How do you gain authority on a topic without having an unlimited amount of time, money and people?
It starts with defining why the topic is important, what your objectives are and who you are speaking to, as I did in my very first blogs almost exactly 4 years ago. This helps you to define your unique voice and to begin to build an audience who is interested in what you have to say.
But at some point you realize that you can’t do it on your own. You want to build your own loyal audience. But some of them will predictably fall away, and you need to extend your reach to new people each and every day.
The best way to do this? Influencer outreach. You have to define who else is influential on the topics you care about.
As many of you know, I am a big fan of influencer marketing. I’m pretty sure it isn’t all about Klout scores or follower rankings. But those can be blunt proxies for understand who is influential about certain topics.
And these efforts continue to be some of my most popular articles and the biggest drivers of new people to my own personal brand.
One of the topics I am extremely passionate about is content marketing. So I was thrilled to see and be included on this list of the Top Content Marketing Thought Leaders, published by Influence Relationship Management company Onalytica.
According to them, the people on the list are “influential when it comes to driving discussion within the context of content marketing (specifically, in this case, the #contentmarketinghashtag).”
The Top 50 Content Marketing Thought Leaders
Onalytica claims that the ranking was determined through a PageRank analysis of the network of people talking about the #contentmarketing Twitter hashtag from the previous six months. So keep in mind the methodology. These lists are never perfect.
I am honored to be on the list with many, many friends. And I wouldn’t take the actual rank too seriously. I would put almost all of these people ahead of me.
And, hey, you’re already here. So go check out these other great folks. Get to know them. Listen to them. Follow them. Help them.
Most people think marketing is the same thing as advertising. To me, it has always been about helping the buyer on their journey through customer-focused communication.
Now social media networks and mobile internet access are making content the hot new thing in marketing. Content our customers want. Content our customers can consume whenever and wherever they want.
This was my prediction about the future of marketing. That the truly “social business” will use all of its employee resources to communicate with buyers, customers, partners and potential future employees.
And marketing can play the leading role in helping us make this transition. But I was curious to hear what some of the greatest minds in marketing and social media saw as they considered the future of marketing.
This is their story . . . Over the course of 4 months, I interviewed 23 marketing leaders and created the “future of marketing” series. The articles generated a ton of interest, insightful comments, new readers and helped me make a few new friends.
Now, the amazing team at Velocity Partners have designed this ebook to help you get to know these marketing leaders and to get at the heart of what the interviews revealed.
It’s a hugely exciting time to be a B2B marketer and the expert interviews show just how fast moving, diverse and downright interesting this whole thing is. If you haven’t already, read the full interviews – they’re well worth your time. Finally, I want to give a massive thank you to Velocity Partners and all the experts in the series. It was more than a pleasure talking with you – it was an education.
So check out the ebook. Read the interviews and tell me what you think the future of marketing will bring?
“Innovation and inspiration aren’t just nice words for a conference – they’re an imperative.”
Those are the words SAP Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Becher (@jbecher) used to open his keynote presentation to the CMO Club during their recent summit meeting in New York City on April 11-12. The event included more than 100 Chief Marketing Officers from some of the world’s leading brands.
In a world of accelerated change, Jonathan highlighted the trends that are causing marketers to rethink the future and make fundamental transformations to their business. He urges CMOs to embrace the changes, which have led to an unprecedented empowerment of people: “the convergence of trends is creating an opportunity for us to rethink the future and embrace change. We are at an inflection point.”
The three types of changes that are converging to create the most profound and rapid changes in our history:
First, an emerging middle class across geographies will create a new segment of customers that represent extensive growth opportunities for businesses. At the same time, pressure increases on natural resources and social services. Consequently, every aspect of your business strategy and execution – manufacturing, supply chains, and employee base – can become stretched and overloaded.
Implication: Businesses will need to find a way to manage existing and shared resources better.
Second, more than one billion people are engaged in social networks today. By 2013, more than 15 billion devices will be capable of connecting to the Internet, from cars, to washing machines, to the clothes we wear. Both factors are resulting in an explosion in the volume of data – creating a phenomenon called Big Data. As a result, more data has been created in the last five years than in the entire history of mankind. Unlocking the secrets inside this data presents breakthrough opportunities for businesses. Implication: Businesses will need to find a way to manage Big Data and find ways to use it to their advantage.
