Not Just Talk: Talkwalker’s Elena Melnikova on Marketing, Tech Stacks and Gaining Consensus

20th January 2022

From the British Formula One racing team Lotus F1 to Deloitte, Elena Melnikova has marketed for a range of companies, moving into the consumer intelligence space in 2014 as Talkwalker’s VP of Marketing (she’s now CMO).

Melnikova built the Talkwalker marketing team’s infrastructure, created its strategy and grew a team of 35 to a global workforce of 600. A recent interview touched on managing techstacks, achieving consensus, and her secret to success.

 “More data isn’t the problem,” said Melnikova. “Understanding and leveraging the data is key. Because let’s face it, marketing has a somewhat fluffy reputation; an interpretation that marketers ‘make the brochures’ or ‘run the events’. The right tools cut through the noise to track business value across the customer journey. The company’s techstack can align sales and marketing on the product and demonstrate the results firsthand.”

How would you define a tech stack?

A tech stack consists of the marketing tools that professionals use within a company to drive marketing ROI and operational efficiency. These tools help make your team more effective.

There are a lot of tools out there? How many does a marketing department need?

It’s a difficult question and it depends on the team. We ask ourselves what our teams need and how a tool will solve that problem. We think about it in operational terms- will onboarding takes weeks or hours? And we factor in the time it takes for implementation, learning and maintenance.

We also ask how investment will stack up against the benefits, while considering whether the software will integrate with other tools. No single all-in -one tool exists- it never will. So you need the best breed of solutions that can grow with your team.

Auditing your tools is a constant exercise because the tech stack is always growing, and you need to maintain it and adapt it based on your current needs. And you have to be critical because otherwise you’ll end up with a techstack that’s one, a dinosaur and two, completely unmanageable.

How many tools do you use and what for?

We use around 30 tools. It enables us to take on 5 different segments of marketing, while demonstrating the value of our activities. This solves the endless pain point of how marketing can be attributed to business results.

Our tech stack is divided into the following: collaborate (what our team uses to stay connected), attract (driving brand awareness), nurture (transforming awareness into leads), convert (turning leads into clients) and engage (turning those clients into brand advocates).

As marketing has evolved from pre-purchase to purchase and post purchase phases, it’s now across the sales cycle. We use tools like Salesforce for our business functions and Google Analytics for demonstrating attribution. Marketo helps execute strategies- it’s what Marketing uses to complete dollar value.

How do you gain consensus in Marketing?

We use very concrete KPIs that show not just number of leads but the amount of actual revenue achieved. It makes your job more valuable to your board members, CEO and team members. It supports marketing decisions not just from the bottom up, but also sideways, because your team needs to be on board. They need to know that they’re revenue generators in order to be inspired.

In terms of gaining consensus the language is key. Marketing is about finding the right language to make the right arguments. So when we’re talking to product teams, we talk about features, when we’re talking to sales teams we talk numbers, and so on.

How you been successful in marketing?

The key is the people and I have a pretty good instinct during interviews; I can often tell in seconds if someone is right for the role. It’s not just about being an expert in your industry, though there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s about having passionate people on board- they’ll deliver the best results. That’s really the secret.