as the means for collecting the insight we need to understand the customer’s use of and experience with the product.
We’ve designed the framework so that it’s extensible and open. We want it to fit our needs as Oracle considers how to embrace this model further. Oracle as a company is thinking of the Customer from an end-to-end point of view: from prospects to mature users. At Oracle Marketing Cloud, we believe that this is the framework that will allow for this end-to-end customer experience to be managed.
Oracle as a company is thinking of the Customer from an end-to-end point of view: from prospects to mature users.
What is the biggest advantage of the way Customer Success works at Oracle Marketing Cloud?
I think our biggest advantage is the modern, broad perspective that we have of the customer journey and everything we put in place to manage it. By broad, again, I mean the end-to-end customer journey that starts when customers are just potential prospects – who don’t have anything to do with us – and then become mature customers who advocate for us.
What is the biggest challenge facing your team, and how do you address it?
The richness of the platform is a big hurdle because there is so much to know. We have to know the platform but also how it impacts the organizations and people using it. The way the marketing industry is evolving, customers are simultaneously expecting simplification and sophistication. We’ve assembled a multi-faceted offering that allows marketers to find prospects, measure their engagement, and then nurture scored leads through to the process of sale.
What have been the driving factors of change at Oracle Marketing Cloud?
The driving factor for change here at Oracle Marketing Cloud has been the need in the marketing industry for simple, yet more sophisticated solutions. Marketing is under tremendous pressure to adapt and evolve to a rapidly changing environment. There is also a pressure for more integration since marketers don’t want to have to jump from one product to the other. As we integrate our solutions further, we communicate with our customers so that they have a full understanding of the value and potential of each new feature.
Another driving factor of change in marketing is pressure to prove ROI. Historically, marketers struggled to demonstrate the financial benefit of their organization because goals such as raising brand awareness and attribution of revenue were elusive. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are putting a lot of pressure on us, the industry, to make our products more precise for this exact reason, to be able to show the CEO and the board exactly how much revenue they generate.
The driving factor for change here at Oracle Marketing Cloud has been the need in the marketing industry for simple, yet more sophisticated solutions.
What is the most powerful part of your Customer Success process? Do you think your process is different from other Customer Success organizations?
One powerful feature of our Customer Success process is our community of users called Topliners. The name comes from the notion that top line revenue can be influenced and increased by marketing’s efforts. It’s a rallying cry for marketers, and it’s a good name for our community. It goes back to the pre-IPO Eloqua days, as Eloqua had always been a huge proponent of user sharing of information. The platform is made of highly engaged users and community members, and it encourages everyone to share ideas, roadmaps, and product questions. On a deeper level, it allows users to discuss exactly how they get stuff done, and to share tips and best practices.
Another one, which I think differentiates us the most, is our approach to data and technology. At the beginning, a prospect is really just a dot in the ether, and the challenge for us is to make them “bigger dots” so that they become people with ideas, profiles, and personalities. Marketing has always been about collecting data points, but that’s also the way we work as a Customer Success organization because our community of customers think that way. We are able to leverage the most powerful marketing platform as part of our Customer Success framework, and that’s a tremendous advantage. We really differentiate ourselves by our use of data and the way we leverage our technology to do so.
We really differentiate ourselves by our use of data and the way we leverage our technology to do so.
What role does Customer Success play in developing the overall business strategy at Oracle Marketing Cloud?
Almost all companies who are thinking of the future agree that those who will be around long-term are those who are customer-centric. Now, you can say you’re a customer-centric company but you have to prove it. The most obvious way to do that is through customer-facing organizations like Customer Success. From an external point of view, there is no other organization that is as relied upon by the customer to be its champion, guide, coach, and conduit to critical information. Almost more importantly though, because it can be seen to best represent the customer, the Customer Success organization has the opportunity to make a significant impact internally on product evolution and service development. That’s what we strive to do at Oracle Marketing Cloud. What Customer Success is doing for Oracle Marketing Cloud’s business strategy is providing proof that customer-centricity works.
