Clarity-as-a-Service with Deborah Bussiere
How Clear Focus on the Fundamentals Drives Strategy
Deborah Bussiere helps companies grow. As a corporate leader turned startup advisor, she’s uniquely qualified to comment on why smart marketing decisions still drive progress in this time of rapid change.
“Marketing is everything,” she says. ”It’s intertwined with every piece of the business… for a business to be successful, marketing needs to be factored into the strategy. It’s not just a function, it’s a way of thinking, being, feeling and expressing the company.” Deborah believes in the power of planning and using practical steps to win in the marketplace. Her track record speaks for itself. Megashift Editor, Rob Kleiman, got to sit down to hear how business trends come and go but overall marketing success can often be attributed to doing a handful of fundamental tasks well.
Back in the corporate world, Bussiere worked for Ernst & Young (E&Y), a consulting powerhouse and global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. For two years, as the CMO of the huge company she managed the marketing department, oversaw processes, and directed strategy across multiple industry sectors and geographies. “In corporate life I was able to run operations, to head up business development, scale efforts on some level. I was fortunate, as I was given lots of opportunities not just to sit in my marketing bucket but to think broadly.” After fifteen years on Wall Street and ten years in consulting, she now serves as the interim Chief Marketing Officer for a handful of high-growth technology startups.
Armed with a best-in-class management background and the experience to back it up, Bussiere brings an entrepreneurial mindset to the consulting field by engaging in these projects. Her roster of clients includes Grayscale Investments a bitcoin & blockchain investment fund; Rugged Communications a rural internet connectivity project throughout Latin America; Cyrus Innovation a firm developing multi-platform mobile apps; InvestableLoans a company in cloud-based lending. She is capable of focusing on the fundamentals and assisting in effective execution as she works with these startups to market in big ways.
Over her career, she’s accomplished many difficult marketing tasks. For example, recently she crafted a marketing plan for Grayscale Investments, which is the industry’s first-ever Bitcoin investment trust; in four years she built a successful $3 billion financial services business involving hedge funds and private equity from scratch; grew sales, marketing and operations departments from the ground-up, both within the US and globally, scaled multiple business units into new markets — across the US, Latin America, and Europe. Through the knowledge gained by accomplishing this, she suggests that mastering the basics in marketing is the key to her success.
“It comes down to understanding your audience and then tailoring your message and the channel right, it’s not just one stop shopping, you got to hit them over the head forty-two different ways that are meaningful to them,” she jokes.
Keeping the marketing mix focused goes a long way. Deborah thinks one of the biggest challenges is focusing on the right problems, the right metrics. The biggest challenge facing marketers in the 3–5 years is harnessing data and what that means.
“As much as technology enables all of us to do [campaigns] bigger, better, faster, we sometimes lose sight of what is the most important thing. Being able to harness that data as it related to your primary targets. But if you don’t know who they are, what their behaviors are, what they’re doing, what their gender is, how they spend their time, what their age bracket is, that data is meaningless.”
The trouble is that event organizers are aiming to capitalize on this ambiguity, says Deborah. “I’m seeing an awful lot of seminars, webinars, conferences, marketing conferences, topics as it relates to data and understanding the data behind what you do and making sure that is driving the right decision. At the same time, I feel that we’re overwhelmed by data. It can consume you and possibly prevent you from making the right decision.”
Here’s the problem: rapid acceleration, new strategies, speed, scale are all driving the new era of marketing, including the changed models of customer acquisition and distribution. However, losing sight can be dangerous and a waste of value, time, and money. As such, tying together the data to create profiles and using it to know the customer is the next frontier of effective marketing strategy.
“I had a statistics professor in high school; she was amazing. She used to say a number by itself is meaningless, it has be in context, and I think that’s the same thing with big data. It’s great to have all this data, but unless it’s in context with what you are doing, and trying to achieve, it’s meaningless. That’s something that marketers will need to deal with over the next three to five years.”
With a particular insight into how legacy companies operate Deborah cautions that from a bird’s eye perspective some restructuring and shuffling is occurring in the business world. Deborah suggests business leaders prepare for the reckoning and get their operations in order.
“Across the board, Chief executives of major organizations need to embrace and find ways to drive efficiency and be willing to give up profit potential for the sake of streamlining processes, getting things done faster and cheaper and with fewer people. Regardless of the sector, many are reticent to do that because it will affect earnings and salaries and everything else, but it’s coming. They’ll need to; they will be required to, embrace the technologies and the startups that are driving efficiencies even if it means lower profit margins over time.”
