Bloomberg CMO Bigley: Marketing A ‘Well-Informed Perspective’ Pays
While Bloomberg is one of the original digital-first companies, it didn’t pay much attention to marketing until recently. CMO Deirdre Bigley discusses her strategy, her challenges, and her boss, Mike Bloomberg.
Deidre Bigley is not new to Bloomberg LP, but she is relatively new to the chief marketing officer role.
Bigley was head of marketing communications for the global company for almost five years before being tapped to take over marketing—or, perhaps, “create” marketing is more precise. Bigley explained that, while Bloomberg is one of the original digital-first companies, it didn’t pay much attention to marketing until recently.
We had the chance to chat with Bigley about this, what she learned from her days at IBM, and a bit about Michael Bloomberg’s work style (hint: no corner office for Mike).
CMO.com: Much of your background is in marketing at IBM. How did you move from there to Bloomberg?
Bigley: Well, it’s the typical networking story. I had worked for a woman, Maureen McGuire, at IBM for more than 10 years. She left the company at one point to consult with Bloomberg about how to start a marketing organization. Believe it or not, until recently this 30-year-old company didn’t have a formal marketing organization.
They eventually actually wound up offering her the CMO job. She called me at IBM, where I had now been for 13 years. The thought of starting something from scratch with someone you really enjoy working with, well, it just felt like something I couldn’t pass up.
It was a totally different industry, a completely different culture from IBM; everything was going to be different. It was kind of a fun, though, just to start something brand new. Every single decision you’re making every day builds the department.
CMO.com: IBM is a marketing juggernaut. What did you bring from that tech world to this media world?
Bigley: There is a consumer side to our business, but the bulk of what we do is B2B. So from the Bloomberg perspective, the Core Terminal is our premier product, and it is where we invest the bulk of our time and energy.
So more than 50% of our time is spent on the financial-product side of the house. The other portion is more B2C.
CMO.com: And you found things that transferred over from your days at IBM?
Bigley: Sure. The great thing about IBM is that you’re really not allowed to be one-dimensional. I went there as an advertising person, having come from Ogilvy & Mather, and you spend a lot of time in advertising at IBM. But they really do insist that you move forward, that you get other experiences.
So I went into the Americas sales organization, where you do a lot of sales support and pipeline development, that kind of work. A sales organization was completely foreign to me at the time. If I hadn’t had that experience—and also worked in software sales in a similar capacity, overseeing and making sure that the pipeline was filled—I don’t think I could do the job here with advertising and brand experience.
Bloomberg is a very product-led company. But those products, the way we handle our products, and the way we work with our customers has led to a great brand. It’s a company that’s going out there and talking daily in a big way, like an IBM, about the brand. It is really about our products, how our products are working for our customers, what our customer service like, how we make the product stickier for our customers, and how we educate them on new things about the products.
So it’s much more in the vein of what I was doing in the Americas for IBM rather than on the advertising side, although the advertising side definitely does help because Bloomberg is very big on its brand. It’s very important that everything we do here on the product side leads up to what is really intensive to the brand.
CMO.com: So you made the move in the middle of this digital transformation and revolution. What was that like?
Bigley: Well, I think in a lot of ways it was easier for us than it might be for some larger companies. Some of our primary investments were in building digital capabilities in-house, building a mobile capability, building a video capability, a content capability. I didn’t have to actually try to transform an organization into being that. We could just build it. So I got to leapfrog, where a lot of companies had to slowly transform.
CMO.com: And it was already kind of a digital company in its own way, right? It was not completely alien to the company to be digital.
Bigley: Oh, absolutely not. Bloomberg is one of the original digital media companies. So, no, it was not something that we had to convince the company about at all.
CMO.com: What were some of the things that you did initially to get a digital marketing operation started? What were the initial challenges?
Bigley: Well, initially it’s really finding the people who are going to have the vision, who are going to be able to architect it. We all had to sit down, and we all had to say these are the types of things that we have to get right first. And then we move on to this, and then we move on to this, etc.
And the reality was, our websites weren’t very good at the beginning. So we actually went after making sure that our websites were designed properly, that there was proper information. You could get in touch with us easily through our site. Phase one was the basics of getting the websites together. And then you start getting into the world of mobile, making sure that it’s mobile-first. Everything we do now works for mobile.
