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CMO Spotlight: 8 Questions with Shannon Duffy, SVP App Cloud and Pardot Marketing, Salesforce

Feb 1, 2017

Digital transformation. Customer centricity. Operational efficiency. Besides being widely overused and abused, these buzzwords are top of mind for the mass majority of enterprise leaders.

And for good reason, because we’re operating in some turbulent and uncertain times. But there’s a glimmer at the end of the tunnel. Influence provides an untapped avenue to push forward in times of change--and future-focused executives are paying attention.

Nearly three-quarters (71%) of marketing leaders view influencer marketing as a strategic or highly strategic practice. While new data can be a powerful tool, nothing replaces in-person conversation. I recently had the chance to grab lunch with Shannon Duffy, SVP, App Cloud and Pardot Marketing at Salesforce. I wanted to understand how Salesforce effectively serves its customers--and whether influence plays a role in its success. Read on to find out how Shannon helps Salesforce build a brand that customers love being a part of.

8 Questions with Shannon Duffy, SVP, App Cloud and Pardot Marketing, Salesforce:

1. What do you do for Salesforce?

My day to day is all about crafting and driving the strategy for the App Cloud and Pardot business. I provide the direction and resources to my team to make sure we execute on our marketing strategy. I’m a bit like a ship captain — I’m in charge of plotting the course and steering the ship by making sure my crew has everything they need to keep things running.

2. How does your role and your core responsibilities directly impact the Salesforce customer experience?

Every customer is different, so my role is to connect with as many of those customers as I can and make sure my team is able to translate our vision as a company down into an experience that will fit the real-life needs of our customers. They’re the heart of our business and our main priority as marketers, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day execution of our jobs and forget that you need to connect directly with the people you’re marketing to. We love our customers, and we want to build a brand that they love being a part of. We call that our Salesforce Ohana, meaning family.

3. What’s stopping CMOs today from effectively understanding and serving their customers?

Well, as I mentioned, hopefully, they are all getting out and listening to customers regularly. That’s step one. If you’re doing that and still having difficulties, I think it’s often because of organizational pressures and failure to adapt to the changing customer expectations. In our on-demand world, everyone is moving at light speed. Even if you feel like you’ve got a really good grasp on who your customers are, they way they want to interact with you can change in an instant. Marketplace trends, consumer technology, and more are shifting behaviors faster than ever before, and sometimes you can miss that from inside your company bubble. You have to make a conscious effort to break out and challenge your assumptions. [Tweet this]

4. Does your brand work with influencers? If yes, what sort of results have you seen? If not, do you plan to in the future?

We do! We have an amazing network of thought leaders that we collaborate with on a wide range of different projects. These are people who are innovating, creating and shaping the industries they work in and being able to get their insights and share them with our customers is inspiring. We also see our customers as influencers. The power of peer recommendations is tremendous. [Tweet this] 

5. How can influencer marketing help technology brands improve the customer experience? Or rather, can it?

Customer experience starts with building trust, and demonstrating to your buyers that you genuinely care about meeting their needs. We work to keep our marketing efforts focused on the customer, and to ensure that every part of each campaign gives them something helpful or useful, or needed. Influencers can bring a new perspective and provide some of that helpful content to our customers.  

6. What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to aspiring CMOs who want to better serve their customers in the digital age?

Be agile, and don’t be afraid to innovate. You’ll need the agility — things change so quickly, and it can be hard to react fast enough, especially in larger organizations. You want to be staying one step ahead, or at least in step, with customer expectations. That means running, not walking. Remember, you’re the captain of the ship, so being able to keep things running smoothly is going to be a big part of what you do. But you also need to keep a look for opportunities to try something new — whether they come from you or your team, it’s those innovative moments, those crazy ideas, those ‘what if we…’ situations that can yield the most amazing results.

7. In planning for the new year, how do you determine what is most important for you and your team (incl. tactics & focus)?

I usually know broadly which direction we need to go in. Then the team and I sit down together and hammer out the details. We look at what’s done well, and what needs to happen and where things can be improved and I compare these to my long term goals for our program, and get their feedback and ideas on ways to align creatively. We also look at what has the potential to be disruptive to our space in the coming year and try to learn from others we admire.

8. How do you go about testing these new ideas? What determines success?

You don’t learn anything unless you try, so when it comes to new ideas we take a look at the risks, and then we give it a try. That’s the most important thing you can do. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but each time we learn a little more. In the end, we get really good at knowing what’s probably going to work and what’s definitely out of the question. As for what determines success, it’s a matter of what’s driving customer engagement, and what’s driving revenue for the business.

As the captain of the ship, Shannon has truly embraced what it means to be customer-centric--and she proves it with action. To learn more about Shannon Duffy, you can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn. To stay up-to-date with our CMO spotlight series, make sure to subscribe for content updates.