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The Optimizely Podcast – episode 26: digital evolution in a climate of rapid change

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The Optimizely Podcast - episode 26: digital evolution in a climate of rapid change



 

Transcript:  

Laura Dolan:

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Hello everyone. And welcome to the Optimizely Podcast. I am Laura Dolan, your host, and today we are joined by Dom Graveson, who’s the director of strategy and experience at Netcel and Deane Barker, who is the global director of content management here at Optimizely. How’s it going, gentlemen?

Dom Graveson:

Yeah, very good, thank you. How are you?

Laura Dolan:

Doing well, doing well. How about you Deane? How’s it going?

Deane Barker:

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Good, Laura. I’m a veteran of this podcast by now.

Laura Dolan:

You are. You are, Deane. So we already know all about you. So Dom, please, let’s start off by telling us a little bit about your background and your history of Netcel.

Dom Graveson:

Yeah, sure. So I’ve been with Netcel for coming up for four years. Netcel are a digital product and experience development company, so we build everything from kind of websites through to integration with CRM, marcoms, basically building digital experiences on the Optimizely platform.

Dom Graveson:

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We do a lot of work with kind of experience research and data, so we kind of put customers at the center of all the work we do, but also, we understand that there’s quite a profound impact on businesses. So when you are really going to deliver transformational digital experiences and really up your digital game, particularly in the current climate and the world that everything’s changed so much recently, you are going to need to change your organization and the way that you govern, the way that you manage people, so we do a lot of work with our clients, kind of helping them through that process as well, the kind of change process.

Dom Graveson:

Previous to that, I was with some of the big sort of consultancies working on digital product innovation. I worked around all over the world. So yeah, I kind of bring a few years of experience and broad experience to this.

Laura Dolan:

Very good. Can you speak on some of the digital experience that you’ve worked on with Optimizely?

Dom Graveson:

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Yeah, so we’ve built products, digital experiences for some of the major not-for-profit organizations in the U.K. So we mainly work in the U.K., U.K. Based, based just North of London. We’re working currently with a large agricultural organization that represents Britain’s farmers around building kind of digital experiences and business-to-business commerce systems with them. So, yeah, then we also work with quite a lot of well-known financial services businesses in the U.K. As well. So our kind of focus has been membership organizations, business-to-business, and financial services with bits of NFP, not-for-profit, as well.

Laura Dolan:

Very cool. Thank you so much for spending a little bit of time on that. I always like to know our relationship with partners, so it’s nice to have that visibility. So today we are talking about the digital evolution in a climate of very rapid change. So what do we mean by digital evolution as opposed to the more traditional concept of digital transformation?

Dom Graveson:

Well, I mean, it’s been something I think that’s been emerging for a while, but for the last kind of 15 years or so, or 20 years since digital really kind of took hold as it were and became a kind of serious channel that organizations were taken seriously, it always seemed that the focus was on getting from A to B or getting from where we are now to a level of competence and capability, which we can define at the beginning of the project.

Dom Graveson:

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And I think over the last few years, or over that time really, we’ve seen that become less and less of an appropriate or working approach. And what we are trying to encourage now, and what we are building within the businesses that we work with is this approach to digital, which is more of an evolution rather than the transformation. Because if you’re working across a three-year program, what you define as being the destination now, certainly in the last few years, probably isn’t going to be relevant or fit for purpose within three years of you delivering it, and a lot of IT and digital projects fail to meet their objectives because of this exact approach.

Dom Graveson:

So it’s about kind of structuring your programs in a way that keeps an open mind, a beginner’s mind, and has the instruments within it, and governance within it, and structure that will enable you to discover as you go and focus on outcomes or customer outcomes, business outcomes, rather than thinking too much about kind of architecting the house before you start building, when you don’t know where you’re building it yet, if that makes sense.

Laura Dolan:

Absolutely. Deane, is there anything you can contribute to this as well?

Deane Barker:

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So Dom and I did an event together in London at the very top of The Gherkin and we had a long conversation up there. We had a panel discussion up there. We had a long conversation about the fact that digital transformation is maybe a term that we need to retire, replace it with digital evolution, or digital progress, or digital incrementalism. And it’s just the general idea that you make your way over time. You make little bets, and you improve your digital estate piece by piece. I think that too many people are doing too much at one time and digital projects are failing for that reason, whereas they’re not being more deliberate about their goals and they’re not giving themselves room to evolve organically, make one step and see where that leads them, and then make another step and see where that leads them. And I think the goal of instant complete transformational overhaul is maybe unrealistic for a lot of digital teams. So that was the conversation that Dom and I had, which kind of led us the idea of digital evolution. So that’s kind of the perspective we’re coming on.

Dom Graveson:

Yeah. I think also what’s interesting with that is the idea that as Deane was saying that if you’re doing more than one thing at once and something works, how do you know which thing made it work, gave you the success? And one of the things that people aren’t investing in, they’re investing heavily in kind of a sense, trying to make progress, but not investing very heavily in measuring that progress or actually understanding and interpreting that data to be able to understand what was the thing that they did that delivered that benefit. And this is one of the aspects where we need to change the way that we work. It’s interesting, we’ve kind of heard of a major project just this week, big program in the U.K. That’s really struggling. I won’t mention names, but it’s really struggling because they’ve been so desperate to achieve a certain point that they’ve kind of lost their way.

