Marketing trends are always changing, and it's so important to stay relevant. What are the latest trends, and how does one stay abreast of them? Is it better to be an early adopter or to see which trends stick? To address these questions, we’re asking experienced CMOs and marketing executives to share their “Top 5 Marketing Trends That Leaders Need To Know.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Ruane.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! To start, can you tell us a bit about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m from the Greater Boston area originally, which has a thriving and vibrant tech community, so I was able to secure a couple of summer internships during college working with variety of B2B clients in marketing and communications. The internships made me realize early on in my career how much I loved learning about new technologies and innovations, particularly in the software space.
It’s funny because I actually went to Syracuse University in New York, a college which is well-known for its sports broadcasting, and I was going to go conquer the world and become the next great sports journalist! But the internships put me on a different path, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Our mistakes can sometimes be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you made from when you were first starting?
This is a great question! The main one that comes to mind is from early on in my agency years. I showed up one day to the office and my manager comes over to me, looks me up and down, and says “have you forgotten about our big new client pitch today?”. Not only had the pitch slipped my mind, but I had shown up to the office dressed in pretty casual clothing—which was not going to fly in front of the prospective client!
Fortunately, I had a work friend who was about my size, so we ended up swapping clothes for the day. Me in his button-up shirt, him in my sweatshirt. The pitch ended up going well, but the experience really taught me the importance of how you present yourself professionally, and to always be ready for anything that might come your way.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you're grateful for?
I’m fortunate to have met a variety of amazing people who have helped me along the way, but the first person that comes to mind is my mom. She left college after her sophomore year to have my older sister and me, and she ended up going back to school at nights to finish her degree. After my parents divorced, she used that degree to start a new career for herself, rising through the ranks.
By the time I graduated college myself, she was marketing manager at CVS’s headquarters in Rhode Island. I had graduated in the early 2000s, into a tough job market that was impacted heavily by economic instability at the time—not unlike what we’re experiencing today, actually—and there just weren’t any jobs out there at all. My mom pulled some strings and set me up with a half-day at the CVS office, where I met with several members of the marketing and communications team who gave me guidance and advice.
Having access to this network did immeasurable things to my confidence and helped to reinvigorate my job search. I did get my first marketing role a month or so after this and it really taught me the importance of having a strong network. I reflect on this often, both because of the gratitude I feel to my mom, but also because it instilled in me a desire to help “pay it forward.”
I often get college graduates reaching out to me seeking advice and I always make the time to help them however I can. We have an excellent internship program at Precisely that has resulted in us hiring some truly outstanding members of our team.
Are you able to identify a 'tipping point' in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different?
I think the tipping point for me came when I was working at Oracle. I had the opportunity to relocate and work out of the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, in the main building on campus famous for being “Larry Ellison’s building”—and right where all the action is!
I was lucky enough to be able to brush elbows with some industry heavyweights at a time when the company was making a number of high profile acquisitions. It was a hugely exciting and inspiring time. Experiencing that level of exponential growth had a big impact on my confidence. I believe it set the foundation for what followed in my career.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
Well, if you’ve ever come across us online or at an event, you won’t have missed our Precisely purple! We’re very proud of our brand, having worked on a full company rebrand back in 2020. But it’s really the people that make us who we are. Across every department, at every level, you will find that there’s a culture of hard-working experts who are curious and love solving complex challenges for our customers.
We’re a company formed through acquisition—in fact we’ve acquired eight businesses in the past three years alone—and this has resulted in a diverse team of people all with different backgrounds and experiences. Our company values are openness, determination, individuality, and collaboration. We truly believe what makes us different, makes us stronger.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? Tell us about it!
I’m lucky to have an amazing marketing organization working for me, which enables me to branch out and take a larger role in service to our business. I was recently asked by our CEO, Josh Rogers, to lead a cross-functional group that's focused on accelerating the market momentum and adoption of our first-of-its-kind, SaaS Data Integrity Suite.
This has given me the opportunity to get even closer to our customers and help unlock greater value for them, particularly as cloud adoption continues to accelerate, and businesses increasingly need to be able to rely on trustworthy data to make fast and confident decisions.
It really speaks to how well marketing is viewed by our leadership and the wider team at Precisely. We take great pride in being seen as a strategic function of the business that’s tightly aligned with the overall company vision.
As a CMO, you're at the forefront of the marketing space and leading diverse teams. What resources or tools do you use to stay abreast of the ever-changing landscape?
I’m a founding member of the networking group CMO Huddles, which brings together amazing CMOs from across different businesses, and provides a safe space to share ideas and experiences with each other. I also regularly take part in a meetup group called CMO Coffee Talk, which explores different marketing topics each week in an informal setting.
