Interview with Lauren Weinberg

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Lauren Weinberg is an experienced and goal-oriented marketing executive with over 20 years of experience. She’s an expert in finding insights in data and using them to drive strategic marketing plans that fuel revenue growth. She is currently the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Square, driving marketing and comms strategy globally, which includes investment decisions, optimization of marketing channels, brand strategy, analytics, marketing technology, creative execution and communications.

What past experiences have best prepared you for the role of Global Head of Marketing and Communications?
I joined Square in 2017 originally focused on growth, and now am the Global Head of Marketing and Communications. My role includes reaching businesses across markets by putting relevant, helpful, and actionable information and solutions in front of them that will help them start, run, and grow their business.

My background is in journalism and one of my early career experiences was as a media analyst for Nielsen. There, I wrote reports about specific industry trends and focused on research and analytics. During this time, I honed my storytelling skills and understood how to break down the data and tell compelling stories that leverage insights and ultimately inform strategies, something that is core to my role today.

Many CMOs don’t want to be bogged down in the weeds of marketing technology. My background in measurement, analytics, and marketing technology has been a critical part of my success. Without great measurement and strong foundational tools, it’s challenging to be a well-informed and data-driven marketer. Being accountable for the results of marketing is critical to a CMOs success and I love this part of my job. Attribution and measurement methodologies constantly need to evolve and my background in this area has helped me better direct the team, especially as we’ve expanded into more markets. I call this the guts and plumbing of marketing. Many marketing leaders dislike this side of the business, but I love it.

I also served as Yahoo’s Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Insights, where I oversaw media planning and buying, brand and marketing effectiveness research, consumer analytics, and industry research. At Yahoo, I worked on the B2B and consumer side of the business. The transition from B2B to consumer marketing was one of the most critical moments in my career. Yahoo’s B2B marketing was at the enterprise level and I have found that my role at Square sits uniquely in between traditional B2B and consumer. The experiences that I had in both of these areas have greatly informed how I approach marketing strategies for Square.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the last 12 months?
In 2021, Square launched in Ireland and France, bringing omnichannel solutions to more businesses across the globe. With this, Square was faced with opportunities and challenges in each market, all with the goal of becoming a trusted and valued partner to businesses in these regions.

Building a global brand doesn’t just happen overnight and requires careful planning and execution, all while managing many moving parts. When entering a new market, brand awareness is at its lowest point, so Square needed to start from scratch in order to build the right tone that was unique to each region. Each global market also means new standards and expectations, along with testing and trying new tactics and channels to see what resonates.

I’m so proud of every team across Square for the incredible work that went into launching in these markets. And I’m even more excited for everything to come!

What market shifts and trends are impacting customer and competitive dynamics in your industry?
With COVID-19 still impacting businesses, merchants of every size continue to need omnichannel solutions that better enable them to operate, no matter the current climate. At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw a huge shift in businesses adopting online operations simply so they could stay open. Now, we see these same sellers seeing the value of adopting more software that better enables them to operate. This might be a small business leaning on selling through social media or a large, enterprise customer using Customer Relationship Management software (CRM).

Another shift heavily impacting businesses everywhere is the current labor shortage. Managing employee schedules and shifts can be incredibly difficult and time consuming. On the other hand, this also causes stress for employees when it’s unclear to them when they’ll be working, all while worrying about what their next paycheck will look like. It’s vital for businesses to have the option to use shift scheduling and team management software that provides visibility and accessibility to both sides.

We’ve seen considerable changes in consumer preferences since the onset of COVID-19, and we also understand that these preferences are different across markets. Consumers in Japan have different shopping and purchasing habits than those in Australia, and so on. Across the board, consumers want options in how and where they shop, and it’s vital that the customer experience remains top of mind. Offering convenience and customization will be key to stay competitive so that consumers’ needs and expectations are met.

What challenges do you face in the coming year and how do you expect to adapt and change?
The pandemic still isn’t over and businesses continue to need solutions and resources that will help them stay ahead of the curve and prepare for whatever comes their way. We stay close to our customers, conducting research often so we understand how they’re feeling. We’ll need to continue being agile so we can quickly adjust our strategies to best respond to their needs and wants. In order to accommodate their changing needs, we focus on surfacing solutions they may not have known we offer, or baking new products into our roadmaps or fast-tracking tools that were already planned.

Square started with the purpose to enable any individual and business to participate in the economy. 12 years later, we have a full ecosystem of commerce solutions from software to hardware that enables merchants of every size, type, and complexity to run their business all with Square. Since our customer base has expanded significantly over the years, we’re more focused on audience specific strategies. Our marketing efforts need to speak to these different audiences, including executives, with updated language and content to match the complexity of their operations. We’ll continue to cater to our existing customers, but believe we’re in a great position for upmarket growth.

We’ll continue to grow and scale our teams globally while employees continue to enjoy the flexibility of remote work. Like many other organizations, we need to focus on finding opportunities to connect and create a sense of community among a large team of people, most of whom have never met before. In addition to connecting our team members, we also want to focus on bringing more learning and development tracks to help our teams build their skill sets over time.

Which digital marketing innovations are most enabling your go-to-market process, customer value creation, and campaign effectiveness?
Over the years, we’ve learned that to fully leverage a MarTech stack, customer data and marketing tools need to be seamlessly integrated. This requires data to be treated like a product with a well thought out design to lower the cost of integration. It also requires a holistic strategy for what tools to buy, build, and integrate with. In a year where the landscape is vastly changing, it’s important to focus on learning and staying on top of trends across markets. New tools that unlock new capabilities are always emerging. Marketing requires investment in both software and data engineers, data scientists, analysts, and so on. The right data and metrics are foundational and will prove if your approach worked.

Beyond our MarTech stack, we’re leaning into hyper-targeted advertising that better enables us to reach groups like Gen-Z and Millenials. For example, Square partnered with Small Biz Live, a philanthropic musical celebration that rallied for COVID-19 support for SMBs and the Black SMB community, with the event being live streamed on TikTok. This enabled us to reach Gen-Z and Millennials, while also building trust so that we’re viewed as a partner to businesses.

Last year, we stood up a new team that was focused on creative optimization across all of our digital channels. We’ll continue investing in this area, which enables us to have evergreen creative experiments running. In 2021, average media costs increased on large platforms. We’ve been able to maintain media efficiencies while scaling our investment which we largely attribute to creative optimization.

We’re also continuing to experiment with influencers. Consumers look to influencers to better understand what brands to trust, especially larger businesses who lean on trusted experts in their field as a way to validate credibility. We intend to continue partnering with micro influencers for their highly engaged, loyal audiences, while also tapping into some well known industry experts. Last year, we ran a campaign targeting beauty merchants that leveraged micro influencers like Kahh Spence and Felicia Leatherwood since we know this industry utilizes them in forming opinions. This year, we’ll invest more in influencer marketing and we’re excited to see what the possibilities are in generating awareness this way. 

This article first appeared in www.cmocouncil.org

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