Josh Mait: Can you start us off with a bit about your background and role at INTL FCStone?
Michael Antman: I started with what I believe was one of the first true integrated marketing communications agencies, and that was before the term “integrated marketing communications” was even in use. We were a PR agency, and one of our biggest clients came to us with a $3 million advertising account. They said, “Do you guys do advertising?” The senior partner said yes and then just gave it to me and said, “Start doing advertising.” So that’s how we became an integrated marketing communications firm!
It was a little bit overwhelming at first, but I learned the importance of an integrated marketing communications agency. You don’t hear that term as much anymore, but I think it’s of critical importance, because the ability to measure the effectiveness of every marketing program has to be on the table.
After working there for a number of years I became an independent consultant, and here again the integrated marketing communications message was reinforced. In that case I needed to earn enough money to pay the mortgage, so if a client came to me with any project – no matter how seemingly far afield – I’d take it on, including management consulting. Of course, I would never hesitate to bring in consultants and experts in case there was an area that I wasn’t an expert in.
But the net result was I ended up joining FCStone, which later merged with International Assets Holding Corporation to become INTL FCStone. And purely by happenstance I realized I was well-positioned for the new era of marketing, where everything is so consolidated as a result of data stitching everything together, so you have to know about every form of marketing and marketing communications in order to be effective.
There were also a couple of years where I was the VP of marketing for a data warehousing/data cleansing firm, which helped introduce me to the data side of the equation. So I got exposed to a lot of different aspects of both pure marketing as well as marketing communications, and it helped me understand that there really is no distinction anymore between those or between sales, because it’s all based on data.
I have a sales counterpart who runs client development while I run marketing. In the past they might have been more traditionally siloed, but do you think that is changing?
Yes, I would agree with that. I think in the old days you heard a lot of bitter complaining about how marketing communications was in one silo, while pure marketing was in another and sales was in a third. There also might have been a couple of other categories that didn’t talk to each other as much as they should have; they just threw things over the castle walls. Sales would tell marketing communications they needed a brochure, and marketing communications would do a brochure and throw it back at sales, and it may or may not have been effective. Those days are gone, and the companies that still operate like that are going to have big problems.
What dissolved all the battlements and walls was data. Data is like a universal solvent. It dissolves all of the distinctions between the different departments and it breaks down all the silos, because everyone is looking at the same numbers. There’s not that much room for interpretation. The numbers are what they are, and either your program is effective or it isn’t.
As a B2B company we look at important metrics around pipeline, for example. Is that a shared ownership over that metric?
It is a shared metric. I have a very close and strong working relationship with our head of sales, and since the numbers are right there in front of us we know what’s working, what isn’t and what areas we’re not focusing on. Now, we’re not fully rolled out on all of our programs. Our CRM programs are in the process of being rolled out and we’re still looking at how we’re going to institute an effective marketing automation program. But we’re a long way down that road, and everyone in the company understands where we have to go and how to get there.
I would say as a general rule that marketing automation, CRM programs and the availability of data are making our task vastly easier in one sense, because everyone talks to each other and there are no disputes or subjective interpretations anymore. At the same time, though, it’s making it much more difficult, because again in order to be effective you have to master literally dozens upon dozens of forms of marketing communications. In the old days all you had to worry about was advertising, PR, and some brochures, whereas now we have 50 or 60 programs to fill the niches.
Is that about mastery of the individual channels or mediums, or is that about just managing quantity?
Well you have to understand them and how they work and how to apply them effectively. That’s why integrated marketing communications is more important than it’s ever been, even though I don’t hear people talking about it as much as they did five or six years ago. Now everyone is talking about social media, which I’m sick of because that’s only one of the many channels that you have to master. So you need to know a lot now in order to be an effective CMO.
If we went back 10 years and someone you work with or who knows you is describing you as marketer, how would that description differ from what they would say today?
I think the single biggest difference is that back then people would say, “Oh he’s a marketing-communications guy; or he’s a mar-com guy.” Because my biggest areas of expertise were in advertising, copywriting, print, collateral and events. All of those I continue to do, but I think what people would say now is that I’m more of a pure marketing guy, which is a term a lot of people use very loosely.
In the past you were never sure that when people said “marketing,” whether they meant “marketing communications” as in advertising, PR, brochures, events and so forth, or whether they meant “pure marketing,” in the sense of identifying target markets, pricing, channel marketing, etc. The problem is that “pure marketing” should just be called “marketing,” but the problem is that people would refer to “marketing communications” as “marketing” for short. My belief is that it is no longer necessary to clarify that point because that is all one now.
Is it important whether the CEO or CMO knows the difference?
In the old days it was problematic to not understand the difference, because you had to patiently explain, “No I’m not the numbers guy; I’m not the guy from Northwestern Kellogg with the MBA who can crunch the numbers. I’m the guy that writes the ads and comes up with the creative ideas and does the PR and talks to reporters.”
