5 Ways to Become a Change Agent in 2017

CMO Spotlight: Melinda Welsh, Chase Auto Finance

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Melinda Welsh
Melinda Welsh Credit: Chase Auto Finance

Have you ever worked with an agent of change? She's that new hire who swoops into the marketing department, ready with a briefcase full of innovative ideas -- or at least the determination to discover and implement some. She changes her industry from the inside out, winning awards for her forward thinking, and causing her peers to reconsider their own marketing modus operandi.

An agent of change looks, sounds and works like Melinda Welsh, the CMO of Chase Auto Finance.

"When I got into this job," Welsh remembers, "I had a fantastic CEO who really wanted transformative marketing. She said, 'I want you to come here and change things.'"

And change things Welsh did, developing the marketing and branding framework for the first end-to-end car buying and financing site online, earning buzz from fintech media and heralding auto marketing into a new B2C space. In fact, The CMO Club recently recognized Welsh's proclivity for progress and leadership, honoring her with its elite President's Circle Award.

Want to become a change agent in 2017? You need look no further than Welsh's five insights below.

1) Identify who owns the customer experience

Think about your Thanksgiving dinner this year. The host likely determined ahead of time who would cook the meal and, assuming he or she delegated some responsibility, it all came together through collaboration. In this way, preparing everyone's favorite annual feast is analogous to choosing which departments in a company take ownership of the customer experience.

Welsh hopes her marketing department can one day be the team that does it all. "I see more and more of that coming into marketing -- a more holistic approach of that customer experience and customer lifecycle," she says. "Offering a more consistent end-to-end experience is definitely an opportunity."

2) Read the room to measure value

Aside from KPIs and scorecards, Welsh determines the value of her team's marketing with a few probing questions to business line managers at Chase. "Do they trust marketing? Do they want to invest more funds and in more marketers because they see the value that marketing is adding?" she asks. "If the answer is yes, and they see it as a critical piece of growing their business, then I feel like we're really succeeding as a marketing organization." So, if your numbers don't speak for themselves, consider a heartfelt conversation about where marketing is or isn't helping the rest of the organization.

3) Don't forget about traditional marketing

In terms of where marketers should focus their energy in the coming year, Welsh warns against putting all of your eggs in a digital basket. "Make sure that you're still looking at non-digital marketing channels," she suggests, adding that it may be time to revisit experiential marketing, which, despite barriers to entry, can create a lasting positive impact for a brand. "While some companies are doing [experiencial marketing] well, many of us are not sure what to do to scale experiences," she says. "People really want something tangible, and marketing can provide that. If you can figure out scale, you really have something."

4) Vie for more video

As for digital, Welsh believes that video (specifically, the social, bite-sized variety) is a wise investment to compliment our bite-sized attention spans. "There's something really interesting happening with video content within a platform like Facebook," she says. "I think advertisers haven't caught on to yet to the idea of creating 'snackable' content." Welsh clarifies that this doesn't mean ad placement, but rather content that catches eyes in a different way than does the rest of the content on social media.

5) Keep those eyes on the horizon

Last but not least, Welsh reminds us of the importance of staying current with consumers, especially next-generation consumers. "Don't just fall back on what's worked before," she warns, "and really think about what is next. Take my 11-year old daughter as an example: she does not watch TV! But she's absolutely glued to video content on her phone, and what she finds interesting and relevant is very, very different than what we're used to." Ignoring these signs today, makes pivoting harder tomorrow, she says, concluding, "There's a whole new world of marketing and advertising that's waiting to be tapped that we haven't figured out quite yet."

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