Great marketing is about serving, not selling.
“If you provide value through content and thought leadership,” he elaborated, “you will succeed.”
That being said, Ken points out that putting his philosophy into practice takes a lot of work.
The problem for most B2B marketing leaders, Ken explained, is that they typically have a product-centric view of their overall marketing strategy. They do this because they are under pressure from other executives within the organization to prove impact. Without the proper metrics, marketing lacks credibility in the organization. It is simply not seen as a growth driver.
The solution, which Ken has pursued at IBM, PR Newswire, and Cision, starts with a buyer-centric view that emphasizes the customer experience and focuses on measurable business results. For this reason, Ken works closely with his peers to develop a clear understanding of marketing attribution.
“Too many B2B CMOs think of leads as the target to hit,” Ken said. “The real target is marketing influenced revenue.”
Aligning marketing with business goals involves establishing agreed upon standards of attribution. Marketing’s credibility, on the other hand, comes from collecting customer data that demonstrates what marketing is actually accomplishing.
“CMOs who don’t have the data,” he said, “can’t talk intelligently about the impact of marketing efforts on buyer behavior. If you don’t have data and insights, you cede control.”
Of course, those insights can’t simply be about marketing’s performance. First and foremost, they need to involve the customer. If marketing is going to serve this key constituency, it has to answer some key questions:
– What are the goals of key buying groups?
– What do customers really care about?
– Where do they go for information?
– Who do they trust?
At the same time, you need to be able to clearly articulate the following:
– Why do we exist?
– Who are our core audiences?
– What value can we bring to our customers?
As Ken pointed out, answering these questions takes a lot of work. And the work doesn’t simply end once the questions are answered. Armed with the right customer and market insights, the marketing team must then go on to provide strategic guidance to enhance product innovation, selling effectiveness, and the service experience.
Marketers need to focus on creating compelling, consistent interactions with buyers and influencers. This involves both traditional marketing practices but also includes product, sales, and service. “Great marketing is like an orchestra,” Ken said, “all coordinated to create one beautiful sound.”
Such coordination involves a lot of moving parts and a holistic approach that includes five key elements:
– The right people organized in the right way
– The right processes to coordinate efforts
– The right technology infrastructure
– The right data
– The right content
“If you miss any of these steps,” Ken said, “your success will be limited. But, when all these elements are working together, it can really demonstrate to the marketing team the impact they’re having on the success of the business. It can be very motivating.”
More importantly, he added, getting it right can make “marketing a transformation agent for the organization.”
One Beautiful Sound
So what kind of “beautiful sound” is Ken trying to create at Cision?
“Our marketing team is focused on demonstrating best practices for marketers and communicators to use in the digital age. These best practices include leveraging the power of earned media, in combination with paid and owned media, to increase the impact of content on key decision makers and influencers.”
As part of this strategy, and in the spirit of marketing that serves the customer, he and his team are looking to produce “best practice content that is valuable and compelling.”
To this end, as a result of the team’s multi-channel approach, they have demonstrated a 5x increase in the number of content downloads and increased conversion rates by more than 40%. (Note: Ken told me that he prefers “multi-channel” to “omni-channel” because “no one can be everywhere”).
Earned versus Owned
Ken pointed out, in a talk at Content Marketing World, that, despite the fact that 88% of customers say that advertising does not influence their purchasing decisions, 83% of marketing budgets are dedicated to advertising.
Cision’s research, conducted with Outsell, showed that 81% of senior marketers rated earned media as more effective than paid media. Accordingly, Ken believes that the money spent on advertising would be better spent on earned media. I asked him how companies go about spending more money on earned media.
“Creating content and building subject matter expertise,” he said.
“It’s definitely more people-intensive than programmatic spending. But that’s why, at times, I have shifted budget from programs to staff dedicated to creating and amplifying earned media.”
Today, Ken’s team focuses on using a range of tactics – speaking engagements; case studies; social promotion of content; press releases – with the aim of building credibility for the brand and its products.
Of course, if your marketing strategy revolves around building credibility, you have to devote a lot of thought to trust and how one goes about cultivating trust among customers and influencers.
“Trust is the new currency,” Ken said, “and that’s why your content has to be authentic. You can’t over-promise or it falls apart.”
Ken shared with me his “formula” for trust:
(Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) ÷ Self-interest
He explained the formula in the following way.
“First, you have to be credible, believable. Does it make sense to people that you are speaking as an authority on a given subject?”
“Second,” he continued, “you have to be reliable. You can’t be a ‘one hit wonder’ with your advice or opinions.”
“Finally,” he said, “you have to be transparent. People have to feel like they know you and know what you’re about.”
“That is where the divider comes in: self-interest. People will judge your opinion not only in terms of credibility and reliability, but also in terms of self-interest. If you are saying your company is great, and you’re the CEO, people will immediately assume that your opinion is, more or less, based on self-interest.”
If your marketing is going to serve customers and be trusted, you need to pay special attention to this last point.
“We as marketers need to get better at doing things selflessly. We need to go above and beyond and focus on the needs of our customers ahead of our own.”
Are you ready to do that, marketer?