Third, the way the information is created and consuming has changed. There are now more mobile phones in the world than people. Combined with social and device connectivity, we are now in an “always-on” era. Implication: Business will need to run in real time to facilitate personalized engagement with customers.
The collective result of these trends is the unprecedented empowerment of people – as consumers, as employees, as citizens, and as societies. Rethinking the future implies making fundamental transformations to your business. This transformation involves getting closer to your customers on a personalized engagement basis – a “segment of one” with more insights, delivering to their needs with speed (in real time), while still maintaining the efficiencies of managing operations and resources better.
Check out the slides below. Watch the SAP Run Like Never Before video Jonathan showed the audience. And follow Jonathan on Twitter @jbecher.
Last fall I attended an “unconference” in Greece called Stream that was hosted by some truly inspired folks at WPP. It was one of the most amazing professional experiences of my career.
As I mention in my recap, the best part of the trip was the diversity of the points of view. The conference format and the people that attended made me think in new ways about bigger issues than I would have ever imagined.
And so as we continue our Future of Marketing interview series, I asked the man responsible for putting on the Stream event, Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital, to get his views on the challenges facing our industry and the impact of digital across the entire business.
Mark can be found on Twitter (@Readmark) or to get in touch with the Stream Team (@WPPStream).
Tell me about yourself?
I’m Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital. My job is to help to accelerate WPP’s transition to the digital age.
There’s a lot to do. Digital today is around one-third of our $17 billion of revenue, so we’re not doing badly, but our goal is that it should be at least 40% and soon 50% of our business. In time, the distinction between what’s digital and what’s not digital will fade but we’re not there yet. How do we plan to get to 50%?
Above all, we have to be trusted guides for our clients in making the same transition we’re making. We have to find and motivate the best digital talent, people who can inspire clients and help them use all the new channels to reach their customers. And we need to work closely with our technology partners such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft who are really media owners. We also have to find companies at the other end of the spectrum, the smaller start-ups who are changing our industry — the Facebooks and Google of tomorrow. We bring these partners together every year through Stream our digital unconference, where they (not us) set the agenda and work with our people and our clients to understand how marketing is changing.
Finally, I work with the leaders of the digital agencies and technology companies inside WPP Digital, including 24/7 Media, Acceleration, Blue State Digital, F.biz, POSSIBLE, Rockfish and Salmon to help them build their businesses and connect with client and the rest of WPP.
What is the biggest challenge for marketers?
I’d say the biggest challenge for marketers as they tackle the digital transition is getting the right balance between execution and prioritization — the two are inextricably linked.
To me, digital is an execution challenge. Doing well means getting the basics right. There’s not necessarily anything particularly complicated about any one element of execution but pulling this off at the scale that marketers require and seeing it through to results is much more complex.
Then there’s the prioritization problem. There’s always something new coming along. For instance, three years ago it was Twitter. Now it is Pinterest. Should one dive in head first to learn what is going on or is it better to wait until the medium is proved before spending time? And if you spread your efforts too thinly will you see an impact in your marketing? That’s the great advantage of TV, guaranteed cut through if you spend enough money.
What is your prediction on the future of marketing?
Let me answer it another way. It’s clear that digital is changing marketing, but we also see that digital is changing business. That’s a big opportunity for marketers who get this right.
One of the biggest questions in marketing is ‘what is the role of marketing in the future of business?’ So as we start to wind down the Future of Marketing interview series, I am happy to be addressing that question here.
Today’s interview is with Chris Herbert. Chris is the founder of Mi6 Agency. Mi6 Agency creates B2B social networks & communities that build reputations, generate results and make markets. He is also the founder of ProductCamp Toronto and the Hi-tech community Silicon Halton. He tweets under the handle @B2Bspecialist.
What is the greatest challenge in marketing?
The greatest challenge for any company (small or large) is integrating the discipline of marketing across the company. Whether a company is small (less than 10 employees) or large (thousands of employees) the organization can no longer view marketing as a siloed function. Every employee regardless of their role and department needs to think, act and be accountable for marketing the company. But, before they do, they need to understand what marketing is supposed to do. The meaning of marketing has been diluted since the day when Peter Drucker said:
Marketing is so basic that it is not just enough to have a strong sales department and to entrust marketing to it. Marketing is not only much broader than selling; it is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is from the customer’s point of view. Concern and responsibility for marketing must therefore permeate all areas of the enterprise.
