Integrating Marketing Across 100 Products with Dave Carrel, CMO of Thomson Reuters

nextcmo22 Aug 2023
PodcastsThought Leadership

In this episode of The Next CMO podcast, we speak to Dave Carrel, the CMO of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters (NYSE / TSX: TRI) informs the way forward by bringing together the trusted content and technology that people and organizations need to make the right decisions. The company serves professionals across legal, tax, accounting, compliance, government, and media. Its products combine highly specialized software and insights to empower professionals with the data, intelligence, and solutions needed to make informed decisions, and to help institutions in their pursuit of justice, truth, and transparency. Reuters, part of Thomson Reuters, is a world leading provider of trusted journalism and news.

In this episode of The Next CMO podcast, we speak to Dave Carrel, the CMO of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters (NYSE / TSX: TRI) informs the way forward by bringing together the trusted content and technology that people and organizations need to make the right decisions. The company serves professionals across legal, tax, accounting, compliance, government, and media. Its products combine highly specialized software and insights to empower professionals with the data, intelligence, and solutions needed to make informed decisions, and to help institutions in their pursuit of justice, truth, and transparency. Reuters, part of Thomson Reuters, is a world leading provider of trusted journalism and news.

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Dave Carrel
Peter Mahoney

Peter: The next C M O podcast explores topics that are on the minds of forward-thinking marketing executives from leadership and strategy to emerging technologies, and we bring these topics to life by interviewing leading experts in their fields. The next C M O is sponsored by Planful for Marketing. A leading marketing performance management solution that automates marketing, planning, financial management, and R O I optimization and hosted by me Peter Mahoney, an experienced C M O C E O board member and executive advisor.

In this episode of the next C M O podcast, I speak to Dave Carroll, the C M O of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters is a leading provider of business information services. Their products include highly specialized information enabled software and tools for legal, tax, accounting, and compliance professionals, along with the world’s most global news service Reuters.

We speak to Dave about his view of marketing at. Thomson Reuters, his path to the C M O that went from Digitas, the digital agency through Amazon and a W Ss, and Adobe and other leading companies. How he organizes marketing at Thomson Reuters and what’s difficult for them to do marketing at Thomson Reuters.

We’ll also learn a little bit about the a hundred million dollars of annual investment that Thomson Reuters is committing to generative ai. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the show.

Hey Dave. Thanks so much for being on the next C M O podcast. And to get us started, tell us a little bit more about you and a little bit more about Thomson Reuters.

David: Hey Peter. Thank you. Great to be here. Well, to start off, I’ll start with myself and maybe give you a little bit of flavor of my background and how I got to Thomson Reuters. Actually, Interestingly, maybe my first job out of undergrad was the US Department of Justice

Peter: I saw that, that, that’s fascinating.

David: so it’s interesting.

I think way back when I thought I’d go to law school and I was actually working on the Microsoft antitrust investigation and my job literally required me reading Bill Gates’ emails. And other folks on his team as anyone who knows anything about antitrust is, it’s a lot of document read and I don’t know, I’m 22 reading about the internet and I’m thinking to myself, I.

I don’t wanna be reading about the internet. I wanna be creating the internet. And so me and that friend, this was in dc, Washington, DC started building some websites for nonprofits everybo. Everyone needed a website. We had some friends there and taught ourselves what we needed. He was a IT guy.

And we just started building websites and I kept my day job. And then soon after that my girlfriend, now wife got into grad school, university of Arizona and Tucson. So we moved out there and I just said, screw it. I’m gonna start building websites. And you know, Peter, it was tough. Tucson was not dc didn’t have a network, didn’t really know anybody.

This was

Peter: They had like running water and electricity back then. Right?

David: I actually was working out of my house with no AC in the summer. I had a swamp cooler with this huge Dell laptop cranking out heat, if you wanna really know specifics. But you know, kind of got a couple clients, kind of got it going, kind of. And then I met up with some other guys who are doing e-commerce.

And we started. Building websites for all the catalog companies, r e i, Brookstone, Harry and David. And, you know, it was much bigger deal than what I was doing, building some websites and it started to go great. It was going great. And then you know, I’ll try to speed this up a little bit.

