Tag Archives: #FutureOfMarketing

CMO Quotes on the Future of Marketing

During an unpredictable and chaotic event like the Covid-19 outbreak, many adjustments need to be made in the world of marketing.

Way back in 2012 and 2013, I interviewed some marketing influencers and leaders in the field to understand what they thought the Future of Marketing would look like. Some of the predictions on the rise of thought leadership, empathy, and culture were spot on. While other predictions, not so much.

In the years since, I’ve covered some elements of the future of marketing such as how marketing and CMOs have adapted to a more accountable business climate and the digital marketing trends shaping our world. And I still believe that HR will work more closely with Marketing to activate employees for marketing success and business growth.

But enough about me! I want to share what others are saying about the future of marketing, now that the world feels like it has changed so much during these difficult times.

The following marketing quotes from todays leading CMOs and Marketing influencers describe their pandemic experiences and how they’ve adapted to this extreme culture shock.

Four major marketing trends emerge from these CMO quotes:

  1. Communicating to connect (not promote)
  2. Empathy
  3. Perseverance
  4. Giving back

1. Connection and Communication with Employees

Many companies emphasized the importance of staying connected with effective communication amongst employees. Ensuring employees that they are not alone in this tough time is imperative to future success.

In fact, many of the companies who gained market share and grew awareness during these past few months, did so because they communicated about staying connected and not about themselves or their brand.

Tim Minahan, CMO of Citrix, said that he’s constantly connected with his leadership team through its marketing leadership Slack channel. “I also make it a practice to either open or close each day with a personal outreach to my leaders to stay abreast of any late-breaking news and to take a moment to find out how they and their families are doing personally.”

Mary Stanhope, CMO of Unitas Global, said the health and safety of family members is the top priority. “In the current situation there is a lot of activity, and motivation seems to be less of a problem than the question of what to prioritize,” Stanhope told CMSWire.

Media director at Coca-Cola, Barbara Sala said “We always communicated with our consumers during all of this phase,” she also added that Coca-Cola will “ adjust our spending to what really matters in a specific moment.”

“We made the decision to communicate what we are doing as a system, instead of talking about ourselves. And doing, for us, means donating funds to address the most critical needs,” said Manolo Arroyo, Global Chief Marketing Officer and President of Asia Pacific Group. “ we’re being as flexible as possible while listening to consumers and staying true to the essence and values of our brand and company.”

Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP on pausing advertising: “It’s important because we still have to maintain communication and, in a period of crisis and turmoil, your customers, your communities want to hear from you more than ever. Do we need to be very thoughtful about where we are spending? Absolutely. Do we need to reprioritize around the areas of our business that are most relevant now … absolutely.  It’s a shift in a really short period of time and, within that, being financially sensitive to stopping spending where it’s not relevant.”

In order to put health and safety first, Jay Sethi, CMO, Diageo Beer wanted to make a new advertisement to cheer up workers and consumers. Sethi mentioned “that we hope would bring a bit of comfort to both Guinness drinkers and also to everybody.”

Mohammad Ali, CEO of International Data Group said “You’ve got 3,000 to 4,000 people at home and they need a community. We have been creating online communities that have nothing to do with how much you’re going to sell this week.”

Michael Dell, CEO of Dell spoke on coronavirus with this statement: “We are all navigating this new normal together. As we lock arms virtually and try to help one another in the ways we can, our vast world suddenly feels a little smaller and a lot more connected. And for that, we are grateful.”

Levain bakery is a New York based cookie company that proactively closed their doors even before it was required for restaurants. However, to make employees feel less alone and continue their role in the community, they continued to run takeout and delivery services for customers. “On the one hand, you can shut everything down but that doesn’t make sense on a multitude of levels. Some of our employees are happy to have a place to go because it is scary to be stuck in a house by yourself.”

According to CMO, Dara Treseder, Digital Manufacturing platform Carbon has been working diligently with customers, and building shields, masks, and other healthcare products with their 3D printers. “If brand reflects culture and culture reflects brand, in this time it’s really important how that brand becomes expressed through internal communications, through actions the company is taking to support the workforce,” Treseder said.

“So many in our team have grown up being fans of weather,” said AccuWeather CMO Michelle Harmon-Madsen. “So it’s an opportunity for us to talk about that, but also an opportunity to help families who are in need not just of entertainment but also education while they’re at home.”