Marketing is the responsibility of all employees because it’s purpose is to get and keep customers. It is that simple. Marketing is not a silo, it’s not a department and it’s definitely not supposed to be creating communications materials that buyers consider “fluff”! Marketing is not the group that provide sales reps with “leads” that they never follow up with because they’re “no good”. Marketing covers: Product, Promotion, Place and Pricing. It has and should always be the case. But for some reason sales has been separated from marketing (sales falls under direct promotion) and product management has been severed from marketing.
Another challenge, at the individual level, is the fact that some marketers have no interest and no skills in understanding the underlying technologies that drive interaction, engagement and conversions. This coupled with old age thinking about controlling “the message” and head in sand positions on the use of social media and networks to listen, learn and engage with customers is a very close second place! Today’s marketer must be technologically savvy, integrate marketing across the organization and be taking the company in to new spaces and directions of market and customer engagement. S/he needs to recognize that the brand is no longer only being defined by corporate positioning but is most likely being defined externally. By the way, this has always been the case especially in B2B. How often do you believe an advertisement without validating it with people you know, people you trust and people who are impartial?
What are some best practices/tips for overcoming that challenge?
Marketing must be integrated into the business and those who traditionally didn’t do “marketing stuff” must start doing so. Marketing leaders need to put in place programs that involve other groups who will contribute to the execution of marketing programs that focus on getting and keeping customers. They, ideally should involve those group leaders, in understanding what the needs of the group is and how marketing strategies and tactics can help them achieve their core goals.
From there core marketing and business development programs are developed with product managers, sales, customer support/service and operations that are more relevant, integrated and focused on the needs of the business and core groups that operate within them.
We use a framework that helps us stay on course when helping organizations adopt marketing across their organizations. That framework includes:
Branding and Offer Development
Content, Communications & Community Development
Promotion and Business Development
Platforms, Systems & Tools
What is your prediction for the future of marketing?
The future of marketing is bright as long as the organization focuses on integrating it across the business so the day to day marketing activities are shared (and deemed important) by all groups. This will require organizations to collaborate and work together to make it possible for marketing to span across all groups and the day-to-day activities of key members within them.
Today’s interview is with Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) who along with her husband Mark Burgess (@mnburgess), has co-founded Blue Focus Marketing, and are also about to release their book on Social Employees . . .
Tell us: who is Cheryl Burgess?
Let’s start with the future. I am the co-author of the forthcoming book The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work – Success Lessons from IBM, AT&T, Dell, Cisco, Adobe, Southwest Airlines, Acxiom, and Domo, due in late summer 2013 via McGraw-Hill. Blue Focus Marketing co-founder Mark Burgess and I wrote this book after we realized that the current discussion on social business and social branding was heavy on rhetoric and prognostication but alarmingly light on actual real-world examples for other businesses to follow. While many other books have written on either social business or social branding, few combined these topics to explore the real-world success stories of major brands.
Blue Focus Marketing is a social branding consultancy that helps brands become social. We provide education, training and strategic marketing services including employee branding, content marketing and integrated marketing (what we call Brand Choreography™) to drive brand value. We help unlock the power of Social Employee Empowerment (SEE) or as we call it our blueSEE™ approach to building your brand from the inside out.
Tell me about a tough or interesting challenge you/your team faces
The biggest challenge many marketers face today is how to engage and empower their employees to ignite their brands and drive brand value. This is quite a sizable challenge, but for the brands willing to rise to the task, the rewards are equally great.
Today’s businesses need to understand that social technologies aren’t barriers to productivity, but portals to connectivity. To do this, brands need to expand their definition of social media to include the many innovative enterprise systems—such as Salesforce’s Chatter or IBM’s Connections—and learn to harness those platforms to improve internal communication. If a company can do this, it will have taken the first step in a process of building a culture of social employees.
How are you approaching that challenge and what results or achievements has that approach helped you to gain?
The current challenge facing businesses today is this: you can’t communicate externally unless you communicate internally. Sounds simple, right? But, unfortunately, business culture over the last 30 years (or even longer) has tended to prize cutthroat competitiveness and information hoarding as workers attempted to climb over each other in order to get to the top.
So how do we change this? How do we build cultures where transparent internal communication and information sharing is prized above all else?