It’s deciding which platforms you’re going to use. And then we moved into content and we said, “OK, how can we now drive a lot more traffic to these sites that we’ve built?” And that’s where our content play came in, to really put our thoughts out into the world and drive more people back to learn more about us. It really was a progression.
CMO.com: Can you explain in a little more detail the different audiences that you’ve built?
Bigley: The bulk of what we do is in a B2B stage within the financial-product arena. So you’re talking about many different player types within the financial community that are our customers, or that could potentially be our customers, but they’re in the financial market.
And then we have Bloomberg.com, the news site; that’s not something that marketing actually manages. That’s a team unto itself, a news organization. But then you talk about building your global site and making sure that our messages are relevant in other countries and how these messages have changed depending on the country. There was really no globalization prior to seven years ago.
CMO.com: What is the brand message globally?
Bigley: What Bloomberg did was provide transparency to the market. How it does that is it provides news, media, and analytics to the masses.
That is true of all the financial products—that’s true of the media organization, it’s true of all the businesses that we go into. The intent of any business that we go into is that you need news and analytics. You’re creating transparency in the marketplace and a more level playing field.
CMO.com: The content you’re talking about is different from, for instance, what’s being produced by Bloomberg news, which, as you said, is a different news-gathering organization. So how does your content play into getting that story across?
Bigley: Well, it’s about using what is news—sing the data that we have. It doesn’t have to be a breaking news story. But there are things that are going on in the financial market that we have a perspective on. Because of our data and our analysis of that data, we can actually have experts commenting on what it is going to means to the marketplace.
CMO.com: Is that separate from what the Bloomberg news people are doing?
Bigley: We have all this intelligence, which is more commentary. It’s like our views on things, and we will take some of that content and repurpose it beyond our terminal users. So terminal users get this information, and it will also appear on Bloomberg.com, and we will also send it out into social channels. What I’m talking about is using our analysts. People who work for Bloomberg are experts in certain categories. We’re not necessarily writing news stories about what they’re thinking. But they have perspectives that are very interesting to specific niche audiences.
We make sure that those niche audiences are hearing from these different analysts and making sure their voices are heard. People truly believe that a Bloomberg perspective is a very well-informed perspective.
CMO.com: So it’s kind of a Bloomberg point of view that’s used by the marketing side as content?
Bigley: Yes, exactly. And it isn’t necessarily a breaking news story. It’s more about our analysis of that.
CMO.com: Got it. Very interesting. Now, aside from just being helpful to the industry and the communities that you serve, what’s the marketing idea behind that? How does that kind of content marketing help you?
Bigley: Since we’ve started driving a regular flow of content marketing, the track to our terminal website has expanded exponentially. It’s six, seven times what we were getting across that site because we’re pushing more people toward that site. And with more people going to the site, there are more people interested in the product.
We make it very easy for them to request a demo. By requesting a demo, we can then track them through to the sale. We know exactly how much revenue is coming from the website. And one of the very big drivers of that is content. Content is actually driving a lot of traffic for us.
CMO.com: That’s an interesting use of content that a lot of companies would probably not be able to do because you have a very unique position in front of the content creation, right?
Bigley: Absolutely. We’re either using Twitter or using LinkedIn, and we’re driving them back to our site.
CMO.com: How does mobile play into that? Is there also a specific mobile presence that you have with this kind of marketing, social and otherwise?
Bigley: Mobile-first is probably an overused expression. But everything that we do is built for mobile. So whether you are hearing it on social media and coming back to our site, and our site is locally mobile-ready, everything we do, we think mobile.
CMO.com: Do you use a specialty mobile group in terms of your audience?
Bigley: Increasingly so. I think it grows every single year, the amount of people that are gathering the news first thing in the morning and connecting after work.
And those are bigger times for us. But even in the middle of the day, people are definitely connecting in, definitely looking at it from a mobile perspective. They’re looking at our content probably more in the mornings or in the late afternoons.
CMO.com: Does Bloomberg consider itself a media company or a technology company?
Bigley: Oh, we’re definitely a technology company. We have an absolute media presence, but we definitely think of ourselves as a technology company.
