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Q&A with Tom Libretto, CMO of Pegasystems

30-second summary:

  • Analyze the three P’s when evaluating a new job opportunity: people, product, and potential
  • CMOs need to be purveyors of the market at large — identifying what’s needed and working to develop the correct products/solutions
  • Customer engagement is the Holy Grail for marketers
  • Nowadays, you need to market to specific individuals — not to large groups of people
  • It’s important to pick one specific outcome before designing your entire customer journey around achieving this objective

There’s a certain irony to modern marketing. We’re reliant on technology — but we should increasingly focus on empathy. We can reach millions of people at once, yet we need to market to individuals more than ever before. Pegasystems is at the heart of this ever-changing landscape: giving companies of all shapes and sizes the ability to connect with audiences, improve their customer engagement, and become more operationally efficient.

We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Tom Libretto, CMO of Pegasystems, about all these topics and more…

Q) Can you give us a brief insight into your professional journey and how you became CMO of Pegasystems?

I’ve always been enamored by the intersection of technology, marketing, and storytelling. I started my career at IBM — I loved it, and I was fortunate enough to cut my teeth in a variety of disciplines all across the company. I then moved to Nokia; I initially had a ton of fun trying to build a software and services side to the business, before moving around the company and eventually landing in my last post, where I ran what was the world’s largest CRM program at the time (we had 1.1 billion consumers actively using our technology.)

This really showed me the power of consumer analytics and data management in effectively connecting with consumers. After Nokia, I pivoted into financial services — spending four years at JP Morgan creating a digital office and running a whole range of digital transformation programs.

Then Pegasystems came calling, and it was the right opportunity to wed my passion for technology with the challenge of connecting to various types of audiences.

Q) What have been your biggest challenges at Pegasystems so far and how have you dealt with them?

I worked with three massive organizations prior to Pegasystems, so my experiences there were very different from how it’s been coming into a midsize company like Pegasystems.

I’ve loved it here because there’s an opportunity to really put a mark on a variety of areas across the business beyond the marketing domain itself. But this process required a certain personal adjustment — here we have a faster, more nimble, less bureaucratic culture if you will.

Q) Based on your experience, what advice would you give someone who is starting their journey as a marketing leader?

It’s a bit cliché, but when evaluating a new job opportunity, I always analyze the three P’s: people, product, and potential. 

Firstly, we come into work and interact with our colleagues day in, day out — so the company culture has to be aligned with your own value systems. From a product perspective, it’s important for me as a marketer to feel that the product has the right thought-leadership governing product direction, and that it does exactly what we say it does (and ideally even more). Lastly, it needs to have the potential to provide real, lasting value for the business’s target customers.

So when looking at any job opportunity, I always keep these three things in mind.

Q) How have you seen the CMO role change in recent years?

There’s no doubt that the CMO role has been changing now for the past decade or so, and I think that it will continue to change going forward. From my perspective, the role will start to encompass a wider mandate around setting the company strategy — CMOs will act as a sort of purveyor of what the market needs. This will then support a lot of internal decision-making regarding what products are developed, and what the shape and texture of those offerings are. 

For example, here at Pegasystems, I’ve noticed how critical it is that the CMO is a close partner with the sales organization and sales leadership in general. 

Plus, I also think that a CMO’s profile is also changing — more and more of the CMOs that I interact with come from deep data and analytics backgrounds; they know how to wield data in the right ways to make better decisions around how to connect with (and engage) their customer audiences. 

So I think CMOs will need to be more technology-focused going forward than they were in the past and will need to be true experts in harnessing the power of consumer data.

Q) As a CMO, how would you like your CEO to judge your performance?

Fortunately, my CEO and I have a very aligned view on how to measure the marketing department: it starts and stops with customer engagement.

We’ve scientifically correlated customer engagement outcomes to a wide swathe of other commercial outcomes like pipeline generation, deal size, and average deal size. So across my organization, across the different marketing disciplines that sit within our marketing department, we’re all shooting for the same goal: increasing user-based interactions or engagement. We measure this on a 90-day basis across dozens of different real time-interaction channels.

