Driving efficient growth during a downturn

Geoffrey Keating on October 27th 2022

Growth: it’s probably the most important KPI your business measures. But depending on the economic climate, it’s also a word that can mean a lot of different things.

When times are good, your company is flush with capital, acquisition is easy, and opportunities for expansion are limitless. But when times are bad, businesses reflexively tighten their belts and shift their focus from a “growth at all costs” mindset to things much more pragmatic. It’s about keeping the lights on, rather than turning on new ones. 

To unpack how these changes are impacting our industry, and to clarify what growth means for your business in 2022, at our recent CDP Live event we sat down with some of the foremost experts on the subject. 

Read on to get a short recap of the event, and learn about some common pitfalls of trying to grow your business too fast, and how to avoid them so that you succeed instead.

How a 170-year old institution stays innovative

“It's about keeping data from getting siloed into different domains where everybody's creating their own definition and having it all in one place where it's discoverable and usable. So that the dashboards that everybody needs to use to make decisions all reflect consistent definitions, for instance.” – Kendell Timmers

Like virtually every business across the globe, The New York Times has been forced to embrace a data-driven approach within their organization. From helping editors do their jobs better, increase revenue, and help engage existing and current subscribers, data sits at the heart of everything they do.

So when the business was forced to pivot away from third-party data to acquire new subscribers, the 170-year old company had to rethink its existing approach and look for alternative ways to grow its subscriber base.

Enter Kendell Timmers.

A seasoned data and analytics expert who previously worked at companies like American Express, ZS Associates, and US Airways, Kendell now serves as Senior Vice President and Head of Data and Insights at The New York Times. In this live recording of the Good Data, Better Marketing podcast, host Kailey Redmond sat down with Kendell to discuss NLP, personalizing paywalls, and creating a unified view of the customer in a privacy-forward way.

One of the highlights of the session was hearing how Kendall convinced the publication’s management team that third-party data was a bad habit they needed to kick, and in its place built an industry-leading first party data program that powers much of their digital advertising business.

Weathering the economic storm with product-led growth

These are uncertain times for any marketer. As reported in our recent Growth Report, 63% of respondents expect to decrease spending on marketing technology in the coming 12 months, in order to drive operational efficiency and cost savings.

But it’s not just budgets that are under attack.

Maybe you’ve seen your top of the funnel demand decreasing. Or your SQLs have dried up entirely. While each marketing team feels the impact differently, one thing is certain – marketers are being forced to adapt to change at a pace we haven’t seen before. 

To explore how best to market during a period of economic turmoil, Session 2 saw Katrina Wong, VP of Marketing at Segment, sit down with Lauren Volpi, VP of Marketing at Mixpanel, and Adam Schatz, Global Product Marketing Manager, Snap Inc. 

While the panel discussed many of the numerous headwinds facing marketers today, their outlook remained resolutely positive. 

Despite the unfavorable market conditions, the panel agreed that growth still matters, albeit in a different form. What has changed is that the bar for what “growth” looks like is radically different, where unit economics, profitability, and efficiency are the new north stars.

For example, Adam Schatz said that while Snap has seen budgets for top of the funnel campaigns begin to decline, the demand for campaigns that drive proven ROI has remained steady, and is actually increasing. 

“There's definitely still a high demand for lower funnel budgets, especially when we're driving success based on a marketer's KPIs when we're able to actually drive that ROI. We're actually seeing increases in budgets a lot of the time. When we're able to do this successfully, we're seeing demand remain stable, and sometimes even increase.” - Adam Schatz

This view was echoed by Mixpanel’s Lauren Volpi, who said her team has moved most, if not all, the team’s budget towards lower funnel activities, specifically product signups. Not only do these PLG activities correlate with real revenue, they also generate valuable first-party data that can be used to drive meaningful customer experiences. 

Climbing the customer data maturity curve

A recent CMO Council report found that 80% of leaders proclaimed data as “very important to winning and retaining customers”. Yet in spite of that, only a fraction of respondents (28%) were confident in their ability to manage that data.

After helping thousands of companies map their customer data strategy – including several Fortune 500 enterprises – we found companies operate across a wide spectrum of customer data maturity. Some have full confidence in their data to make decisions, are able to personalize the customer experience across channels, and adapt their business to changing environments and customer needs. Others are just getting started in their journey, and are getting their heads around what to track, and how to activate that data cross teams.

Seth Familian, Director of Global Advisory Services at Twilio Segment, walked us through the core data competencies required for your business, regardless of where you are in your customer data journey. 

Zoom with margin

Particularly illuminating was Seth’s discussion of how important it was to have the right team in place to move successfully up the curve. At the center of every data-driven organization are the appropriate stakeholders, who can help to guide a customer data platform towards adoption and generating business value. These stakeholders should cut across your organization – from data engineering and analytics to product and marketing.  

The quickest way to grow your customer data maturity, according to Seth, is to align each department around a shared vision, and ensure their accountability in upholding agreed-upon data standards and activation strategies.  


To watch all sessions from the event on demand, head this way.

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