Our whole ability to market and do real-time marketing and relevant marketing to our audiences is because of our data. It’s because of our news. It’s because our technology platforms allow us to piece things together. So that’s what makes us better marketers—the fact that we are a technology-driven company.
CMO.com: What are your special challenges these days?
Bigley: The challenge is that the types of marketing we really want to do are going to be people-intensive. It’s not dollars-intensive. Moving from spending hard dollars to spending on people and making sure you’re staffed appropriately to be able to react to market dynamics—that is the challenge I face.
CMO.com: And what kinds of people are we talking about? Is it more technical and data-level people than typical marketing-level people?
Bigley: We say it’s like this triple crown of a person. They’re content people, they’re creative, and they’re technologists.
So in order for us to be as effective as we can and push things out as quickly as we can, right now those are three different people. But more and more, you’re starting to see people that have grown up with this.
So you know they are technologists, they are creative, and they know how to build out content. More and more we’ll see that in a single person. For right now, putting those three things together is incredibly important.
CMO.com: Is the marketing technology an issue?
Bigley: The marketing technology is always an issue. We’re very proprietary. We’re very security-conscious. A lot of what we have and use we have built internally. We’re very different than most companies in the sense.
CMO.com: That being the case, do you have a better insight through the data into who your customers are, what they need and want, and how to get it to them?
Bigley: I think Bloomberg is really good about understanding who its customers are and what they need. We have a very good handle on the workflow of the customers, so we are able to project what’s going to be the next thing they’re going to need.
In that sense, we can gain a lot more knowledge because of the data that we have. I look at trends. I’m not understanding what one specific person is actually doing. But I understand the aggregate, how certain workflows are for our portion of our market, our specific audience.
CMO.com: Do you do personas?
Bigley: Yes, and this is interesting. We actually just did 16 different personas, or basically workflows, for the financial market. And we have come up with 160 different types of workflows. That’s not to say that you would market in 160 different ways, but how they think about our product and the types of tools they need to use our product can vary slightly, so that you want to separate them out.
Sometimes you can do it in aggregate, but sometimes it’s important for a salesperson to know this is this type of person, and they deviate just a little bit this way, so you should talk to them about these other ways of using our product. That’s another piece of what we do is actually build out those various ways that people use the workflow of our marketplace.
CMO.com: Is customer experience something you think about at Bloomberg?
Bigley: I think Bloomberg is an unusual company in the sense that, at the cornerstone of how it was built, is customer experience. You can actually be a customer and talk to your sales rep and say, “You know what? I would love for the product to be able to do this or this function, and we literally will have it done for that customer within three days.
We’re updating the product almost on a daily or weekly basis to meet our customers’ needs. You can dial into our call center 24/7 and get a really experienced person on the phone who can guide you through what you’re having trouble with at the terminal.
Our team hosts over 3,000 events a year globally, and those experiences have to be done in a very specific way that is very fitting for Bloomberg so that our customers understand that they are first. When they come into our building, we want them to feel special. So a big part of our events team is really building those experiences.
CMO.com: Do you think this is a little easier to do for you because you are a private company?
Bigley: I think there are things that are much easier for us to do because we’re a private company. We’re an entrepreneurial company. Just in the past year, I’ve been able to go to Mike Bloomberg with at least three ideas for things that we wanted to do that we were not necessarily funded to do, and he gave us the green light to go ahead and do them.
Now that’s simply because they were good ideas at the time, and I think that’s harder to do with a public company when you’re asking for more money. We have ultimately one boss.
CMO.com: How involved is Mike Bloomberg in the daily business? You just gave an example. Is that common?
Bigley: Yeah, very common. Mike is very, very involved. We keep him up to date on a regular basis. He has a lot of questions, and he is intimately involved with the entire business.
CMO.com: And he’s accessible? Sometimes CEOs are not always that accessible to everyone, so that’s interesting. Does he wander about and check out what’s going on?
Bigley: He’s very accessible. Mike sits in the middle of the media group. He doesn’t sit in the executive offices. He sits at a regular desk like everybody else, right out in the open. No walls, no conference room. That’s the whole point is that he’s sitting in the open, and he’s there to talk if someone needs to talk.