Dom Graveson:

They’ve hired lots of people. They’ve got lots of people leading different parts of the product and all the rest of it, but they kind of lost their way because in their quest to arrive somewhere so quickly or make progress, they’ve kind of lost track of where they were trying to get from the business objectives’ point of view. And I think that’s a common problem. I mean, I’ve been in this business 25 years, I guess, and something I see again and again, that if we can build the team to a certain size or if we can get this kind of throughput of features shipped, we will arrive somewhere.

Dom Graveson:

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And of course, that’s important. Progress is at the heart of all of this. But you do need to keep this mindset, as Deane mentioned, this kind of incrementalist mindset, of break things down, take it a step at a time, and structure the organization, manage upward, manage your sponsors robustly so that they understand that this is not something that you can just steamroller into existence. It’s much more of a kind of step forward across a series of fronts to make progress. And that takes kind of courage and communication with all kinds of levels of the organization.

Laura Dolan:

It does. And it is a very common problem because you end up with too many cooks in the kitchen as it were, and then you also end up with a quantity over quality issue, which is such a common problem that you find within organizations. And then you also have the issue of just all the siloing that goes on and the lack of transparency between different departments, and so you have this huge team, but they’re not communicating with each other. So that’s also just a very difficult thing to work around and there has to be a better way, don’t you think?

Dom Graveson:

Yeah. I mean think this is the thing, is that this is why people need to want… Where I’ve seen this successful is where it’s seen as an organizational change, as much as it’s seen as a program of delivery of product or delivery of an experience or new channels or whatever, is that the organization needs to learn and change as the program evolves. You can’t just throw tons of money at this. You need to understand how it’s going to require people to behave differently, work together differently, measure things differently, check in on one another, enable mistakes to be made in a way that people aren’t afraid of that, and that they get surfaced quickly, and that they’re maturely and honestly addressed, all that kind of stuff. And I think a lot of some kind of wasted money over the last 10, 15 years has been where that hasn’t really been seen.

Dom Graveson:

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The business case has been made for the program, for the objectives of the program, without really thinking about how the organization is going to change. And organizations are changing, have changed profoundly in the last few years. We’re working from home. We’ve changed the way that we interact with one another socially. We’ve got political upheaval in the U.S. We’ve got a war in Europe. We’ve got all of this stuff that’s really changed the way that we kind of feel about the world and trust is more important than ever and kind of empathy, and understanding, and individualized experiences, and all of these things are not just technical problems to solve by throwing a load of infrastructure in place.

Dom Graveson:

Infrastructure is important, but it’s also about building an experimental mindset. It’s about empowering your people to take risks in a safe environment. It’s about changing the way that your organizations have run right from the top to show and demonstrate that behavior is understood from the frontline all the way to the C-suite.

Laura Dolan:

Hundred percent. So when you talk about these changes that organizations need to make to dovetail into this evolution, where have you seen this approach be successful? Do you have any examples that you can describe for us?

Dom Graveson:

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Yeah. When I think where we’ve talked about it, and Deane feel free to jump in here, is where I’ve seen it on organizations of all kinds of sizes that have invested in their digital teams, both from the kind of point of view of giving them the freedom to be able to innovate and the freedom to be able to try new things out, try new technologies out, and build experiences, and invest in audience research, and kind of pulling together the kind of insights, departments and sources of insight within the organization, but also where they’ve had the visibility and had the visible support from the senior leadership.

Dom Graveson:

I think still, you see quite a lot of digital teams being run by either technology or marketing. And I think digital is something that is actually the responsibility of the whole business now, the whole organization. I don’t know, Deane, have you got any thoughts on this? We talked about it extendedly.

Deane Barker:

You and I have talked about this, Dom, and I think I’ve talked about this in the podcast before, is that a key component of digital leadership is trust. Do you trust your people to work towards the good of the organization. Too often, we get kind of hampered by the tyranny of metrics. We need an instant uplift. We need an instant improvement, where that really discourages your team from making small changes and running experiments and trying new things that might not work. For some reason, we want everybody to guarantee that everything’s going to work right out of the box. It’s not. And I think if you trust your teams and provide them kind of the emotional and professional safety to make small changes, and see what works, and come back to you and say, “Look, we tried five things. Four of them didn’t work, but this one thing worked really, really well.”

Deane Barker:

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I’m big on taking little bets, small incremental changes, and lengthening the periods required for return and results. If you demand quantitative metric results from your team in 30 days, you’re going to get some very brittle results, if anything. Someone might even be massaging some numbers or framing it in such a way to give you the numbers that you want. But if you sit your team down and say, “Look, I’d like to be in a better place this time next year.” Well then, they can come up with a long term plan, and they can try some things and see what works and see what doesn’t work, and I also think that plays very heavily into employee retention. I think that lets your employees do their best work and be satisfied with their job and satisfied with their efforts, and I think it’s a huge win for the organization, but it takes trust. As a leader, you need to believe that your people are skilled and are working towards the benefit of the organization, and some leaders are more shortsighted than others, let’s say.

