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VP’s with Cleveland Indians, Horseshoe Casino promote healthy marketing/technology relationships

By Thomas Skernivitz
Editor, CBC magazine

CLEVELAND (Aug. 26, 2015) — Information technology employees, all the way up to corporate information officers, are expected to possess at least a simple knowledge and appreciation of their organizations’ marketing efforts when it comes to driving business.

“From an IT standpoint, there is nothing worse than the IT guy who comes to a marketing meeting and … doesn’t understand who our customers are. Then you have to waste that time to educate them,” Neil Weiss, the CIO and senior vice president of technology with the Cleveland Indians, said Wednesday at the Amplify Speaker Series.

How can an IT representative remedy that problem?

“A lot of it is reflect on what you don’t know,” Weiss said. “There’s a lot more that I don’t know than I do know, but when the opportunity arises to have that conversation, do some prep work and at least have a wide breadth of knowledge about the topic so we can get into the meeting a lot faster. It seems like a simple thing to say, but I’m still amazed all the time at how 10 minutes into a meeting you have to back up and explain what is you were talking about, which is not a useful thing for people’s time. “

The Amplify panel discussion, inside the Westin Downtown Cleveland, included Weiss and colleague Alex King, the Indians vice president of marketing and brand management. Representing the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland were Vice President of Marketing Jamie Brown and Vice President and General Manager Scott Lokke. The quartet spoke to “big data” and the partnership between CIOs and corporate marketing officers.

King said technology departments aid the entire organization when they are able to relate to its marketing efforts.

“If you have the luxury of having (IT) folks who have kind of a hybrid experience — an understanding of things like data architecture, data structuring and analysis but also have the experience or appreciation of marketing kind of sitting in-between — that’s a unique skill set that is really helpful and can bridge gaps hopefully quicker and hopefully sustain it over time,” King said.

King, while acknowledging that MLB clubs often differ in their marketing strategies, encouraged collaboration between marketing and technology departments.

“I’ve seen this fracturing of the relationship between the head marketing person and technology person. On one end of the spectrum, we’ll see where the roles are pretty sequestered and there’s not a lot of collaboration,” King said. “(The Indians) are probably far on the spectrum of collaboration. I think we’re doing that because we feel like it’s a competitive advantage for us. The faster things move, and the more data we have, and the quicker we can make decisions, I think it’s really hard to do that on your own. As a marketer I think it’s a big advantage to be able to rely on people to help with that. Doing that on your own is probably going to be shortsighted.

In turn, King views his work with Weiss as a partnership. “I view the group that he has as a driver of business,” he said. “There are several different things we’re looking at together while trying to enhance the fan experience.”

Weiss said the accuracy of big data continues to improve, allowing for more “surgical” decision-making. “This has really allowed us to avoid the shotgun approach that marketers have historically and traditionally employed,” he said. “The more it evolves, the more accurate it becomes.”

Weiss said the influx of big data has lessened the rush to buy or build software.

“Ideation used to jump from, ‘I have an idea,’ to, ‘Where can I buy something really quickly?’” he said. “Whereas now there’s a vast treasure trove of data that you can use to analyze the problem that you’re trying to solve and measure it long before you’re going to decide to buy something or build something.”

Weiss downplayed customer relationship management systems.

“There are more than a thousand CRM systems. They’re all fine. They all do the job,” he said. “But what really matters is the people who use them and how they use them. It’s about the people and their processes — how to identify someone who is a prospect.”

Added King: “The challenge is going to be there is so much data and so much analysis, how do you still simplify that and not get overwhelmed by that and make sure that you’re really finding the right takeaways and doing it quickly so that you’re not being dragged down and crawl on decisions that you really need and should make quickly.”

Fortunately, the same technology that might allow for information overload also provides methods to tame the problem. Tools have been introduced that King and Weiss have partnered on to simplify internal communications.

“The other thing that has changed in a real positive way is that there is a ton of data on how we’re communicating internally and collaborate internally,” King said. “We’re moving a lot quicker in how we work together and how to communicate.”

Brown and Lokke said businesses don’t have to be as prominent as Caesars Entertainment or the Cleveland Indians to take advantage of big data. Social media platforms, such as Twitter, can do wonders for small- and medium-sized organizations.

“This is an area that we’ve monitored, and I think any level of business can get a look at this,” Brown said. “See what the online community is saying about you. There are a handful of different resources you can purchase pretty inexpensively to search for keywords, and you get real-time reporting on what users in all sorts of media channels are saying about your business. And the quicker you react to those things that are happening online, the better off you are. People are using that now as their form to have a conversation with a business.”

Added Lokke: “(Caesars) is a monster in the industry, and we were very slow to evolve into this social media platform. And it’s changed everything fundamentally about our business, how we approach it from a marketing perspective and all of our interaction with our customers. You don’t have to be a big company to do that. Any company, whether one or one hundred thousand can leverage social media to gain customer insight. My advice is to think like a big business. You still have the ability, albeit on a smaller scale, to track customers’ habits and behaviors. Maybe it’s just a spreadsheet. But if you act on those attributes that you collect, you’re not operating on a hunch, which is dangerous world to operate in these days.“

Contempo Communications, BlueBridge Networks, and Essex Digital Platform presented the Amplify discussion. Kevin Goodman, the managing director and partner with BlueBridge, and Tom Kramer, the president and co-founder of Essex, facilitated the discussion, which attracted 115 attendees.

  • Aug 26, 2015
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