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Judith Sim, CMO, Oracle Corp.

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Title: CMO
Company: Oracle Corp.
Years in current job: 6
Quote: “We're willing to try different things, and we've got the support of the management team to allow us to do that.”

As CMO of Oracle Corp., Judith Sim oversees all corporate marketing, an integrated mix that includes both traditional offline programs as well as forward-looking digital efforts. Sim and her team are comfortable using emerging channels—including social media, virtual events and online videos—to reach their audience, but it's old-fashioned event marketing that has proven particularly effective this year.

“It's been an unusual year with the economy the way that it is,” Sim said. “A lot of companies went more to the Web and online events—and we did keep that mix in there—but we stayed very focused on the high-touch.”

This year, Oracle hosted the same number of global events it did last year—7,000—but focused on smaller, more intimate events that afforded more access to customers, such as lunches, road shows and roundtable discussions. The shift has paid off. Despite the down economy, the number of attendees at the company's events was 22% higher than last year. “That's how I know that it's working,” Sim said.

Plus, the company saw an increase in customer deals that can be tied to marketing activity, Sim said, from 69% last year to an all-time high of 72% this year.

The reason for Oracle's commitment to events, Sim said, is that in-person meetings with customers are critical in a complex b-to-b sale. “We have to make sure that we have physical engagement, where you can actually get a chance to have a conversation with customers face to face, and at many different levels,” she said, referring to the fact that there are often several influencers and decision-makers Oracle needs to reach.

Going to customers and prospects, rather than expecting them to travel to events, was important given the state of the economy, Sim said. “We took the time to go out to where our customers were; we weren't expecting them to travel to us,” she said. “That worked really well to get their time.”

To provide high-level content at the customer events, Oracle asked in-house talent such as the development executives responsible for various product lines to participate in them. “We asked them to go out on the road much more than they would have before, because we knew it was a tough economy and we needed to be in front of the customers. They all came through for us,” Sim said. “Even Charles Phillips, our president, doubled or tripled the number of customer trips he normally does—and he's almost always on the road.”

Overall, Sim stressed the importance of being innovative in marketing and staying focused on its purpose. “There is no doubt, at the end of the day, that with Oracle marketing—and this is directly from Charles Phillips—we win when the cash register rings,” she said. “We know what our end goal is, and that's to support the sales organization. It's not as much about winning those brand awards.”

—M.E.M.

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