Q&A with Damian Burleigh, Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer, Acuity Knowledge Partners

2021-09-14 by Jade Minh
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·         What is your role at Acuity Knowledge Partners and how have your responsibilities been redefined by the pandemic? 

As the Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer (CRMO) at Acuity Knowledge Partners (Acuity), I lead all sales, account management and marketing activities for the global organization. 

My role, and sales and marketing in general, has seen remarkable elevation amid the pandemic. Acuity’s board and C-suite see marketing as a critical function to drive growth for the company. As CRMO, I must set priorities so the firm can navigate this growth strategically.

Throughout the pandemic, my focus for both sales and marketing has been keeping my team safe, calm, and focused on areas where I felt the business could exceed. Marketing plays a large role in building a company’s brand and ensuring efficient internal and external communication, even in times of uncertainty. During this time, my team drove greater business growth and meaningful client communication, worked to strengthen analytics and data-driven decision making based on client feedback and sales data and we accelerated our SEO optimization strategies to generate greater efficiency within marketing and reach new audiences.

·         How do you lead a marketing team in a time of business transformation and growth?

Driving sustained growth and transformation relies on lasting relationships between the marketing team and clients. Acuity constantly works closely with clients on thought leadership initiatives and serves as a partner to design market-leading solutions and digital applications that help clients serve their customers better.

Very early in the pandemic, we realized it would be a marketing-led recovery for businesses, particularly in the financial services sector. I sensed the urgency to go digital in a significant way, to mirror the digital nature of work and life in the pandemic. I focused on digital campaigns and advertisements to expand our outreach and we improved our SEO and digital presence to tap organic leads.

Further, I’ve always believed a successful sales and marketing function cannot be built in isolation. We have created an integrated sales, marketing and inside sales team that works closely with business units to drive all go-to-market activities successfully.

Over the past 24 months, we have made a strategic move to “outcome-based” marketing. Many facets of marketing help an organization, but our focus has been on automation and analytics capabilities, which are enablers, and even more on the ROI of each dollar spent.

·         How has remote work impacted the marketing industry and the effectiveness of campaigns

From a hiring and staffing standpoint, remote working has helped blur geographical boundaries. One can now hire talent from geographies and markets not previously possible to tap. Field marketing and physical events saw a wider impact, but webinars and other virtual-event formats have become mainstream, with an overwhelming number of events being conducted every day.

While marketers across industries experienced diminishing returns on their campaign investments, at Acuity we saw the reverse. Our content-led, thought leadership-driven digital campaigns were quite effective across our client segments. Our investment in digitalization and automation, keen emphasis on client-focused content and passion for offering a market-leading user experience, all helped make our campaigns more effective. 

Working in financial services, what challenges do you think are unique to marketing within your industry?

The global financial services sector is both highly competitive and highly regulated. Pre-pandemic challenges included competition from fintechs, evolving business models, mounting regulation and compliance pressures and disruptive technologies. These obstacles, coupled with the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, have had a profound impact on how the sector operates. More recently, the rebound in growth has presented significant staffing challenges for banks and financial services firms.

From a marketing perspective, these challenges test the limits for omnichannel marketing to deliver a great customer experience across customer lifecycle touchpoints to maximize leads and sales. We see disproportionally high investment in strengthening digital presence through mobile apps and digital and cloud-based tools to offer a tailored experience to clients.

·         As we look ahead to 2022, what innovations are you most excited about?

As the economic recovery gains momentum, marketers will most likely find themselves with more dollars to spend. Of the many emerging areas in marketing, I am excited about data and technology advances, including artificial intelligence. That said, I would caution that these are just “enablers.” The key is remaining focused on ROI outcomes, and high-quality customer relationship management (CRM). With this in mind, the following two factors are the most important:

1.    Data! data! data! Data will be at the heart of marketing strategy for precision targeting and acquisition for banking and financial services marketers. Data will enable the marketing team to create smarter, client-centered content, campaigns and communications, and allow it to create a personalized buying experience through the customer journey map.

2.    Artificial intelligence (AI) in marketing: AI and machine learning have been top marketing trends for a while. AI enables accurate, real-time analytics and measurement of marketing activities. It also helps improve the customer experience. Within the core realms of marketing, AI-enabled chatbots are already seeing wider adoption. In 2022 and beyond, I imagine marketers using chatbots for complex request resolution, personalized responses and even advanced CRM.

·         Has PR jumped up the C-suite agenda due to the pandemic?


Yes, it has. PR is now at the core of every board’s list of priorities and CMO’s marketing and communications strategy. More than ever, brands worldwide are rethinking how to reach their audiences effectively. Beyond navigating through crises, PR has the leading role in increasing a brand’s share of voice in the media and building brand visibility.

Further, as markets around the world rebound there is a serious war for talent. Our C-suite acknowledges the importance of running an effective PR program to hire and retain exceptional skills to win this war. 

PR, however, does not come cheap and is often accompanied by significant complexity in terms of setting up the right infrastructure to enable the smooth functioning of the PR engine. CMOs need to carefully craft their communications strategy to ensure it delivers on the goals.