2014 was the year of content marketing and everyone jumped on the bandwagon which led to advice from every angle about creating better content, using visuals, creating a variety of types of content, and distributing content across multiple channels. In 2015, the challenge will be to get heard in a market now bulging with content from every direction. Predictions are that marketing, sales, advertising, and public relations departments will merge to create a customer-centric message that increases sales and brand loyalty.
This week, Erin Robbins O’Brien, COO and Ray Grieselhuber, CEO and Founder at GinzaMetrics got together on a FOUND Friday episode to talk about not only the predictions and realities of eliminating department silos, but the importance of sharing information and data within an organization to optimize the brand message and create a positive customer experience.
Predictions: Attention Grabbers
The truth is, many of the predictions for the future of marketing from a couple of years ago still have not been realized on a grand scale. While predictions do take into consideration current trends and extrapolate those out over time, the truth is most organizations are not nimble enough to meet the drastic changes that are often part of year-end predictions.
Predictions do get our attention, however. For most marketers, the predictions that all marketers will need to write code, know analytics, have graphic design skills, video production skills, writing skills, and still create strategic marketing plans tend to get our attention, and keep us up at night. At the end of the day, marketers will need to work with teams to distribute and measure content while creating an end-to-end customer-centric experience.
What is also true, is that content marketers are mixing paid and owned to supplement content distribution. In fact, a recent survey by Content Marketing Institute revealed that 80% of B2B marketers are using at least one method of paid advertising to distribute or promote their content. In addition, 34% are using native advertising, but only 36% consider it effective.
Both Sides of Native Advertising
Using native advertising to build an audience into a long term business asset is a fairly new concept. To predict that all barriers will come down in one year and marketers will embrace advertising and advertising will exist purely to promote content is over stating the matter.
“We talk a lot about this at GinzaMetrics,” stated Erin, “the need to make smart marketing decisions in terms of content based on a mixture of paid and owned opportunities. Although historically advertising and marketing have been independent, we are seeing a shift.” In the past, the purpose of paid advertising was solely as a traffic acquisition channel. Now native advertising has become a blend of the two disciplines.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the FTC is putting search engines on notice and claiming that native ads which look like content are deceptive and consumers are being tricked into clicking on ads that are not clearly differentiated from content.
“I think there are two ways to argue the matter,” stated Ray, “On the one hand, you could say that native advertising is deceptive advertising; on the other hand, you could argue that native advertising is actually content and brands are just paying for the distribution of the content to reach into new audiences that they want to build relationships with.” According to Ray, native advertising is content, and while it needs to be disclosed properly to users and consumers so that they know it is advertising, it is still an interesting way to get people’s attention and to start getting into new audiences.
From Traditional Funnel to Yellow Brick Road
Traditionally, advertising, marketing, public relations, and sales were all part of a system where audiences and prospects were touched by various departments depending on their position in a sales and conversion funnel. The trend now is to lead a customer along an end-to-end journey with lots of experiences and touches by various departments all along the way. And while this process has not been perfected and polished, the general trend is toward creating a road map for customers to find your brand, buy your product, and do business with you.
Along the customer journey, many of the same techniques are being used by different departments. The rise in the popularity of content has created a popularity in its use not just in marketing, but in sales and public relations efforts to engage audiences in real time. In the Land of Oz, marketing, sales, advertising, and public relations would be one giant, consumer-facing organization that’s focused on revenue. Will that actually come to pass as soon as 2015?
“Considering social and email are still in silos in some organizations, I don’t think we will see a sudden change,” said Erin, “The first step has got to be sharing data and information between departments.” In fact, sharing data is becoming a priority in many organizations.
“From the CMO on down, our customers are starting to take data sharing seriously.” Ray said, “It’s something our customers talk about and care about. There are so many silos of data and it has been a problem since the beginning of the internet, since companies have started to try to reach people online. It’s an even bigger problem now with so much data out there and so many ways of interacting with people.”
Use Data to Lead the Charge
Big data has led to big fear and data sharing is way too scary for some departments. “Because data can be used to show the success or failure of particular sales and marketing efforts, in some organizations there is a fear that if you share your data and your numbers, and then if your numbers don’t look great, or a campaign doesn’t perform like you wish it had, other people and departments will look down on you for those numbers. In defense, marketers and sales department heads are creating reports that make things look better than they are or sweep the data under the rug and focus on something else. It’s a systematic problem,” according to Erin.
If something doesn’t work, own it and optimize or change course. Executives should be allowing people to own that, but making people fearful is not a good thing. Use the data to inform strategic decisions. Here are some strategic take-aways to look for from data collection:
- Why are you gathering the data – what decisions will the data inform?
- Why did or didn’t the campaign work?
- What needs to be changed, optimized, or repeated?
- What can be used from this campaign in other efforts?
Resistance is Futile
Once the information is shared, it makes sense to merge the functions of paid and owned media. When creating a unique and meaningful customer experience, silos don’t work. Resisting the breakdown of barriers will only impede progress toward the goal of a meaningful customer experience.
“It’s not surprising that people are having a hard time breaking down barriers, considering email marketing is still a silo in some people’s organizations,” stated Erin, “Marketers are dealing with a storm of things that have all changed. Combining digital and traditional marketing types along with data analysis and business intelligence. Throw on top of that, the rise of user generated content and it’s no surprise that people’s heads are exploding.”
The important thing to keep in mind is what can be learned from one function to another. What’s required are regular meetings of department heads to figure out a cohesive, customer experience. The key here is to not fight for your department, but to fight for a customer experience regardless of what department the function falls under. Look to see what can be learned from one campaign to the next.
For example, once you know what keywords are working for a piece of content, use those keywords when developing advertising. Look at successful email campaign subject lines and develop content around that subject. These indicators are self-selecting and originate with the audience you are trying to reach.
Know the Tools
Everyone does not need to know everything, that is true. However, every executive should take the time to understand how the tools work in order to optimize them and use them to inform strategies. If organizations are really going to invest in change, then the upper level strategic management needs to get to know the tools.
“The executive suite is so far removed from day to day functions and the data they generate, how can they expect to lead a convergence if they haven’t had to deal with any of the technology and data that people are working with?” Getting to know the tools, and sharing data and information amongst existing departments is the first step to creating that ideal organization where everything is rainbows and poppies.
The road toward a total merging of all siloed departments that work together to optimize marketing, public relations, and sales efforts resulting in a positive customer experience and ending with large numbers of evangelists for your brand is not going to be without it’s potholes and it’s not going to happen overnight. But there are still lessons to be learned by sharing data between departments. Sales might be able to craft better emails based on what’s working for marketing and public relations. Marketing, advertising, and public relations might be able to listen across channels to create better content. Whatever lessons are to be learned, they will help to move the entire ecosystem toward a new trend in 2015 that may still be working out its bugs in 2106 and beyond.