Real culture change must come from all levels of the organization, but it must be driven and modeled by the executives in the C-Suite. Successful organizations in the new business climate have dynamic, engaging social executives who know exactly how to fuel and empower their employees and show them what it means to be social. Executives must understand that “do as I say, not as I do” won’t cut it among today’s workers. If they expect their employees to adopt new social habits, they must lead the way and model those habits first.
Of course, modeling good behaviors alone won’t be enough. Brands must also empower their employees by not only providing them with the tools they need to thrive, but also by giving them the necessary training to really get how social technology affects business practices. As Michael Brenner points out in my book, The Social Employee, these kinds of oversight and programs may require new champions of change within the organization. Many companies are introducing new job roles such as Chief Content Officer or Social Business Manager to help coordinate social activities throughout the enterprise. With proper training through an incentivized, challenging rewards system, employees will feel empowered to change their own destinies.
One of the brands that really gets it, and which we describe in The Social Employee, is Adobe. Through the company’s Center of Excellence and the skillful leadership of Social Media Director Maria Poveromo, Adobe has implemented a system of “guardrails,” which it uses to help guide—but never dictate—the way employees conduct themselves through social media channels, whether externally or internally. Adobe invests in the social success of its employees from the beginning, and in so doing has been able to build a thriving culture of workers who are perfectly positioned to adapt to the constantly changing business landscape.
All of this leads to a culture of empowerment. As we explain in our book, the social employee must have the tools, training, and confidence necessary to act as brand ambassadors on behalf of their company. If employees are made to second-guess their actions, or if they feel that everything they do must first be approved by a higher-up, then the company as a whole will become a lumbering, inefficient dinosaur in an era where customers expect quick, human responses to their inquiries. Put your employees in the driver’s seat, give them the freedom to act on your brand’s behalf, and reap the benefits of the social employee.
Prediction for the Future of Marketing
The marketers that will win in the future are the ones who are laying the foundation today. The question for many, however, is how they can properly lay that foundation in a time when rapid change seems to be the only constant. Instead of trying to define exactly what the future might look like in terms of tools and toys, and instead of trying to pinpoint which trends will have legs and which ones will prove to be fads, marketers and brands must prepare for the one true inevitability: disruption.
As we explain in The Social Employee, the only thing we can rely on in today’s dynamic landscape is change. The wonderful thing about change is that it’s disruptive. It forces us to challenge our fundamental assumptions and ask how we can better engage our consumer base. If your marketing strategy is not built around the idea of disruption, then every time the landscape changes your firm will be scrambling to catch up.
However, if you’re a champion of change then your firm will drive disruptive innovation. You’ll barely flinch when the marketing environment changes because you will have built change directly into your business model.
And this is why firms must start planning today, so that they’ll never be caught napping in the futures. The potential rewards are great, but marketers must have a plan in place in order to maximize their opportunities and minimize the risks.
Despite all the change in the world and the impact of these changes on our marketing strategy, one thing has never changed. And that is the importance of relationships, and the ability to communicate with people. And so today’s Future of Marketing interview will focus on the importance of the human touch.
I am honored to introduce you to another SAP marketing leader, Dave Hutchison. Dave is the Head of our North American Marketing team. I invite you to continue the conversation with Dave on Twitter (@dave_hutchison) or LinkedIn.
Tell us about yourself?
This is my first, pure marketing job in my career. I graduated college with a marketing degree and spent the next 10 years at IBM in direct sales and channel management. I joined Siebel Systems and helped build the reseller channel there. After Siebel I spent 2 years running sales and marketing for a relatively small ERP and BI system integration firm but soon realized that I enjoyed the dynamic environment of a large company. Given this, I joined SAP in 2004 and haven’t looked back. In my time here, I have been responsible for strategic business development, 3rd-party solution sales and sales operations. Most recently I was Chief of Staff for SAP’s President of Global Sales and Services.
At the end of 2011 I decided to make a change. I had visibility and connections into a lot of areas in the company and decided that running marketing for our North American business would really help me round out my passions and experience. I knew how to manage a P&L, run a large team and I felt like there was a real opportunity to help the marketing organization with a different perspective, a different personality and help people to feel that they are a valuable part of the business. So I become the North American Head of Marketing.
What Is The Biggest Marketing Challenge?
