Ana Guzman, Senior Director of CRM & Channel Strategy at Sally Beauty
Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what your role is?
My name is Ana Guzman, I am the Senior Director of CRM and channel strategy for Sally Beauty Holdings. My team manages the CRM strategy and execution for two of our major brands, our B2C brand Sally, and our B2B brand Cosmoprof, made for stylists and professionals in the beauty industry.
How did you get into CRM? Your prior role was also in CRM, is that right?
I love working in the digital space. I have always been interested in digital experiences, customer experience, and e-commerce solutions… I came to CRM by chance though. My senior director asked me to implement a marketing cloud solution for the company I was working for, in order to find out if we could do digital marketing with our solutions provider, SAP marketing cloud.
My team and I worked hard on the implementation, configuration and data migration, we launched our customization of marketing cloud to do digital marketing on email and later on other channels such as SMS and mobile app. Once the preparatory work was all completed, the contract for our CRM provider came to an end, so I presented the newly built platform to our VP Marketing. We simply had to migrate all our data to the platform we had built. It was completely operational in no time, we could send emails, do segmentation, AB testing and build journeys like we never did before… With the plan of keep growing the solution to do personalization.
To sum it up, my arrival into CRM was somewhat unplanned but it was through my love of all things digital and my experience in launching different technologies, e-commerce stores, mobile apps, that I had the chance to implement my vision of what a comprehensive marketing cloud should be doing.
What I love about CRM is that you don’t have to have CRM experience in order to be working in the field. We all are customers of many brands, we know what is like to feel that a brand knows you, and everyone knows what it’s like to be customer-centric. But the desire and interest to work with new technology, and data: those are things that help you evolve on the CRM path.
Digital CRM is a fairly recent area of marketing. Just 10 years ago time ago, CRM was only emails, today digital CRM has evolved into many different things and encompasses integration with e-commerce, with SMS, mobile apps, paid media, etc. From all these different channels, marketers must now grow an entire CRM strategy, acting as a bridge between all the channels and all the available data.
As CRM experts, we have to own a 360-degree view of the customer, because we are the ones to whom behavioral and operational data is available. This knowledge gives us the chance to bring our experience to users we know, and users we don’t know yet. This knowledge is very important for a company.
How do you advocate for CRM and manage getting your voice heard in the company?
When you evolve in a world of paid media, of display paid social, or Google paid search… you need to know your customers. CRM teams are the ones who’ll be able to partner with marketing teams to bring relevant experiences into media channels. CRM is not yet fully recognized in its contribution to businesses, because of the early stages most companies are in. But at some point, we will be driving the business direction, I am sure of it. We just need to be more involved.
What’s your secret weapon? How do you manage to be effective?
My secret weapon has been my technical training. I was trained as an engineer, and today I am able to speak to the engineers as well as business stakeholders. The more I grow in my career, the more useful my engineering background proves to be. For instance, I am able to sit down with data scientists and start digging through data with them. I don’t necessarily need to get down to the level of implementation, but the understanding of the technology, connectivity and data, has been instrumental for me to be able to ask the right questions, learn and do what I do and do it well, to make progress and connect technology with business needs.
One of the things that we need to do in CRM is to keep connecting. CRM means nothing if we only have isolated data, isolated channels and everything working in silos. I think that the fact that I’m technical, that I’m able to use technical language with engineers helps us remain customer-centric. To solve the why would we need a customer to engage with a particular communication? What is a particular piece lacking to incentivize a purchase?
When you start seeing things all the time from a customer’s perspective, you have a powerful weapon that helps you identify what to talk about, on which channel, where to cross-sell… Little things that you tend to forget when you’re solely focusing on execution, because some marketers get used to seeing things from a business perspective. When you’re seeing things from a customer’s perspective, you can start digging for all the little extra elements that will help you create a better, more engaging conversation with your customers.
I know CRM managers who love to think about communication, but do not want to have to do anything with the technical side of things. But I think they’re going to be missing out on something important in their career if they don’t put a little bit of time and effort into understanding the technical side of things.
And what’s your secret from a management perspective?
I would say: get involved, roll up your sleeves, look at the data, keep an eye on your KPIs. Look at what other people in your company are not looking at. Involve your team in everything, communicate with them often. Find your right hand, train them, include them in conversations, even if they don’t know the topics or think they have anything to say, you will find that when people are exposed to many different conversations and topics that they don’t know about, they will absorb a lot. I try to expose my team to different topics and push them to uncomfortable places, and I encourage them to do the same with their teams.
The pandemic obviously was a very unique time. Now I feel like companies are transitioning to a new normal, which is digital, e-commerce heavy. What are your ambitions for 2022?
First, from a business standpoint, we have ambitious goals. We’re findings ourselves in a difficult environment to accomplish them, because the world became heavily digitized over the past two years. Customers are changing their shopping habits often depending on the current state of COVID, so we have to pivot often and fast. I do think that e-commerce grew to a point that it will never go back to what it was before the pandemic. But there is still a challenge compared to the previous years, when everything was closed and e-commerce was the only way to shop. Now it’s both online and offline with trends changing by the week. There are some challenges with it that we need to overcome with respect of adapting to a fast changing environment and still be able to meet business expectations.
Second, I think that our CRM programs need to keep evolving. We need to continue building our 360-degree view of the customer. Rarely an organization has a complete view of the customer, there is always a new data source that you need to add, link to your data and use it. Think about reviews, behavior in different channels (social posts, likes, etc), visits to stores (even when the customer did not purchase), customer services inquiries, the list goes on. All that is a must in order to grow your marketing capabilities and be able to provide custom experiences to our users.
How do you stay up to date with industry trends? How do you stay cutting-edge and help bring new ideas to your role and to your team?
That becomes harder and harder as time is scarce! I try to read everything that crosses my path, but there’s a lot out there. Luckily, a lot of good information comes from our partners, like Tinyclues, also from potential partners, LinkedIn, industry publications, industry reports, etc. You will be surprised of how much Interesting and useful information gets delivered directly to you, sometimes we just need to pay attention.
I also have spent some time in the past few years reading about behavioral science and behavioral marketing. I think that’s the future of marketing: to really understand what customers’ intentions and motivations are, will help us become better marketers and learn how to influence customer behavior more effectively.
One more thing that has helped me in the past few years is to be part of the speaking network. When you sign up for speaking commitments, you’re not only sharing your knowledge and experience, you’re also connecting with peers in your industry. Online conferences are a way for me to follow, meet and connect with people in the industry that have truly interesting things to say.
Are there any other last tips or insights you want to share for someone else who’s in CRM, hoping to make a career out of it, but not sure how to be the most effective CRM professional?
My biggest advice would be: try to be well-rounded and try to learn about different aspects of the digital world. Not only thinking about CRM or communications to customers, but really understanding digital marketing as a whole, digital technology and data. I think that when you stay well-rounded, you will have the tools to be more successful at what you do.