No other organization that is as relied upon by the customer to be its champion, guide, coach, and conduit to critical information.
What type of metrics do you watch closely?
We watch the usual big hitters: account health, which includes product usage, renewals, expansion dollars, support experience, and Net Promoter Score (NPS). We also watch some less typical ones such as networking of key contacts, social media activity, achievement of stated business goals, and Topliners community engagement.
How important do you think managing customer relationships has been to the overall success of Oracle Marketing Cloud?
Oracle has been around for about 40 years, and almost every company out there uses some form of Oracle database solution. You don’t get there simply by producing good software. You get there because you are actually paying attention to the customer so that you are seen as a reliable partner. That’s our legacy, and although Oracle Marketing Cloud is a newer entity, it blends easily into that culture. Taking customers extremely seriously, listening to them, and maintaining a high level of excellence around communication is incredibly important.
You don’t get there simply by producing good software. You get there because you are actually paying attention to the customer.
What does the culture of Success look like at Oracle Marketing Cloud?
Oracle Marketing Cloud is a fun and rewarding mix of Eloqua’s recent history as a startup, and Oracle’s more long-standing corporate culture. That corporate culture gives it structure and creates a sense of endurance – we’re on a journey, as a company, without the distraction of being bought, or going under anytime soon.
The industry’s digital transformation is our transformation too, and it’s exciting to be part of this. Working with us means being part of something big, and what we’re working to achieve isn’t simple, but our hope and expectation is that we’re laying down something that will endure. So, in short, I’d call this culture “professional fun.”
How can you tell if a customer is successful?
You can tell a customer is successful when they believe through empirical proof that they are successfully achieving the goals they’ve already articulated to you. Even the smallest customers will tell you what their goals are, and if your process isn’t capturing that goal then your process is flawed. Once they fully accomplish that, that’s success. Once they achieve success, our customers freely and authentically advocate for Oracle Marketing Cloud on our Topliners platform, at our annual Modern Marketing Experience event, and with their peers.
What blogs, book, or news sites are you reading at the moment?
There’s so much to read, and I’m an avid reader. I like after-the-fact news analyses, rather than “in the moment news.” It’s hard to avoid, especially since I’m a big Twitter person, but that’s why I’m attracted to journals like The Economist, The Atlantic, and Harvard Business Review. I follow a lot of Customer Success resources, including Amity, and a lot of technology journals as well. Other sources, such as the MIT Tech Review, do a good job of putting advanced concepts into an article that a person like me can apply in their careers.
What does success look like in your everyday life?
I’m very grateful for the everyday things, which are actually huge things for me. My relationship with my wife, my home, my dog who makes me laugh every single day, the city and country I live in. Another success is personal engagement. My career and my choices have led me to be successful through personal engagements, obviously with my wife and my friends, but also coworkers, and my network in general. Lastly, contentment with the belief that everything I’ve done before and on this day has been done with the best of intentions. Success means being content with knowing that I haven’t been wasting time, and even if I have, it was because I wanted to, and that’s success too. It may sound like a cliché but I don’t want to live with regrets, and I want to look back on every day and know it’s been a good day, and I get to keep going forward.
What’s one piece of advice you have for Customer Success professionals starting today?
The customer needs to be at the center of absolutely everything you do. That’s true not only for Customer Success but also for business in general. If, as a Customer Success professional, you can remember that, then you’ll attack your job every day knowing that your experiences and your intelligence can make a big difference. Apply those to the processes you interact with, to the interactions you have with people, and to the way you plan for your continual evolution. Customers are the engine that feeds the processes, and even if you did not design them, the onus is on you – the one actually interacting with the customer – to facilitate and accelerate that engine moving forward. Customer Success is a great opportunity for young professionals to make a direct impact. If you stay true to the customer, your company will reap tremendous rewards, and so will you.
Customer Success is a great opportunity for young professionals to make a direct impact.
Photos by Setti Kidane
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