Dom Graveson:

It’s interesting, actually. You talk about this kind of leaders wanting results quickly because I think that’s a reality of organizations on this part is. And one of the things that I think a lot of kind of chief digital officers who we tend to work with are struggling between… I have this kind of analogy I use, which is a bit like you’re running a chip van. You’re trying to feed people, hot dogs and chips in the rain and there’s a big queue of people and everyone’s hungry, and you know that you could evolve your product and make better food, but you’re so bogged down by having to kind of feed people that you never get the chance to think about that. And I think one of the things that we talk about is building this idea of a balanced portfolio.

Dom Graveson:

So digital evolution or digital transformation, but digital evolution is always going to be kind of made up of combination of small little bits of quick win work and big core transformational change, which are things like integrating your CRM, or migrating your digital experience platform, or swapping out your ERP or whatever. And you’ve always got this combination of the quick wins, the things that if you’re going to bring the business on the journey with you, you need to demonstrate some simple improvements, such as the marketing team in South America just can’t update their campaigns without calling you. And of course, you are running a chip van, so they’re going to be 15th in the queue, so they’re furious. They don’t want to hear about your big innovation program of new digital experience with the customer centricity. They just want to update their campaigns. So it’s about balancing a number of simple things that you can do for everybody, along with those longer term transformational changes.

Dom Graveson:

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And then a third part, which is what we call future possible, which is looking at what technology or platforms might be useful in the future for you and experimenting. So you’ve got this, do the simple stuff that just the CEO, she’s just getting hassled for every day from her colleagues. Get our stuff fixed, because that’ll make you popular and it’ll build you some support. Obviously investing in the, not being afraid to make decisions that are long term. This is not the right platform. We need to change, or we need to integrate this with this, or we need to invest in these people and up-skill them. That’s the kind of big kind of transformational stuff. And then these experiments that will help you discover what the future is. And you have to govern each of those three types of portfolios in a different way, and understand that the experiments will fail, most of them. But that’s where you will discover that the pot of gold for five years’ time, whereas the quick win or BAU, I hate that term BAU, but the quick win stuff, which is really important in building support.

Laura Dolan:

So how can organizations get started on the digital evolution journey?

Deane Barker:

Well, I’ve always been a big proponent of absolutely knowing what your goals are, what your conversion points, are for your digital presence. A conversion, most people know this now, but a conversion is when somebody takes an action in your digital properties that provides value. Ecommerce, it’s somebody checks out or in other websites, if somebody requests a demo or something like that, you have to know what these things are. You have to know the moment that your visitor provides value and the moment that your digital presence has provided value to you. Without knowing that you’re just nowhere, and we see a lot of people doing an enormous amount of work without any idea kind of what the goal is.

Deane Barker:

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Back when I was in services, I was working with a healthcare client, and I was talking to their director of marketing. He says, the CEO calls me all the time and says, “We need more social media updates.” And he would go back to the CEO and say, “Why?” And the CEO couldn’t even tell them why, because the CEO didn’t understand the chain from action that the digital team takes to conversion or some moment when the website provides value. So you have to know that. Once you know that, the conversion points when your website provides them value, then you just need to break things down. You need to divide your web presence up into chunks that you can improve over time. Too many people just try to tackle the entire thing at once.

Deane Barker:

Let’s take a look at your contact dose form. Maybe we need to spend some time just fixing that. And then, let’s move to your homepage and run a couple experiments there. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Optimizely sells an experimentation suite. Run a couple experiments on your homepage. What’s it going to take to drive people to that contact form? Literally, if that’s the goal that you know have to improve, you can work towards improving that goal and you can filter out people in the organization that have pet projects, or pet ideas, or they’re sure that this is going to make things better. If you can go back to them and say, “Nope, this is the goal. This is the goal we’re working towards,” you can start making incremental steps toward improving that goal. And that’s probably the most important thing that an organization can do.

Dom Graveson:

Yeah. I mean think Deane hits upon two things that are really interesting there. The first one is a lot of people that we work with or often one of the struggles that heads of digital have is, I keep getting asked to do kind of crazy things like create more social media posts by senior people, which adds to that whole noise, that adds to the queue of the backlog of urgent stuff that needs doing, that means that you never get the chance to stop and actually think about things strategically.

Dom Graveson:

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And actually, there’s an element of a lack of understanding within very senior people because maybe they’re not so experienced at working within the kind of digital space. Although to be honest, it’s been 20 years. I have little sympathy for that now. An organization that’s probably not only just digital first, but pretty much digital all over. If you think about it now, your first interaction with an organization is going to be probably through its digital channels, and maybe even the entire service experience will be through digital channels. Leaders should get this by now, right?

Dom Graveson:

But my point is that if digital teams are getting kind of requests from leadership, such as create loads of social media posts or build us an app is another one I’ve heard. “We need an app.” “Well, why do we need an app?” Is because actually there’s a responsibility on digital leaders to step up and be leaders and to be able to say, “Right. You need to tell us where this business needs to be. And we will help develop an understanding of what those key conversion points are.” You can’t expect senior, necessarily people who aren’t sort of native digital folk to understand that. But if you provide them with that information, I hope you would get less of those kinds of slightly daft requests. If you see what I mean, Deane, I think there’s a responsibility on digital professionals to educate upwards. And rather than kind of feel like if you’re in an organization that’s struggling, change that organization if you can. It’s a two-way thing.

Deane Barker:

This goes back to trust, right?

Dom Graveson:

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Yeah.

