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Interviews/ Online Media

The Interview: Content Marketing Institute Chief Strategist Robert Rose


by Tim Moran
Editor In Chief

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Article Highlights:

  • A lot of marketers are thinking about social media all wrong. They’re still stuck in that old mindset, worrying about things like ROI and lead generation.
  • A fundamental mistake marketers make is that they measure success by how “busy” they are.
  • Content and creating great customer experiences isn’t necessarily about creating more leads, it’s about creating better leads.

Marketing is changing; evolving if you will. It’s moving from a hard sell mentality to telling stories and providing consumers with an experience, in hopes that when it comes time to buy, they think of you on their own.

Robert Rose, senior analyst at Digital Clarity Group, and chief strategist at the Content Marketing Institute talked to editor in chief Tim Moran about some of the newer tactics that are driving marketing. Namely, social media, big data and content marketing. Apparently, a lot of marketers are thinking about it all wrong. They’re still stuck in that old mindset, worrying about things like ROI and lead generation. And, they’re missing the point. Social’s lack of ROI is a big issue. So, why do it then
Rose: I see the biggest mistake is in the way that social ROI is defined. ROI is a result. It’s something that happens. It is not a prerequisite to something that we do. And most marketing organizations that suffer from this have to “prove ROI” beforehand. The edict comes down to say, “Show me the ROI before you actually go out and do it.” And then there’s surprise that no one ever does anything innovative or experimental.

Most of the time the ROI argument really means a company is afraid of treading new waters or simply doesn’t understand social media. The other fundamental mistake I see marketing organizations make is that they measure success by how “busy” they are. How many more leads can we get? How many more customers can we get? How many more followers can we get? How many more one-sheets can we produce? And that, ultimately, is meaningless. The more appropriate question is what experiences can we create so that we deliver better customers? More? Sure. But, overall, we want engaged customers. Content and creating great customer experiences isn’t necessarily about creating more leads, it’s about creating better leads. That is a huge opportunity for marketers. Are you saying that it’s easier to get existing customers to buy more than it is to acquire a new customer?
Rose: It is easier to create deeper engagement and sell more to an existing customer if that customer starts out engaged with the brand to begin with. For example, a large manufacturing company compensates its sales people based on how many transactions they perform. So what do they do? Well, of course they do what any sales guy would do, which is they sell the easiest thing they can, which is the “widget”--the lowest priced, easiest thing that they can sell. Once they sell that, to that customer that company is the “widget company.” So when sales guy B, C, D, and E come in and try and upsell that customer, it doesn’t work because they’re the widget company now. So, instead, if we take the time, the extra time and effort, to educate, engage, and make sure that the customer is deeply engaged and educated through the sales process, we may end up only selling them a widget in the beginning, but then it becomes much easier to engage in loyalty, upsell, or cross-sell programs because then they’re aware. They know that we’re not just the widget company. It can be argued that content marketing, like social media, and other experiential marketing also has an ROI problem. So the question is has new media changed the business model for lead gen?
Rose: I think it hasn’t changed what we do as much as it’s fundamentally changed the way we do it. Content marketing is just an additional tool in a marketer’s arsenal. It’s an approach that gets infused into what we do. Some companies think content marketing replaces everything that they're doing, but it shouldn’t. It doesn’t, necessarily, replace advertising or collateral creation or email marketing. But it can make those things perform better. There’s a study that just came out that talked about how marketers are now using something like 80 percent of the data that they have in hand to facilitate more transactions instead of using it to deepen their relationship with the customers. And that’s an incredibly important number that needs to be flipped because the data that we have is only going to be as good as the execution we performed. And so, if were really good at our jobs as marketers, and we get wonderful data from customers, and we do great campaigns, and we are successful, all that data is really going to enable us to do is to repeat what we’ve done, get insight on how we might do it better, and use content to deepen that engagement over time. And that’s the real value. Is big data really a big deal? Or, just another over-used industry buzzword?
Rose: It is real in the sense that CMOs have to react to it in the same way that they have to react to things like cloud and content marketing and the buzz that gets created around these new concepts. The reality is, most CMOs don’t know what to do with the data they have, much less making it any bigger. My experience is that the reality of big data is as the silos of marketing start to come back together, and social measurement starts to merge back into Web, and Web into sales enablement and etc., the data that’s getting generated out of that is highly valuable. But it’s only valuable in so far as we can ask really smart questions of it. And so there’s the need for someone who can sit between the data and the marketing team who is apt to find meaning in it. There’s a need for someone who can ask really smart questions of the data to actually extract real value out of it. And this person, would it be more of a marketing person? A business person? An analyst?
I don’t know the real answer to that yet. It’s a smart person, let’s put it that way. It looks to me like a journalist. It’s someone who can extract the bullshit from the rest of the noise and actually make some meaning out of it. It’s someone who knows how to peel away layers of things and ask really advancing questions. It is an editorial job. But it’s someone who also understands statistical analysis and understands some level of math to be able to look at data and provide insight based on it. So it’s kind of a quasi-journalist, quasi-analytics person. You talked about silos briefly, silos of social and Web. What about the internal silos between the CIO and the CMO? The CIO sometimes has a wealth of useful data that the CMO and his team don’t know about or have access to.
Rose: Well, speaking of big data, I think there’s a real opportunity for that concept to align those two in the organization; the two that have traditionally been at odds with one another. You know, the CIO right now is struggling with big data because they have two halves of a pie. There’s the half of the pie that they understand, which is transactional, financial, consumer, and e-commerce data. It’s the stuff that they’ve built the company on. It’s well normalized, they get it, they know it, they understand it. And then there's this whole new half of the pie that they have no idea what to do with. That’s all the unstructured data like semantic analysis, social data, all the analysis that’s coming out of Web traffic, and behavioral and targeting traffic. Trying to marry those things is a huge job for the CIO, and then extracting some meaning out of it so that it adds some strategic value to the business going forward is the CMO’s job. And so there is an opportunity to align those two things strategically, but it’s really just an opportunity.

I'm starting to see now more alignment between those two groups than ever before. The CIO and the IT department has, historically, been known as the “department of no” to marketers. They are really beginning to “lean in” (as it were) and become a much more strategic part of the C-suite.  Simultaneously, the CMO is struggling with the same, but they have to change the perception that they are the “department of yes,” spending money like drunken sailors with no ROI. See, we’re back there, aren’t we? Anyway, CMOs have to get out of this sort of internal agency idea, where all they are is the producer of press releases, collateral material, and generally pretty pictures that enables sales in some way. So as both C-level positions try to become more strategic to the business, I see the successful ones teaming up more and more to sort of take the idea of data and consumer experiences and make it a strategic piece of what the business is doing holistically. What drum are you beating lately? What's the thing that’s high on your list of interesting things?
Rose: Right now is where the real work begins for the approach of content marketing. We’ve got to get beyond just measuring through the top of the funnel. As many search and other agencies now pivot to offer content marketing services, they’ve got to deliver more than “more." As I said before, the benefits of solely focusing on using content to drive more leads, more followers, more visits all because of more content will not succeed. I'm beating the drum as much as I can about this idea of quality over quantity. The second thing is this idea that enterprise technology at scale had better watch its back. There’s a whole breed of disruptive technologies that are coming up that are going to displace some of these enterprise providers. The “appification” of marketing is expanding, and any enterprise technology that doesn’t help the marketer change, adapt, and move more rapidly will not be long for this world.