CMO Spotlight: “…No Penalties for Failed Attempts”, says Peter Doucette, VP Sales & Marketing, The Boston Globe


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Great ideas for Lead Generation“…we’ve created a system where people know they can experiment. They see the benefit of pushing forward ideas. We recognize that not all ideas work, and that’s OK. The process allows people to put their ideas forward in a safe environment.

For a newspaper that is more than 150 years old to create an environment that encourages and enables experimentation can’t be an easy task. Picture this—a traditional industry, a legacy spanning over a century, a landscape filled with publishers and media companies closing their doors—that is some very strong and unsettling turbulence. As Peter Doucette, VP of Sales and Marketing at The Boston Globe said, “We needed to think of value proposition as the center of everything we do.” That is exactly what they did.   

It could have been much simpler for Doucette when he joined in late 2009 to make the newspaper’s 150 year-old legacy, awareness and brand equity the focus of marketing strategy. What he realized right away, however, was that resting on those laurels would not prevent the company from following the same downward path so many others were trundling down. Instead, they had to focus on the customer. The only way to do that was to step back and carefully examine 3 fundamental aspects of their business:

  1. WHAT are we trying to deliver?
  2. WHO is our target market?
  3. HOW can we deliver the news that our target market wants?

Those 3 questions capture the core of an effective marketing process. No matter what and how many advanced technologies you may have at your disposal, the essence of sound marketing strategy and process remains the same. As Doucette reminds us, “…it’s all about the process. It’s about becoming more agile and focusing more on experimentation. You have to create a structure that allows for that productive experimentation and the agility to change things quickly based on feedback. It’s a marathon, and you constantly have to revisit it to ensure you’re on track.”  

5 Tips to Create Value and Engage Customers

Peter Doucette’s leadership has enabled The Boston Globe to break free from 150+ years of tradition to reach out, engage and create distinct experiences for the newspaper’s audience. Today that audience comprises of both paying subscribers for the digital, subscription-only version of The Boston Globe and the media-snacking, mass audience that reads the free, online version at How did the newspaper successfully manage this two-pronged digital strategy? It was a risk, no doubt, but a calculated one that was worth taking, according to Doucette, and the results certainly validate that.

Here are 5 tips B2B marketers can take from Doucette and his approach that worked for The Boston Globe.

  1. Move users from ‘anonymous’ to ‘known’ to ‘customers’: You have to know your audience very closely and the way to do that is through experimentation. Use every opportunity available to move your potential customers from being unknown users to distinct identities that you can nurture and continuously feed with exactly what they want, and more. With online tracking and monitoring tools, it is easy to see what is consumed by which type of audience. Those are the clues marketers need to build a more personalized offering. See these Customer Lifecycle Stages that Peter Doucette and his team are constantly monitoring 
    *Source: Peter Doucette’s presentation at The Optimization Summit 2013

    *Source: Peter Doucette’s presentation at The Optimization Summit 2013

  2. Personalize and monetize: We no longer have the luxury of big and expanding budgets. In fact, shrinking marketing budgets is one of the reasons digital marketing has exploded. Not to forget the flexibility, speed and creativity that digital media allows for marketing experimentation. The Boston Globe has taken on a marketing platform that allows a 360 degree view of their customers across various channels in order to personalize what they offer to each target segment. That’s when personalization starts to pay off. Doucette says their goal is, Ultimately, we want to provide the optimal experience for every user by segmenting them into meaningful buckets and creating targeted solutions for them.” 
  3. Show the ROI: Experimentation is a must, but you have to be able to show results. Doucette warns that one has to be judicious in the approach to marketing so that limited budgets deliver measurable ROI. The essential process steps marketers can emulate from the success story of The Boston Globe involve: optimizing the purchase funnel to improve conversion rates, reducing customer acquisition costs, and increasing customer lifetime value.
  4. Hire the right marketing skills and platforms: You need to bring on talent that goes beyond brand marketing. The systems and platforms you utilize must function like marketing ‘laboratories’ where your marketing ‘scientists’ and data analysts can run experiments, study the results, generate reports that provide actionable insights and make changes with the agility and dexterity that is required in a digital landscape. 
  5. Let go if it doesn’t work: This is a huge challenge for companies. “We have always done it like this” is a common, yet possibly the most ridiculous reason for resisting change. At The Boston Globe, Doucette says they strongly encourage risk taking and the willingness to let go of what’s not working. As he says, “There are no penalties for failed attempts.” In a scientific setup, you have to be able to fail, but fail fast and recover even faster to move on to the next strategy. As long as you focus on the outcome—and that outcome has to be a positive customer experience—your experiments will be worth it. 

Is your organization following best practices without testing to see that they will work for you? Are you running the risk of assumption-based decision making? What steps can you take to ensure your marketing experiments deliver a distinctive, memorable and repeatable customer experience? Let’s discuss on my blog. Leave me a comment. You can also sign up for email updates.

If you enjoy reading this CMO Spotlight series, please share it. You can email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.   

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


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