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News Plus 20 Apr 2021 - 3 min read

The martech works: Telstra CMO Jeremy Nicholas says personalisation push leading to better CX, but urges CMOs to avoid boardroom chest beating

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Jeremy Nicholas: "To be able to suppress or engage marketing messages based on what they are experiencing is hugely important. Having that centralised decision engine and data source has been key."

While many CMOs have struggled to maximise returns from martech investment, Telstra's marketing boss Jeremy Nicholas says the telco's digital transformation and structural overhaul, dubbed T22, is already paying dividends. The brand is now making smarter, tailored messages based via its "centralised decision engine", leading to marked CX gains – and Nicholas thinks consumers will not take issue with big data companies using those insights if personalisation is done well. Meanwhile, he suggests the push for marketers to impose themselves on boards is misplaced.

"The thing I rail against the most are the questions of 'why aren’t more CMOs actually CEOs, why aren’t you fighting in the boardroom and why aren’t you controlling the customer'."

Jeremy Nicholas, CMO, Telstra

What you need to know:

  • Telstra has upped personalisation since implementing Salesforce, per CMO Jeremy Nicholas.
  • He said the business has been able to develop personalised, first party data-led campaigns that can be suppressed or turned up based on a complete user profile.
  • For example, if a 4G customer is consistently using a 5G enabled cell tower, Telstra can register the use and send tailored upgrade offers.
  • Nicholas also suggested that those calling for CMOs to impose themselves on boards have the wrong idea, arguing instead that there should be less "aggression" in the boardroom.

Personalisation push

Telstra's CMO Jeremy Nicholas has bucked broader industry frustrations over the value of martech investment, detailing the successes in CX and personalisation the brand has gained since its Salesforce implementation

Nicholas, lined up to speak at Salesforce's Live ANZ event, explained that the brand now has greater understanding and control over the messaging it pushes to customers.

He said the implementation, part of the company's 'T22' strategic overhaul, allows the business to focus on its "complete customer experience".

"Customer expectations have risen over the last 4-5 years but the real competition on those expectations is less about our direct [telco] competitors and more about the broader expectations from brands in society," Nicholas

"The expectations they have for customer experience with Telstra now get compared to their food delivery service, ecommerce or even travel experiences. We’ve got to make sure that we are benchmarking our CX not just against our own industry but the best experiences for every customer across their life."

 

To be able to suppress or engage marketing messages based on what [people] are experiencing is hugely important.

Jeremy Nicholas, CMO, Telstra

Smarter decisions

According to Nicholas, the T22 programme is a huge shift in the company, particularly for how customer-facing roles function, with sales agents, both on and offline, able to access a complete customer profile irrespective of location.

The complete customer profile means marketing messaging can be suppressed or turned up based on the situation.

"If there was an NBN outage in your area or it wasn’t available and we can see that, then we won’t target you with a product in that category," Nicholas said.

"To be able to suppress or engage marketing messages based on what they are experiencing is hugely important. Having that centralised decision engine and data source has been key."

For example, if a customer lives in a 5G enabled area, Telstra can see see if a 4G consumer is using that cell tower. 

Nicholas said the company "can then say to you [as a customer] there is 5G in your area and the cell tower you use most in your area is 5G enabled", then offer an upgrade to use the service.

That is not about “being creepy”, he said, rather providing help to customers and proving, as a brand, that the personalisation suits their individual needs.

The same "decision engine" can use payment data, service history and user profiles to manage messaging based on age, financial status or necessity.

"The correct use of data has been something that has emerged as a major conversation in recent years," Nicholas said.

"There are some that may not have the financial literacy to manage certain plans and we don't want to market a product or service that will put them in debt. That's when we suppress or personalise the message to what they use."

Good wins

Nicholas said while there are growing fears that big business has amassed huge volumes of people's data purely for financial gain, enforcing a strong corporate responsibility strategy should quell consumer concerns.

He argued the brands that are using people's data to help those customers will see the best of both worlds, with reputation and brand affinity rising and ultimately leading to to stronger ROI and sales.

However, he said that required brands to place corporate benefit secondary to consumer needs.

“We are held to a higher standard and we should be, as the biggest player getting it right 99.9% of the time isn’t good enough because with 18m customers, that means when you get it wrong, thousands of people are impacted," Nicholas said.

Attitude adjuster

Nicholas was also questioned on the role of the CMO and offered an alternate view on the ongoing conversation around the need for more "CMOs to be CEOs".

There should be less "aggressive" conversation in the boardroom about the role, he suggested.

"The thing I rail against the most are the questions of 'why aren’t more CMOs actually CEOs, why aren’t you fighting in the boardroom and why aren’t you controlling the customer'," said Nicholas.

"These aggressive words like fighting, battling, owning... I don’t see the workplace like that, nor the job. I don’t own the customer at Telstra, I’m part of a team of thousands that are trying to make the experience better for the customer," he added.

"It’s an important mindset to get into. You’ve got to be in partnerships with lots of different people and have great relationships across the organisation, as well as being open to collaboration and taking feedback."

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