With each experiment, we evaluate the results to see where the nuggets of insight are. Often they come from knowing how far you can push a variable before you get diminishing returns.
Vince Warnock finds it crazy, even surreal, to be standing on stage, his face projected on the screen behind him, and with thousands of people in the audience.
This happened over a month ago, in San Francisco, where Warnock was named as one of the Fearless Marketers across the globe, at the 2018 Marketing Nation Summit.
Warnock, who is chief digital marketer at Cigna New Zealand, is the only Kiwi, in the inaugural ‘Fearless 50’ list of current or emerging marketing leaders who are driving bold, fearless marketing and digital transformation in their organisations.
The geek who went to marketing
Getting into the digital marketing space was not planned by Warnock.
In college, he was more into technology, specifically gadgets.
“I wanted to be the guy who enabled the gadgets for James Bond.”
But as he progressed to different roles including radio announcer, web manager and creative director, he found out the things that excited him more was working with people, in particular working with good teams, and understanding people’s behaviour.
“I went from being very technical, building computers, and started to look at how we can use things like the internet to help people.”
He says being the digital marketing manager at Cigna New Zealand gives him this balance.
He says one of the interesting discussions he had in San Francisco was around the need for marketing and sales to work together. “I thought it was a no brainer, but that is not necessarily the case.”
“For us at Cigna, that alignment is natural, he says. “We are constantly looking for feedback how to make it easier for the frontline sales staff.”
“They are literally the people talking to consumers, they hear the feedback, the challenges. In a lot of cases, they are dealing with people at a difficult time.
“We have to make it as easy as possible for these people. If we are not listening to those who are actually talking to the consumers, then we are making a huge mistake.”
He and his team are always cognisant of the need to make it easier for consumers to engage with them.
He says even a little change in the website can make a difference. One of these is getting an online quote.
“A lot of consumers do not know how much effort is required in getting a quote. And, particularly if they are getting a quote, they don’t really want to talk to a human. They want to be able to process it online,” he says.
He says a lot of insurance providers, however, will state on the website to “call us for a quote”.
“We don't want them to have to talk to a broker. We want them to be able to research things themselves and be able to make their own decisions, and then to apply in a simple way.”
He says they came up with a “call to action” button which says, “get a quote”.
“All of these incremental gains mean we are constantly making it easier for people to do what they want.”
Warnock joined Cigna in December 2015, and before that was the CMO and co-founder of the tech startup Common Ledger.
At the conference, he talked about the experimental methodology in digital marketing that led to a five times return in investment at Cigna.
He says he came up with the methodology while he was at his company Common Ledger.
“When you work in a tech startup, you have very little budget and no resources, so you have to be specific about what you do.
“From that, I designed a methodology that gave us a structured approach to experimentation for digital marketing.”
“I needed this to go beyond the test, build, learn approach that we were all used to,” he explains.
“I wanted to have some rigour around the hypothesis creation and even include deliberate steps to evaluate and roll out any learnings that we can make part of our business as usual activity.”
“With any methodology, you need a cheesy acronym so I called it the CHASER method (challenge, hypothesis, agenda, start, evaluate and roll out).”
He says this, plus his work at Cigna, got the attention of the event organisers who chose him as one of the ‘fearless marketers’.
He says the culture at Cigna allowed his team to take on the approach he designed for digital marketing.
The company is supportive not only for the healthy wellbeing of customers, but also staff, he says. “This means we have an environment that we could actually prove things like this.”
Warnock explains Cigna New Zealand is one of the smallest markets for the global insurance provider. “But it means we get to challenge the norms, we get to try new things, and we have proven this through this experimental approach.”
“We are seen as the innovation hub,” he says. “From a Cigna global perspective, they look at us to see where things are working before they roll it out to other markets.”
AI is genuinely exciting and scary at the same time
His advice for those who want to work in digital marketing?
“The first thing is you have got to be adaptive. You can’t go into this role with any kind of pride whatsoever.”
Technology moves so fast and there is no way we can keep up with it.
“So having a structured approach is vital,” he says, referring to the methodology he developed.
He cites that in traditional marketing, people ran a campaign or an activity and then look at data to try to prove it worked, he says.
“You can look at data in so many different ways and tell the story,” he says. “But in reality you are looking for insights.”
“Look at the insights and how they can add value.”
“We have a mantra with the digital team here,” he says, “We don't chase the wins, we chase the insights.”
“The team has this down to a fine art,” says Warnock.
“With each experiment, we evaluate the results to see where the nuggets of insight are. Often they come from knowing how far you can push a variable before you get diminishing returns.”
Warnock puts primacy to giving back to the industry.
He is a tutor and member of the Central Regional Advisory Group for the Marketing Association, and has set up All the Geek, a not-for-profit site.
People can contribute to it, and we put anything new that is relevant to digital marketers, like trends on search and artificial intelligence, says Warnock.
He set it up after talking to some of his international marketing colleagues. They noted the lack of clarity around a lot of the changes happening in digital marketing.
Warnock, however, has not really fully let go of his techie interests.
“I have many robots at home,” he says.
He finds artificial intelligence an interesting but very challenging technology.
“It is fraught with ethical issues that we need to consider but at the same time it has so much potential to help people not just in insurance but in other industries as well such as medical research.”
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