Best Buy CTO Shares How Marketing And IT Should Collaborate

I’m co-presenting next week at Forrester’s first-ever CIO/CMO Forum with my colleague Craig Symons, a VP and Principal Analyst from Forrester’s IT client group.  We’re hosting a discussion around how to budget for marketing technology purchases. So it was perfect to hear Robert Stephens, the CTO of Best Buy, talk at the Exact Target Connections Conference about the role he plays in Best Buy’s marketing innovations. Stephens is the technology mastermind behind all of Best Buy’s industry-leading efforts like Twelpforce — its Twitter-based customer service organization.  Here are a few sound bites from Stephens’ presentation: 

“My job is to transform trends into reality for us.”  Stephens talked about his close relationship with Barry Judge, Best Buy’s CMO.  They meet regularly to swap ideas and co-support innovations. And Stephens doesn’t view any imbalance in the “power” either of them has over Best Buy decisions.  He’s actually come up with his own share of “marketing” ideas; for example, he came up with the Geek Squad in his lean college years. In his words, “When you don’t have any money, everything is marketing.”  I think this perspective makes sense even when firms *do* have money. What if every employee — including IT ones — thought about all of their moves as marketing ones?  That is ways to create a product, culture, and experience that promotes your firm above all others. 

“You can write your Jerry Maguire memo and distribute it all over the company. But people won’t pay attention to good ideas until they see them published in the Wall Street Journal.”  I think the point here is to not bang your head against the wall if no one but you internally believes in your clever idea. Go looking for examples, data, and proof of why your idea — or one like it — will make a difference for you. This doesn’t mean you can’t do anything until someone else does it first.  But it does mean to use more than just your own zealousness to build  a compelling business case. 

“Advertising is a tax you pay for being unremarkable.” So many firms buy media to promote their story, but without having a worthwhile story.  Stephens believes that if you first address the issues that generate complaints, or keep people from telling others about you then you will earn a position in the market and have less need to advertise. 

“The future of social media will be to be ‘spooky’ not ‘creepy.’”  The difference?  Spooky marketers make a customer smile and say, “Damn, how did they get me exactly what I wanted?”  Creepy marketers just scare customers off. 

“Hire for the things you cannot train: curiosity, ethics, and drive.” Enough said.

Comments

IT/Marketing collaborations

Great insights, Shar -- your upcoming CIO/CMO Forum is so timely. We're seeing far more collaboration between IT and marketing among our clients as organizations look to achieve "always on marketing". A lot of it -- as you note in your Best Buy recap -- is about culture and mindset.

I think you are right, Kit.

I think you are right, Kit. It's as much about wanting to collaborate and a cooperative attitude than putting a bunch of process in place. (Although I'm sure process helps some firms that can't naturally cooperate!)