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Kofax CMO Proves That in Marketing, United We Stand

CMO Spotlight: Grant Johnson, Kofax

By Published on .

Kofax CMO Grant Johnson.
Kofax CMO Grant Johnson. Credit: Kofax
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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 important, 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. "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 customers. Because marketing technology is a vast, specialized landscape, Johnson also understood that Kofax could be hypertargeted and intentional in its marketing -- yet still generate a high volume of business.

To reach that stream of business took building and refining the customer journey, then building and refining it again via experimentation and retargeting. Along the way, there were some failures, or what Johnson terms "sacrifices."

"I have a motto, which is 'do great work that works,'" he says. "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 road maps. "We take great pains to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach or what I call random acts of marketing," he says. "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. Johnson's first step was a marketing audit among the brands, a new work stream he 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 to organization around a consistent set of best practices," Johnson says. "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," he says.

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, adding, "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," Johnson says. "I gave some increased responsibility to leaders based in Lenexa, KS and Europe."

His department also merged content, digital and social teams for the first time, driving higher productivity. Johnson puts it this way: "I knew that I had to find a way to bridge different cultures and operational styles if I had any chance of success." Spoken like a true organizer.