There are ways to make things work better and there are ways to bust through silos that create friction. As for trend spotting knowing what will catch on and get significant traction it’s tough to know. “I am a big proponent of the sales function and the marketing function working symbiotically to drive revenue for the business. You need to be able to tweak it and fail fast and all of that stuff. But as far as identifying trends, honestly I think is hard to do. I think a hallmark of a great entrepreneur is someone who is not afraid to pivot, who is eager to shoot holes in my idea, I want to make it solid and let’s turn it around until it becomes something marketable.”
So what drives a well-paid executive headed on track to becoming a partner at a large company to jump into the startup world? For Deborah, it came down to the wire when the demands of the corporate world were outweighing the benefits.
“I like to build and create and develop, and then create the processes and structure. I like to put something in place, and then once it’s humming, I’m ready to move on to the next thing.”
“I was evaluating whether or not I wanted to ride out my career for another twenty twenty-five years there, and that’s an amazing organization. I feel like I did a lot of great things. I left with a hundred and seventy thousand friends’ worldwide, I mean that sincerely. Corporations, bureaucracy and structure…., I just felt that I had accomplished an awful lot in my ten years [at E&Y]. But I didn’t know what else was out there in the world, and I felt that I needed to explore that.”
“Until I realized that truth, it took me down a whole other path. I got to meet all these amazing technologists in New York, and I joined New York tech woman, it’s now called Bella Minds. I took a workshop there and met amazing women in all different sectors, all different industries. They were creating all kinds of new fun things.”
As a person with options, a vetting process must be created to ensure that the projects and clients chosen will provide real opportunity for gaining in-market experience. How does one say, this startup A, B and C have promise and I’d would like to engage with them. As Deborah shares how she transitioned:
“My goal was to develop additional experience and skill set for my professional development. So I cast a wide net in terms of developing my portfolio of clients. I have to turn down a few, not until I’ve had a chance to get to know them and understand where they’re going. If I think it’s a viable opportunity, if I can be helpful. The collections of clients that I have now is really great because its spans different sectors. I’ve got some health and wellness, some fitness, communication, fin tech, an ed tech company recently contacted me, too. I’m enjoying rounding out the portfolio and getting to know a little bit about each of the sectors. My functional expertise is relevant regardless of the industry sector.”
Consulting is not necessarily easy. There are complicated problems that need solving. With a variety of sector-specific needs and a dynamic list of deliverables, to excel as a consultant, self-education is highly important. It’s a huge time commitment to get up to speed quickly and be able to advise clients. Where does the knowledge come from?
“These CEO’s are extremely knowledgeable of the sector that they are serving. My first question is always to that CEO: What are you reading every day? Send me the links to the publications and the blogs. Who you are following on Twitter? Tell me if there are secondary places I can go for information, share that with me. Send me what you guys are reading every day. I read a bunch of books. Those CEO’s are experts for the sectors. All that’s been helpful in transferring knowledge and then I just ask a thousand question because that’s just who I am.”
“I’m still in the honeymoon phase with all of these technology start ups, I’m feeling energized and excited every time I meet with any of them, regardless of their function, role, or the size of the company and the industry. This has been an amazing journey, and it solidified where I get my energy and excitement, and helping to watch some of them grow, advise some of them and begin to look at that big picture perspective and help them figure out where they should spend their next dollar.”
With the next steps being mapped out she is juggling the task of advising multiple engagements and may end up settling in on one. Always in search of a challenge and curious to learn about the next potentially explosive sector. What’s next? Implementing high-impact marketing and business development programs is her bread and butter.
“I’m focused on leaving a legacy of some kind. I wish I could tell you what it would be or what it looks like. Like most of us, we want to know that our life mattered. In some cases, people feel that their children are their legacy, and I’m very proud of my children and in some cases, they will be my legacy. But, I’m thinking about a different kind of legacy. I’m bound and determined to make a difference on some level, and whether that’s inventing the next Google app or solving world hunger, that’s what motivating me in this next chapter.”
With attention given to clients and projects across sectors like digital currencies, software development, infrastructure, fitness, technology, financial tech, private equity, asset management, professional services just to name few, it seems that her success blooms from a certain type of clarity-as-a-service. Creating a brand of consulting where knowing and mastering the basics of marketing and its core activities make dealing with complexity a whole lot easier.