Acquia’s Jennifer Griffin Smith on being a Chief Market Officer (and no, that’s not a typo!)

by Jacob Solomon May 31, 2023 News
Acquia’s Jennifer Griffin Smith on being a Chief Market Officer (and no, that’s not a typo!)
Jennifer Griffin Smith

She didn't plan on becoming a marketing professional, but that's where she ended up. She's been Chief Marketing Officer for well-known tech brands, including Brightcove, Software AG, and Alfresco, but her latest role as Acquia's CMO takes a slightly different perspective on marketing, one that goes well beyond running campaigns

I like to hear how people get into marketing. While studying business management at the university, she decided she wanted to be a linguist and joined a company's customer service team after school so she could speak German all day.

The marketing manager took her to CeBIT, Germany's biggest computer expo trade show, after meeting her at that job. She moved to the US to become the Chief Marketing Officer for Progress Software. She was able to quickly learn what did and didn't work because of her close connections with the sales team. Progress Software hired her because of her global view, and she's been able to leverage that experience with other companies.

I never thought, ‘I'm going to be a CMO, and I want to live in America’. I've worked with some great companies. I've had some great leaders, and I've had some great opportunities, and I just kept thinking about how can we make it better? What's the next thing we can do? And here I am.

Why this role is different

She was introduced to Acquia through its partnership with Brightcove, where she was the chief marketing officer. Acquia's digital asset management solution was being looked at by the team along with a customer. Her interest in the digital world as both a consumer and a marketer made her want to work for Acquia.

She learned how to use video to build experiences and connect with people. Extending the platform can help build a better digital experience across a broader technology set and a broader portfolio of customers. She wanted to be a part of helping companies use Acquia's platform to connect with their customers, because the idea of connecting content, data, and executing experience is at the heart of what Acquia's platform does.

She is the Chief Market Officer at Acquia. It seems like a subtle point, but it's really important. A deep understanding of the market and customer needs is required for marketing to evolve from being about campaigns and events to a more strategic function. She gives an explanation.

It's the focus and acknowledgment that the things we execute are meaningless unless we really focus on the market needs.

In an industry where people are always talking about shifts in buyer behavior, the Pandemic brought an equality to people that were not there before. You can have buyers and employees all over the world, but you need the right digital backbone to deliver it.

These days, there are two things that need to be done with marketing.

  1. Obsessed with market conditions, buyers' needs, how these things have changed competitors, and what you're innovating for. 
  2. Marketing cannot be just a department. And it can't be only about executing programs and measuring performance. Marketing needs to be about facilitating a business and helping sellers get products into customers' hands for their benefit. 

The Chief Market Officer is responsible for connecting the go-to-market motion to make it better for the customer. I appreciated the focus on improving things for the customer. Revenue, bookings, growth, customer retention, and NPS are some of the metrics focused on in this motion.

How do DXP platforms fit into this new world?

Acquia is a digital experience platform You don't need to use one to create the customer experiences that customers want. How does it fit in?

She's been in her new position for about a month, but she's spent a lot of time talking to people. They've had internal conversations about the platform and wondered if anyone was buying it.

Her conclusion is that most companies are just looking for a solution to an engagement problem.

What customers are looking for is building some kind of business outcome for their customers. So they're looking at a better experience, and they're looking at saying, how can I understand my customer data better? How can I drive better first-party data management, and how can I map that to better content? So that might be consumption rate. Ultimately we're all trying to get a customer to do something, whether it's an online transaction, consume a piece of content, or even an employee right, and drive motivation up. So most of the time, they're not searching for a DXP. They're searching to solve an engagement problem.

A way to connect with customers more efficiently is what companies are looking for. How do you combine data and content to deliver something special? What solutions can you use to accomplish that?

The answer is open and composable solutions that allow you to build a martech stack. Acquia wants to make it easier for customers to build their own experiences. It's not just about using the data to deliver the best experiences, it's also about using the data to understand how it's affecting your community and customers.

Don't over-complicate your marketing

Developers and marketers can use the platform. Many different industries work with it. How she creates a program that supports all the different audiences is the challenge for her. She says the key is not to over-commit it. You don't do anything well if you spread things too thin.

The overarching brand story is what she begins to understand. She needs to know if those emotional stories are coming across for Acquia. The firm executes in key sectors where they are strongest. For the company's two audiences, developers and marketers, there are different tactics, such as different events, community development, content delivery, and partners. She gives an explanation.

I learned a long time ago making a marketing team successful is really the coordination of all the parts because if everybody's doing their own thing, you're only going to have so much success. It's understanding what our go-to-market framework is, what are our priority campaigns, and then orchestrating that through from product to product marketing, to communications to execution to digital, and then trying to measure that back. So we're all working towards the same goals.

My take

We talked about how to build the best marketing program and how to work across the company to succeed. We talked about technology that helps, like content management, and we talked about artificial intelligence.

She sees generative artificial intelligence as an assistant to her team that can help with more administrative tasks. She thinks it's helpful, but like many companies, they're just beginning to understand how to use it best.

It was nice to talk to a Chief Market Officer who believed that understanding the customer and doing what's right for them was the priority, and that tech was a way to do that. I don't think the title change is necessary, as it seems to me that every CMO should be thinking this way.