2. Empathy

You all know this is one of my favorite topics. I even wrote a whole book about it. Some of these CMO quotes highlighted the need for empathy for customers and employees in this delicate time. Taking the time to understand what consumers are going through helps to adjust future approaches to marketing.

“A pandemic is not the time to sell, it’s a time to serve,” says Sara Varni, CMO at cloud communications platform, Twilio. “Make sure your organization is providing tools and information that are of value in the moment.”

In “Marketing Through Uncertain Times,” keynote speaker Mari Smith said companies should “Continue to provide value, no matter what. But, depending on the type of product or service and your industry, if you’re still in a position to promote online, first keep in mind the likely current emotional and mental state of most of your audience. Many small business owners are feeling immense fear around their livelihood.”

“ There’s an important balancing act here between all that’s happening, all that’s going on and all the understandable anger and emotion.” Said IBM CMO Michelle Peluso

CMO of Uberflip, Randy Frisch stated “While marketers work tirelessly to guide prospects through the buyer’s journey, creating and curating content mindfully will be essential to a successful content marketing program. During this time of uncertainty, content must serve a purpose that adds value to the problems and aims to educate — instead of sell.”

Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner said “Use this time to shift from direct selling to content marketing that is useful to your prospects. Why? Right now, people are watching videos more, reading more, and listening more. How can you use video, blog posts, and podcasts to show up and help your customers solve the problems they’re facing right now? When you do move back into a regular marketing cadence, remember that the world is in shock and your messaging will need to be crafted with empathy and wisdom.”

Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert commented on the need for understanding and awareness during a time like this can help create a better connection between provider and consumer.  “This is not the time for frivolous posts that are sent because they are “due” per the social media editorial calendar. That doesn’t mean you can’t be lighthearted, or even funny. It does mean, however, that you must carefully consider WHY you are posting in social media.”

“This time is hard for everyone. So now more than ever it’s time to be empathetic.” -Tricia Gellman, CMO, Drift

Diego Scotti, CMO at Verizon said “A big pillar of how we execute everything is leaning on what is true and what is real”

Author Neal Schaffer stated, “You may want to shift time and resources to keep in better touch with your current customers and understand how to serve them better. In other words, it might be a good time to shift a little bit of your social media marketing to customer success marketing. In doing so, you’re going to get a lot of great input as to how coronavirus is affecting your customers and how you should further pivot your business for long-term success.”

Salesforce CMO Stephanie Buschemi said “Right now, being relevant to our customers and what they’re currently dealing with is our top priority.” She also stated “People need effective communication more than anything.”

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, CEO of Perdue Chicken, Jim Perdue decided that instead of continuing its business-as-usual advertising, he should make a home video thanking workers for their service like farmers, truck drivers, restaurant workers, and shelf stockers. He commented, “We just felt it was not the right time,” David Zucker, SVP of Ecommerce and CMO at Perdue Farms, said of the shelved campaign.

According to Anheuser-Busch Inbev U.S. CMO Marcel Marcondes, “everybody wants to have a moment at the end of the day to decompress, to relax a little bit, to be as social as possible—although everyone is applying social distancing.”

“The biggest marketing turn-offs these days include tone-deaf business-as-usual promotional messages as if nothings going on,” says Cynthia Gumbert, CMO of Smartbear. “On the other end of that spectrum are marketers trying to make everything about COVID-19 all the time.”

Virtual therapy app Talkspace saw major growth when the pandemic hit in mid- February. It was evident that the mental health of the population was deteriorating. He said “We’re saddened that it’s come to this, and we see these stories every day of people who are going through extreme stress and emotions but we’re humbled to be here to help see people through it. Everyone in the world is going through this, which is crazy to think about.”

3. Perseverance During Unsettling Times

Some CMOs focused on the business side of the Covid struggles and described the need to persevere and find new ways to stay afloat as a business.  I advised CMOs to stay the course with customer-focused content and to stop advertising as well.

My good friend and Author Ann Handley stated that businesses should “Seize the opportunity to get ahead of the chaos that today defines many marketing roles. How can you tee yourself and your department up right now, so that when things calm down you’re more on top of your game than ever before?”

