The Insights Blog

10 Questions with Intel’s Tim McDonough

10 Questions with Intel’s Tim McDonough

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Tim McDonough, VP and General Manager of Intel’s Client Computing Business, is a seasoned marketer with deep strategic marketing experience. He has a blue-chip background including senior roles at Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Unity Technologies. Tim has seen it all and stopped for a few minutes to share his knowledge with us.

We had a great chat with Tim about what it takes to be a successful senior marketer these days.

How are consumers changing and what does that mean to a CMO?

We’re in the middle of quite a transformation right now and the way consumers buy today is highly influenced by recommendations. The trust we used to see in traditional advertising has declined and the value of traditional advertising in the purchase journey is not as strong as it used to be. Consumers are looking to social and community channels. They also look at a company’s owned properties, Twitter channels, and Instagram – and they are comfortable there even if it is a corporate-owned channel. They look to influencers and friends and Social in general. These are still essentially advertising tactics, but they don’t look like advertising.

Some tech buyers are going deep into Reddit and really looking into community discussions and are asking each other questions and reading things that are not sponsored posts to make purchases or inform a purchase decision.

The bottom line is the marketing mix has changed a ton. There is a lot of ground to cover for marketers.

How can a CMO best partner with the rest of the C-suite these days?

I think the trickiest part is really finding how to have the right relationship with the CFO. And I think there are two places where people kind of find themselves on the rocks. The first is making sure they understand what the CFO needs from them. And a marketer’s job I think is always to understand and care about and speak the language of your audience. And somehow we do it with our outside the building audiences and we forget what the CFO needs to understand. But if a marketer can’t figure out what that is and figure out how to demonstrate they’re adding business value and they’re doing it in a quantified way then I don’t think they’re doing their job. I think you see people get trapped there all the time. A key part of your job as a senior marketer is to make the CFO smile. If you can do that, you’ve done your job.

The second place that I think is interesting is the planning cycle. In my tech experience, companies make multi-year bets on an R&D program. So we’re going to invest X dollars for three years to build a new product and ship it, but they don’t make marketing investments on a multi-year basis. This can be a problem for the CMO and CFO to get on the same page. It’s not that hard if you’re doing performance marketing and ABM and building leads as you can measure those things within an annual timeline and it’s easy to do. But if you’re trying to go build a brand or build a category and your planning cycle only lets you look in 12-month windows, it’s hard to demonstrate the value that the CFO wants to see within the normal planning horizon.

Of course, business unit relationships are also critical if you want to get funded. They are key stakeholders because they’re the folks you’re helping. They need your help to achieve their objectives and make money. And as I mentioned, you need to convince the CFO too. If you can convince both those people, the head of the business that you’re supporting by driving revenue, and the CFO, that will solve a lot of issues.

How do you think today about the balance between brand building and performance marketing strategies?

That’s a tricky one. This is an oversimplification, but in general, I look at the brand building as something that improves the outcomes of performance marketing. You can run performance marketing without brand building, but it’s not going to be efficient. Establishing the brand is sort of the cost of having a performance marketing engine or an ABM engine that is efficient, that’s low cost per lead, high conversion rate, high average deal sizes. So I think the brand’s critical to the impact of performance marketing and if you invest in performance marketing without the brand it’s going to be nowhere nearly as efficient as you need it to be.

What are you looking for in an agency roster these days?

Marketers need integrated campaigns that speak with one voice. One of the challenges I think you often bump into is you’ve got one agency on retail, another agency on brand building, another agency doing performance marketing. And when you look at it all and you can take a buyer’s journey view of your creative, it looks like 10 different products from 10 different companies and there are no scale effects. I don’t think that having an AOR is a panacea, but I think you need an AOR-effect where everybody is playing from the same sheet music.  If it’s one agency, the agency needs to be sure to provide that integration across its units. If it’s multiple agencies, marketers need to proactively develop the workflows, briefing, and evaluation processes that deliver customer-centric integration.

What can clients do to work more effectively with their agencies and get to that one voice?

Clients have to break down their own silos. It’s interesting I feel like the silos are worse during COVID because you can’t force people into a room in front of a whiteboard and hash through stuff. I mentioned some strategies for getting things aligned on the agency side. But if you keep all the silos inside the client it’s going to continue to be messy because there’s not one voice back to the agency. So I think we have to break down our own silos. Getting aligned on your strategies, voice, and customer journey is part of the solution.