Deane Barker:

The reason why you have people in digital, not resisting calls to do things that aren’t going to provide value is because professional insecurity. They don’t believe that their leaders trust them. They think they just have to do whatever the CEO or the CMO tells them to do. They don’t feel like they can push back. I have been working in the digital space for 25 years and everything comes back to organizational and personal psychology at some level. I think you have people in digital team that they just don’t feel like they can push back and make the right suggestions. And they just have to do what someone higher at the [inaudible 00:22:13] tells them to do, and that’s just a recipe for disaster, really.

Dom Graveson:

It also means you’re going to lose the other best people you have, because no one with any integrity and real talent will stick around if that’s the kind of corporate environment that they’re in. People have a lot of choice these days, particularly with increasing mobility and hybrid working, is that really the world is your talent market now and you can find the best people if you build the best cultures, and it doesn’t really matter where they live. For example, Netcel, some of us live outside of the U.K., Some of us live across the U.K., And it’s worked very well.

Dom Graveson:

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But I think this thing about what Deane was saying about breaking it down and we touched upon this in the answer to the last question about the balance portfolio. This is where you do need to break down those conversion points and how we improve those conversion points into a really simple set of steps, that by improving this, you can understand how you are influencing the outcome. So don’t necessarily need to rebuild the whole of your shopping funnel, for example, or your conversion funnel, but build a program and invest in this experimentation.

Dom Graveson:

So, this is both in the platform, as Deane said, Optimizely has an experimentation suite built into it, but also working with the agency, the partner that you work with, to understand how experimentation works. At Netcel, we do a lot of work with pitch leaders on kind of building out both kind of capability at the kind of operational level. How do I design an experiment, but also about how you build a business case for experimentation, and kind of build a business case for broader digital evolution as a concept. We’ve actually published a report that you can download from Netcel.com/report that talks a lot about this, that’s Deane’s been involved with and some other leading digital professionals as well. So, if you wanted to read more, you can check that out. That’s been supported by Optimizely. Yeah, so there’s some good sort of starting points in that.

Laura Dolan:

Yes, please go ahead and send me that link when you can, Dom, and I will definitely put it in the link to the show notes of this podcast that we will have on our website. Perfect. Thank you. Great. You guys have covered a lot and just being conscious of time, is there anything else that we didn’t cover that you’d like to speak on before we wrap up?

Deane Barker:

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Both Dom and I have alluded to the concept of employee morale, psychology and retention. And I think this is one of the big crises in digital right now, is that people are searching for the organization that gets it. People are searching for the organization that they can work at, and feel good about their work, and feel like they’re making a positive impact. And so when you hamper your digital teams, when you try to overload them, when you are vague with them, and you don’t have clear goals with them, you don’t let them try new things and incrementally make improvements, you hurt your organization in two ways.

Deane Barker:

Number one, just through lack of conversion, right? Lack of digital efficiency and effectiveness, but you also hurt them from lack employee morale and retention. Losing digital employees is so painful because they’re so painful to replace these days. And so, the damage to your organization is considerable and I think it’s very shortsighted to put some 30-day quantitative metric in front of that.

Dom Graveson:

Yeah. I mean, I completely agree with that, and I think one of the ways that you can tackle that is by ensuring that you’ve got… Digital isn’t something that’s just done with the digital team or just done by the digital team. We talk a lot about digital operating models with the clients that we work with, and this is where we get into the kind of, how do you govern and lead digital, not just how do you build the right products, or build the right experiences.

Dom Graveson:

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But if, for example, you’re a professional services company and you want to segment to different markets and build authority in different markets, say you’re a lawyer firm or another kind of professional services firm. You want to build authority in merchants and acquisitions. You want to build authority in sports licensing law. You are going to need a lot of help from the people in your organization to generate that content. That content isn’t going to be generated necessarily by the digital team. But the digital team are there as an enabler. They’re there to provide the technology and the advice and the kind of lead and give people the confidence to be able to create content themselves, to be able to create their own campaigns.

Dom Graveson:

So digital is something that actually another principle and concept that Deane and I have been talking about recently is this idea of digital is like water. It’s kind of everywhere and you don’t notice it, as if you’re a fish, and we’ll put the link to that article in the podcast as well. There’s this idea that actually everyone should be responsible for doing digital to a level of excellence across your organization in the same way that everyone’s able to write emails to a level of excellence across the organization. And your digital teams are really there to set the standard, set examples, measure success, share that success, build a center of excellence, but also enable everyone else. So, you don’t need to necessarily overwork people. You can give people the tools they need to be able to run their own operations and the digital elements of their operations, but with the oversight and support from the digital team. So, this is known as a kind of hub and spoke model.

Dom Graveson:

And this has been a really powerful way of scaling digital, where you don’t want to overload your digital teams. The digital leaders can stay being exactly that, leaders, innovators, consultants, working within the organization to set the agenda, to build the infrastructure that your organization needs for the future, while training up and building basic levels of high-quality digital competencies in your marketing teams, in your customer service teams, in your product development teams, in all the different parts of your organization that interface with customers. And that’s been a really successful model for many, and I think I’m one that has a kind of rosy future ahead of it.

