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Amanda Elam is the CMO of Bloomreach, a company that “powers the equivalent of more than 25% of commerce experience in the US and UK” through its products, which include search and merchandising tools, a content management system, and a customer data platform (CDP) and marketing automation technology according to its website. But Amanda’s career didn’t start with her as a marketing leader.
“Like many I’ve worked with over the years, I had an unconventional path to marketing,” said Amanda. “As a young wife and mother with no college degree, my options for professional career opportunities were limited. I was lucky enough to find an agency willing to be flexible with my schedule and hire someone with no prior experience.”
Amanda’s first job was managing nonprofit direct mail solicitation campaigns, but the owner of the agency she worked at saw great potential and took Amanda “under his wing” helping her to “flourish and grow.” Amanda progressed into a field marketing role, then into product marketing and then into demand generation and digital marketing for a small startup. The startup was acquired, and Amanda was tasked with leading the overall marketing efforts and then transitioned into a global marketing role for an enterprise SaaS company, eventually finding her way to Chief Marketing Officer for a fast-growing marketing technology company.
“Most of my positions have been through the result of my network, whether directly or indirectly,” Amanda explained. “I have found it more often than not to be true that, if you are really good at your job and kind and helpful to those around you, your career will flourish.”
Amanda learned about the CMO role at Exponea, her prior company, from a friend she’d met when purchasing a martech tool years earlier. He was offered the CRO role at Exponea and recommended Amanda to the CEO for the CMO position. Exponea was acquired by Bloomreach earlier in 2021, and Amanda is now the CMO of Bloomreach.
Most of Amanda’s mentors have been men, which she notes is “bittersweet” because she feels “lucky enough to have some of the best mentors,” but she has felt a gap with regard to connecting with and growing from the support of female leaders. “I had one mentor who was a female in an executive role, and I cherish her dearly. But, I couldn’t help but begin to notice that, while marketing is heavily dominated by women in the lower ranks, the percentage of women in executive roles is dramatically less and naturally leaves less women to mentor the significantly larger portion of women in their ranks.”
Amanda jokes that her typical day is filled with “ZOOM! Lots of ZOOM!” Then she describes how she starts her day with a cup of coffee while looking at her team’s metrics. “Much to my team’s chagrin, that undoubtedly begins my Slack questions to them. Luckily many of them are in European time zones, so they’re ready for the barrage.”
Most of her time, Amanda notes, is dedicated to making sure her team has what they need to execute their marketing initiatives. “I try to be at least two quarters ahead of my team with planning, resource and budget requests to ensure we don’t experience slow downs or roadblocks in what they will need to be the crazy amazing executors they are.”
Amanda is “constantly focused on a high-performing team,” as such, she prioritizes “personality traits like grit and diversity of thought process” when she’s building her team. “I have found that this naturally results in diversity to a certain extent,” commented Amanda. “At the moment, I manage a team of almost 50/50 female to male across four continents -- most of whom I’ve never met.” Keeping a team of globally distributed professionals from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnic groups collaborating is how Amanda and her team accomplish great things.
Before the Bloomreach acquisition of Exponea, Amanda reorganized her team to “specifically focus on efficiency.” Within 12 months after the reorganization, the team reduced its customer acquisition cost (CAC) payback from 23 months to 8 months. “We transformed mindsets both in marketing and outside of marketing to focus on pipeline growth.”
Amanda also made sure the reorganization of her team built clear paths for individual development, with a retooled martech stack to ensure every individual “could be in charge of their own destiny” with access to and an understanding of their metrics.
Amanda is a fan of the Clifton StrengthsFinder methodology, which leverages an assessment to identify areas with great strength-building potential, and she recommends It’s the Manager: Moving from Boss to Coach, by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter for people who want to learn how to be on or build a team. Amanda also suggests women to follow the individual influencers on LinkedIn that speak to them, and she encourages people to connect with her on LinkedIn, too.
When looking to the future, Amanda predicts speed and data will cause the greatest changes across the martech industry. “Martech is all about speed, the smaller orgs and companies see that; the bigger ones are still thinking custom, and that means the bigger tech providers are good for now - but they won’t be much longer.”
Amanda believes marketers are “more tech savvy and more data savvy than ever before.” She says, “We’re no longer okay waiting for someone else to give us our data or build our segments. We’re not okay with someone else defining a customer journey and providing market data for us. We’re taking ownership, and we MOVE FAST.” The marketing technology that allows for speed and “help us get there” are the technologies Amanda anticipates marketers will rely on most in the future.
Don’t Settle For A Company That Doesn’t Prioritize Family
Amanda’s story is full of achievements, but she didn’t get there alone. She credits a prior employer in particular for prioritizing family and supporting her at a time when she needed it most. “My middle son went into the hospital with a fairly serious illness and was there for several weeks. As the mom, there was nowhere more important I could be than with him. I don’t really remember much of what I accomplished during those few weeks, only that my boss and the company I worked for were incredibly supportive and patient. They could have had performance meetings with me, they could have talked about all the projects I didn’t finish or the balls I had dropped, but they never did,” remembers Amanda. “When my son was home, it was still quite a long road and many doctor’s appointments and school visits, but I was committed to helping that company grow more than ever. I will be forever grateful -- it could have gone a very different way.”
Be Authentic & Celebrate Your Successes
Amanda reminds us all not to be shy, to use data to celebrate our successes and to ask questions. Amanda also says we should “be okay with ruffling feathers, but remain kind.”
“Emotion isn’t something we need to push away,” says Amanda, “It’s something we need to channel. We have an advantage as women being able to juggle multiple programs and activities at once while also being comfortable showing immense passion for something. Be proud of what your womanhood brings to your career, don’t try to be one of the guys.”
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