But now it’s a meaningless distinction. As a CMO you’re not going to be an expert in all things, but you have to be conversant in all things, and data and CRM systems tie everything together. So when a CEO doesn’t make that distinction, he’s actually correct because it’s all blended together.
You talked about the overexposure of social media. Where do you go outside a comfort zone to an interesting place that feels challenging?
Well in answering that question I want to establish a distinction between being conversant in something – and appreciating and understanding its importance – and being an expert on it. Since I have a largely marketing communications background I may be an expert in things like advertising, copywriting, events management, planning and public relations. And I understand the importance of data management and CRM tools, but I’m far from being an expert on it. I’m not an IT person and I’m not a technical person, but I know enough to understand the purpose of it and how it works. I also know enough to be able to hire consultants who can be the experts. So I don’t think anyone’s expecting a CMO to be good at everything. You have to have some areas of expertise, while with the other areas you just have to appreciate their importance and be willing to hire experts, whether they’re full-time staff or outside consultants.
I saw an email from a service provider the other day that was almost laughable; the amount of jargon that this company squeezed into two sentences was mind-blowing. I think most CEOs don’t want to hear that; I think they intuit quite correctly that when a marketing guy uses a tremendous amount of jargon that it’s a smokescreen for not truly understanding. If you really understand something difficult and complex then you should be able to explain it simply.
I originally grew up with mar-com at the center in a similar way, but I didn’t always love the way that I was positioned. It seems, for yourself at least, as a good marketer that you positioned it quite nicely.
Well I think it wasn’t so much me positioning it, because I’m not particularly good at strategizing my own career. My old agency and my former partner made an assumption that I could just learn the advertising business, and I did. So it’s not like I set out to become an integrated marketing communications expert. And now at my current position I think my CEO thinks very strategically, and he just made an assumption that everything should work together and that my department should be a source for leads. He was right about that, so it’s become less of an issue. The only area where I don’t think it’s becoming fully consolidated is public relations. That’s always going to be the outlier, because I don’t think anybody in our business can see how you measure the effectiveness of public relations through a newspaper article; there are no click-throughs to measure. So that’s the only outlier, but everything else now is fully measureable and justifiable, and therefore the mar-com guy should be closer to the center of the conversation than he used to be.
If you were mentoring somebody coming out of school who wanted to be in marketing, what advice would you give them?
Well I think probably along the lines of everything that we’ve been talking about. I would say get a very broad education because the landscape is always changing. It’s great to have a few areas that you’re an expert in; I think it’s very important. But don’t overdo the whole social media thing because 10 years from now people are just going to roll their eyes. It’s useful and has its place, but it’s entirely possible that Facebook itself won’t be around in 10 years.
So what are the two common denominators that everybody in marketing has to be expert at? I would tell the young person that number one is writing. You have to have very strong writing skills. In my opinion that’s never going to change. You have to be able to communicate with the written word, while number two is data. So words and numbers have to be your base.
Another trendy buzz term is “big data.” I’m always surprised when talking to marketers how few of them have actual command over it. Is there a breakthrough coming, and how does that happen?
I think big data is absolutely the wave of the future. It’s somewhat less important for B2B organizations because we just don’t have as many customers, so there’s not as much data that we have to deal with. But on the consumer side it’s critically important. Again, no CMO can do everything, but you have to find people that are able to see patterns in big data, and that’s a very specialized skill.
On a more tactical level, you mentioned before that you’re evaluating things like marketing automation systems. How do you go about that process? With so many software solutions and tools available, how do you evaluate and make smart choices?
It’s not easy because there are so many software firms that you get inundated. On the CRM side of the equation it’s not that difficult, because since there are only a couple of big players there we had an easy choice when we selected a CRM system. But it’s a more complex issue when it comes to marketing automation, because there are so many players. At the same time, in addition to dedicated marketing automation we’re looking at our new CMS for our website to perform marketing-automation-like functions. So I think starting out you have to identify your own needs and then find a software solution that meets those needs, as opposed to saying, “I’ve got to go out and get a marketing automation system.”
It sounds like you have quite a corporate hierarchy of different organizations around the globe and managing all that internally and externally. How do you do that and then how do you act as a representative for the company along with the CEO?
Well I think we’re talking about a couple of different things here. One is alliances, and I have placed a fair amount of emphasis on developing marketing alliances with some of our channel partners, for lack of a better term. I consider it an important part of my job to look at who is out there and has common interests with us. For example, a big part of what we do is commodity risk management. We’re trying to partner with some of the commodity exchanges, and we also partner with media properties and trade organizations. Internally we probably could do a better job of marketing our capabilities to our internal audiences, because I don’t think everybody in our organization fully understands everything that we can do for them. And we try to make ourselves equally valuable to every part of the company, but we probably could do a better job of communicating that.
