Bridging the Gap Between Data and Action in Marketing with Former VMware CMO, Carol Carpenter

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Most of the time, finding the right answers depends solely on asking the right questions – and that is often easier said than done. But Carol Carpenter, former CMO of VMware – an American cloud computing and virtualization technology company – understands that the key to a good marketing strategy is always centered around knowing what questions to ask, and more than that – she knows how to break down answers into actionable data.

Intro quote (2:33): “The team, a few years ago, the team said ‘well, let’s just suck in all the behavioral data from what [customers] have done in the trial. I’m like, ‘no, like, let us be really clear…what are the things that drive engagement and usage… what kind of data would help us make those decisions? Otherwise, we should leave the customer alone. If they’re not having problems and need some education or help, don’t bother them. 

Carol’s strategy has more than paid off. VMware’s success is undeniable – they’re the first commercially successful company to virtualize the x86 architecture, and currently employ over 37,000 people.

On today’s episode of Marketing Trends, Carol tells us about her career – including how she went from CEO of ElasticBox to CMO at VMware. Plus she shares best practices for CMOs looking to bridge the gap between data and action. Enjoy!

Main Takeaways

  • You can’t market what you don’t understand. If you want to be good at marketing a product, you need to understand it. You need to know the ins and outs of what makes it tick. If you can’t answer the basic questions about it, you won’t be able to pre-empt them for the customer, either.
  • Focus on team wins. While a lot of business is very cut-throat, it doesn’t always have to be. Make sure to look for those moments when a personal win can be translated to a team win – how are you all working together to affect the market changes you’re trying to implement? Taking the focus off of your own stake can result in a refreshing change of perspective.
  • Keep an eye on consumer growth. It is easy to try and maintain current customer satisfaction at the expense of the growth of a larger base. In order to grow, you might have to shake up the status quo – and that might mean pushing some current customers out of their comfort zone.

Key Quotes

“This is a company that is at the intersection of a lot of different computing capabilities. And our core value is we have been the bridge. We are the Switzerland, we partner with all seven plus high scalers. We meet our customers where they are.”

“What is marketing? It’s a combination of communicating the value… and the value is usually steeped and some kind of differentiated value. And it means it has to be unique. It has to be tangible. It has to be something your customers care about.” 

“I still believe you can’t market what you don’t understand. Like if you’re not in the guts and you don’t understand what the OS is doing, what the processor is doing… how could you even begin to try to translate that to a simple customer story?”

“I definitely realized, like there are things I could teach and help others scale around marketing, whether it’s in a large company or a small company across many different domains. So that’s why I came back.” 

Carol Carpenter was chief marketing officer at VMware from June 2020 to February 2022. As CMO, Carpenter was responsible for leading all aspects of the Global Marketing organization, which includes Corporate Marketing, Partner, Segment and Field Marketing.

Carpenter brings to the role more than 25 years of technology sector experience. Most recently, she was vice president, Product Marketing at Google Cloud. Over the past three and a half years, Carpenter and the team led the transformation of Google Cloud from its early stage to its leadership position in cloud – building the team, crafting the brand positioning and campaign playbooks, enabling sales and the shift from products to solutions in its go-to-market. Prior to Google Cloud, Carpenter was the CEO of ElasticBox (acquired by CenturyLink) and held leadership and marketing roles in technology at Trend Micro, Keynote Systems and Apple and more.

Carpenter holds a bachelor of arts in economics degree from Stanford University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

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Episode 289