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Lenovo has historically been known for its extensive line of innovative, quality hardware. But did you know Lenovo sells software too? Just four years ago, Lenovo acquired the 30-year software company, which works to build a portfolio of solutions to address opportunities across commercial, consumer, and educational needs. In fact, Lenovo Software is the team behind our very own Airstack.

Portrait of Sabra Willner

Today, Lenovo Software is in the process of making the shift from on-prem software to SaaS. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Lenovo Software CMO, Sabra Willner, as part of our Tech Stack Chat series about her perspectives on how technology is changing traditional marketing methods, the importance of keeping clean data, and why breaking down silos is imperative for the best customer experience.

Watch the full interview or read the highlights below.

How have you seen marketing change over the years as technology has continually evolved?

I’ve always been in technology. It’s totally changing, and marketing is changing even faster. We no longer need a really great tagline or a Super Bowl commercial. We need to deliver personalized content that truly relates to the person we’re talking to at the exact moment we’re talking to them. And what’s powering that is technology.

In the past, we were typically feeding a sales team. All we had to do was find a warm body, and we could pass that off to sales to do the rest. Now, we need to build relationships with our customers through our product and customer experience – at scale.

How are you planning to apply technology to meet changing customer expectations?

We’re reinventing what the marketing team looks like. We need technology to help us do that. And the biggest surprise is that instead of needing a single solution, now you need multiple tools because you can’t have any gaps in your technology. You’d rather have overlap in the information because it’s all about data.

It’s about data, numbers, graphs, and really letting the customer tell us about themselves through data versus us just guessing or telling them what they want. As marketers, we need to just be the consumer and walk in their shoes. We are all very unique individuals that like to engage in different ways—even if demographically, we appear to be exactly the same. And that’s exactly what marketing is trying to figure out. We want to understand more than the typical demographic information.

People say “teams can be siloed, but data can’t.” How do you think data silos are impacting customer experience?

While everyone needs data for their specific jobs, they don’t realize how the data flows through multiple systems. It used to be that visitors came to the website, you get that data, pass them off to product, make a sale, put the data in your CRM, and then if they have a support issue, they’re passed off there.

But it’s not like that at all.

You need to understand what different points they’re at with the products—if they’ve raised a support issue, if they have questions, and how that impacts what you do. If one group gets it right, and one group gets it wrong, you’ve lost the whole thing. We used to say “360 view” to mean “integrated marketing” and all it’s different tactics, but I think 360 has expanded to mean all of the touchpoints with the customer. You have to break down the data silos so everyone is armed with the most recent data.

How are you shifting your investments as you make the switch to a SaaS organization?

The first step was to do an audit. It turns out, we have a lot more technology than we thought.

We have duplicative technology because everyone has bought for their own personal preference and put it on credit cards, so we’re not even getting to see the spend. It’s hitting the wrong cost center.

So now, we’re just trying to visualize everything we have, get down to what the solid foundation is, figure out where our gaps are, and start investing. Then, we have to get it to talk to each other so we can be collaborative, but also break down those data silos. It’s not just about marketing getting their technology together, but also working with all the different groups.

And the other thing is, you’re only as good as your data. You’ve got to figure out how to clean up “dirty data” so it doesn’t bog down the beautiful marketing technology system you just created.

How do you recommend going about cleaning up “dirty data?”

There’s no easy answer. It’s one of those things that has to be manual because it really does require human intelligence to adjust a typo or an abbreviated company name. Just do it campaign by campaign. And when you have a new, focused initiative, make sure it’s clean when you start and then build on top of it.

From there, the biggest thing is having processes behind it to protect it because we’ve cleaned up some of our systems and then realized we didn’t lock it down enough. People would go in and make changes. Then, all the hard work we had done to build an infrastructure got diluted by people having access and only thinking about their specific need. We’ve also been doing our own in-house systems tests to make sure people understand how the systems are applicable to what we’re doing and get a level of comfort before we let people in.

Do you think it’s valuable to let people buy tools to solve problems in new ways? Or does it just create more problems?

It’s all about figuring out how to communicate your needs. I think you have to go fast and try it. For me, until we’ve implemented the solutions, we can’t really see the full effect. I think people learn by being hands-on and just playing around to see how it can help the business. Where we’ve gotten in trouble is when we’ve tried to find shortcuts. But when we crawl, walk, and then run, we can start using it and make sure it’s what we want. And that’s when we’ve been more successful.

Check out the full video interview.

Watch the full interview to hear more of Sabra’s perspectives on the evolution of marketing and remaining nimble through strategic tech stack management.

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