Q) Give us a brief introduction to Pegasystems: what are the core martech capabilities that you bring to a marketer? How do you stand out in an overly saturated martech space?

So we’ve actually been around for 36 years. We were originally the 800-pound gorilla in what used to be known as the ‘business process management’ market, and the company has since gone through multiple renaming cycles. Our current tagline is “Intelligent Automation” — this includes things like robotic process automation, business process management, case management, and low-code application development. That’s been our bread and butter for a really long time. 

For about a dozen years, we’ve also been equally strong in the customer engagement market, which is sort of today’s nomenclature for CRM. Very simply, we want to enable organizations to make better decisions as a result of their customer engagement. Then, on the other side of the aisle, to get work done more effectively — becoming more operationally efficient through increased process automation.

Q) What tips do you have for someone looking to implement Pegasystems’s tech?

We’ve been in this field for a long time, so we fortunately have a hardened methodology and blueprint for how companies can get started very quickly. We call this a microjourney approach; simply put, companies need to pick one single end customer outcome before they begin. Once you have this nailed down, you can design that very tight, microjourney directly within our software — we generate the code behind the scenes in order to bring that customer journey to life in a matter of days and weeks. Then, rinse and repeat. 

When looking at how organizations can better engage their customers, we have what’s called our Pega Customer Decision Hub: a centralized authoritative brain that integrates very easily with any of a customer’s interaction channels — whether that’s pre-login, web login, web, mobile, call centers, IVR, or retail outlets. All of those interaction channels can be wired to a singular brain that then decides in real time what the best next decision is to make.

This means that organizations can consistently manage their customer experience independent of the channel — the world’s leading brands are relying on this tool to help them transform their customer engagement profile.

Q) You recently gave us your marketing predictions for 2020 and said “marketers will go all-in on empathy” this year. Care to elaborate on that?

My perspective is that martech is quickly giving us the ability to offer one-to-one customer engagement — instead of looking at the wants and needs of a segment of your customer base, you should be looking at a specific individual’s wants and needs. 

This requires a complete shift in mindset. It’s not about generating an audience and then firing off a campaign to see what it does, it’s about dealing with every single customer as an individual. So that’s how I sort of define empathetic marketing.

Q) Obviously the relationship between customers and brands was at an all-time low last year — have you seen this improve at all recently? What can brands do to win back the customers?

I think it’s now arguably more difficult for brands to project a brand value statement into the marketplace — there are more platforms, more people offering their opinion, and it’s difficult for brands to manage all these different voices and perspectives. But in many ways, I think that’s requiring most brands to just go back to basics and to treat their customers like they want to be treated themselves 

Q) Another key trend for this year is the ‘true application of AI and automation’. What are your thoughts on that? What role will these technologies play in CRM and CX?

Well given that these are the two areas we mainly focus on, we hope they’re going to play a huge role going forward! We’ve always strongly believed that there are endless opportunities to automate work around an enterprise — especially as technology is becoming greatly more accessible and easier to adopt. 

With regards to artificial intelligence, there are again vast and endless use cases for AI: ranging from natural language processing through to the widespread adoption of continuous-learning models that are constantly getting better and better (like our Pega Customer Decision Hub). 

Q) Looking ahead, what are your plans for Pegasystems going forward?

We’ve basically had the same goal since our founder and CEO, Alan Trefler, founded the company: to be the leading technology provider for digital transformation initiatives, helping our clients achieve truly unprecedented outcomes.

This remains true today and it will also remain true in the future. We get a lot of energy, excitement, and satisfaction out of seeing organizations that we work with — enterprises and governments and so forth — realize their digital transformation ambitions, whatever they may be.

Q) Which tool in your personal tech stack can you not do without and why?

To be honest, we’ve gone all-in on our own technology — our Pega Customer Decision Hub is the single most important tool in helping our own customer engagement efforts. It’s transformed our marketing organization, and it’s done amazing things for helping us connect and engage with our own audiences. There’s no way we could replicate that if it were ever taken out of our stack.

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