The biggest challenge is how to scale a marketing organization to meet the needs of a growing business, and doing so on a flat or reduced budget year after year. Like almost every large enterprise, we have a relatively finite list of contacts and we hit them pretty hard with traditional marketing. So we need to focus on building new contacts, reaching new audiences. I spent more than 6 months – almost a whole year – thinking about how to organize my team to meet this challenge. We were getting the job done, but we weren’t as efficient as we needed to be. The idea was to build a model that would be sustainable through different management regimes, go to market strategies and external changes.
We also looked at re-defining the relationship with sales because their expectations were keeping us entrenched in old behaviors. This made change difficult. I spent a lot of time with the sales leadership. And what I found was that in the end, most of them agreed with our vision for change. They agreed we could add more value for them. They wanted us to be more strategic but we also needed to feed them the services they have come to rely on such as flawless event execution and creative, relevant demand generation programs.
So what did we do to address that? First we needed to specialize. So we put all the program “build” into one Programs team – Industry, LoB and Market category. our regional teams have become more like Account Directors, gathering strategic requirements from their field stakeholders and bringing those back to the Programs team for build. Then we defined a group called “Growth Marketing” focussed on Digital and Social Marketing, Innovation Portfolio messaging and Events & Sponsorships. Ensuring that these teams work well together and quickly identifying gaps and resolutions is the responsibility of a new role on the team – Head of Strategy.
What is your prediction for the future of marketing?
Marketing will become more traditional before it becomes more transformational. As marketers focus more and more on improving customer experience, human nature will drive us to use conventional methods of communication to create true intimacy. The phone isn’t going away any time soon. People want to do business with people. We need to break through the clutter, establish a connection, build trust and credibility and maintain a relationship over time. I believe this is a lost art that is not gone but rather sleeping. Time to wake up!
Today’s interview is with Lee Odden (@LeeOdden). Lee is the author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing. He is also a speaker, blogger, consultant and the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing and online PR agency that specializes in a 360 degree approach to growing new business and enriching both brand and community engagement online.
1. How did you get your start in the industry?
This goes waaaay back in the archives of my memory. In 1997 I started working for a company that sold websites specialized for certain vertical markets. There I was able to sell and create more robust websites which required some marketing to drive traffic. Thus began my foray into search engine optimization.
In 2001 I joined with Susan Misukanis to start a digital PR and marketing agency. TopRank started as a product/service that we offered in conjunction with public relations services. The TopRank part of the business eventually grew in popularity and revenue to the point that we renamed the company to TopRank Online Marketing.
With the agency I began as a contractor, then became an employee, then partner and a few years after took on the CEO role. All along that journey, the importance of content and integrating optimization with publicity played a key role in being able to win clients like McKesson, a $100 billion healthcare technology company, CA, HP, Radian6, Marketo, StrongMail and many others. It’s refreshing to see the explosive popularity of the marketing approach and tactics that we’ve been evangelizing for over 10 years.
2. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry?
I guess “my industry” means the digital marketing consulting industry. 🙂
I think there are a lot of inherent challenges in the marketing field, but one that I see affecting quite a few agencies and their clients is the squeeze by search engines like Google and social media platforms like Facebook to reduce the ability to achieve marketing goals organically. The alternative of course, is to advertise.
Search engines monetize based on ads run next to organic results and a lot of that content comes from companies. But increasingly, Google rates the best content as non-commercial and that moves companies down in favor of sites like Wikipedia and in some cases, some of Google’s own content.
Additionally, the masking of referring keyword data makes it increasingly difficult to use tried and true content optimization tactics to improve marketing performance of pages. When you can’t tell which keyword phrase sent an organic search visitor to your site, how can you modify content to optimize discovery, engagement and conversion? There are workarounds for this, but the fact remains that the only way to get search phrase referring data is if you are an advertiser.
For the social media squeeze, look no further than Facebook where brand fan page messages only reach a fraction of the people that have opted-in to see those messages. Unless of course you pay to promote your Facebook updates.
I think there will always be ways to create valuable content and experiences for customers without buying advertising, but the rules of that game are changing fast and more agencies are being forced by necessity to enter the search and social media advertising game. This challenge can be overcome, but for many digital marketing agencies that have relied on SEO and organic social media, it can be a difficult transition.
3. What is the method to your blogging success? What inspires your blogs?
TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog has been publishing for over 9 years and that’s a lot of time to experiment. The method to our blogging success is to balance content created specifically to attract and engage the audiences we’re after with personality and self expression of our writers. Fortunately we have a great group of marketing smarties at our agency who can contribute from time to time, plus Miranda Miller has been a huge help this year.
