Marketing Leadership and the Changing Marketing Mandate

Bospar Advice on Marketing ConferencesI did something recently that I rarely take the time to do—I attended a professional development event sponsored by Gartner and the Churchill Club, the Silicon Valley business and technology organization. The event featured a panel of CMOs and senior marketing leaders, who discussed the challenges and opportunities of corporate marketing and the strategic “marketing mindset.” Needless to say, the discussion was illuminating. Here is a summary of what I learned:

The 6 habits of successful CMOs

The marketing function is changing in many organizations; it is a growth engine but is often responsible for innovation as well. According to Gartner, the traits of successful CMOs include:

  1. Thinking like a CEO—or, more accurately, connecting with the CEO’s vision and bringing it to life
  2. Mastering customer economics, with the ability to segregate high-value customers
  3. Effectively balancing omnichannel versus multichannel—adopting the right mix of channels, in other words
  4. Actively delivering on brand promise with truth; it is the best way to ensure that the experience on the other side of the click is a good one
  5. Forgetting about Big Data and focusing instead on the right data
  6. Not talking and thinking about digital per se, because digital isn’t considered a separate “specialty” anymore

The essential skills of marketers today

With the growing importance of marketing automation and the use of data by marketing departments, marketing is no longer seen as the bastion of artistic extroverts. On the other hand, the pendulum continues to swing.

More and more marketers have a hard science—such as math and engineering—background, but they often have creative outlets, too. The key is to strike the right balance between art and science. We also need to reevaluate traditional roles and titles. An emerging and valued skill, for example, is storytelling. Perhaps your next new hire will be a stand-up comedian, someone who can write short scripts with attention-grabbing “punch lines,” in effect. Or you might want to consider hiring a former journalist who can effectively tell a story based on facts.

Marketing is content hungry, and it takes a village to feed it

Marketing is fueled by content, but how can a marketing leader corral content creators when everyone is contributing?

In many organizations a content transformation is underway with the adoption of a local, decentralized model. The panelists at the Churchill Club event agreed that they don’t want to control content creation—they just want content to be “coherent.” Some things, like the corporate logo and color palette, are sacred; they can’t be “messed with.” At the other end of the spectrum are those projects for which there are no rules, and decisions are made quickly, at the local level. Somewhere in the middle are so-called soft rules, guidelines for the customization of existing content for local markets.

Looking into the marketing crystal ball

Gartner predicted several years ago that in 2017 CMOs would be making most tech buying decisions in enterprises, and that is proving to be accurate. Additional predictions:

  • Providing a positive user experience will be more important than ever before.
  • Even in B2B companies, the focus will be on the “human” side of things and making emotional connections.
  • Successful leaders will lead by influence, not authority. The hierarchical approach to management is disappearing.

One thing that’s clear is that the evolution of marketing will continue. Marketing is no longer merely the “bull horn” of a brand but instead has far-reaching and expanding responsibility in areas of product and business innovation; revenue and business results; and the overall customer experience.

One Launch Is Not Enough

Why one launch is not enoughFirst appeared in the December 2016 print edition of O’Dwyer’s.

There are many circumstances—tequila shots, bright eyeshadow and orange shag carpet come to mind—in which less is more. In PR, however, more is always just more.

Back in September we polled 1,010 American adults in our Consumer PR Effectiveness Study to determine how likely people were to visit a tech company’s website based on media coverage. Then, in October, we fielded a B2B PR Effectiveness Study, which surveyed over 500 marketers—CMOs, vice presidents of marketing, marketing directors and marketing managers—to see how PR influences them.

What we discovered is that some people are moved to visit a company’s website the first time they encounter it in the media. But, in most cases—and this was especially true in the case of consumers—people have to see several media placements before they are moved to check out a company further.

These results confirm what PR people know from experience: a single launch event is not enough. What truly drives traffic to a company’s website and achieves lead generation and, ultimately, sales is a steady cadence of regular coverage in a variety of media outlets. Anything short of that and your company is but a blip on the radar of the noisy news machine.

“Decision makers are influenced by compelling content that brings insight—be it a video, infographic, survey or industry backgrounder,” said Carla Schlemminger, marketing strategist and startup advisor. “By encountering broader content pieces which speak to a larger industry, the reader forms a positive association with the company in question. That company is now gaining brand recognition in the mix of larger industry conversations, trust over lesser-known brands, higher-level partnerships and shorter sales cycles.”

Hetal Pandya, co-founder of EasilyDo, agreed that seeing products and services in the media is essential to making purchasing decisions. “Learning about a B2B company, their product and their success from the press definitely helps give the brand credibility.”

Marketing professionals, on the whole, are far more responsive to media placements than consumers, likely because it is their job to keep their fingers on the pulse of their industry. In our survey, over half (52 percent) of the CMOs and vice presidents of marketing responding said they would visit a company’s web or mobile site the first time they see a company in the news. That was also true for 43 percent of the marketing directors and one in five marketing managers. Seeing a story several (two to five) times in the media will garner visits from another third of CMOs and VPs (35 percent), another third of marketing managers and another 14 percent of marketing directors.

“As a CMO, if I’m engaged in a branding campaign, then I’ll be automatically drawn to content related to branding and will likely visit websites that can educate me on trends, tools or techniques,” said Arya Barirani, CMO of GlobalLogic. “Good marketers are always putting themselves in the audience context —some call this the customer journey — to figure out how to serve up content to create greater engagement. So, yes, if I encounter a really compelling piece of content, I will certainly investigate the company further.”

“As a rule of thumb, consumers must hear about a product or service two to five times from three different sources for a company to establish awareness and earn purchase consideration,” agreed Mark Undercoffler, a 20-year marketing industry professional. “In contrast, many in the industry are tasked with innovating and keeping a competitive advantage, so the B2B audience is more likely to check out a new company sooner.”

Indeed, consumers are a harder win: only one in five American men and 13 percent of women will check out a site the very first time they see a media placement. Sixteen percent of American men will visit a company site after seeing several (between two to five) media placements, and nearly one in four will visit a site after seeing a company in the news more than five times. Only an additional 11 percent of women say they will visit a company’s site after seeing several placements, but 49 percent say they will eventually check out a company’s web or mobile site if they see enough placements.

“The studies’ results are clear,” added David Hurwitz, Vice President of Marketing at MosaixSoft. “Seeing a company mentioned by legitimate third parties drives interest. The magic of PR is to make that happen.”

While a launch event is—in the right hands—definitely news, one foray into the media will not be enough to propel a company to success. Sustained, creative PR outreach efforts to a variety of outlets are the best—maybe only—way to achieve long-term success.

“PR is likely the most effective sales lead tool available to companies today,” added Undercoffler. “The days of taking potential clients out to time-consuming entertainment events to woo them are all but over.”