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Everything we do starts with the customer outcome: Jim Jackson, CMO, HPE

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As the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at HPE, Jim Jackson oversees brand, web and ecommerce, digital marketing, messaging, demand generation, thought leadership and strategic events. With direct responsibility for all product marketing and sales enablement, he is shifting HPE toward outcome-based engagements. Today, Jim and his team – in close collaboration with Sales and Product Development – are focussed on establishing new growth opportunities for HPE in Hybrid IT, software-defined infrastructure, the intelligent edge, services and pay-per-consumption services; and on solidifying HPE’s role in compute innovation in emerging markets such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Blockchain.

Jim is known for combining great storytelling, multi-channel marketing integration and strong sales collaboration to drive business results. In an interview with Express Computer, he tells us how some bold marketing initiatives have enabled HPE to successfully carve out its own niche in the intensely competitive market of enterprise technology. 

Some edited excerpts from an interview:

How do you see the role of marketing at HPE?

I am the Chief Marketing Officer for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). I’ve been at the company for 21 years. So I have had a chance to do a lot of different things at the company. And I think, you know, that’s been fun. I’ve been in services. I’ve been in public sector. I started out on the software side. I’ve been in communication. So I’ve had a chance to do a lot of different things in the company. There’s really incredible energy at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. We are really excited about where the company’s at right now. Antonio Neri, our CEO, when he came into the role, he had three priorities: innovation, partners and customers and culture. So we’re really focused on those three areas as a company. And if you had a chance to go to our Discover event recently, which was held in Las Vegas, we announced more innovation than we have ever announced at a previous Discover. We have made some bold statements, for example, pivoting the company to an as a service model, you know, by 2022. This means that we are going to make our whole portfolio available as a service.

So we have made some bold statements with a lot of clarity. We also made some big announcements with respect to India. We announced that we are going to invest $500 million over the next five years in India. So it’s a huge market for us. In fact, it’s our second biggest market, we like to say it’s our second home, and our CEO recently said that. We expect to grow our workforce by up to 20% over the next five years.

Recently, we did a groundbreaking ceremony actually, on a new site that we’re going to be building, it’s going to enable us to host 10,000 employees. So we’re really excited about that. We are going to be actually also starting manufacturing in India, for some of our Aruba products by the end of the year. So there is a lot of activity happening in India. We have been running some pretty aggressive marketing campaigns, for the past couple of quarters, in India, just because we see the opportunity, and we wanted to be loud and get the message out and start to talk to the market about the capabilities that we can bring. We have really stabilized our story to the marketplace over the last 18 months. We believe that the world is going to be edge centric, cloud enabled and data driven. And the message that we’re hearing from the marketplace, from our customers from our partners, and others has been very positive, you know, in terms of the story that we’re telling now. So it feels good, you know, when you have a message that’s resonating, and we’re continuing to build it out. And everything we’re doing starts with outcomes, it starts with the customer outcome, it’s about use cases, it’s about solutions, and how we can be the best technology partner to the future versus being a technology provider, we’re really talking about outcomes, and elevating the message that way.

And the final point I’ll just make is, we’re very, very passionate about our brand purpose, which is to advance the way that people live and work. I know, you know, a lot of companies talk about having a purpose, we’re living it every single day. We want to make the world a better place, and we believe that we can do well and do good at the same time. And use technology to make the world a better place to improve people’s lives.

You always believed in the power of marketing to build brands and sales. Can you sight some examples from your own experience at HPE, which has helped the company build greater awareness and greater impact?

First of all, when you think of our brand, it’s really the experience that customers have with us every single day. So it’s how we engage with them. One of the things that we’re trying to do is engage our 60,000 plus employees to be brand ambassadors, every engagement is an opportunity for us to reinforce the unique value that we bring.

I think I talked about our purpose to advance the way people live and work, and when you think of stories, some of the stories will be, for example, consider DZNE. It is a company out of Germany, and they’re trying to cure Alzheimers. We came up with a story talking using our memory driven technology, to really enable them to quickly run processes and programs to potentially find a cure. Purdue University, is looking at using an edge to cloud solution in terms of how can we be more efficient in crop production, so that we can feed more people efficiently. There are a lot of other stories as well, that we’re building out and, you know, that showcase the power of technology to have a real impact on the world.

