How Wells Fargo’s marketing operations went from alienated to aligned
Technology if applied correctly can be a creative force that paves the way to greater outcomes. Here’s how America’s oldest financial services giant, Wells Fargo minimized the technology footprint, unlocked an integrated data and operational environment, leaned into talent specialties, and saved millions in the process.
We spoke with David Encizo, vice president of social media marketing technology & operations at Wells Fargo to uncover the strategy, journey, and outcomes.
Disconnected enterprise functions
When David joined Wells Fargo, he observed there were numerous tools and technologies in production right across publishing and advertising, customer care, social listening, reporting, and insights. Almost each of these key functions had its own tool that functioned in silos, independent of the other business verticals/teams. Despite being related, these teams’ tools didn’t have any interaction or API connection that could facilitate a flow of information.
In simple terms, there was a major disconnect and lack of coordination across the teams and their output.
For example, advertising activities on social media can drive inbound volumes to sales, or it can prompt listening research requests – both of which are key to growth. So, while the social media teams were coordinating to a degree, there was an obvious loss of productive time and resources in manual processes and email communications to get things done.
The impact of martech industry norms on declining team productivity
Technology is an enabler but also has its own setbacks. The question remains, “how well are leaders and their teams able to acknowledge this fact?”
At the time, social media tools were called point solutions, this meant, they were developed to perform one or two things well. This created an operating environment that had built-in inefficiencies which made it difficult or even impossible to get data to understand what’s working and what’s not. Teams couldn’t generate actionable insights to improve in real-time.
That set the stage for Wells Fargo’s technology innovation journey across functions.
Discovering specializations and leaning in
The social media listening function was responsible to capture public conversations across the social media landscape and use these insights to inform activities that helped Wells Fargo:
- Understand the customer
- Identify the best time and places to advertise
The technology vendors David worked within this space acknowledge listening as the foundational social media enterprise function that underwrites everything.
Every team at Wells Fargo who had a point solution had to do social listening – which was an added task with minimal value addition. The ability to spot messages and then act against those messages was prime right from generating user-generated content (UGC) to customer care and the overall customer experience.
On the flip side, David had an existing team of experts that were exceptional and the most mature social listening functions in Wells Fargo (and the industry in general). But because they too were isolated from the other teams, exercising their own tools and disconnected research there wasn’t substantial impact to inform their digital marketing strategies.
This observation led Wells Fargo to leverage its experts in the space to drive value for literally every other enterprise social media function.
Injecting life into the strategy with team spirit
In terms of strategic developments, David made observations and asked the team questions that would unfold the roadmap –
- How many tools do we need to run an enterprise social media function?
- Which are the areas where there’s overlap or duplication?
- Are there truly any standout capabilities we have in production that warrant maintaining a relationship with a point solution?
Discussions with the senior leadership helped determine the strategic direction for the transformation.
“We wanted to operate with as few tools as possible, but still deliver world class capabilities and functionality to the enterprise teams focusing in social.”
– David Encizo, vice president of social media marketing technology & operations, Wells Fargo
“This was impeccable timing as our initiative coincided with the marketing technology industry’s ‘rise of social suites’”
Social suites are typically social media management systems that integrate with a spectrum of functions under a single tool. This would support brands to reasonably centralize their social media activities while maintaining core capabilities.
Vendor discovery and selection
David and his team conducted a discovery exercise, shortlisted vendors for demos, and pooled research on these vendors. It was critical to involve, align, and collaborate with business as well as operational partners to undertake the transformation.
To make teams comfortable with the technology ecosystem shift, David included them in the vendor selection process. Key stakeholders across diverse social media functions, publishing, advertising, customer care, listening, reporting and intelligence were asked to sit in on the demos and share their feedback. This helped the Wells Fargo team determine strong performers in the social suite space that could help them achieve strategic objectives.
Since these were outsourced capabilities and external third-party vendors Wells Fargo had internal technology teams advising as well.
These factors assured their focus on vendors who could deliver business value, support strategic sourcing, and marketing technology capabilities.
Off the heels of the vendor selection exercise, they decided to migrate nearly all of Wells Fargo’s brand side functions and use cases under one social media suite.