And in 99 when everyone was, you probably remember was going to a startup, I’m dating myself here, obviously. I went to I b M and kind of did the same thing, building e-commerce. I was on a bigger scale, then I went back to business school and was on a venture fund there. Stayed heavily involved in technology after business school.

Kind went to consulting and then into digital marketing with Digitas and owned by Publicis now was there for about nine years. Then went to Amazon and worked a bunch of years in Amazon Prime as the director of Prime Member Growth and really focused on driving growth. It was a great time to be in Amazon Prime.

Lots of growth, lots of innovations, helped start the first prime day. I always tell people it was huge success from the outside. Lots different on the inside. Just interesting. And then joined a w s another rocket ship. Great time to be there. Went to Adobe, not the Photoshop side, but the enterprise side for the digital experience cloud for marketing there, and then now at Thomson Reuters.

So it’s been a, it’s been a great journey along the way.

Peter: Well, I mean, really incredible journey and a couple of things are remarkable about it to me, Dave. One is, and of course you’re now the C m O of Thomson Reuters, which is a huge job at a really well-respected company, and we’re gonna come back to that in just a second. But the thing that I find most interesting about your career is that it’s hard to find the through line.

I mean, there, there’s really from Digitas. To all of a sudden going into this, you know, massively growing, really consumer subscription based subscription thing, which really is the business case that a lot of people use for, you know, alternative revenue streams for a company. I mean, it’s an incredible business, what Amazon Prime is.

To to back to marketing technology stuff at Adobe and now at this, you know, global leader in business and information services. So very different things. So te tell me what’s the thing that is consistent about all those things? It’s a job.

David: Yeah. The through line actually, I would say is around technology and SaaS or broader than SaaS subscription marketing. So, you know, even when I was, way back when Digitas worked on a lot of the cell phone carriers, subscription, and then prime subscription, A W SS is SaaS, Adobe is SaaS.

And Thomson Reuters is now a SaaS company, you know, a content enabled technology company. So I would say for sure, driving subscription based growth companies has kind of been the big through line, you know, definitely with Amazon and Prime, huge amounts of how do you drive growth. Same with a w Ss Adobe, and now we’re Thomson Reuters really pivoted to our growth agenda.

So, you know, it’s been really focused, I would say, the technology and subscription pieces.

Peter: Yeah it’s now incredibly obvious when you say it’s the subscription business. And some of it is of course almost all software subscription these days, but it wasn’t, I. Back back in the day and certainly having experience with carriers in really understanding that consumer level subscription business and the crazy kind of machinations you do from packaging and pricing to find interesting ways to, one, get great customer acquisition, and then two, to really grow that revenue over time.

And it really shows what kind of a C m O you must be, right? You’re the kind of C M O that isn’t about. Let me just give you the great window dressing and great press releases. Let me make sure this is someone who you’re deeply involved in the business and manufacturer of revenue and output, I suspect, is why the Thomson Reuters people must be interested in you.

Is that fair?

David: I think it’s fair. I think it’s understanding. The full customer lifecycle, you know, from brand and branding and driving a positioning. Obviously if you’re driving customer growth. And then on the SaaS side, and you know, this is new to many companies, you know, driving time to value of your product, making sure you’re focusing on usage not just, you know, renewals which come, you know, three years or one month, whatever, it’s later.

But really understand the customer, you know, post purchase renewal cycle as well. You know, it’s always a big part. So making sure you got the brand and the messaging right. And then, you know, day to day, how can we drive growth in different areas.

Peter: so speaking of branded messaging give us all just a level set on how we should think about Thomson Reuters today as a business. So, what’s the business that you’re in and what’s, what do you aspire to do?

David: well we’re now driving, you know, content enabled talk technology and where we’re really focused is. Powering informed action for professionals. So really focused on tax, legal, audit risk, business professionals, and how we can power their growth, help them navigate the complexity of the world today, whether through content or software.

And ultimately both of those as more and more, you know, today’s world is driven by both. Unique content that powers technology. So we’re working, you know, hand in hand with our customers. You know, as we drive the growth and business models change.