An editorial calendar identifies specific topics we know are in demand by the kinds of companies who would hire our marketing consulting agency. That plan also offers flexibility to create opportunistic content from a major industry change to newsjacking to an unplanned interview with a top industry marketing executive.
Optimization as defined in my book, Optimize, is a continuous effort to improve performance. That’s what we’re doing with the blog: optimizing our performance topically to meet the information needs of our readers and at the same time, inspiring new business inquiries, requests for interviews by the media, speaking gigs and employment inquiries.
We layer our content plan to allow for short posts with practical examples that are customized for the vertical markets where our prospects are to longer form opinion and thought leadership posts that resonate with senior executives and industry media.
We look at data and we use intuition based on 12 years of working in the industry and actively participating at conferences and on social networks. We have over 300,000 connections on our networks and that inspires a lot of great ideas.
4. What do you think is the future of social media?
If you want to play, you need to bring your game on the social web. Social media is dynamic in terms of the technologies being developed and in terms of consumer behaviors.
According to a study by Ericsson, by 2020 there will be over 50 billion connected devices. All of those devices from smartphones to tablets to watches will empower consumers to create, collaborate, publish, interact and transact anytime, anywhere. The future of social media is ubiquity in information access, collective wisdom and how people connect with each other. Let’s just hope all that connectivity doesn’t replace the kinds of connections that matter most – in real life.
5. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
First, make a commitment and identify your goals. What do you want to accomplish? Be ambitious or keep it modest, but make a commitment and stick to it.
Identify a “home base” whether it’s a blog, a video channel or some other social network account. Focus on that home base first and develop a profile.
At the same time, pay attention to what others that you look up to are doing. What are they publishing? How do they interact? Learn from observing and experimentation on your own.
At first you may have no engagement, no reactions, comments or re-shares. That’s ok. I didn’t have comments on my blog for months! If I let that discourage me, I would never have seen our business grow the way it has.
6. Where can we find you on the web?
The best places to find me on the web are at my Online Marketing Blog, Check out my book “Optimize,” on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
We also cannot forget the importance of getting back to the basics of marketing. We need to stay focused on the power of ideas and the creativity required to make a human connection between our brand and our customers.
In today’s Future of Marketing interview I am honored to introduce you to my boss, Costanza Tedesco, the Senior Vice President of Marketing Communications at SAP. I think you will enjoy her unique perspective and I invite you to continue the conversation by following Costanza on Twitter (@CostanzaT) or connecting with her on Linkedin.
Tell us about yourself?
I think part of my success in marketing can be attributed to my (what some might call “unexpected”) combination of science and art. I went to Princeton University to study molecular biology, but ended up being pulled more to the social sciences. I ended up with a degree in microeconomics and econometrics. But at the same time, I’ve always been comfortable in the worlds of art and design. So in my 21-year old mind, it seemed “natural” that after college I’d go to work in the fashion industry as a design assistant.
But after a few years, the business side of my brain left me restless. I went to Harvard Business School to figure it all out, and found my passion in marketing and especially communications. Finally a chance to marry my quantitative skills with my abilities with “words and pictures.” I worked in the agency world on various consumer products, then took a left turn to work on IBM (in the “e-business” days.) Once I started working in technology, I never looked back. I enjoy the challenge of turning complexity into simplicity – and there’s nowhere better to test yourself than in technology. And as a brander, you have to be a black belt. Branding in technology forces you to constantly resolve a seeming paradox – if the impact of branding comes from consistency, how do you accomplish that in an environment and with a product set that is constantly changing?
I’m a proud employee of SAP. Currently, I am the SVP of Marketing Communications which is a group that is responsible for translating business strategies to marketing and brand strategy. I am a member of our Marketing Leadership Team to support our CMO with the transformation of the marketing organization. I am also a member of the SAP global leadership team. I have been at SAP for 11 years and yet it always feels new – with new challenges everyday . I believe my long tenure has helped me to see how to bring together the full power of SAP to drive our future.
What Do You See As The Biggest Challenge In Marketing?
The most interesting challenge is that now, more than ever, companies do not define their brands, customers do. The brand has always existed in the hearts and minds of our customers. That has always been the case but this challenge is amplified by social media, which has put more direct control of the brand in outside forces. Like a boat in the ocean, you do not control the sea, but you can define strategies to guide the brand ship.