Laura Dolan:

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I love that you brought up the, “What is water?” paper. I had a chance to read that and it’s a very interesting article and I know Deane, you actually sent a YouTube video that talks about the commencement speech. So, I am also going to put a link to that in the article, because it is quite fascinating and quite applicable as I said. So, thank you both for contributing both of those pieces that would supplement this subject that we talked about today. I think that’ll really drive the point home.

Deane Barker:

Dom and I have a shared love of David Foster Wallace.

Dom Graveson:

Yes, indeed.

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Laura Dolan:

Awesome. Well, thank you both so much for taking the time to come on today and thank you all so much for taking the time to listen to this episode of the Optimizely Podcast. I am Laura Dolan, and I will see you next time.

Laura Dolan:

Thank you for listening to this edition of the Optimizely Podcast. If you’d like to check out more episodes or learn more about how we can take your business to the next level by using our marketing, content, or experimentation tools, please visit our website at optimizely.com, or you can contact us directly using the link at the bottom of this podcast blog to hear more about how our products will help you unlock your digital potential.


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MARKETING

The power of program management in martech

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The power of program management in martech

As a supporter of the program perspective for initiatives, I recognize the value of managing related projects, products and activities as a unified entity. 

While one-off projects have their place, they often involve numerous moving parts and in my experience, using a project-based approach can lead to crucial elements being overlooked. This is particularly true when building a martech stack or developing content, for example, where a program-based approach can ensure that all aspects are considered and properly integrated. 

For many CMOs and marketing organizations, programs are becoming powerful tools for aligning diverse initiatives and driving strategic objectives. Let’s explore the essential role of programs in product management, project management and marketing operations, bridging technical details with business priorities. 

Programs in product management

Product management is a fascinating domain where programs operate as a strategic framework, coordinating related products or product lines to meet specific business objectives.

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Product managers are responsible for defining a product or product line’s strategy, roadmap and features. They work closely with program managers, who ensure alignment with market demands, customer needs and the company’s overall vision by managing offerings at a program level. 

Program managers optimize the product portfolio, make strategic decisions about resource allocation and ensure that each product contributes to the program’s goals. One key aspect of program management in product management is identifying synergies between products. 

Program managers can drive innovation and efficiency across the portfolio by leveraging shared technologies, customer insights, or market trends. This approach enables organizations to respond quickly to changing market conditions, seize emerging opportunities and maintain a competitive advantage. Product managers, in turn, use these insights to shape the direction of individual products.

Moreover, programs in product management facilitate cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. Program managers foster a holistic understanding of customer needs and market dynamics by bringing together teams from various departments, such as engineering, marketing and sales.

Product managers also play a crucial role in this collaborative approach, ensuring that all stakeholders work towards common goals, ultimately leading to more successful product launches and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Dig deeper: Understanding different product roles in marketing technology acquisition

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Programs in project management

In project management, programs provide a structured approach for managing related projects as a unified entity, supporting broader strategic objectives. Project managers are responsible for planning, executing and closing individual projects within a program. They focus on specific deliverables, timelines and budgets. 

On the other hand, program managers oversee these projects’ coordination, dependencies and outcomes, ensuring they collectively deliver the desired benefits and align with the organization’s strategic goals.

A typical example of a program in project management is a martech stack optimization initiative. Such a program may involve integrating marketing technology tools and platforms, implementing customer data management systems and training employees on the updated technologies. Project managers would be responsible for the day-to-day management of each project. 

In contrast, the program manager ensures a cohesive approach, minimizes disruptions and realizes the full potential of the martech investments to improve marketing efficiency, personalization and ROI.

The benefits of program management in project management are numerous. Program managers help organizations prioritize initiatives that deliver the greatest value by aligning projects with strategic objectives. They also identify and mitigate risks that span multiple projects, ensuring that issues in one area don’t derail the entire program. Project managers, in turn, benefit from this oversight and guidance, as they can focus on successfully executing their projects.

Additionally, program management enables efficient resource allocation, as skills and expertise can be shared across projects, reducing duplication of effort and maximizing value. Project managers can leverage these resources and collaborate with other project teams to achieve their objectives more effectively.

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Dig deeper: Combining martech projects: 5 questions to ask

Programs in marketing operations

In marketing operations, programs play a vital role in integrating and managing various marketing activities to achieve overarching goals. Marketing programs encompass multiple initiatives, such as advertising, content marketing, social media and event planning. Organizations ensure consistent messaging, strategic alignment, and measurable results by managing these activities as a cohesive program.

In marketing operations, various roles, such as MOps managers, campaign managers, content managers, digital marketing managers and analytics managers, collaborate to develop and execute comprehensive marketing plans that support the organization’s business objectives. 

These professionals work closely with cross-functional teams, including creative, analytics and sales, to ensure that all marketing efforts are coordinated and optimized for maximum impact. This involves setting clear goals, defining key performance indicators (KPIs) and continuously monitoring and adjusting strategies based on data-driven insights.

One of the primary benefits of a programmatic approach in marketing operations is maintaining a consistent brand voice and message across all channels. By establishing guidelines and standards for content creation, visual design and customer interactions, marketing teams ensure that the brand’s identity remains cohesive and recognizable. This consistency builds customer trust, reinforces brand loyalty and drives business growth.

Programs in marketing operations enable organizations to take a holistic approach to customer engagement. By analyzing customer data and feedback across various touchpoints, marketing professionals can identify opportunities for improvement and develop targeted strategies to enhance the customer experience. This customer-centric approach leads to increased satisfaction, higher retention rates and more effective marketing investments.