Peter: Yeah. And speaking of that, I was gonna save this for a lady ’cause it’s a meaty topic, but I was reading in your recent earnings release that that Thomson Reuters has committed a hundred million dollars. I. Into investing in generative ai. So, so obviously Thomson Reuters is a company that gets the value of information.

And and obviously we’re in this really interesting inflection point in the way that information is curated, created. I don’t even know how you think about it, but tell us a little bit around the motivation behind that investment and what do you all expect to get out of that kind of

David: Well, it’s, first of all, it’s a hundred million per year in ai.

Peter: wow. Yeah.

David: And, you know, part of the motivation is just the huge opportunity that we see in front of us. For each of our key businesses would be legal, tax accounting professionals to really supercharge the efficiency of how customers use data today and software.

So we see it as a bit of a game changer. You know, we see Thomson Reuters, you know, uniquely able to drive the trust, responsibility, accuracy, credibility that our customers need. Our customers demand the best. You know, there’s been a lot of, you know, news around, hey, chat, c p t. There’s one in New York Times, I’m sure other Reuters around, you know, the guy who went to trial.

And so powering our content with generative AI capabilities is definitely a unique source of advantage for us. Our core strengths are in content. We have 4,500 tech experts, 125 data scientists. You know, so really driving the generative AI into our core platforms is something that we see as a unique advantage for us and for our customers.

Our customers are asking for it. So it’s one of those unique aspects of technology where, you know, It’s not just, hey, looking for a market. You really have a lot of customer demand out there. So we’re jumping in, investing heavily in general ai. We’ve been talking about it with our customers and super excited about where we’re going.

Peter: Yeah it’s really interesting ’cause if you think Dave, about the, your customers, so you’re dealing with people like lawyers or a chief accounting officer or someone like that who’s like totally. Dependent on not only access to, but trust in your content because they’re making key business decisions based on your content.

And I, I always think of the metaphor of like the dolly photo. When you look at it, you say, wow, that’s really cool, but you realize it’s got six fingers, or it’s driving a car with no steering wheel or something like that. And it’s really easy, I think, for generative AI to create something that appears to be incredibly accurate.

It seems like it, it’s coming from an interesting source of all of us seem to be sort of genuflecting to the gods of AI right now. But I imagine there’s a really interesting role that someone like Thomson Reuters can play as the arbiter of truth in these areas to be that sort of final quality check.

Is that how you see yourselves or is it something different?

David: percent. I mean, people don’t realize, as Tom Sorors, we have 30 years plus experience of AI in Westlaw Precision. So it’s a deep history of using ai, not exclusively generative ai. In Westlaw Precision and what customers value about our brand and our products is that deep heritage, the trust innovation as well.

But that’s what we will bring the trust and reliability of all of our products with the new generative AI powered content, because that, it’s called hallucinations. What they have a word for it, right? For cha G p t where it makes stuff up. So the key and where we place the value, and this is where our unique, it’s 150 years of, you know, legal content.

Heritage comes in. Is leveraging our content with the AI technology to drive that trust and make sure when we do put forth generative content, it is a hundred percent accurate and reliable. So that’s definitely the differentiator for us. It’s definitely an opportunity we see. We’ve already been talking about it with our customers, and customers are talking about it to us.

We’re partnering with Microsoft on their co-pilot. We announced a couple weeks ago as well. So super exciting to be the first partner that’ll be integrated with their co-pilot capabilities. Well, so just lots of, you know, innovations happening across the board here.

Peter: Yeah it’s really fascinating and a fascinating time and especially because you’re starting to see these really meaningful kind of marquee brands like Thomson Reuters, like Microsoft. Off for like who, who are gonna take this to the next level. And there’s sort of these blizzard of these little companies out there and some of them really driving innovative stuff.

But for this to really reach its full potential, it feels like it has to really be grounded in the enterprise. And companies have to trust the value of information at some point. And it’s exciting to think about what you all might do in that space.

David: I think the trust, I mean, you touched on it, but just to go deeper, it’s even so critical because the technology’s so new. And you know, I think people are learning about it and trying to understand how it works and just making sure your brand is behind it. The strength and credibility of our legacy.

