Maureen McGuire: Building marketing in a company that’s never needed it

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Maureen McGuire, Chief marketing officer, Bloomberg L.P.

Maureen McGuire,
Chief marketing officer, Bloomberg L.P.

Why did it take Bloomberg so long to hire a chief marketing officer?

If you’ve got a great product like the Bloomberg terminal, a customer base that really needs what you build and a fantastic sales force and customer service, you can deliver a product without any marketing. Bloomberg did that successfully for 27 years, mainly, I think, because the development and sales team understood our customer very well, and Mike Bloomberg also understood that he needed to get his brand out there. He did that by investing in a media business that became known for reporting on and analyzing the financial markets. That was his marketing tool. But when you start broadening your portfolio with new businesses intended for new audiences, you have to be able to explain who you are and what you stand for. I was initially hired as a consultant to help do a brand audit and create a marketing organization that fit with Bloomberg’s very special culture. At the end of six months they offered me the job as CMO.

There are many examples—especially in the tech world—of companies forgoing marketing early on, but finally coming around as they mature. How do you overcome skepticism toward marketing in a company that has done well without any real organized promotion strategy?

The first thing is to build relationships and trust with the people you’re trying to support. If you come in with guns blazing and say, “I can do this” or “I can do that” and they’ve never experienced it before, they won’t believe you. You have to show people that you can actually help them achieve the goals they already have, and help them do their jobs better. For example, when I arrived, the sales force was doing all the planning for promotional and sales events on their own and they really didn’t think we could help them. But after getting involved once or twice, they realized we were not only adding value; we were giving them back their time. After that, they gave us more leeway to come up with innovative ideas.

Bloomberg is built on data and analytics—tools the company provides to traders in search of a competitive advantage. Does that approach to data extend to marketing?

The power of data and analytics is well understood inside Bloomberg, but we’re just recently applying that thinking to the marketing function. We have a small research and analytics team led by a Ph.D. in statistics. This team is working to develop a database and analytics capability that will make us much more efficient and effective in our marketing programs. We’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go.

Can you give an example of how you’ve helped Bloomberg expand its reach?

A couple of years ago, Bloomberg bought Businessweek. A lot of people don’t even know that Businessweek is now a Bloomberg product, but the magazine’s been revamped and people feel it’s more dynamic now. So we’ve been working to make the link from the magazine to the Bloomberg brand and its various other products. Through our market research, we’ve realized that certain Bloomberg customers are more likely to enjoy Businessweek when they learn that it’s a Bloomberg property. And the same holds true in reverse—once Businessweek readers are made aware of the company’s various other properties, they’re far more likely to consume more than one product or service. We can often tell which properties a customer is more likely to consume by doing simple demographic segmentation. There are, of course, ways to get more sophisticated. We’re building a prospect database that will be usable across all of our businesses, but our efforts are still very new. We’re finding it challenging and incredibly complicated to build and implement something across departments that has clear business rules, can identify patterns and that will enable us to do real testing and help with product development. But we’re getting there. It’s an exciting project.

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