The balancing act
Letting go is a necessary evil. As the Wells Fargo team designed an implementation roadmap to deliver against the strategic direction, they also had to accept losing out on some stellar solutions that were loaded with talent.
The secret sauce that made transformation stick
The business had a lot of teams that were used to running their own technology projects and had chosen a lot of the legacy point solution vendors. Hence, there was a general resistance to change.
To overcome this challenge and promote universal adoption, David tapped into the improved capability of scaling with Wells Fargo’s chosen vendors.
They pushed enhancement requests, prioritized iterations, and delivered faster – using their talent specialization to achieve greater depth against their account.
Every marketing leader knows that minimizing a vendor list to achieve strategic outcomes involves tons of concurrent technology initiatives, almost more than a team can realistically bite off. The Wells Fargo team had to adjust its operational cadence implementation plans. This nearly tripled the number of concurrent technology projects they could run across the team at a given point in time. They also shifted their working style with chosen vendors to avoid skewed timelines and expectations.
Optimizing implementation with product managers
Any technology is only as useful as its deployment and usage, which is why David worked directly with the product managers to:
- Guide the implementation upfront to confirm a universal understanding of the capabilities and their intended use
- Coin, advocate, and adhere to organization-wide best practices
- Enhance appropriate capabilities to best achieve objectives
From point(less) solutions to a sophisticated suite
For the first time in its history, the business could seamlessly integrate social media data across paid, owned, as well as earned activities. Teams can now operate based on a centrally integrated data foundation that helps them identify areas to improve as well as unlock future opportunities.
“The way I describe it is that we now have our social data house in order”, says David.
Millions saved and greater negotiation power earned
By selectively eliminating numerous vendors and contractual overheads, David and his team not only created a coherent data and technology stack but also saved millions in cost. It also gave Wells Fargo a greater negotiating scale with their chosen social media management system vendor.
Direct business value through digital marketing integration
Wells Fargo can finally unlock their ability to integrate with other digital marketing platforms within its ecosystem. These include third-party integrations with Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, and other such platforms that are capturing data much closer to business outcomes.
This empowered them with greater data transparency to:
- Tie their activities close to business results like conversions
- Generate new hypotheses to test and optimize marketing campaigns on social channels
- Identify significant differences across measurement partners around conversions
- Apply diverse optimizations based on different channels for social media marketing campaigns
A conceptual data hub and exceptional social listening capabilities highlighted that – Wells Fargo’s customers interact with the brand based on the social channel and the method of communication. The brand can now stay abreast of real-time conversations even on fast-paced platforms like Twitter. Wells Fargo’s social media functions are now closer to the customer experiences which in turn funnels back insights to the overall business function.
Advice for marketing leaders on digital transformation
David shared some key learnings which he was keen to pay forward to fellow marketing leaders.
Since the whole process was slightly longer than expected his advice around leading transformation is:
- Avoid over-engineering the internal discovery process
- Save time on the above to instead have more focus on strategic segments that define success
- Ask your teams specific questions to avoid guestimates
- Leverage your technology systems to inform how long things take
- Get more empirical with the data at hand, know when to pick technology over human input to avoid bias, and achieve more accuracy
Keep a close watch on the marketing technology space
Marketing technology innovations play an instrumental role in applying strategy. Staying abreast of the space remains critical to inform, validate, or reject your strategic direction.
“High-performing vendors who serve a diverse clientele can see the big picture in ways that your organization may not. My guidance to other folks is, pay attention, and then use those marketplace developments to your advantage.”
– David Encizo, vice president of social media marketing technology & operations, Wells Fargo
“If you’re zigging and the market is zagging, you may want to just pause and ensure that you’re heading in the right direction.”
The way to go for Wells Fargo
Designing digital marketing strategies to optimize conversions ranging across upper-funnel campaigns as well as lower-funnel campaigns. Stay tuned to find out David’s team fare on that front.
Sharpening the social listening function further to understand textual data, using AI to refine the natural language processing (NLP) techniques. The direct benefit would be to save time on manual tasks like data clean up and reallocate teams for more analysis.
David highlighted core questions the Wells Fargo team are working to solve:
- What are the best ways to implement AI?
- Once implemented, how to maintain those models and prevent degrading?
- How to get teams comfortable with a new methodology?
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