Not to mention for Thomson Reuters, we have deep experts in the field. You know, we have hundreds and hundreds of lawyers who edit and comment and post on the comments in our software to make sure it’s accurate. So taking that along with generative AI capabilities, you know, for us is just a unique differentiator.

Peter: Yeah. And then on top of it, of course, is the your IP you have in this area. And that’s the thing that I think is really compelling is. Right now most of ev everything that we’ve all seen as consumers of these tools around generative AI are sort of public domain kind of information. And sometimes with really unclear ownership, which is kind of an interesting challenge.

But when you can start to apply the same techniques to a proprietary set of information, it becomes potentially. Much more powerful which becomes a really interesting thing. So I’m certainly looking forward to it. And if you think about it I, when I read it, I read a hundred million dollars and you correct me to a hundred million dollars a year.

So a sustained effort in that. But if you think about that it’s almost like, I, I think this space is almost gonna be like, 20 years ago saying, yeah, how much do I spend on the web? Or how much do I spend on software? And the reality is that people are gonna be you know, allocating significant resources to this style of information collection, understanding dissemination, it’s summarization, et cetera.

David: definitely, and I know it’s been said before, but we, you know, really see the AI shift paralleled with the web, or as I talked about my first job, maybe mobile, the cloud, you know, the next big seism, seismic change and. Really believe that we are in a right spot to take advantage of this, you know, given the technology and positioning ourself as a content enabled technology across the board as a unique differentiator.

So yeah, super excited about AI overall and that, you know, bringing it to all of our product platforms.

Peter: Oh, that’s exciting. So t tell me a little bit let’s take a slight detour now and talk a little bit about internally at Thomson Reuters and the way that you all think about marketing. And so first of all, tell me about marketing at Thomson Reuters. What does it look like? First of all, remind us of the scale of Thomson Reuters these days.

Many billion dollars. What’s the exact number? And so what does marketing look like at a company like this?

David: Well, Thomson Reuters is 26,000 people about 7 billion in revenue and spread across the globe. So, broad base company marketing. I lead marketing across the company. And we’re set up for different groups, a bit enterprise type style marketing. We have a brand team, product marketing, demand, gen, content team, analytics and operations.

We have our regions for, you know, we call it Asian Emerging Markets, latam. And then within that we’re set up by segments. So we have different segments across our business. We talked a little about legal. Corporates tax, all our different segments are set up like that. And you know, we’re focused on going to market as Thomson Reuters one brand, even though a lots of, you know, we differentiate at the segment level and have diff unique offerings and messagings.

But really positioning is to be, you know, a SaaS company in terms of marketing as well. So how do we make sure we’re out in front with a strong brand? That we can drive, crossover, upsell, cross sell, as well as new logo acquisition. When customers come in, making sure they can onboard strong time to value on their product, really having a strong brand and positioning and something we’re looking at now.

And then also look at product marketing. So making sure our value props, our messaging kind of like all the aspects that go to market are there. And it’s been great. It’s been super fun. It’s a strong team across the board. And you know, we’ve been on a journey as a company from a few years ago before I even started.

It was like a holding company and now moving towards more of an operating company. And by that it’s, hey, we’re going to market consistently. In that way the marketing teams used to be siloed, have come together. And that was probably. One of the biggest changes over the last couple of years that’s been happening internally across Thomson Reuters marketing.

Peter: Yeah it’s interesting I went through a similar transition at we were talking before at this company Nuance, where I was the C M O and similar thing, it was a collection of product divisions and we had five product divisions or, and 35 product lines that rolled into those divisions.

And it was this sort of you know, cous message with and and I was there first in, in about 15 years, c m O. And it was a really interesting challenge trying to take that and and massage that into a message at the company level. And one of the things that helped accelerate that is, I got to rename the company, which was fun.

A along the way. And so renaming the company was a really good catalyst for doing that. But so when you went through that decision, and I’m not sure if you were there or not, when you went through, Hey, we’re gonna centralize this thing, was there a major strategic shift? That happened. Was this like a, Hey, we’re going to, we’re going to go to market completely differently.

We have a completely different brand story, and now all of a sudden we realize or was this more of an operational decision you made?

