Not long ago, marketing existed in silos. Someone was responsible for press releases and media relations, while another individual (or an agency) was in charge of buying radio and TV ads. Each part of the team concentrated on a few aspects that made up the overall strategy.
Today, marketing teams can no longer afford to take this stratified approach.
The digital revolution has turned the traditional model on its head. The average buyer is more sophisticated and informed, unlikely to be persuaded by a single well-placed ad.
Your customers conduct extensive research online, whether they’re buying a $200 fitness tracker or deciding which $200,000 software program is right for their company.
They’re searching on Google, scanning customer reviews and absorbing any other information they can find—blog articles, forums, guides and social media posts—to learn more. They have more access to independent sources of information and opinions from others than ever before.
In fact, it’s now acknowledged that in the B2B sector, about 80 percent of the sales cycle is complete before potential buyers ever talk to a sales representative. That can either be a relief or an unnerving reality, depending on how confident you are that your solution is accurately portrayed and stands out above the rest.
As a Chief Marketing Officer, the extent to which you can guide their decision relies heavily on your team’s ability to create persuasive content that speaks to them at every stage.
CMOs must have a broad vision of how to connect with today’s increasingly distracted customers and provide them enough engaging information to catch their attention, allow them to explore their options and ultimately close the deal.
They need to think like media companies.
Media companies don’t just put out press releases or scatter messages across radio, TV and newspapers, and then sit back to see what happens. They strategize. They entertain, inform and engage.
So, what does that look like from one day to the next? If you’re a CMO or a senior director leading a marketing team, here are four practical ways to think like a media company.
The way people decide which fitness tracker to buy is obviously different from the research they’ll do to determine which software product is best for their company. Likewise, they’ll make different considerations depending on whether they are a mid-level human resources manager or the CEO.
The information your buyers need also depends on where they are in the sales process. If they’re just beginning to recognize a challenge, they’ll be drawn to information that talks about how to make their life easier. When they’re exploring potential solutions, they want to learn more about specific ways to solve their problem. When it’s time to decide between several solutions, they’re looking for comparisons, case studies, reviews and pricing sheets.
Most buyers go through this general process of awareness, consideration and decision, but the way they move through this journey is different depending on who they are and what they need.
Take the time to map out the buyer’s journey for each type of customer you’re targeting, and make sure you have content that aligns with each stage.
Start by interviewing some of your own customers (and even a few who ultimately chose not to buy from you) to learn more about what influenced them at every stage.
Traditional marketing made assumptions about what buyers preferred, based on demographics and market research. Today, the marketers who successfully connect with their buyers are those who rely not on assumptions, but on data.
The dating site OkCupid has done a masterful job at digging into its site analytics to understand exactly how its members interact, what turns them off and even what they should say if they want to have a successful first interaction with someone. The company’s research arm, OkTrends, shares its data-driven insights with current and potential members on its blog.
For someone in the dating market, this kind of information is incredibly useful. While helping people find love, the company is also building credibility as the trusted expert on dating and relationships. It uses data to power its matching system as well as its marketing strategy. This approach has clearly paid off—the company has had more than 10 million members since it started in 2004 and currently has about 1 million active members.
Kraft Foods Group puts a similar emphasis on data as it plans its editorial calendar.
The company mines data from both internal and external sources to find out what its customers are most interested in at any given time.
When the content team noticed a jump in searches for green velvet cupcakes on the St. Patrick's Day holiday, it quickly developed a recipe with four different Kraft ingredients, and shared it through the brand's media channels. As Deanie Elsner, executive VP and CMO at Kraft Foods, explained at the 2014 Ad Age CMO Strategy Summit, "Data, going forward, becomes the new currency.”
Marketers today have more opportunities than ever before to reach potential customers. Your company’s website, social media pages, emails, paid advertising and mainstream news stories are all touch points for customers and part of the overall story you’re telling. Make each one count. Don’t focus exclusively on your website and social media at the expense of paid advertising.
Some companies assume they can spend less on advertising because there are so many other ways to reach customers for free online. This misconception can hurt your distribution, especially as social media shifts to more of a “pay to play” model for marketers. This started with Facebook changing its algorithm, which resulted in users seeing less and less content from brands that didn’t have paid advertising. Other social networks are following suit, including Twitter.
In the B2B sector, LinkedIn has become an essential distribution channel, offering companies a broader reach through sponsored posts and other advertising options. Your company may have overlooked the importance of creating a strong presence here in the past, but you can’t afford to ignore it today. LinkedIn now has more than 300 million users, about 40 percent of whom are logging in daily.
If your company isn’t taking advantage of this opportunity to connect with them, your competitors surely will.
Investing in distribution, however, isn’t like investing in the stock market—it’s not always about diversification. Take the time to identify a few channels where your customers are most active, and target them there. It may be a trade journal, an industry website and LinkedIn, or it could be Facebook, Pinterest and a local radio station.
Don’t forget about the power of programmatic marketing, which is taking retargeting to the next level with real-time bidding. Marketers spent $3.1 billion on real-time bidding in 2013, but it’s expected to account for more than $18.2 billion in digital advertising revenues in 2018.
It’s important to think about where customers will see your brand, but it’s equally essential to consider how you want your customers to see it. What do you want them to think when they hear your name? How do you want to inspire them? What bigger-picture goals are you trying to accomplish?
For Red Bull, it’s important that the company’s energy drinks be associated with a bold, active lifestyle. The drink doesn’t just give you a quick boost when you hit a slump at 2:30 in the afternoon; it “gives you wings” and propels you to take risks.
As the company created this narrative for itself, it formed associations with action sports, high-profile athletes and daredevils. Red Bull sponsors an NBC sports series that showcases snowboarding, surfing, motocross, mountain biking and other extreme sports. It even sponsored Felix Baumgartner’s 24-mile supersonic freefall, which has captured more than 37 million views on YouTube. This video appeals directly to people who crave action and adventure, exactly the type of consumer Red Bull wants to reach.
Today’s Chief Marketing Officers need to think about the end game as they plan their strategy. They need to visualize the ultimate goal and think backward from there.
What do they want their brand to do for humanity at large? Where do they want to be seen? How can they be sure the content they create is aligned with the reality of what their customers want and how they interact? How can they speak their language at every stage in the journey?
Thinking like a media company involves much more than just allocating a budget to different outlets. It requires a shift from self-promotion to establishing a true dialogue. It means going beyond distributing content to building a community of followers and brand advocates. It involves thinking beyond traditional channels.
Global consultant Mike Walsh specializes in this type of “out-of-the-box” thinking. We recently collaborated with him on The 21st Century CMO Playbook, which covers 10 insightful moves CMOs will need to make to succeed this year. Thinking like a media company is just one of them.For more insights and practical advice to stay at the top of your game, download The 21st Century CMO Playbook now.