First of all, I think you have to be bold with a message. You have to be bold, so that you can break through the clutter out there in the marketplace. I like to tell my team that there can be the sea of sameness — everybody is saying the same thing. I think what really matters is consistency and discipline, when we come out with a new message, like for example, our ‘Fear No Cloud’ story, we tested it extensively, to make sure that it will resonate. And then once you have that you have to be disciplined in terms of driving that message, our customer our partner, they have to hear this message multiple times before it really starts to resonate. So you know, we are able to do that now and make sure that we’re consistent in terms of how we drive that story in that platform so that we can break through.

The final point, I think that’s important about storytelling, is that you have to start with the customer outcome. It’s about solving customer problems. So for us everything we do, it starts with what outcome are we solving for the customer? How are we going to help them accelerate their business? And when you start there, then you can really have the premise of a very powerful message that’s going to resonate with them. I’m passionate about the power of marketing. I think that marketing is a competitive weapon for companies, and they need to think about marketing that way. It’s an opportunity to, you know, we are the face, in many cases to our company. And it’s our opportunity to reinforce how we want to be known, seen and perceived. And then obviously leverage that into a whole bunch of other discussions and dialogues.

In a market where the perception is that almost every technology vendor has the same technology, how do you make sure that you differentiate?

First of all marketing is both a science and an art right? So, it’s moving to digital today. I mean, when you think of marketing, it’s about digital, it’s about analytics, it’s about targeting, it’s about really understanding your customer. So that’s kind of the science side, but you still have to have the message and the creative, right? So let me talk about that. And then I’ll come back to kind of the digital element when we think of campaigns we really start with, what is the customer outcome and the problem we’re trying to solve? And how do we do something that is truly going to be unique and breakthrough.

So for example, on ‘Fear No Cloud’, there’s a lot of Cloud Messaging out in the marketplace. But when we tested this concept, the feedback we got from people is this is one, I would stop and listen. And I would take an action because it was really, really bold. And sometimes you have to be provocative. Another example is what we did with the ‘IT Monster’ campaign — a totally different way of thinking about marketing in the IT space and I wanted to be creative, I wanted to be breakthrough, I wanted to have a little swagger and show some fun, in terms of who the company was. But what that campaign has done is caused a lot of people say that was really different, I want to follow up and engage and then when they follow up and engage with us, then we can go have the right follow on discussions and the capability.

So I think one of the first things with marketing is, is understanding that, to your point, there is a lot of clutter out there. But we have to break through the clutter, either through creativity, or really being bold and unique. The second part of it is then really using sophisticated analytics and data. And over the past couple years we’ve been on a journey to pivot to a modern digital marketing organization, one that is built on data and analytics. So we’ve got a complete Martech stack, ad tech, so we can now really, as we’re running campaigns, we’re understanding customers, we’re understanding their preferences, we are understanding where they’re getting information, how long they’re staying on content, that enables us to serve up the right content to them, and to really be again, much more targeted to them. We can then get into things like propensity to buy and leverage that data.

For example, in marketing, actually, in India here we have built a data analytics team, we have data scientists that we’ve invested in and they are supporting our marketing programs around the world from India. And I think it’s one of our biggest advantages, because the talent here is just incredible. And we’re leveraging that to enable our campaigns everywhere to be much more efficient. When we think of campaigns, three or four years ago, a campaign would be a set of deliverables that we would pass to a geo, and they would run it for a period of time, and then give us feedback.

By the way, we probably had 40 campaigns three or four years ago, today, we have three. So we’ve really consolidated the messages that we want to drive. So you have to focus on what you want to have breakthrough. And then, you know, a campaign today for us is an 18 month digital conversation happening in the marketplace. So when we roll this campaign out, we scale it, and then we’ve got messages following on that we can continue the dialogue, because really what’s happening digitally is we want to have a two way discussion with our customers, we want to engage them. And as we’re engaging them, and we’re learning more about them, we can get them more and more content, more and more information. So it’s radically different but it’s fun. It’s interesting, and we’re having a good time, you know, as we’re continuing to learn, and we’re experimenting, I mean, a lot of this is to, you know, learn fast, and to some degree fail fast, right? I am trying to use marketing to obviously shift the perception of the company, but also to deliver a better experience for our customers in their engagement with us.

In terms of emerging technologies such as AI, how do you position your firm?

With respect to AI, we are doing a lot of things across the company. For example, we have AI capabilities in Nimble, Aruba and Pointnext. With our InfoSight technology, we can proactively identify 86% of problems before they occur. And we’re getting more and more information. So from a pure marketing standpoint, one of the things that I look for is, how do we bring that altogether, so that as a company, we can have one unified AI message to the marketplace.