David: So, first of all, definitely wanna make sure credits. This was to before me mostly. So the switch at the company level from a holding company to operating company, it’s probably back to 2020 right around Covid. I don’t know that I have the exact date. So it’s been a journey. For the company as a whole, I would say.

And it’s definitely put us on a growth trajectory. And, but it has been a, you know, speaking for the marketing team, even from my tenure, you know, they’re still coming together. And you gotta keep some of the old ways and merge it with some of the newer ways. ’cause there’s good stuff everywhere, but, you know, you wanna, rather than having a totally different go to market, Roles, process, template, et cetera, et cetera, on one segment from another.

You need to drive some consistency for various reasons. So that’s one thing I’ve been able to drive and you can make some changes there. We see the fruits of that as well, simpler, faster really working towards fewer, bigger, better to kind of break through and you see some of that actually.

We launched some of our AI campaigns recently. We had the Microsoft Build Conference. We were on the Satya, c e O of Microsoft, had a shout out to us and our demo and his keynote. When we announced our co-pilot interactions we had some marketing campaigns around this and we were able to kinda.

Bring together product, pr multiple segments in a bigger, as I call it, way than we have in the past to kind of break through and kind of drive some of that, you know, brand aspects versus just some of the product aspects kind of breakthrough. But it’s a, you know, I think to answer your question it’s definitely a journey.

I think we’ve made really good progress. I think you’re always getting better and better, whatever you’re working on in, in marketing orgs. But it’s definitely been exciting. Like I think it’s more of a hey, set up as an enterprise marketing org. More best in class expertise rather than smaller pockets that we had when we was more siloed and more segmented.

And I think, you know, you kind of see that and many SaaS companies that have different products, different product lines, but you want to go to market as one brand.

Peter: Yeah. So talk a little bit about the way that you organize your overall campaign strategy. So, a challenge that a company, the scale of Thomson Reuters has, of course, is that you’ve got a big but relatively broad brand message you need to communicate. And you need to connect that to something that feels kind of actionable.

So that. The people that actually buy stuff from you can relate to the thing that you’re communicating. So how do you orchestrate that connection between that top level brand campaign brand message, and connect the dots down to a very specific kind of campaign that is sitting at the offer level.

David: Well, you know, at the top, top level we have a saying, you know, Sales overnight brand over time. And, you know, it talks a little bit to the time horizons of different things and you know, balancing out how much you’re gonna invest into any particular brand message. And brand can be different things.

It can be Thomson Reuters brand, but it can also be a product brand, Westlaw. So we, you know, There’s no one right allocation, I think. But for us, we definitely pick out some of our, and we have over a hundred different products as you look across our portfolio, but we pick out our, you know, what are the priority products and try to do it in tiers.

Tier one, tier two, tier three. And make sure we’re investing the right amounts in our tier one products. Because even separating out brand and the product, we don’t, you know, you gotta make calls. You can’t invest, you can’t talk to every product in the same way too. So it’s a little bit of, Hey, what’s growing fast?

Where is the market going? What do we need to invest in? Because it’s, you know, sometimes new and exciting products. Get a lot of interest. People want to kick the tires versus, you know, more products that have been around a lot. You know, they have a strong installed client base and, you know, you just need to go to market differently on those.

So we really look across our segments and I would say that, you know, we invest, Hey, how much are we gonna do at a brand level? And it, the question is, do we have something unique to say? And one of the first questions we ask, what’s the role of brand in our go-to-market messaging? And even that varies, you know, from the legal business to the tax business, to the risk business.

And our name means different things. So sometimes where we’re less well known, we wanna make sure we can build it up, like I said before, over time. And we need to balance that out with a strong go to market master product. And then even within that, we look at it, Hey, what type of customer are we talking about?

Is it a large enterprise customer that’s got a nine to 12 month sales cycle, or is it maybe a solo attorney who’s got a, you know, in month sales cycle? Let’s look for something today. So that’s how the, I would say the factors that we look into, it’s first, it’s, Hey, what do we, what, where’s, what role does our brand need to play in this particular area?

