Episode #53: How to Accelerate Your Digital Transformation, With Paul Herman

We all want to be customer centric. Everyone talks about putting the customer first, and making the customer number one. We all buy into the philosophy. But… how do we do it? I talk with Paul Herman, VP of Product Marketing at Sprinklr, about some specific steps you can take to make your customer-first efforts come to life.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad 
Well, it’s a big treat today, today is part two of my interview with Paul Herman, the VP of Product Marketing at Sprinklr, having a great time talking about digital transformation, and how people think in a customer-first way. And so we’re gonna pick up where we left off last time with part two of that series.

Yeah, I think that there’s a conflict between the way that the systems have been set up inside the organization. Between the organizations, the separate groups inside the organization. So the different teams and the customer. And one of the challenges is that it’s very hard for a large company to have… you can’t just have one team all working together, you’re gonna have to have separate teams, but how do you tie them together? And I think that’s where a lot of these digital transformation efforts stall, because everyone’s on a different tool.

Paul Herman 
Yeah, I think going back to your surgery analogy, right. And your surgery discussion, right, I often think we look at the human body, right? The human body has a backbone, the backbone is built up a vertebra. And for many companies, that backbone is their martech stack, or their technology stack. And what companies have tried to do is they try to say, I can put any piece of vertebrae in this thing I like. I can change them out, right? In this concept of infinite API’s, right? The issue is, if you start to do vertebra surgery, you’re going to nick the spinal cord, which is the thing that transfers the data. And so that’s what we have. We have disjointed spines trying to hold companies together, and the data is not flowing and the brain is stupid, right? Or the brain is confused, going, Wow, I expected this signal, but I can’t get it. And so that’s what’s happening.

Grad 
Dude, you’re on fire. I never heard that one before that. Brilliant. I love that. It’s a nicked spinal column inside of a series of vertebrae. That is delicious. Alright, so let’s talk a little bit about how… because I think everyone gets the problem. Right? And it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for all these different categories to change. But let’s talk a little bit about how do you go about making this kind of change? So, I am frequently finding, and I’m assuming you’re gonna say that you agree with this, but check me on this, okay. But I frequently find when I talk to either customers or prospects, which I do both… probably maybe more customers these days, that they’re nodding their heads pretty violently in agreement with what we’re talking about right now. And they’re like, yep, yep, yep. And then they’re, like, help me. How do I get started? Right? So I can talk about what I say to them, but I’d love to hear what you say. How do you get people starting down a path that leads to some success in digital transformation?

Paul Herman 
You know, I think for a lot of people it can be very daunting, right? It appears, Hey, this is really like the boiling the ocean thing. And the interesting thing about that is, you know, we often look at data as being in modern data, at least these days as being oceans rather than lakes. Right? They’re the wild wooly oceans out there of unstructured data. So it is a daunting task. My advice would be digital transformation as people transformation. So the key thing for you as you start your journey is to find your coalition of the willing. Find a small group of people that you can start to try stuff, do stuff. We used to use the word MLP, a minimum lovable product, at Nike, rather than a minimum viable product. Lovable is a lot more exciting than viable. And a lot of people are gonna join the journey, when you show them what the next looks like. You’ll never be able to argue people in my experience along a digital transformation journey. You have to create things that they thought weren’t possible. And then they’ll go, Oh, I get it. Oh, that’s what you meant. Right? So the first thing I would say start small and build from there.

Second thing I would say is start with the data. Right? Always start with learning because when you bring that third party in the room — the consumer — it often silences a lot of argument. If you’re starting on I’m going to start this from a process standpoint, you’re probably going to run into a lot of people going, no, we’ve always done it this way, we’re going to continue doing it this way, versus saying, well, the customer is saying, or the consumer is saying… that often helps to stop the stop the arguments very, very quickly.

And then I’d say that, I think the third thing to do is to have a very clear set of outcomes. And the critical part of that, of course, is to have a champion. Digital transformation is a bit like playing American football, it’s nice to have a blocker. So if you’re trying to run that ball down the field, it’s nice to have somebody who’s got a bit more power, who can help pave the way and can champion your your efforts. So those are the three things that I’ve learned increase the chances of success for digital transformation.

Grad 
Interesting, I love that. It’s a good structure. You know, one of the things that I’ve been coaching some companies on is that what we’re seeing, and you and I know the examples, and I can’t really use the company names publicly, but you always call us and find out more. But I’m seeing a lot of product development teams beginning to leverage Sprinklr, and they’re finding that the combination of insights from forums, because you know, we’re bringing in all the forums, review sites, very rich, we bring all that in, blogs, ton of content out there, you saw a lot of it when you’re at Nike in the sneakerhead community, and then also the social platforms, and some of the messaging platforms. So you’ve got quite a bit of content out there, billions of comments going on out there. And a lot of them are about the products themselves. And so the product teams are now leveraging AI to be able to get aggregate sets of product comments to make the products better. And that actually, those are some of our biggest deals right now. And so one of my pieces of advice to, particularly IT teams who are thinking about how to try to drive digital transformation, is to talk to the product development teams, not the marketing teams, and get them excited about customer insight. And once you do that, I think you’d made this comment a few minutes ago and said, I always think of it as how do you infect the organization with the customer. If you can infect the organization with the customer in a way that they can’t ever ignore it again.

Because I’ve never run into — I mean, I’m sure they’re out there — but I have never worked at or run into a company where people overtly say we don’t care about our customers. Nobody says that. Right? Customer’s always number one. People always talk about customer first, customer centric, like that’s something you’ve been talking about for decades. Yeah, they may not act that way. They may not be structured that way. They may not be able to deliver on it. But they principally agree with the philosophy. And if you can actually make that come to life, make it true, then I think you’ve got a hell of a thing going because then people are give me more of that. And CEOs get into that really quickly. I think the champion comment is good. I would add to that, which is you’ve got to get your C-level bought in and you got to get at least one member in the C-level, ideally, the CEO driving it as a priority.

Paul Herman 
I agree. Totally agree.

Grad 
Well, Paul, this has been super fun. We went a little long, but it was really great content. We’ll probably break this into a two parter. And I want to thank you for being on the show. And we’ll bring you back soon. Let me know when you’ve got something that you want to talk about and get out to the CMO community. Any last words or last thoughts before we wrap this up?

Paul Herman 
No, thank you so much for the opportunity. You know, for those folks listening out there, you know, we’re probably in one of the most exciting times within a marketing organization. A lot of people are leveraging these times to get their goals and go get towards the goals of simplifying their martech stack. You know, 90 average point solutions is not going to cut it any more. Every one of those point solutions puts you further and further away from your customer. So it’s been a very interesting time, a lot of consolidation and we’d love to be able to talk to anybody out there who would love to chat about how people are doing this.

Grad 
Fabulous. Thank you, Paul. And for the CXM Experience. This is Grad Conn and I’ll see you next time.