A timely article for CMOs recently appeared in McKinsey’s Quarterly Magazine, titled “The dawn of marketing’s new golden age.”
Essentially (spoiler alert) the article says that speed, storytelling and data are transforming marketing in the eyes of the CEO. The article concludes with five questions that the CMO should be asking. I reproduce them here (with some observations), as all five equally apply to the marketing agency mindset and structure:
“Are we taking advantage of the science of data and research to uncover new insights, or are we working off yesterday’s facts, assertions and heuristics?”
At Pace, we are definitely addressing this question as we, like many, have tended to dwell on the “what happened?” aspect of the analytics dashboard. And, to be honest, seeing and knowing the “what” and the “how” content performs is powerful in its own right as we improve the effectiveness of our clients’ content programs on a daily basis. But applying insights from actions and asking the “why” and the “what if” is what we are spending more of our time uncovering and applying, as this article suggests.
Enhancing or Selling Hard?
“Do we fully exploit the power of marketing to enhance the substance—that is, the products, services and experiences—we offer our customers, or are we just selling hard with a “me-too” mind-set?”
Every marketer struggles with this question – particularly if you’re in retail! This is one of the powerful ways in which content agencies are playing an increasingly important role for marketers. An editorial mindset helps move thinking from the traditional 4 P’s of the marketing mix (product, price, promotion and place) more toward Lauterborn’s redefinition as the 4 C’s (consumer, cost, communication and convenience) which appears to be better suited to today’s overall marketplace, not just to Millennials. It is important to change the approach, not just the labels. The word “communication” implies a dialogue with the consumer — a sharing of information. Promotion does not.
“Do we have a clear brand story that echoes through cyberspace, or do we feel that we aren’t quite capturing hearts and minds?”
Question 3 reaches to the heart of why a content agency should be your first agency hire and not your last. Your brand story needs to permeate every touch point for your customers and potential customers. Consistency of message, language and tone of voice ensures that your beliefs and values resonate from your website, your email programs, your annual report, point of sale, etc. And today’s customers really do care about what you believe in and what you stand for. They are also looking for gaps in your story. A good content agency will give you a content strategy and will show you ways of creating multiple content streams from single reporting and producing exercises. We call this ROPE (Report Once Publish Everywhere) and it’s part of what we do differently and better than most others.
Tip: A good content agency will not insist on creating and executing all channels themselves; make sure your agency can partner with internal departments and other external agencies already creating content to provide advice, guidelines and templates as well as content.
Beauty in Simplicity
“Have we created simplifiers within our organization, or have complex matrices become a logjam?”
There are multiple articles, opinion pieces and Seth Godin blog posts about creating a Chief Content Officer position within your organization. If this is impractical, consider creating a council of key decision makers from brand, corporate communications, CRM, etc., to reach consensus on content standards and tone of voice, and agree on an overall strategy and some common programs. A number of our clients are having success with this approach, cumbersome though it is sometimes at the outset to set up. We have also embedded our own teams within the client organization with success, in some instances. If you have a strong agency that would partner well with established internal resources, this is a potential route to consider.
“Are we faster or slower to market than our competition?”
The enemy of speed is complexity, and unfortunately, many organizations are “siloed” in a way that makes fast market responses difficult to achieve. Some sectors also have compliance and legal issues that make this a very necessary hurdle. Do consider that you may not need the “always on” newsroom because, remember, you just need to be faster than your competition. Simplifying the approval process and empowering your team leaders to be as responsive as possible to news and customer outreach is essential in this socially connected marketplace in which we live. But the speed at which you do that should be judged against your competitive set, not against the ubiquitous Oreo Super Bowl case study.