What do we have to say? Then? We’d look to allocate at a segment level, and then within the segments, probably in top tiers. And, you know, we, and then maybe midyear, we kind of take a look at, maybe we make some shifts. I think it’s really important. It’s hard to say as world to have too long of a cycle but balanced against, Hey, you can’t be changing everything.

I mean, you can optimize a campaign obviously, and you should be. But you don’t wanna do replants all the time. So it’s just balancing it out, get into a good rhythm. And I would say more and more it’s like, Hey, where do we see opportunity and where do we think we can put, you know, fuel on the fire?

Where should we invest more because X, y, or Z is doing particularly well, or maybe something isn’t doing pretty well, so we just need to shift funds away from it. But it’s a tough, it’s a tight market in terms of funds today, so you gotta be really efficient. Use, you know, I’m not telling anything that people on this podcast don’t know, but I think it’s being smart about it and being proactive about it.

Hey, if you think you need to make a shift, how can you self-fund it yourself the first before going back for incremental? I think that’s the right thing to do, smart for the business, and it builds credibility. With your partners and stakeholders. But staying close to customers, what’s working and kind of really the message that you’re using to break through kind of using that as a big differentiator.

Peter: Yeah. That idea of self-funding I think is really important. I had a, my last time I, my last C m O job, my my c e o was famous for saying, Whenever you asked for anything he’d say to you, so you’re trying to tell me that this is the last thing you’d spend a new dollar on, because it must be less important than all those other dollars you’ve already allocated to everything else.

And I would sort of annoyed agree that yes you’re right. We should go figure out first if we can find something. Within that domain. So one of the things though that I wanted to ask you, Dave, is that for some of our listeners who may not have experience with the kind of scale that Thomson Reuters is marketing at I always find it interesting to ask people what do you think people would find surprising?

About marketing at Thomson Reuters at this scale. Like what’s difficult for you to do and and you’ve worked at a lot of large scale companies, obviously with Amazon and Adobe and but what’s hard to do for you? Because some people look into this and everything must be easy for that guy’s got a big company.

David: I think the hard thing is trying to do fewer, bigger, better. Right? O Oftentimes people think, oh, I need so many messages. I have. X products, I need X campaigns. And I think it’s, Hey, how can you aggregate something up to break through the noise? And, you know, it’s so hard in today’s, you know, fragmented world to get the breakthrough, I would say is one.

And to have a meaningful quote unquote message. You know what I mean? I think that’s something you really wanna, I would say obviously invest in, but I think it’s always worth a shout out. Like what a, you know, customer research. Really understanding your unique differentiators of what you can say that customers care about.

And then, you know, getting big behind that. And not to say that everything’s gotta be big. ’cause I think, you know, there’s a lot of segmentation and I don’t know if microtargeting is the right word, but, you know, you want to be specific, but in terms of breaking through, I think it’s trying to figure out how do you get integrated campaigns that makes sense in today’s world.

Peter: Well, speaking of bigger and better and fewer I know we have very little time with you today, Dave. And to wrap up, I’ll have to ask you the one question we ask everybody to wrap up, which is, what advice would you give to current or aspiring CMOs? I.

David: I would say get in there and go for it. Like get your hands dirty. Jump in. Maybe you don’t know x, y, or Z depth about the product, but just go and make it happen. That builds expertise. It helps you build relationships, it gets you involved. And obviously you can’t do it with everything, but if find the one or two things and just jump in and, you know, do it not to quote Nike or anything, but it’s very similar to advice I give.

Anyone starting off take a risk. And I don’t know that it’s risk, I wouldn’t say it’s the same here, but I would say just get in and do something. And you know, you’re smart. Your team’s smart. I’m sure you’ll make some good decisions. Maybe you’ll not make some not good ones, but you’ll adjust. But that’s the thing is move fast and make a difference.

Peter: Excellent. Well, fantastic advice. I wanted to thank you for your time today, Dave. I want to thank you all for listening out there and make sure you follow the next C M O and Planful on Twitter and LinkedIn and all those fun places. And if you have any ideas for topics or guests, you can email us at the next and I hope you have a fantastic day.

Thanks again.

David: Thanks, Peter. Really enjoyed talking with you.

Peter: Thanks.

David: Bye.