Get to Know Paige O'Neill
Chief Marketing Officer, SDL
As Chief Marketing Officer of SDL (LSE: SDL), Paige O’Neill brings almost 20 years of experience in senior marketing roles. She uniquely combines her product marketing expertise with an extensive background in communications and PR and a passion for developing thought leadership programs that build strong awareness and differentiate companies from the competition. Her diverse experience crosses marketing software, enterprise software, mobile technology, cloud computing, green technology, social media and supply chain software. Prior to SDL, she served for more than three years as Vice President of Marketing for integrated marketing leader Aprimo. Her thought leadership, messaging, demand generation and communications programs contributed to rapid growth and a successful acquisition by Teradata (NYSE: TDC). She also served as the CMO for two early-stage startups. As the CMO at both Aravo Solutions and GreenRoad Technologies, her branding efforts around green technology helped both companies build early leadership in emerging markets and secure their Series C funding from high-profile investors such as Cisco and Virgin Green Fund. As CMO at PHH Arval (NYSE: PHH), she revitalized the brand in a commoditized marketplace by introducing new products and a metrics-based marketing approach that differentiated the company from its competitors. Her efforts contributed to an acquisition attempt by GE. Prior to PHH, O’Neill spent a decade at Oracle Corporation, leading a variety of marketing initiatives: Software as a Service (SaaS), which she helped build into Oracle’s fastest growing business; the Wireless ASP market category, which she helped create for Oracle’s first mobile products; Global PR for Oracle Database and Server products, and the launch of industry’s first Internet database, Oracle 8i, which garnered several marketing awards.
O’Neill started her career in PR, helping launch IBM’s Internet Division and its first Internet payment products in the mid-‘90s in an atmosphere of media-perceived consumer resistance to an online economy. She caught the bug for emerging technologies while playing an active role educating the media on how the Internet would change business. She holds master’s (ABD) and bachelor’s degrees in political science from the University of Kentucky and spent a year in New York University’s Media Ecology PhD program to study how technology impacts culture.
Please provide some background around your experience and how it has prepared you for your current role at SDL.
I came to SDL with almost 20 years of experience in senior marketing roles, which prepared me in many ways to take on the CMO role at SDL. Prior to joining SDL in 2013, I served for more than three years as Vice President of Marketing for integrated marketing leader Aprimo, where I was able to contribute to thought leadership, messaging, demand generation and communications programs that fueled rapid growth and ultimately led to a successful acquisition by Teradata. Prior to Aprimo, I served as the CMO for two early-stage startups, Aravo Solutions and GreenRoad Technologies, as well as for PHH Arval, where my efforts contributed to an acquisition attempt by GE. In these roles, I developed a passion for developing thought leadership programs that build strong awareness and differentiate companies from the competition. Prior to PHH, I spent a decade at Oracle Corporation, leading a variety of marketing initiatives. The insights gained through my experience in strategically building brand awareness are echoed in my current work at SDL, where my charter involves differentiating the company in the incredibly crowded marketing technology landscape and building our brand against the larger, established marketing clouds. The combination of my product marketing knowledge and extensive background in communications and PR has given me a unique lens with which to approach my current role at SDL.
As a company that specializes in transforming the customer experience, what do you feel are the greatest challenges for companies looking to optimize the customer experience?
Often, the sheer amount of data that is now available to brands can be a significant obstacle to creating the most optimal customer experiences. Marketers today spend a massive amount of time trying to acquire more customer data and even more time determining how to best utilize it to enhance experiences, all while maintaining transparency and trust. In order to keep up with the competition and provide personalized and relevant experiences, marketers need to capitalize on this abundance of data. To do so, they need not just the right technology in place, but also a sound strategy. Too often, we see internal silos where marketing and sales departments aren’t sharing customer data or a one-off mobile campaign that is not aligned with the overall customer experience strategy. We are at a time when there are many marketing technology solutions available, but for organizations to truly get a hold on customer data to improve experiences, they must be strategic in which solutions they implement and also have a thought-out, company-wide approach to customer experience. Without these vital pieces in place, brands risk a disjointed perception with inconsistent experiences from the customer’s point of view. This will negatively impact brand loyalty and, in turn, the company’s bottom line.
When it comes to B2B organizations, the customer experience has some unique challenges and opportunities, particularly as it relates to social media. What do you feel are some key tips for these organizations to maximize the use of social media?
Social media has become an increasingly popular channel for consumer engagement for both B2B and B2C companies. However, it’s critical that brands take the time to understand their customers and how they prefer to engage. For a B2B company, if most customers are not looking to communicate on social, then the brand should acknowledge this is a preference and act accordingly. However, social can be used not just for engagement, but also for acquiring critical customer information—the contextual clues they leave behind—to better understand these preferences and behaviors. Ultimately, it is no longer a question of whether or not any organization—B2C or B2B—should have a social presence and strategy. However, just because it exists does not mean that this is the new form of customer communication. After all, consumers perceive companies as “channel-less”…they want to see one company, regardless of how they interact, whether it’s through email, website, social, phone, etc. For this reason, a brand’s social image must match its image across other touchpoints for the single view that consumers seek.
In your experience, what forms of content are resonating the most with audiences today, and how have you seen this shift over the past few years?
Today, it’s all about personalized content. As technology has become more and more advanced over the past few years, companies are able to provide content that is increasingly tailored to each individual user. As a result, consumers have developed high expectations for all brand content—from emails and offers to mobile and web content—to be highly personalized to their specific needs. In fact, customers have become so accustomed to offers, experiences and communications that are personalized to them that they will quickly lose patience with content that is irrelevant. While there had initially been a stigma around brands using customers’ personal data to provide improved, more personalized experiences, today SDL research indicates that millennial customers in particular are now willing to provide more personal data if it will result in a better customer experience.
One area that organizations are struggling with today is the ability to measure the results of customer experience initiatives and tie them back to business performance. What do you feel are the commonalities among companies who are doing this well?
In general, companies that are effectively measuring CX initiatives and tying them back to business performance are those that have integrated internal departments on this front. In particular, the CMO and CTO or CIO should be working seamlessly together to implement customer experience initiatives, collect and analyze the data from these initiatives, and apply this knowledge back to the marketing strategy. To get the most out of this, marketing and technology must also be working closely with all other departments across the company so that the whole business is deriving benefit from customer experience insights. On a similar note, another commonality is unified data. In addition to eliminating internal departmental silos, data silos also need to be bridged. Without the ability to view all campaign results and customer data in one place, organizations will never have an accurate read on performance and what’s working and what’s not.
Culture is also a huge factor to consider for companies looking to create cohesive, connected and measurable customer experiences across the organization as it often requires a shift in organizational mindset from the top down. Where do you think is the best place to start this process, and what advice would you offer to companies who need to make this transition?
A top-down approach is exactly what it takes to start the transition toward a customer experience-focused company. This is something we’ve worked to achieve at SDL, too. Sometimes an organization needs to shift priorities and focus to ensure it is customer-focused. This means the CEO is clear on the customer experience objectives and has coordinated with all C-level executives and their departments. Everyone must be marching toward the same KPIs and objectives to see true customer experience success. A culture of driving excellent customer experience cannot come from one person or department. In order to be effective, I would advise that a company look at customer experience as something to be incorporated into all existing aspects of the company rather than a new project or initiative that needs to be added.