“It’s always a good idea to be much more dynamic, and much more responsive in the way that you’ve planned your media and the kinds of messages that you’re sending out,” said analyst Shar VanBoskirk

Stephanie Buschemi , CMO of Salesforce said “every week, we are reimagining how we’re going to do our work in this virtual world.” She also added that her teams’ “ No. 1 job is to help our customers right now,”

Paz Mcdonald, CMO at MongoDB said, “In line with most marketers around the world, as a result of mass cancellations of physical events, my marketing team has been putting additional funds toward virtual events and digital activities, and are ramping up PR activities in order to close the awareness gap, an essential move in the face of this pandemic.”

“These are the times that programs need to be heavily focused on growth.” said Daniel Frohnen, CMO of Sendoson. He also added that “Now is the time for teams to double down on their technology investments,”

“And that is what that research shows, right, that essentially folks who invest in marketing, in sales during a recession tend to outperform and more quickly outperform their competition as markets resume. You don’t even have to wait for them to get good — just as they start to pick up.” Says Rand Fishkin, “Wizard of Moz” and ex-CEO of search engine optimization company Moz.

“For so many people, life has become so unexpectedly hectic and frightening,” says Jaime Punishill, CMO at Lionbridge, the translation service. “It’s important right now that businesses keep going. Marketers are on the front line of the economy. It takes sales to pay vendors and employees, revenue to keep a business running.”

“One way to help your client base is by offering remote consultations, discounts, and showing you are willing to go the extra mile,” says Morgan Taylor, CMO of LetMeBank. “That is what your potential clients need, and what you can do to help them.”

CEO of Toprank, Lee Odden made the following statement about what you can do to improve during this time: “Stay in close contact with your customers. Learn what you can do to better support them, anticipate changes and offer resources.”

Matt Moody, CEO and Founder of Bellwether, said, “With everything changing so quickly due to the current environment, brands need to focus on three things: First, focus on what you know and who you know. It’s cheaper to keep your existing customers. Second, Understand the changing needs and behaviors of existing customers (e.g. How are existing customers behaving now?). Set up more diagnostics and feedback tools. And third, use the data available to identify potential growth opportunities with existing customers. There are likely new opportunities for brands to better serve their existing customers, delivering even greater value.”

Hanneke Willenborg, CMO, Seventh Generation commented, “We’re in a unique situation with Seventh Generation experiencing unparalleled demand, as people are looking for products that keep their family safe and cared for at home more than ever,” said CMO Hanneke Willenborg. “Our sales and supply team are working diligently to ensure that product is available on the shelf and online as soon as possible.”

Tonal, a home fitness resource has seen a huge peak in at-home workout usage this spring. CMO Chris Stadler stated “Not only are people interested in the category and sales are very strong, but usage has also reached peak levels,” he said.  They used the rise in activity to their advantage and capitalized  off of it.

CMO of MullenLowe, Kelly Frederickson stated “Most consumers don’t mind hearing from brands as long as it is a solution,” where we are not trying to sell something, but we are trying to solve something.”

Arvind Krishna, CEO of IBM said “When we look at the usage of AI and cloud, I think it is especially going to accelerate also not just us, but how our clients are going to go on their digital transformations. And I believe this crisis is only going to accelerate that as we go over the next few months.”

iHeartMedia CMO Gayle Troberman created a program called “Businesses Doing Good,” which helps to inform listeners with what they need to know about the pandemic and also what brands are doing to help. Troberman said the program led to “hundreds and hundreds of millions of impressions” in the first few weeks with ads from close to 100 brands. “Sometimes, when you’re doing good work, it’s hard to shout about it yourself,” Troberman said.

Password manager Dashlane has been going through all of its existing creative to gauge what’s still relevant and which parts need to change. “It actually really matters not only to keep your account secure, but if you know anything about digital media, it’s that login that people begin to exchange their privacy for the sake of convenience,” CMO Joy Howard said.

Lindsey Lurie, CMO of IBM Security and Cognitive Applications said IBM has been educating employees on the importance of cybersecurity while working from home.  “Threat actors unfortunately don’t slow down, even in a pandemic,” she said.

4. Taking a Step Back, and Giving Back

Lastly, many large companies decided to take a step back, reflect on how to handle this time of need, and give back to those who are struggling.