In our team, we try to think less about ads and campaigns and websites and more about ideas. David Ogilvy defined advertising as “ideas that sell” and I truly believe that. We try to think of all the ways to get those ideas out but realize that most of those ideas will be spread by others. It’s no longer just about paid media but now, it’s about what your employees say, what your customers say, and what your influencers say about you that matters more. That means that marketers need to work harder than ever to create a coherent and distinct brand that can tie it all together. Simplicity, clarity, differentiation, coherence – that’s what strong branding brings to marketing.
What’s Your Prediction For The Future of Marketing?
The distinction between business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing is fading really fast. More and more, the tactics that work for both are coming together. We all need to connect with people as individuals. I believe that in the future of marketing, experiences and ideas will become more important than ever. I think many marketers have lost sight of the basics on how to develop a marketing strategy. Who is your target? What do they want? What can you offer them that others can’t? As marketers have increasingly specialized in technology, automation, data or social, in many ways we have lost the ability to develop sound, effective marketing strategy.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the development of our talent and I focus on this area with my team. I challenge them to build strength in the fundamentals of communications and how to take a business strategy and turn it into a marketing strategy. I am really passionate about the history of branding and design because if you are ignorant of what came before you, you cannot interpret what you see today. For a great illustration of this, check out this article on the similarities between Apple’s designs and those from Braun decades before. Apple’s Jony Ives’ admitted to borrowing heavily from the man behind Braun’s design Dieter Rams. There is tremendous value in understanding what has always made great marketing strategy and translating that to the realities of today’s market.
Sandra Zoratti is an Author, Speaker and Marketer. She is the Vice President of Marketing, Ricoh in a business created from former IBM and Ricoh companies. Sandra built and launched the data-driven marketing practice called “Precision Marketing” from the ground up and published her book on the topic in June 2012. She was also honored with Business Marketer of the Year in 2012. You can find Sandra on LinkedIn and Twitter @sandraz.
Tell me about yourself?
I love to create. I love challenges and problem-solving. In college, I switched my major from Marketing to Chemical Engineering so that I could solve problems. After graduating, I realized that creating business opportunities is all about problem-solving on a large scale, and with that new perspective, I returned to marketing while pursuing my MBA.
Today, I leverage the critical thinking and problem-solving I learned in engineering and apply it in business to help create new opportunities. It’s perfect for me! Currently, I am the vice president of marketing for Ricoh, as well as an author and speaker.
What is the biggest challenge facing marketers today?
There’s never been a more exciting time to be a marketer! The past decade has completely revolutionized the marketing function. Today, marketers are faced with the complexity and speed of enormous and large-scale transformations – staying flexible, nimble and connected is required to stay sharp and remain relevant. There are three major marketer challenges in our customer-driven economy: improving customer engagement, harnessing data-driven insights, and generating measurable, scalable value and ROI for our business.
What best practices can you identify for dealing with that challenge?
For customer engagement, data-driven marketing and ROI-measured results, the path forward is often unclear, so an “agile development” approach can be immensely helpful. These three challenges are connected: data-driven insights can drive customer engagement which in turn can lead to better and more measurable ROI. In order to adopt different thinking and approaches in these three areas, I suggest:
Adopt an agile approach: Software developers have used knowledge-sharing to create a culture of agility in developing solutions quickly to answer complex challenges — and this approach works for marketers too!
Use collaboration, connection and community: In marketing, the explosion of peer-to-peer marketing groups allows us to share new approaches and brainstorm, which helps to illuminate a path forward.
Listen. Ask. Share. In order to take a new approach this is a simple way to activate. Set a goal and then listen to learn. Ask to get clarity and depth. Share to test and adjust. In engineering, this is known as an iterative approach. Its time has come for marketing.
What’s Your prediction on the future of marketing?
Marketing’s role in business will continue to require extreme agility and undergo expansion of responsibilities — from owning the entire customer experience to managing the data functions that lead to improved customer engagement. In order for marketers to stay relevant and sharp, I believe the cross-functional silos in corporations will be broken down and the idea of agile development will exist both internally in companies and externally for marketers who need the mutual benefit from professional communities in order to be the best that they can be. Marketers will expand participation in peer-to-peer professional communities in order to connect, collaborate and fully realize their potential in an era where “what’s possible” is continually being redefined.