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Dig deeper: Mastering the art of goal setting in marketing operations

Embracing the power of programs for long-term success

We’ve explored how programs enable marketing organizations to drive strategic success and create lasting impact by aligning diverse initiatives across product management, project management and marketing operations. 

  • Product management programs facilitate cross-functional collaboration and ensure alignment with market demands. 
  • In project management, they provide a structured approach for managing related projects and mitigating risks. 
  • In marketing operations, programs enable consistent messaging and a customer-centric approach to engagement.

Program managers play a vital role in maintaining strategic alignment, continuously assessing progress and adapting to changes in the business environment. Keeping programs aligned with long-term objectives maximizes ROI and drives sustainable growth.

Organizations that invest in developing strong program management capabilities will be better positioned to optimize resources, foster innovation and achieve their long-term goals.



As a CMO or marketing leader, it is important to recognize the strategic value of programs and champion their adoption across your organization. By aligning efforts across various domains, you can unlock the full potential of your initiatives and drive meaningful results. Try it, you’ll like it.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

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2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business

Before we dive into the second way to assume power in your business, let’s revisit Part 1. 

Who informs your marketing strategy? 

YOU, with your carefully curated strategy informed by data and deep knowledge of your brand and audience? Or any of the 3 Cs below? 

  • Competitors: Their advertising and digital presence and seemingly never-ending budgets consume the landscape.
  • Colleagues: Their tried-and-true proven tactics or lessons learned.
  • Customers: Their calls, requests, and ideas. 

Considering any of the above is not bad, in fact, it can be very wise! However, listening quickly becomes devastating if it lends to their running our business or marketing department. 

It’s time we move from defense to offense, sitting in the driver’s seat rather than allowing any of the 3 Cs to control. 

It is one thing to learn from and entirely another to be controlled by. 

In Part 1, we explored how knowing what we want is critical to regaining power.

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1) Knowing what you want protects the bottom line.

2) Knowing what you want protects you from the 3 Cs. 

3) Knowing what you want protects you from running on auto-pilot.

You can read Part 1 here; in the meantime, let’s dive in! 

How to Regain Control of Your Business: Knowing Who You Are

Vertical alignment is a favorite concept of mine, coined over the last two years throughout my personal journey of knowing self. 

Consider the diagram below.

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Vertical alignment is the state of internal being centered with who you are at your core. 

Horizontal alignment is the state of external doing engaged with the world around you.

In a state of vertical alignment, your business operates from its core center, predicated on its mission, values, and brand. It is authentic and confident and cuts through the noise because it is entirely unique from every competitor in the market. 

From this vertical alignment, your business is positioned for horizontal alignment to fulfill the integrity of its intended services, instituted processes, and promised results. 

A strong brand is not only differentiated in the market by its vertical alignment but delivers consistently and reliably in terms of its products, offerings, and services and also in terms of the customer experience by its horizontal alignment. 

Let’s examine what knowing who you are looks like in application, as well as some habits to implement with your team to strengthen vertical alignment. 

1) Knowing who You are Protects You from Horizontal Voices. 

The strength of “Who We Are” predicates the ability to maintain vertical alignment when something threatens your stability. When a colleague proposes a tactic that is not aligned with your values. When the customer comes calling with ideas that will knock you off course as bandwidth is limited or the budget is tight. 

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I was on a call with a gal from my Mastermind when I mentioned a retreat I am excited to launch in the coming months. 

I shared that I was considering its positioning, given its curriculum is rooted in emotional intelligence (EQ) to inform personal brand development. The retreat serves C-Suite, but as EQ is not a common conversation among this audience, I was considering the best positioning. 

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She advised, “Sell them solely on the business aspects, and then sneak attack with the EQ when they’re at the retreat!” 

At first blush, it sounds reasonable. After all, there’s a reason why the phrase, “Sell the people what they want, give them what they need,” is popular.

Horizontal advice and counsel can produce a wealth of knowledge. However, we must always approach the horizontal landscape – the external – powered by vertical alignment – centered internally with the core of who we are. 

Upon considering my values of who I am and the vision of what I want for this event, I realized the lack of transparency is not in alignment with my values nor setting the right expectations for the experience.

Sure, maybe I would get more sales; however, my bottom line — what I want — is not just sales. I want transformation on an emotional level. I want C-Suite execs to leave powered from a place of emotional intelligence to decrease decisions made out of alignment with who they are or executing tactics rooted in guilt, not vision. 

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Ultimately, one of my core values is authenticity, and I must make business decisions accordingly. 

2) Knowing who You are Protects You from Reactivity.

Operating from vertical alignment maintains focus on the bottom line and the strategy to achieve it. From this position, you are protected from reacting to the horizontal pressures of the 3 Cs: Competitors, Colleagues, and Customers. 

This does not mean you do not adjust tactics or learn. 

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However, your approach to adjustments is proactive direction, not reactive deviations. To do this, consider the following questions:

First: How does their (any one of the 3 Cs) tactic measure against my proven track record of success?

If your colleague promotes adding newsletters to your strategy, lean in and ask, “Why?” 

  • What are their outcomes? 
  • What metrics are they tracking for success? 
  • What is their bottom line against yours? 
  • How do newsletters fit into their strategy and stage(s) of the customer journey? 