Visible, a wireless phone carrier, wanted to see how they could best help their customers and employees throughout the pandemic. They conducted a survey which showed that half of people were asking for help with bills, and the other half wanted to help others in need. “That just speaks volumes to people’s desire to be comforted and see more of the goodness that’s already out there,” said CMO, Minjae Ormes.

According to CMO Diego Scotti, Verizon “gave 600,000 kids access to the digital edition of the New York Times through an amazing partnership.”

Hearing aid company, Eargo wanted to find a way to make a difference for people with hearing problems, especially during a time when in-person communication is not possible. “When it comes to hearing, it’s such a major thing,” CMO, Shiv Singh said. “All of a sudden your entire life is about Zoom calls and hearing people that are 6 feet away versus right in front of you, it takes on a greater challenge in a time like this. And for older folks, isolation can lead to all sorts of other problems.”

Angela Zepeda, CMO at Hyundai Motor America said “I would say we’re delaying and just being smart with how we’re spending our money now, and when things get back to normal, we’ll move that money.” Hyundai donated money to great causes related to COVID and reopened a program designed to help those who have lost a job.

“We felt that during this time even though we’re still a growth-stage company, we had the responsibility to take care of people who are highest at risk,” said CMO Mayur Gupta after the company donated to Meals on Wheels.

CMO of postmates, Eric Edge said “Since we are the #1 delivery platform in Los Angeles, we approached a few of our most loyal celebrity customers who immediately agreed to be a part of this effort. They jumped at the chance to highlight some of their favorite restaurants and encourage others to order from their own favorites, helping remind people to support local businesses during these challenging times. #OrderLocal is one way to encourage people across the country to support their favorite neighborhood restaurants.”

The Future of Marketing and the Changing Role of the CMO

By Michael Brenner on July 21, 2019

According to a recent report by Forrester, 88% of organizations agree that the role of the CMO has changed in the last couple of years, and will continue to change over the next two years.

In a world of rapidly advancing technology, changing customer attitudes, and unpredictable trends, marketing is evolving at lightning speed. The role of the CMO must also change to fit the changing needs of modern organizations, overseeing not only branding and marketing activities but also business growth and customer experience.

To stay relevant in today’s marketing landscape, CMOs must meet both the needs of the customer and the marketing needs of the business consistently well.

Quick Takeaways:

  • The role of the CMO is becoming increasingly vital for the success of a business.
  • CMOs must adjust their mindset and working practices to achieve a more collaborative role.
  • Telling stories repeatedly is vital for brands to achieve the “human connect” with their customers.

Focus on Customer Experience Over Branding

Customer experience, or CX, will be the key to successful marketing for businesses as we head out of 2019 and into the future.

Marketing and maintaining the company reputation has grown beyond the remit of the marketing department. It’s now the responsibility of every individual in the organization to strive to provide the best possible experience to customers.

When 250 CMOs were surveyed for the aforementioned Forrester report about the key elements they expected to be part of their role for driving new strategies over the next 12 months, the idea of the customer experience was a common theme.

26% of CMOs said they had plans to make interactions “more human”, and 25% said they would focus on fostering customer engagement across the entire customer life cycle.

These responses represent the shift in marketing from company-centered to customer-centered – it’s no longer about what you can do to bring in more leads and generate more revenue (at least, not directly). Instead, you should be asking: “How can we provide a better experience to customers at every stage of their relationship with our organization?”

87% of organizations agree that traditional experiences are no longer enough to satisfy customers, and that company culture must be built around customer experiences to meet their constantly changing needs. 95% of collaboration leaders say that their company is aligned around shared customer experiences.

Shift from Individual Campaigns to Continuous Storytelling

The traditional “marketing campaign” model following the pattern of planning, marketing, reporting, and reviewing is no longer the most effective strategy.

For brands to get the most out of marketing, it now needs to be a continuous process that is constantly refined and adapted.

It’s no longer a case of publishing a piece of content, measuring the results, and trying to improve it in the next campaign. Content can be changed in real-time based on feedback, results, or changing trends, and marketers can continuously measure metrics and optimize as they go along.

New technology such as Artificial Intelligence has made it easier and more efficient to carry out this continuous marketing and optimization. Over 30% of organizations have already invested in some kind of emerging technology to gain an advantage over their competition.