It’s funny how often we all seem to be facing very similar challenges, and there’s a shared desire to help and support each other along the way—it’s truly a wonderful thing. The power of a strong network is definitely as important now as it was early on in my career!
In your experience, is it possible to forecast upcoming trends?
I believe that we greatly increase our likelihood of being able to forecast upcoming trends when we have the ability to be data-driven and make decisions and assumptions based on data that is accurate, consistent, and contextual.
With so much rapid change and economic turbulence happening in the world at the moment, its impossible to be in control of every factor impacting your business, but the more attention you’re paying to the data, the more likely you’re going to be able to spot those early signals, and uncover patterns that you may otherwise have missed.
In marketing, would you say it’s better to be an early adopter of trends or wait to see if they stick before allocating resources?
I’m a big advocate for marketing innovation and learning better ways to do things, and I think it has to be done in a way that stays faithful to your brand. I always say to my team that our success is defined as much by what we don't do, as what we do. Jumping onto a new trend, just because there’s a lot of buzz surrounding it, isn’t necessarily serving your customers in the best way.
Our mission at Precisely is to be the strategic partner of choice for customers in achieving trusted data, and we ultimately let that guide us in everything we do. I take a great interest in keeping an eye out for new technologies and ideas that will serve us in our mission, but I’m also comfortable in letting others be the early adopters until we’ve assessed what value it can bring to our customers.
Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience?
In the aftermath of COVID-19 there was so much anticipation around in-person events coming back, and so we placed some pretty big bets last year sponsoring some larger events, which didn’t necessarily perform as well as they have done in the past in terms of ROI.
I think, ultimately, the world has changed and so too has the way in which customers approach buying technology. There’s less focus on events being lead-generating activities, and more on them becoming a vehicle for the education and engagement of key buyer groups, as well as overall brand awareness—something that's really important for us as a newer brand. I think the future of in-person events will be much more experience-led as a result.
Based on your experience and success, what are the top five marketing trends leaders should know about in 2023?
I believe the following five trends will become increasingly important for marketers during 2023 and beyond:
- Virtual events will get more sophisticated – as I mentioned before, I don’t believe that in-person events are truly “back” in the way they were before. In the current climate, customers are going to be facing cuts to their travel budgets, and marketing teams will turn to digital channels as a more environmentally friendly way of hosting large events. I think this opens up the opportunity for virtual events to get even more interactive, with the ability to provide personalized event tracks in a more “a la carte” fashion than physical events allow. Our own flagship event, Trust ’23, will be a virtual event again this year and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever!
- An increase in content created by Artificial Intelligence – the recent launch of ChatGPT has certainly raised some fascinating questions about the role AI can play in more quickly and cost-effectively creating content. There will be a rise in marketers adopting this as a tactic in 2023, but it will be interesting to see what the impact of it is on overall engagement – after all, can AI really replicate the human expertise traditionally used to create and deliver valuable content for customers?
- A rise in signal-based marketing – as marketing teams have become more data-driven, we’ve become used to collecting data that better informs us on customer behaviors, but I think this will continue evolving in 2023 to become much more focused on observing earlier signals from those key buyer groups. The use of intent data will inform marketing activity to help get in front of prospects much earlier on in the buying process.
- Conversational marketing will provide better website experiences – instead of directing website visitors to fill out lead capture forms, and then wait for an indeterminate amount of time for a response, there’ll be a shift to using AI, chatbots, and targeted messaging to engage with web visitors in real-time and provide far greater, more personalized, customer experiences.
- Increase in relationship marketing will improve customer intimacy – as businesses seek to navigate uncertain economic times, it will become even more important to better understand our customers. This will help us to better serve them in our mission to be a strategic partner, solve their challenges, and help achieve their goals. I predict an increased focus on relationship marketing during 2023 to help grow organic, sustainable, and profitable results. A commitment to doing what’s right for the customer, and not just what’s easy, will be a great differentiator for many organizations.
Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would it be?
Thinking about all of the help and guidance I was so lucky to receive early on in my career, I would love to be able to create a movement that provides the help and assistance needed to get more young people started on their own career paths, particularly in the current economic climate.
I think there’s a big opportunity in the future of mentorship to leverage the technological advancements at our fingertips to reach an even wider, and more diverse, community of marketers and help the next generation to achieve their full potential.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You are more than welcome to connect with me directly on LinkedIn, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t also share links for readers to discover more about our wonderful Precisely team! Visit our careers and culture page, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to see our latest news.