How Data Can Unlock Creativity and Drive Alignment

In the latest episode of the Marketing Trends podcast, Ed McDonnell, Senior VP of Sales for Salesforce Marketing Cloud, joined host Ian Faison in the studio.

Ed has a unique perspective on sales and marketing alignment, informed by his experience serving in a variety of sales and leadership roles throughout his career. He also offered up some sage advice for how newly-installed marketing leaders can set themselves up for success in their first 90 days at an organization.

Ed’s passion for sales stems from his early background in customer success — which at its core is the skill of understanding business problems and helping customers solve those problems with technology.

But using technology doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Customers may understand that technology is important, but most people have to make a strong effort to learn and advance their tech skills.

The implementation of technology and the manpower required for successful adoption present difficulties to many organizations. Tech is changing faster than the human skill set, so we face a constant challenge to grow and keep up with what’s available.

Changes and challenges

Marketers are in an exciting time right now, in the midst of rapid changes across all industries — and the practice of marketing itself. What it means to be a “modern marketer” is constantly being redefined. Ed offered his advice on how newly hired marketing leaders can make an impact in this time of change.

Go on a listening tour.

It’s easy for a marketer to jump into a new organization and start trying to fix everything. With good intention — marketers are often good at fixing, and it may be their first instinct. Instead, Ed suggests that newly-installed marketers take a step back.

Go on a “roadshow” and talk to sales teams and customers, Ed avises. It’s important to get in the weeds to find out why some things work and others don’t. Talk to executives across all functions to get a well-rounded view of your new organization.

Don’t be afraid to question the status quo.

Coming into an organization, new leaders should feel comfortable questioning the status quo. Approach every issue in a way that facilitates thought leadership, because as a marketing leader, you’ve earned your place at the table.

“Walk into it as if you know nothing. Question every bias and every business-as-usual. For every person in that organization that says, ‘Well that’s just the way we’ve always done it,’ challenge that notion all the way down to its root cause.”

– Ed McDonnell

Let your data enable — and check — creativity.

Every sales leader is grounded in data. Effective marketers understand that data empowers decision making and defends your strategies. But data can’t replace one of the most vital components of marketing: human creativity.

“Marketers are the most creative people on the planet. Data has to be a key pivot that everybody makes, but we have to continue to let marketers unlock their creative passions because that’s what drives the best ideas.”

– Ed McDonnell

Data should always be used to inform creativity, but Ed warns against letting data become the only input when it comes to strategy. Ed points out that data can also act as a necessary creative constraint, encouraging intentionality, and ultimately driving trust.

Understand the sales team.

To be an effective marketer and organizational leader, Ed says, you must understand the DNA of a salesperson. In Ed’s experience, sales teams often want to own the revenue engine of an organization, and may be uneasy if parts of that revenue engine fall outside their lines.

Above all, understand your sales leader. Take some time to dig into the personality and culture of your sales leadership team, and you’ll establish yourself as an ally and advocate for sales.

For more of Ed McDonnell’s insights on data-driven alignment, listen to the latest episode of the Marketing Trends podcast (featuring a special introduction by Alec Baldwin) brought to you by Salesforce Pardot.