Technology is a key component to enable CMOs to deliver exceptional customer experiences through personalization and real-time interactions with customers.

The concept of storytelling is not new to marketing, but it’s becoming more important as consumers lose trust in brands and demand more authentic content.

Rather than focusing on refining and strengthening your organization’s brand, instead think about what your company stories are. These stories should be woven into every piece of content you produce and be present in every channel you use for marketing.

Salesforce CMO, Stephanie Buscemi, emphasized the importance of brand storytelling when speaking at the Salesforce Connection event last month, she said: “Over the last two years, authenticity and storytelling have been the biggest boon for marketing. There is now so much going on, so much disruption, so everyone is striving for human connection and human storytelling.”

“Marketing needs to ensure it can resonate, it knows how to make that connection, and knows who people are and what motivates them. Then, marketing can help them with a bridge to what is helpful to them. If you just look at data, you’ll miss the empathy of it,” Stephanie added.

Content Co-Creation and Collaboration with Customers

Buscemi also pointed out that content marketing is shifting away from brand-created content and toward customer-created or co-created content. She explained that the Salesforce content model is evolving from internally produced content and focus groups to co-creating content together with customers, and having ongoing conversations with those customers to understand their needs and what kind of content can meet those needs.

This trend toward customer-generated content has been growing for a while, and the future role of content marketers may well revolve around content curation rather than creation.

Some of the world’s biggest brands have seen huge success with user-generated content. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the rise of the social media influencer and brand ambassadors starting to replace traditional brand advertising.

There are several advantages to adopting this content production model. Not only can it be very cost-effective and take the strain off your existing marketing resources, but user-generated content can be more effective too.

This all leads back to authenticity and trust. Consumers are twice as likely to share user-generated content rather than brand-produced content because they trust their peers more than businesses.

Co-creating content is certainly an effective marketing technique, and it also helps you to connect and engage with your existing customers. Making them feel as if they’re joining you on your journey and being an integral part of your success can go a long way to building customer relationships and loyalty. Rather than thinking about your “brand voice”, shift to developing your “customer voice” to be more relatable and to produce more engaging content.

The Changing Role of the CMO

Going forward, the role of the CMO must grow and evolve in order to ensure these changing marketing practices are carried out successfully in the organization.

CMOs are not only responsible for bringing awareness of the company and brand to the outside world and managing brand reputation, but also for ensuring that customer experiences are exceptional.

CMOs must also ensure that all departments are aligned in a unified marketing vision and committed to a customer-centric culture. Every department has an impact on the overall customer experience in some way, and the CMO must bring every team together as an experience leader to ensure that customer engagement is the primary goal.

It is also the job of the CMO to assist collaboration between brand and customer, as well as across internal departments. This shift toward the customer experience can only be fully successful if the customers themselves are involved in the marketing process. Forward-thinking CMOs should facilitate this collaboration and make it an integral part of every marketing initiative.

Investment in digital technologies must also come under the umbrella of the CMO’s role as these tools are the key to marketing success in an increasingly tech-dependent world.

The digital marketing landscape changes so much and so frequently that it’s almost impossible to imagine what the future of digital marketing may offer in terms of opportunities.

During the last year or two, we’ve seen new technologies, a backlash of sorts in social media, and influencer marketing maturing from its early days as a viable and powerful marketing channel in its own right. What do I see as the biggest content marketing trends for 2020 and beyond?

My 2020 Content Marketing Prediction

There are 2 major trends in the content marketing industry I think everyone will be talking about. The first is AI. We will begin to realize the opportunity of an AI-driven content marketing strategy. If 60-70% of the content we create goes unused, AI will begin to force us to reconsider what we create and why.

Second is employee activation. AI will tell us what to create, but our best storytellers are our existing employees from across the business. Every company needs a strategy to activate these employees as both creators and as the most effective distribution channel to share that content.

This is the paradox of AI. The more the robots tell us what to do, the more we will need our internal experts to create and share that content.

There are a few things we’re pretty clear about. Content marketing isn’t going to go anywhere for a while for sure. But what other digital marketing trends might we see as we head towards 2020?

Voice-powered Everything

Smart speakers and “assistants” have been around for a while but they really started to take off in 2017 and 2018 as people have lost the self-consciousness of talking to their phones and a range of new consumer devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home have appeared on the market.