I’ve always felt as a marketer that there are 1,001 things that I could work on. I could work with HR on internal training, I could work on events, etc. How do you prioritize where your focus and energy should be?
That’s not an easy thing for any CMO to do, because we have more challenges than ever. I do think it’s important to develop a broad priority, and in our organization the broad priority is events. Events are of critical importance to us, and that’s where we spend a majority of our time and our budget on promoting. Getting people face to face makes all the difference in the world, not only in finding new customers and converting people that are in the sales pipeline, but also in providing added value for existing customers, staying in touch with them and then upselling and cross-selling to them. It also allows our own people to connect with each other.
So that’s our single biggest priority, while a lot of other priorities unfortunately are just determined by deadlines. Advertising is always a tough one, especially print advertising, because print deadlines are difficult to deal with. So that determines a lot of my prioritization. A lot of it is determined from outside; for example, if we have a reporter asking questions we usually have to deal with them right away. Other things end up taking lesser precedence just because we have a limited number of people on our team.
While we’re doing all the mar-com stuff, my department is also responsible for rolling out our CRM system companywide, so that’s taken a great deal of work on our part. We’re also switching the CMS on our corporate website, which takes a lot of work as well. So as you can see we have a lot of priorities, but then again so does every CMO in this current environment.
When you think about the team that you have and you want to instill certain values in that team, how do you do that?
Well first of all, the number one thing that I need everyone to understand is that everything is about revenue. If it’s not increasing the company’s revenue then it doesn’t matter. So I try to inculcate that in my team; the notion of what is the value of this? Is it building revenue? That’s a common goal that everybody has.
Another one is we never do things for the sake of something, or because everybody else is doing them. I see a lot of social media programs out there that I think people are doing because they think they’re supposed to, but in reality there are a lot of companies that have Facebook pages that don’t really need them. Facebook does not make a lot of sense for my company for a number of reasons, although Twitter does. That has to do with the fact that the markets move on the basis of news, and Twitter is a news-oriented service. So you’ve got to look at what makes sense for your business, and not just follow the trends and fads. And you have to ask yourself why you are doing this?
In the past before I came on board, the company did a fair amount of advertising, mainly because we felt we wanted to maintain good relationships with the trade publications, or just because we’d always spent money on advertising. But now the advertising that we do is more goal-focused, and the majority of it is about getting people to attend our events. And that in turn is about getting face to face with our customers and prospects and converting them. So everything has to have a purpose.
Before we conclude is there anything else you would like to add?
I love the company that I work for. I think it’s a great company because it provides useful services, it’s responsive to its global customers and it’s a very customer-centric organization focused on the right things like growth and revenue. And it does those things in a broad strategic, integrated fashion. I know a lot of people that work for companies that are still pretty heavily siloed, and usually if they’re in a siloed company they’re miserable. To me silo equals misery, because if you don’t really see the broad strategic impact of what you’re doing, you feel like your job is not worthwhile. Like I said, everything we do is for a purpose, so everybody feels like what we’re doing is worthwhile. We’re building revenue and serving the customer.
Michael Antman is Vice President, Marketing for the Fortune 50 company INTL FCStone (NASDAQ: INTL) Previously, he owned his own marketing consulting firm, McSweeney & Antman, which specialized in investor relations, branding, advertising and public relations for high-tech and financial services companies. Before that, he was the Vice President, Marketing for the data warehousing and data cleansing firm Arkidata Corporation.
Josh Mait is Chief Marketing Officer at Relationship Science LLC (RelSci). He is responsible for guiding the overall marketing strategy and its application across all communication channels for the 2013 launch of the “ultimate business development tool.”
Prior to RelSci, Josh was Head of Marketing at Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) where he was responsible for organizational brand strategy, sales enablement, visual and verbal identify and online and offline campaigns and communications. He led the $250 million technology company through the successful rollout of a new brand strategy and architecture to over 750 employees, launched three brands and was a critical contributor to the product design and brand development of GLG’s new online platform.
Previously Josh, held the position of Chief Strategy Officer at Tattoo Brand Strategy. At Tattoo, Josh ran new business efforts and strategy development for all client relationships for brands like Cadbury, Starbucks, CNN and Chanel. Before joining Tattoo, Josh was Director of Marketing at Sullivan in New York. His responsibilities included managing client relationships and developing marketing and sales strategies for Fortune 1000 clients.
Josh has spent his career understanding and developing the consumer and client relationship. His passion is in building creatively-¬-inspired, strategically-¬-driven, successful businesses and brands that connect to what people want. Josh is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. He lives with his wife Kira and their two children in Brooklyn.