So at Discover, we announced a new brand around AI, which unified our complete story. And that enables us to then come out to the marketplace and say, here’s what we can help you from an outcome perspective in multiple different areas. And then we can go have follow on discussions around the specific technology. So from a marketing perspective, I think one of the things that’s important for me and how I think about things is, marketing actually sits in a very unique position. We sit kind of at the intersection of sales, and the BU, but we also have the connection to the marketplace and to the end customers. So what we can do is we understand what products are coming, what’s happening. But we also understand the customer conversations that are happening in the marketplace. And then we can kind of leverage that engagement, to position the company. And in some cases, we might be talking about where we think the market is going. But that’s important, because many customers want to lean into that. So you know, we’re able to play that role. You know, the key for us is that we have an extremely tight alignment at HPE between sales and marketing. This enables us to kind of get that right balance of having solutions that we can position today. Take the example of GreenLake. Since last year, we have seen a lot of good feedback. Today, that’s a $2.5 billion business for us and we have over 600 customers.

In the world of enterprise technology, hyperpersonalization is a big area of focus. How do you look at personalization from a marketing perspective?

I think personalization, if you think of, for example, our website, you know, we have personalization capabilities now that we can turn on. So if you come and you’re interested in storage, or you’re interested in AI or an edge computing solution, we will understand that and the next time you come back, we will personalize our setup and experience for you. Or we will say, okay, thank you welcome back, here’s the latest content we have in edge computing, and here’s the latest on content and storage. And that makes the experience better, because we know that particular customer is looking for that kind of content.

So again, and what we’re trying to do here is make it easier for the customer to use our capabilities and the learning that we’re getting in those analytics. So personalization is important. I think, you know, another key here, though, is actually taking it to the next level of individualization, because at the end of the day, we’re still talking to people. And, you know, we are trying to understand the buyers in a certain opportunity in a deal. You know, for example, if you look at some of our bigger deals, we’ve got, you know, multiple different people involved — the CFO, the CMO, the CIO, lots of different people, and the way they think about messaging, what’s interesting to them is different. We are able to segment them and really get key messages to them.

I want to make it easier for our customers as they go on their journey, to understand our capabilities and to help them be educated so that we can have the right discussion with them. And that’s where I think the power of data and analytics really comes into play. But there are some other things that we can do, for example, you know, if we have a lead, but that lead is not ready now, we can use nurturing capabilities, where we’re using marketing to engage that customer. We are building the data foundation, and then want to leverage that data in a way that optimizes the customer experience.

From a marketing analytics point of view, how do you see India?

We have had really the bulk of our marketing analytics capabilities here in India. With marketing becoming more and more about data and analytics, we looking to scale. We will be looking at making more investments in data scientists. I’m making investments in marketing, you know, for example, to help people continue to build their skill sets or accreditation programs. These kinds of things are really really important to me. I want HPE marketing to be a destination place, I wanted it to be a location where people say, I want to go there, because they are advanced in what they are doing, and represent, best in class marketing, and I can gain great skill sets there and be part of something that is cutting edge. That’s definitely an area that we’re continuing to invest.

How have you seen the evolution of marketing from a HPE perspective?

I think the key part of it for us first was, as we really started pivoting to digital, there was a whole skill set of capabilities, we had to look at really learning, thinking digital, first, and having a digital first mindset. The second part of it was all about the data, how we collected data, having the data and the analytics. And that’s where we’ve made huge investments in the teams. I think the third part of it was really getting into how we thought about campaigns and campaign development, we engaged a brand new digital centric agency. So they think digital in terms of how we build campaigns, and how we scale and how we measure campaigns. So we’re really now looking at leveraging different data points and trying to understand the different touchpoints with a customer? Where are we engaging them on the journey? Where are we seeing fall out? Where can we do a better job with content?

So I would say that we’re learning every day. Now, the good news is, as we were coming into this year, I personally feel that we are at a very advanced stage in our digital capabilities, and our ability to scale this. We are now using digital to drive a lot more efficiency into marketing to be more targeted and have a much bigger impact. We are extending a lot of these capabilities to our partners. We have a huge number of structured initiatives where our partners can leverage the capabilities. We have something called the digital marketing maturity assessment, where we can actually give them a whole set of questions. And then on the other side of it, we give them guidance to help them evolve to the next level. We are able to track our investments made in marketing with far more granularity.

How do you see the role of India in HPE’s global plans?

We have some big goals for India, and we believe that there are huge opportunities. We are also heavily invested in many of the programs like the E-education, E-digital, E-health and digital village programs. When you look at India, I think it’s almost perfect for our brand values. We have three kind of core brand values at the company: partner, innovate and act.
From a partner perspective, many of our big partners are here in India


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