What can agencies do to work more effectively with you as a client?

I’m looking for somebody at the agency who’s got the same lens I have – looking across all the work the agency’s doing and bringing it together. Sort of my peer and my check and balance. Somebody that takes that single view of what the customer experience is when interacting with my brand along their journey. I love to have an agency partner that can challenge the assumptions we’re making. “What if we did it this way? And what if we did that way? What if we ran an experiment?” I love pushback and challenge. As a client, I love people that push us and make sure the ideas are as strong as possible rather than just give us what we asked for.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to 30-year old Tim?

Get experience working in sales. In my most recent gig before Intel, I ran a global sales team. And carrying a bag gives you real laser focus on what matters in marketing and what’s bullshit and helps you cut past the BS.  And then I think it also gets your clock speed going like, “Holy smokes, it’s really hard to close a sale.” And when there’s competition coming in with something you haven’t planned for. Marketers think in years and salespeople think in quarters and if a marketer is not in tune with sales, then they’re not in tune with the CRO, who is one of their core constituents and they’re probably not in tune with the head of the business unit they’re supporting and it means you’re going to get taken out eventually. So, my advice is to go carry a bag. It’s a ton of fun.

Sales experience will make you a better partner with your peers. The three-legged stool to me is the business unit general manager, the VP of sales, and the key marketer. As a marketer, I spend equal amounts of time with both the GM and the VP of Sales. And the three of us spend quality time together and that makes a huge difference. You’re not slacking and skyping, you’re not Zooming, you’re not reading emails. It’s having those conversations where you go, “What’s going on with the business? What’s wrong?” And figuring out how do we tune and tweak and go.

One other piece of advice for 30-year old Tim would be to get both B2C and B2B experience. Make sure you’ve got experience in both camps because everybody thinks they’re so different and they’re not. But regardless of similarities, I think you learn different lessons and you can apply them back and forth. But I think being a good B2C marketer makes you much stronger at messaging than B2B. Being a B2B marketer I think forces you to think much more through the sales process and along with KPIs that are more about managing a sales funnel that I think probably make you a more effective consumer marketer. I think marketers would benefit from both kinds of experiences.

How has consumer technology marketing changed since you began your journey?

The importance of messaging has remained the same – the delivery mechanisms have changed dramatically.  Remember back in my Microsoft days when I first met you and we were looking at print ads and static web pages? Social didn’t exist and Amazon was just starting to sell books. So the communication channels and routes to market have changed and everything is so much more digital. But you still need to have a killer message! The change is the way you deliver that killer message and your ability to get real-time feedback. And it is so much more satisfying!

What are Tim’s thoughts on leadership?

Be bold. I would rather get fired for being too bold than too timid. And middle-of-the-road isn’t interesting. I think the more senior you are, you’re not going to last very long if you’re not having an impact. Leaders should go for it and if they are doing the right things, they are going to be successful. And if you’re too bold and it’s actually not the right place for you, that’s great to learn also. Then find a place that’s going to appreciate it. That to me is the most important thing. Playing it safe is really boring and rarely works.

How do you manage to stay on top of trends and marketplace changes and what’s going on in the world when you’re working such long hours?

I read online news while I’m shaving. Literally, I do read when I’m shaving.  And those little spots of time when you’re waiting in line for coffee. I think it’s all those little interstitial moments when I have a moment to catch up. It’s all inbound versus having to do anything outbound. But it’s all in those little moments. And it’s probably insufficient. But it’s time I’ve invested in myself versus time where I’m reading something because I know I’ve got to take an action.

As VP and general Manager of Intel’s Client Computing Business, Tim McDonough is responsible for driving the business through modern marketing. Prior to his time at Intel, Tim held senior roles at Unity Technologies, Qualcomm and Microsoft.  During his career, Tim has led strategic marketing on a wide range of technologies and technology products – everything from mice, joysticks and Microsoft Office to chips and VR software.

Steve Boehler, founder and partner at Mercer Island Group, has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Nokia, HP, Microsoft, Sprint, Nintendo, Abbott Laboratories and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.