There’s no reason for the trend in mobile to stop growing, and this hands-free technology will become an increasingly standard way that users choose to interact with their devices. It’s estimated that over half of all search queries will be powered by voice search by 2020.

With this growth in voice search powered smart devices will come more opportunities to market to the people that own them. Amazon already spotted this opportunity when it started offering cheaper Kindle devices in exchange for agreeing to receive marketing communications. Targeted Alexa ads are already in the pipeline and the other devices will be sure to follow.

Advanced AI Technology

Artificial intelligence has been expanding what’s possible in the world of digital marketing for quite a while now, but we’re going to see exponential leaps in what this technology is capable of over the next few years.

Chatbots will become a customer service standard and start replacing live agents more and more frequently as machine learning algorithms grow more complex and are able to emulate human beings with almost spooky accuracy.

Marketing is becoming more conversational and personalized and chatbots enable you to take advantage of this trend without additional strain on your manpower and resources.

AI is also being used in advertising. While it hasn’t quite achieved human levels of creativity, Google is already running ads powered by AI to optimize campaigns by identifying the best-performing ad designs and copy and automatically adjusting based on user engagement.

Social Media Takes Over The World

You may think social media is already pervasive, but as they say: “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Social media will continue to make its presence known in every area of our lives and become truly integrated with both on and offline services.

In an episode of the dystopian Netflix series Black Mirror, social media has spilled out of the screen and into the real world as individuals rate their interactions with others and are awarded better housing, jobs, and social status based on their overall rating.

Science fiction? Maybe for now, but the future probably isn’t so far away. Most of the apps on your phone are probably already sharing data with your social media networks and it’s now common for employers and recruiters to screen social media profiles before interviews.

What does this mean for marketers? A deeper understanding of each customer as an individual and the opportunity to offer highly targeted offers and services, as the AI algorithms used in social media grow increasingly sophisticated.

The Rise of Micro-influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has already grown huge in recent years with top influencers on platforms like Instagram and YouTube attracting millions of followers and making a six-figure income from their deals with brands.

However influencer marketing is still in its infancy and while it offers great ROI compared to more traditional advertising channels, there are some issues to be ironed out.

Fake followers are currently a problem that’s still being resolved, and there have been some notable occurrences when brand/influencer relationships have backfired in a bad way.

Big name influencers are also starting to lose their power as they take on more and more sponsored posts, reducing the authenticity and impact of their recommendations.

As consumers continue to value individual recommendations over being marketed at, it’s going to make sense to invest more in “micro-influencers” – those social media users who have a much smaller but dedicated following and can deliver truly authentic marketing messages to a trusting audience.

Influencers’ power will be measured not by the sheer number of followers they boast, but their personal relationships with each individual follower.

Augmented Reality Becomes Commonplace

Remember the Pokémon Go craze of 2016? The mobile game was not only a great example of how augmented reality can be used in video games, but also a marketing opportunity, as businesses jumped on the chance to sell to customers trying to catch a Pokémon or two on their doorstep.

Augmented reality is not just a fun gimmick for gamers. It’s being used more and more as a tool for brands to reach customers. Ikea now offers a virtual reality catalog where you can place pieces of furniture in your own home, and fashion brands are starting to use augmented reality to allow their customers to try on outfits virtually in the comfort of their own homes.

Expect to see more brands jumping on the augmented reality bandwagon, and the technology slowly becoming a more common occurrence with serious marketing goals, rather than a cute trick.

Video Overtaking All Other Digital Channels

Savvy marketers have recognized the power of online video for years – back in 2015; The Washington Post predicted that video would account for 80% of all online content by 2020.

We’re not quite there yet, but video is already proving itself as a powerful medium, and we’ve seen a massive rise in live streaming video in particular over the last year or so.

Video marketing can be incredibly effective at boosting engagement levels and the consumer appetite for video shows no sign of slowing down – YouTube is already overtaking Facebook as the second-most visited site (Google is number one, naturally).

If you’ve not fully embraced video in your brand marketing, you’re already lagging behind, but it’s not too late to jump in. With the combination of live video and augmented reality, exciting things are becoming possible and original and creative videos are sure to be the big content channel winner as we head into 2019.

