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Renegade Thinkers Unite


Welcome to Renegade Thinkers Unite!

Jul 25, 2017

This episode is the first of a two-part series with Grant Johnson, CMO of Kofax, a huge company you made not have heard of unless you're in need of automation software. Grant is a veteran marketer who managed to pull together three separate organizations into one cohesive marketing machine and in the process, discover many keys to successful B2B marketing. My co-host in this in-depth exploration of B2B marketing is entrepreneur and Inc magazine author, Bill Carmody.  

Kofax CMO Proves that in Marketing, United We Stand.

If “every village has its idiot” had an antithesis, it would be “every community has its organizer.” In any group setting, he or she is that person who naturally brings together disparate individuals with a common bond and, most importantly, mobilizes them for action.

At Kofax, that person is Grant Johnson, Chief Marketing Officer. The automation software company was acquired in 2015 by Lexmark, which had recently subsumed two additional software brands. As the new CMO, Johnson set out to unify the various marketing functions of the now-global brand.

“I think we are in a unique position now at Kofax to look at the market with a fresh set of eyes,” he says, “and we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Although we have this broad portfolio of great software and solutions, we know that in the customer-driven era, it’s about them, not us.”

The Cause: Customers

Several years ago, Johnson realized that the only way for Kofax to thrive was to attain best-in-class marketing practices. How to do this required time, but it mostly involved attaining the maximum threshold of relevance with its customer. Because marketing technology is a vast, specialized landscape, Johnson also understood that Kofax could be hyper-targeted and intentional in its marketing and still generate a high volume of business.

To reach that stream of business took building, refining, building, refining the customer journey via experimentation and retargeting, with some failures and what Johnson terms “sacrifices” along the way. “I have a motto, which is ‘do great work that works.’ If it doesn’t work, stop doing it. If it works great, whether engaging customers and prospects, generating leads or nurturing opportunities, do more of it.”

His department eventually netted out with five detailed customer personas and predetermined content roadmaps. “We take great pains to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach or what I call random acts of marketing,” says Johnson. “Part of cutting through effectively is a relentless focus on delivering consistent messaging across every touch point and element of a given campaign.”

These journeys are continually tested and refreshed via community engagement, influencer campaigns, and social listening. The approach is what Johnson calls “aim, ready, fire,” and it helped Kofax’s revenue climb from $300 million to $600 million in just three years.

The Activists: Employees

Getting three marketing departments on the same page after the merger, however, was no easy task for Johnson. The first step was a marketing audit among the brands, a new work stream Johnson called “marketing best practices.” The groups gathered and came to discover who did what best. “The work stream became both a catalyst for change and way to galvanize the organization around a consistent set of best practices,” says Johnson. “The teams could envision how they could do better marketing by making the changes.”

Part of helping teams “unlearn” their less effective habits involved a physical blueprint of 2017 plans that outlined their marketing roles and was created with assistance from outside firms. “That fact that every group could see how they were contributing to and impacting the integrated plan helped literally get them on the same page they could refer to, communicate and understand.”

The Goal: Change

Johnson says the 2017 plan is off to a strong start, but he explains that one hard lesson for marketers to learn is that lasting change always takes more time than anticipated. “People can nod their head, agree to the new directive and then just go back to doing things the way they have,” he says, “Especially when the leadership is thousands of miles away.”

One way to expedite the process, however, is spurring employee cohesion by blending teams and creating new ones. “I didn’t just put managers based in Irvine [headquarters] in charge of larger groups. I gave some increased responsibility to leaders based in Lenexa, KS and Europe,” says Johnson. His department also merged content, digital and social teams for the first time, driving higher productivity. Spoken like a true organizer: “I knew that I had to find a way to bridge different cultures and operational styles if I had any chance of success.”