It’s been an eventful 2017.
In closing out my first year as NewsCred’s marketing leader, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve heard from the collective brain trust of enterprise CMOs that constitute our customer base, frequent exchanges with my colleagues, and heads of marketing for emerging MarTech brands. It’s clear that a couple of key themes are emerging, several of which will play a pivotal role in our marketing strategy. My team and I embraced these trends in our 2018 planning, but they’re relevant for any CMO.
Put Your Audience First
First, there’s the CMO’s seismic shift from product-centricity to audience-centricity. Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, of the Content Marketing Institute, best captured this trend in their 2017 book, “Killing Marketing.” They chronicled the need for marketing leaders to stop marketing products and instead act as media businesses that focus on building audiences. NewsCred exists, and is thriving, because brands have begun adopting this ethos.
For example, MassMutual is a brand embracing this shift. The insurance company owns and operates the Society of Grownups, an organization that helps millennials “find their inner adult” through online financial literacy classes, content, and tools. Importantly, the Society of Grownups doesn’t try to convert users to become MassMutual customers. Rather, its main objective is to build trust among millennials and nurture the community.
So, where do marketers begin? It may sound basic, but understanding your customers is paramount. Get your personas right. At NewsCred, we built personas based on interviews with clients, which revealed some surprising insights that informed our platform features and usability advancements. We discovered that CMOs require in-depth analytics to prove marketing effectiveness and success, while practitioners, driven by operational efficiency, must be able to easily navigate our workflows and calendar.
Use Content to Enhance the Customer Experience
Next, experience matters. Winning brands are investing in innovative customer experiences. I’ve been lucky in my career to produce trendsetting events and digital experiences that instantaneously deepen customer relationships.
One of the most effective initiatives can be launching a customer community or content hub. I predict we’ll see the exponential growth of communities in 2018, as they are powerful means of following customers throughout their journeys by creating true value exchange.
Going back to the MassMutual example, the company does have a long-term goal that some Society of Grownups members eventually become MassMutual customers when they’re at the right point in their lives. In return, those people have received all the insights, content, and resources Society of Grownups shares with them, completely free.
In addition, the bar for delivering different content formats is higher than ever. In 2018, I expect we’ll see continued investment in interactive storytelling vehicles: video, audio, dynamic infographics, and more. At NewsCred, we’ve found that infographics consistently attract high traffic, and videos are strong conversion drivers.
I love “The Money Drill,” a podcast from one of our clients, USAA. It launched the podcast because it wanted to give its audience financial information in an engaging, easy-to-understand way. And people responded. “The Money Drill” receives more than 24,000 listens every month.
An offline example of a surging innovation is “experiential retail.” Take Equinox. It’s pioneered this concept with upscale juice bars and stores selling the latest athleisure fashions. Equinox’s lifestyle brand extends well beyond the gym. (For those interested in learning more, The Wall Street Journal offers a fascinating take on experiential retail in the podcast, “The Future of Everything.”)
Consider How You’ll Reach Your Top Prospects, Customers, and Advocates
One of the most effective initiatives NewsCred put to work in 2017 was partnering with our own sales force and turning to account-based marketing (ABM) as a critical component of our strategy. As a result of our ABM efforts, we are in lockstep with our sales team in a unified approach to target the 280 accounts we most care about reaching. And it’s working. Our customers, the world’s leading enterprise CMOs, want us to help problem solve their uniquely personal pains, and many are also interested in using ABM to reach their highly defined target audiences. We’ve built tools and processes based on our ABM learnings and successes, and are looking forward to releasing them in 2018. (Stay tuned for more details.)
Prioritize Measurement – Especially Customer Experience ROI
Finally, and increasingly critical, is eliminating the CMO’s struggle to measure marketing contribution in ways uniquely tailored to their business objectives. We’re not all judged on a single standardized metric like marketing-generated pipeline. At NewsCred, in the spirit of true ABM, our marketing team shares joint KPIs with sales on pipeline generation. We also share KPIs with our product team on product adoption. But regardless of the specific metrics, CMOs have to prioritize measurement. CMO tenure is still on the decline, and in this landscape, proving marketing ROI is a must.
That said, in 2018, I also believe that there will be a greater focus on measuring the ROI of customer experience, as it will become a top marketing priority. Deloitte reports in its CMO Survey 2017 that marketers will spend 376 percent more on customer experience analytics.
Before the holiday break, my team and I were sequestered in 2018 strategic planning. One of the thrilling aspects of marketing, in my role, is being charged with growing our business and perfecting what’s worked over the last year. In 2018, an obsession with customer experience and programs like account-based marketing will be core to our strategy. We’re looking forward to forging new ground to reach and excite our customers in 2018. Onward!
Lisa Kalscheur is NewsCred’s SVP of Marketing.