Always consider your historical track record of success first and foremost. 

Have you tried newsletters in the past? Is their audience different from yours? Why are newsletters good for them when they did not prove profitable for you? 

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Operate with your head up and your eyes open. 

Maintain focus on your bottom line and ask questions. Revisit your data, and don’t just take their word for it. 

2. Am I allocating time in my schedule?

I had coffee with the former CEO of Jiffy Lube, who built the empire that it is today. 

He could not emphasize more how critical it is to allocate time for thinking. Just being — not doing — and thinking about your business or department. 

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Especially for senior leaders or business owners, but even still for junior staff. 

The time and space to be fosters creative thinking, new ideas, and energy. Some of my best campaigns are conjured on a walk or in the shower. 

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Kasim Aslam, founder of the world’s #1 Google Ads agency and a dear friend of mine, is a machine when it comes to hacks and habits. He encouraged me to take an audit of my calendar over the last 30 days to assess how I spend time. 

“Create three buckets,” he said. “Organize them by the following:

  • Tasks that Generate Revenue
  • Tasks that Cost Me Money
  • Tasks that Didn’t Earn Anything”

He and I chatted after I completed this exercise, and I added one to the list: Tasks that are Life-Giving. 

Friends — if we are running empty, exhausted, or emotionally depleted, our creative and strategic wherewithal will be significantly diminished. We are holistic creatures and, therefore, must nurture our mind, body, soul, and spirit to maintain optimum capacity for impact. 

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I shared this hack with a friend of mine. Not only did she identify meetings that were costing her money and thus needed to be eliminated, but she also identified that particular meetings could actually turn revenue-generating! She spent a good amount of time each month facilitating introductions; now, she is adding Strategic Partnerships to her suite of services. 


ACTION: Analyze your calendar’s last 30-60 days against the list above. 

Include what is life-giving! 

How are you spending your time? What is the data showing you? Are you on the path to achieving what you want and living in alignment with who you want to be?

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Share with your team or business partner for the purpose of accountability, and implement practical changes accordingly. 


Finally, remember: If you will not protect your time, no one else will. 

3) Knowing who You are Protects You from Lack. 

“What are you proud of?” someone asked me last year. 

“Nothing!” I reply too quickly. “I know I’m not living up to my potential or operating in the full capacity I could be.” 

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They looked at me in shock. “You need to read The Gap And The Gain.”

I silently rolled my eyes.

I already knew the premise of the book, or I thought I did. I mused: My vision is so big, and I have so much to accomplish. The thought of solely focusing on “my wins” sounded like an excuse to abdicate personal responsibility. 

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But I acquiesced. 

The premise of this book is to measure one’s self from where they started and the success from that place to where they are today — the gains — rather than from where they hope to get and the seemingly never-ending distance — the gap.

Ultimately, Dr. Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan encourage changing perspectives to assign success, considering the starting point rather than the destination.

The book opens with the following story:

Dan Jensen was an Olympic speed skater, notably the fastest in the world. But in each game spanning a decade, Jansen could not catch a break. “Flukes” — even tragedy with the death of his sister in the early morning of the 1988 Olympics — continued to disrupt the prediction of him being favored as the winner. 

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The 1994 Olympics were the last of his career. He had one more shot.

Preceding his last Olympics in 1994, Jansen adjusted his mindset. He focused on every single person who invested in him, leading to this moment. He considered just how very lucky he was to even participate in the first place. He thought about his love for the sport itself, all of which led to an overwhelming realization of just how much he had gained throughout his life.

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He raced the 1994 Olympic games differently, as his mindset powering every stride was one of confidence and gratitude — predicated on the gains rather than the gap in his life. 

This race secured him his first and only gold medal and broke a world record, simultaneously proving one of the most emotional wins in Olympic history. 

Friends, knowing who we are on the personal and professional level, can protect us from those voices of shame or guilt that creep in. 


PERSONAL ACTION: Create two columns. On one side, create a list of where you were when you started your business or your position at your company. Include skills and networks and even feelings about where you were in life. On the other side, outline where you are today. 

Look at how far you’ve come. 

COMPANY ACTION: Implement a quarterly meeting to review the past three months. Where did you start? Where are you now? 

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Celebrate the gain!

Only from this place of gain mindset, can you create goals for the next quarter predicated on where you are today.


Ultimately, my hope for you is that you deliver exceptional and memorable experiences laced with empathy toward the customer (horizontally aligned) yet powered by the authenticity of the brand (vertically aligned). 

Aligning vertically maintains our focus on the bottom line and powers horizontal fulfillment. 

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Granted, there will be strategic times and seasons for adjustment; however, these changes are to be made on the heels of consulting who we are as a brand — not in reaction to the horizontal landscape of what is the latest and greatest in the industry. 

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In Conclusion…

Taking back control of your business and marketing strategies requires a conscious effort to resist external pressures and realign with what you want and who you are.

Final thoughts as we wrap up: 

First, identify the root issue(s).

Consider which of the 3 Cs holds the most power: be it competition, colleagues, or customers.

Second, align vertically.

Vertical alignment facilitates individuality in the market and ensures you — and I — stand out and shine while serving our customers well. 

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Third, keep the bottom line in view.

