Robert Rose is a man who knows a thing or two about marketing technology. He is the Chief Strategist for the Content Marketing Institute and is also a Senior Contributing Analyst for the Digital Clarity Group. He is presenting at this year's ContentTech event on Content, Customers and Experiences - Evolving Beyond Random Acts of Technology. I caught up with him before this year's event to get his views on the marketing technology market and to explore the key challenges facing marketers.
Your talk this year is on Evolving Beyond Random Acts of Technology, what is the presentation about?
Basically it's about a fundamental shift I see in how the CMO and CIO need to work together to come up with a new way to create a marketing technology strategy for the enterprise. Much has been made about CIO/CMO alignment - but in my mind, better communication is only a start - and if businesses stop there they are just as likely to fail as when they didn't talk at all. It's a much more collaborative and deliberate process that most businesses need.
Where do you see the most exciting developments in technology for content marketers?
The most exciting technology to me is what's going on in the content aggregation, curation and filtering space. The most forward-leaning companies in this space are (at their heart) a search company. And, also having come out of Search, I understand how devastatingly complex and hard doing indexed based search and then performing semantic analysis on that content really is. Beyond that - I'm interested to see how the content promotion companies (e.g. Outbrain, Taboolah and others) sort themselves out. That's certainly where all the drama and money is right now.
Do you see the development of more tool suites aimed specifically at content marketing?
There are few that are working on it - I know that. But the interesting thing to me is how far "end-to-end" do you go before you stretch beyond "content marketing" and just into marketing more broadly? It's going to be an interesting year to see where startups like NewsCred go vs. some of the more enterprise-class solutions (e.g. Oracle, Microsoft and Adobe).
What trends do you see taking place in the wider marketing tools and technology market?
Certainly one the biggest is that the "giants" (e.g. Oracle, Microsoft, Adobe and SalesForce) are all building/acquiring solutions to build a marketing technology "stack". This is important for all the reasons that we've discussed - but it remains to be seen which one of those companies will actually win the day (if any ONE of them actually does).
I have heard you express surprise that many marketing platforms don't include a full CMS. Do you expect to see moves in this direction?
I am both surprised AND unsurprised. Coming from a Web Content Management product background, I realize just how complex it really is, and so I don't envy those that are trekking down that product development roadmap. Hubspot seems to be moving down this road - while others seem to be integrating. The reverse is actually what surprises me more - why more WCMS vendors haven't yet added more content marketing features.
I don't actually expect, now, to see companies like Marketo to add WCMS. And really there aren't many more left after that. But I DO expect to see WCMS players make some moves in the content marketing direction (gosh at least I hope so).
Key Challenges for Marketers
What are some of the key challenges facing marketers, including the technology challenges?
1) A strategic repeatable process for content creation
The biggest one - and one that I'm spending the lion's share of my time on in 2014 is the re-organization of marketing and the inclusion of a content CREATION process. Most enterprises are really good at strategic, repeatable processes around content management. But most are equally as bad at a strategic repeatable process for content CREATION. It's the very first thing everyone wants to outsource - because we just don't know how to do it very well. This is where I want to spend a LOT of time thinking about how to improve these processes for businesses.
2) Think process not projects or campaigns
Most marketers are still operating in a classic campaign-oriented, command and control departmental construct. The processes and the technology simply stretch over so many silos that no one group fully understands what the entirety of the solution does. This is compounded by how quickly things are changing - and how complex many of these tools really are. It all adds up to most marketers only utilizing about 5% of any of their marketing technology. Web content management and analytics are a great example of this. Today, many marketing departments still operate in "projects" - in "campaigns" - and today's customer journey is not about projects - it's about a flexible, adaptable process that is 24/7.
3) Overbuying and under using technology tools
There is no one tool that's currently going to do everything - but just how wide that range is really depends on a lot of things. I think this is one of the biggest challenge marketers have right now - throwing technology tools at what are usually temporary challenges. We are the worst at overbuying and underutilizing the tools that we acquire. Most marketing departments are like the rich DIY woodworking hobbyist who has a wall full of the latest, shiniest saws, drills, lathes and awls and has no idea how to use any of them.
4) Avoid silos, don't organize around technology
Technology will never change the organization. It's the organization that must change, and then the technology matched to that. This is one of the biggest challenges with marketing today. Re-organizing marketing around that adaptable, and more "newsroom" type of organization is one of the key ways - and I think it will be what drives the successful technology companies in this space.
5) Use analytics to deepen relationships with customers
Right now (and this comes from an IBM Study I believe) 85% of the data that we collect as analytics is used to facilitate more transactions, rather than deepen our relationship with customers. This just has to flip. We have to be better at using the huge collection of analytics data that we have now.
What excites you about the future of content marketing?
Quite simply - the power of story and what content can do for business. I'm watching incredible things happen now for brands that are leveraging content in interesting ways. Redbull now has their own channel on the Apple TV. Lego is releasing full-length movies. Chipotle is creating a four episode comedy series for Hulu - that has recognizable, named talent. And, then even on a much smaller scale I'm seeing Lincoln Electric (a welding torch company) create emotionally connective content that builds brand. I'm watching GE make discussions of electrical generators interesting. I'm watching small businesses grow with absolutely NO paid advertising at all. It's just an incredibly exciting time to be where content meets business success. I'm blessed to be a part of it.
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Column logo by Marie Otskua