Going Back to Basics with Employee Activation

Of course all these advances in technology are very exciting, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the basic principles that make for a great marketing strategy, and a great company.

Employee activation will enable your organization to get the best out of every employee, who will act as ambassadors for your brand and grow sales and conversions in a genuine and authentic way that’s more effective than any advertising campaign could ever be.

Referring back to the trend of micro-influencer marketing, when your employees are engaged they will themselves act as micro-influencers for your company. If you are successful in employing individuals who align with your brand values and help their passion what you’re trying to achieve to grow, they will act as your most dedicated cheerleaders.

As our reliance on technology grows, more and more organizations are also realizing they need to be more “human” and must activate the storytelling and organic sharing power of employees – this is the “paradox of AI” as we learn to take our place alongside machines in this brave new world of opportunities.

Why Employee Activation Is the Future of Marketing

By Michael Brenner on June 25, 2018

What if your organization was staffed by a team of experts – employees who are skilled, driven, and have a lot to offer, not only to your customers but also to society?

Imagine what a powerhouse your company would become. We’re not just talking consumer trust here. This is about respect and your audience fostering a deep confidence in what your company can do for them – because your employees are recognized as thought leaders and individuals who are passionate about what they do.

Here’s the thing. You are sitting on this golden egg right now. Your employees are skilled experts with their own unique and worthwhile beliefs, perspectives and insights to share. But, it’s your job to activate them in order to harness this potential.

Through employee activation, you’ll find yourself as the coach of the dream team of your industry. You’ll be leading people who your buyers turn to for advice, tips, and to learn how things are done. For B2B brands in particular, where confidence in your brand supersedes details like pricing strategy and ad campaign by a long shot, activated employees will motivate your buyers and forge customer loyalty like nothing else can.

The Brand vs. Employees Who Represent Your Brand

The reality is, ‘your brand’ is an entity without a face. It’s a thing. It has no family. It’s never struggled. It hasn’t accomplished anything. So, how much, really, can you expect consumers to trust it?

But, when your employees are themselves the face of your brand, you’re giving your audience someone to believe in.

That’s powerful stuff.

Still emerging from (and for many, still living in) the traditional corporate structure and the traditional marketing methods, in which a structured, controlled, carefully crafted brand identity is used to market to customers, a lot of companies aren’t tapping into their employees’ voices for marketing, sticking with the brand voice only.

And let’s be honest. Change takes time. So, let those other companies slowly wake up while you are running with your industry’s dream team.

Employee activation involves relinquishing control and empowering employees to share their expertise. It’s giving them a platform, supporting and encouraging them to express themselves and share their own personal brand, which, in turn, comes back as a positive reflection of the ‘mother brand.’

That’s not just a marketing technique. It’s a shift in organizational culture. But, it’s one that will stretch the reach of your marketing to a whole new level, helping to engage, inspire, and retain customers.

Here’s why you may want to start launching your employee activation initiative, or improve what you already have, today.

Activated Employees Talk

One of the biggest reasons employee activation is so effective is that it is another channel for person-to-person communication. You already know how useful word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is – 64 percent of marketing executives view WOMM as the most effective marketing method and it’s believed to drive $6 trillion in consumer spending annually.

But, WOMM is only as powerful as the voice the word is coming from. Where a lot of marketers go wrong is they believe social media marketing is WOMM. But, the reality is, as much as two-thirds of word of mouth that makes an impact happens offline.

Market researcher and author of Shops that POP, Pamela Danziger explains:

“While digital WOM is important, the most effective and powerful WOM is analog taking place person-to-person. Engaging customers in conversation that makes them feel valued and appreciated can go a long way to encouraging them to tell others…Retailers need to put a word of mouth marketing system in place that is heavy on the analog side of the equation that will amplify social media efforts.”

When your employees are invested in the company they work for, not just to earn a salary, but because they are viewed as a valued part of the brand, they are more likely going to have those engaging conversations with customers.

Think of it this way. What they say about the company they are a part of, is also what they are expressing about themselves, their career, and what they believe in for their future.

Your Employees Are Micro Influencers

Like word of mouth marketing, using micro influencers – niche experts within your industry who have a social media following – is a powerful tool for building trust with your target buyers. A study by Expertcity found that 82 percent of consumers are highly likely to follow a recommendation from a micro influencer.