Implement a routine that keeps you and your team focused on what matters most, and then create the cascading strategy necessary to accomplish it. 

Fourth, maintain your mindsets.

Who You Are includes values for the internal culture. Guide your team in acknowledging the progress made along the way and embracing the gains to operate from a position of strength and confidence.

Fifth, maintain humility.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of humility and being open to what others are doing. However, horizontal alignment must come after vertical alignment. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of the whims and fads of everyone around us. Humility allows us to be open to external inputs and vertically aligned at the same time.

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Buckle up, friends! It’s time to take back the wheel and drive our businesses forward. 

The power lies with you and me.


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MARKETING

Roundel Media Studio: What to Expect From Target’s New Self-Service Platform

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Commerce


By Tinuiti Team

Roundel™ Media Studio (RMS) has arrived, revolutionizing Target’s advertising game. This self-service platform offers seamless activation, management, and analysis of Target Product Ads, with more solutions on the horizon.

Powered by first-party data from both in-store and online shoppers, RMS provides new audience insights. Coupled with Target’s new loyalty program, Circle 360, advertisers gain precision targeting like never before.

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But Target isn’t stopping there. With the rollout of a paid membership program on April 7th, bundling Target Circle, the Circle Card, and Shipt delivery, Target is elevating its media and membership offerings to rival the likes of Walmart and Amazon.

Curious to learn more? We sat down with our experts at Tinuiti to dive deeper into the potential implications of this platform for brands and advertisers alike.

What is Roundel Media Studio?

Roundel™ Media Studio is an integrated platform that consolidates various solutions and tools offered by Roundel™. At its core, it kicks off with our sponsored product ads, known as Target Product Ads by Roundel™.

example of target roundel ad
Example of Target Product Ads by Roundel™
Image Source: Target.com

This comprehensive platform grants access to the complete range of Target Product Ad placements, featuring tailored slots like “More to Consider” and “Frequently Bought Together” to enhance relevance and personalization.

Moreover, Roundel™ Media Studio operates without any DSP or access fees for Target Product Ads, ensuring that your media budget is optimized to deliver greater efficiency, more clicks, and ultimately, increased sales.

“One of the larger benefits of the transition is that advertisers have an opportunity to capitalize on the additional dollars saved by switching to RMS. Without the 20% fee, brands can re-invest those funds to scale campaigns or optimize budgets, all without having to allocate more funds which drives better results. Roundel™ is putting more control in the hands of advertisers by introducing this new self-service platform.”

– Averie Lynch, Specialist, Strategic Services at Tinuiti

To summarize, key benefits of using RMS include:

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  • No Access or DSP Fees
  • All Target Product Ads Inventory
  • 1st Price Auction with Existing Floor Prices
  • Closed Loop Sales & Attribution
  • Billing via Criteo Insertion Order
  • Access Using Partners Online

How to access Roundel Media Studio 

According to Target, there’s 3 steps to access Roundel™ Media Studio:

Step 1. Check that you have a Partners Online (POL) account for access. Don’t have one? Reach out to your POL admin to get set up with an account (reach out if you need help locating your organization’s admin). 

Step 2. Once you have gotten access to POL, reach out to your Roundel representative who will grant you access to the platform. 

Step 3. Users can access Roundel™ Media Studio in 2 ways:

Roundel Media Studio Best Practices

Target offers a variety of tips on how to best leverage their latest offering to drive performance. 

Let’s take a look at the latest best practices for strategies such as maximizing efficiency or driving sales revenue. 

Recommended bidding tactics for maximizing efficiency:

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  • Set your line-item optimizer to Revenue for the highest return on ad spend (ROAS) or to Conversions for the lowest Cost per Order (CPO).
  • Since the Revenue and Conversions optimizers modulate the CPC you enter to maximize performance, it is useful to set a CPC cap to make sure that your bid will not exceed the maximum amount you wish to pay. The CPC cap should always remain at least 30% above the bid you enter to allow the engine to optimize effectively.
  • Set your bids competitively to balance scale and performance (ROAS or CPO) targets.
  • Optimize bids with respect to your CPO targets: lower CPCs slightly to increase efficiency, or raise them to increase scale

Recommended bidding tactics for maximizing sales revenue:

  • Set the line-item optimizer to Revenue.
  • Set bids to maximize scale and competitiveness while staying above KPI thresholds. Since the Revenue optimizer modulates the CPC you enter to maximize performance, it is useful to set a CPC cap to make sure that your bid will not exceed the maximum amount you wish to pay.
  • Adjust your bids progressively and preferably at the product level: filter the top products by Spend and then slightly reduce any bids that have a ROAS below your threshold.
  • In general, slightly lower CPC to increase efficiency or raise CPC to increase win rates and therefore increase sell-through.

Takeaways & Next Steps

This is just the start for RMS. In the future, Tinuiti will continue its partnership with Roundel to refine features and introduce additional ad types and functionalities.

When exploring any new advertising opportunity, the best results are typically realized when partnering with a performance marketing agency that understands the unique landscape. Our team boasts years of hands-on experience advertising in new and established marketplaces, including Amazon, Walmart, and Target. Working directly with Roundel, we ensure our clients’ ads harness the full functionality and features Target has to offer, with results-oriented scalability baked in.

Ready to learn more about how we can help your brand? Reach out to us today!

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