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Kristin Hambelton on why marketers have to change

Last updated: October 28, 2019


Kristin Hambelton, CMO (chief marketing officer) of Marketing Evolution, shares her views on the various ways to drive change. She explains how identifying what works and what doesn’t is essential in today’s transformed marketing environment.

Today’s marketers are increasingly confronted with disruptive technology, especially when they work in companies that provide measurement solutions. We talk to experienced marketer Kristin Hambelton, who has seen both the marketing function and CMO role change dramatically. Among the contributing factors are the ongoing technological disruption and digital transformation, empowered consumers demanding individualised and highly-relevant experiences, as well as the insurgence of data protection regulations. “These rising standards, along with a growing need for transparency, accountability and ethics, bring new levels of complexity to the marketing landscape.”

Hambelton has held senior marketing leadership positions at a variety of software as a service (SaaS) enterprise companies, including Adobe, Neolane, and Evariant. As the CMO at Marketing Evolution, the New York-based provider of marketing measurement and optimization solutions, she is responsible for leading the company’s global marketing strategy and operations.

Hambelton observes how consumer behaviours, paired with the sheer volume of information available to them, are turning customer loyalty into a thing of the past. “Customer expectations today have transformed beyond the point of recognition, challenging marketers to continue outdoing themselves day after day.” In this new hyper-competitive environment, she feels that CMO’s have the opportunity to really differentiate themselves, not just as marketing leaders, but also as innovators who play a vital role in guiding their company’s overall business strategy. “At a time when a customer’s experience can make or break a brand, modern marketers have to be data-driven — it’s the only way to meet and exceed their high expectations.”

Hidden gems

Throughout her career, Hambelton has always considered herself a data-driven marketer and CMO. She describes how today’s marketers are inundated with inordinate volumes of data. “And it’s the CMO’s job to set a strategy for taking advantage of that data. While CMOs might not personally be mining the data, we are the ones who often define how to leverage data from and across all departments and uncover opportunities in trends or themes that are derived from the data analysis.”

Disruption has certainly affected the range of people with whom Hambelton interacts on a regular basis. “All who are involved in marketing have been affected by the metamorphosis of the industry.” She points out that Gartner recently identified the emergence of the CDO 4.0; a new type of chief data officer that has evolved from being project-centric to product-centric because of ‘the increased usage of data and analytics across the enterprise.’ She mainly identifies opportunities in this changed environment through her network. “I continuously cultivate my network — and believe in helping others whenever I can, which in turn has helped to identify many new partners and opportunities.” Additionally, Hambelton is a voracious reader who synthesizes a lot of information through news feeds, networking groups, LinkedIn, and Twitter to find new partners and opportunities. “As someone who is inquisitive by nature, my curiosity has served me well because I tend to uncover hidden gems this way.”


Technology has made the communication between teams – both inside and outside of her organisation – easier, and at the same time more difficult. “Interacting with functions has never been easier due to all of the amazing collaboration tools. And the ability to treat my partners and vendors like seamless parts of my team is incredibly valuable. However, with all of these tools, it can be overwhelming to keep up sometimes.” She therefore stresses the importance of establishing norms and best practices for usage of different tools across the company.

Some of the new functions Hambelton has seen emerge within her team include Growth Marketing and Customer Marketing as individual roles. “In the past, these might have been broken down by tactic or channel, such as Digital Marketing or Event Marketing. But today these roles are focused on strategic initiatives within the business, such as increasing customer retention or increasing new customer acquisition dollars.” As for managing new sources of data, her tech stack includes data flows in and out. New data sources are judged on risk and reward, as well as the fit within the architecture to ensure it won’t overlap and will integrate cleanly where needed. “And then of course there is the normal diligence that goes into vetting any new vendor or provider.”

Different flavours

In order to figure out what works and what doesn’t, she feels it’s crucial to first define what’s considered ‘working’. “Clearly articulating what success looks like for each initiative and how it will be measured is critical because success can come in different flavours.” She explains that success for one particular initiative may mean increasing customer lifetime value, while for another it may be increasing share of voice. “And given all of the disruption and change today, what worked six months ago, might not work in the same way today.”

Once Hambelton has set goals and defined success for an initiative, she tends to use the ‘test and measure’ approach for identifying what works. “I have operational metrics for the team that we look at nearly every day and use as leading indicators to ensure success in meeting our overarching strategic goals for the year.”

The strategic goals she sets for the marketing team are directly in support of the financial metrics of the company, including but not limited to new customer acquisition dollars, customer retention rate, customer lifetime value (CLTV), net recurring revenue (NRR), and net promoter score (NPS). Then for operational KPIs and metrics on the acquisition side, she looks at both account-based marketing metrics for engagement and coverage, plus funnel-based metrics such as volume, velocity, and conversion rate. “With regard to brand awareness, we review competitive share of voice, as well as press and analysts mentions, placement, and engagement.”

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Written by Research World