Your creatives, data analysts, strategists, and other experts on your team are the skilled, passionate, knowledgeable influencers people want to learn from. You have to look at who your audience is looking for, but there are people within your organization who can expand the reach of your marketing simply through sharing news, insights, and their own thoughts on personal or business social media profiles, as well as other channels.

Here are some examples:

  • Financial services – what financial advice are your finance experts sharing by writing featured blog posts on your company website?
  • Software company – encourage your internal experts to share their knowledge through online tutorials. Hold Q&A sessions where your audience can ask questions – even better, use Facebook live streaming or a live chat platform to up the appeal of your marketing event.
  • Even B2C brands can harness their internal micro influencers – think beauty tutorials, golfing instructional videos, healthy eating eBooks, style guides – all created by your internal experts. This is how you can get premium content to generate leads, and at the same time, build relationships between your customers and your experts/employees.

When you tap into your employees for micro influencer campaigns, you also tap into their social networks. But, more importantly, in the long-term you are effectively helping to grow their individual online presence, giving them even more influence with your audience.

Employee Activation Translates Directly into Customer Loyalty

If customer loyalty isn’t on your marketing priority short list, it should be. New customers are expensive to convert while your existing customers are likely to bring in more revenue. You may have heard the stat – or experienced the difference in your marketing ROI firsthand when you focus on loyalty and retention – it costs 5 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to motivate action from a current customer.

And what’s the number one way to encourage customer loyalty? Like I said almost a decade ago – it’s cultivating satisfied and engaged customers. Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by as much as 202 percent.

Pay attention to your employees. Ask, measure, and track employee sentiments so you can see where you can improve and what you can do to empower them.

Communicate with them – how can you support them to create a platform to share their expertise? What ideas do they have? When they are engaged, inspired, and motivated, the impact of their positivity and expertise is mindblowing.

Top 50 Content Marketing Thought Leaders

By Michael Brenner on May 5, 2014

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.

So in seeking to find out who is influential on B2B Marketing, I published my own imperfect list of the Top 50 B2B Marketing Influencers on Twitter.  I also reached out to many of the great minds in marketing and asked them to predict the future of marketing.

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.

Better yet, come to Content Marketing World and MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum this fall and you can meet most of us in person!

You can also check out the full list of top 100 content marketing thought leaders.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook  and Google+ or  Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

The Future Of Marketing E-Book

By Michael Brenner on July 30, 2013

the future of marketing ebook

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?

Image and design credit: Velocity Partners

Future of marketing“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.

See “Journey To The Future of Marketing” on Slideshare, by @SAP CMO Jonathan Becher (@jbecher)
Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

Digital Is Changing Marketing And Changing Business

By Michael Brenner on April 11, 2013

Future of marketingLast 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?

Mark Read on future of marketingI’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.

Now it’s your turn: Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

Marketing Must Be Integrated Into The Whole Business

By Michael Brenner on April 4, 2013

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.

In case you are just catching up, previous interviews have discussed Social Employees,  Digital MarketingPersonal BrandingContent BrandsCustomer BrandsCreativityBig DataCustomer ExperienceThought Leadership, the Future of Search, the Science of Marketing and many more…

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?

Chris-HerbertThe 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
  • Processes
  • Principles
  • 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.

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Now it’s your turn: Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

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Are Social Employees The Future of Marketing?

By Michael Brenner on April 2, 2013

As we think about social media, social business and social employees, how will great companies use their employees to get ahead in the Future of Marketing?

In our previous interviews, we’ve discussed the future of Digital MarketingPersonal BrandingContent BrandsCustomer BrandsCreativityBig DataCustomer ExperienceThought Leadership, the Future of Search, the Science of Marketing and many more…

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.

In 2012, Blue Focus Marketing won Marketing Sherpa’s Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Social Media Marketing Blog.”  I am also the four-time winner of the Twitter Shorty Award in Marketing, and have been recognized by Fast Company and Huffington Post for my contributions to the social business, social branding, and marketing community.  Recently I contributed to Wharton’s Future of Advertising 2020 Project, where I was asked to examine current trends in the marketplace and project them into the future.  I also post regularly for the AT&T Networking and Exchange Blog as an external expert blogger.

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.

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Now it’s your turn: Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

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