Catching up with Lauren McCadney

April 7, 2015

Director of digital engagement and social media at CDW

By Ken Beaulieu

Lauren McCadney believes great photographers not only have an eye for details no one else sees, they also have a sixth sense for capturing the perfect shot before it happens. She points to a photo shoot she attended earlier in her advertising career. When McCadney saw the proofs, she realized the photographer had captured things she had not even noticed — even though they were in the same place at the same time.

As director of digital engagement and social media at CDW, a provider of technology solutions, McCadney realizes that she has to see the world differently and tell stories more meaningfully to stay ahead of the competition. Much like a great photographer.

"There's an adage in photography that states by the time your eye can see it, it's virtually impossible to capture it," says McCadney, who will be speaking at BMA15, the BMA's annual global conference, May 27–29 in Chicago, Ill. "As a passionate photographer myself, I've shot sporting events, concerts, and even the Fashion Week runway. The only way to get great shots is to anticipate the next move so you are releasing the shutter in harmony with your subject. The same is true with digital marketing. Things are moving so quickly these days that if you are waiting until something is in the market, you can never execute effectively. You have to develop a strong sense of what is around the corner so you can prepare for it today."

BMA Buzz caught up with McCadney to discuss a range of topics.

Q. Your session at BMA15 focuses, in part, on the realities of today's marketing challenges. What would you say is the biggest challenge, and how can the industry overcome it?

A. Cutting through the clutter to connect with buyers, thereby helping them to make purchasing decisions on their own terms in an efficient manner, is the biggest challenge facing business-to-business marketers today. There are three key enablers to address this challenge. The first, which I believe is the most important, is customer insight. Too often marketers are quick to rush to the latest technology or spend hours developing content that makes them feel good. As a result, we lose sight of what the buyer is actually seeking or wants. The second enabler is omnichannel marketing. It's not just about being in multiple channels, but about having the intelligence to understand the purchase pattern and which tactics are most efficient for meeting people along their journey. From there, the challenge is allowing people to pick up where they left off as they shift from one channel to the next. The third enabler is personalization. Having the analytical intelligence to recognize and deliver a personalized experience for buyers is increasingly an expectation.

Q. In what ways has CDW's marketing philosophy changed over the past few years to reach those customers who no longer trust marketing?

A. CDW's embrace of digital engagement and social media is a great example of the evolution of our marketing philosophy. For us, social isn't about a platform (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn); it's about recognizing changes in consumer behavior brought about by living increasingly digital lives. Our programs are about helping, not selling — and they pay dividends. We find that our social engagers are among our highest value customers. The voice of the customer is helping to influence the purchases of other customers. And intent signals given by social media engagers is helping to drive higher conversion rates in display. In addition, all things digital are about data. Increasingly, we are making investments in areas of the business that help us get smarter about how we capture, store, analyze, and act on this data to achieve greater efficiency.

Q. In the evolving digital space, how is CDW turning customers into a powerful marketing force? Please provide an example.

A. According to Forrester Research, people trust their peers far more than they trust advertisers. With this in mind, we are proactively helping people closest to the brand share their story with others. We do this through customer advocates and reviews. We are systematically capturing and sharing CDW reviews, but the program doesn't stop there. We periodically conduct a content analysis to determine what customers say when we get things right or occasionally get it wrong. This insight is shared with the team that trains our new account managers so they can learn from the experiences of our customers. We have also used reviews as social content. We find that the reviews enjoy an above-average engagement rate and often spark conversation, as readers want to share their experiences.

Q. What are some of the myths about social media marketing that need busting?

A. The first myth is that it's free. Not true. You have to invest in quality talent to develop and manage both the strategy and programs. Likewise, the range of social tactics all require a financial investment of some sort. The second myth — that you can't measure social media's economic value — makes me cringe. I can tell you how each social media program is impacting the business, from revenue contribution to changes in awareness or consideration to earned media value. The third myth is that social media should be turned over to interns because they understand the platforms. The decision about who should guide social media shouldn't be based on generational labels. It should be given to the individuals who have a solid understanding of the business, are grounded in the fundamental principles of marketing, grasp the magnitude of consumer behavior changes impacting the market, work well with ambiguity, and have the courage to innovate.


"Catching up with Lauren McCadney." Ken Beaulieu. BMA Buzz. 4/7/15.