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Interview: The Biggest Challenge Facing Senior Marketers Today
Interview: The Biggest Challenge Facing Senior Marketers Today

The CXO Leaders Summit Australia is an invite-only event, bringing together Australia's senior marketing and customer experience leaders for two strategy packed days - enabling these marketing leaders to exchange knowledge and interact as one over a range of important issues facing the industry. 

We had the pleasure of speaking at the Melbourne event earlier this year, and we're excited to be taking the stage again at the upcoming Sydney event - this time with Fabian Marrone, CMO of Monash University, demonstrating how strong content operations are at the heart of great customer experience.

In the lead up to the event, the folks from CXO had a chat with Tom Spencer, Co-Founder and Head of Services at Cognitives, about some of the key challenges facing senior marketers today and the work Cognitives is doing with leading Australian brands. 

As someone who meets with senior marketers every week, what are the biggest challenges they’re facing?

I think the biggest problem facing marketers right now, is that they have some of the smartest technology on hand - but it’s all focused on making their customers lives better. Now that’s obviously important, but what about the marketing team? How can brands make their marketing teams better?

We know the customer always comes first. But it’s like your flight attendant tells you, “look after yourself before helping others”. Somehow marketing teams are still stuck in the 90’s, using email, spreadsheets and far too many calendars to try and run their marketing activities. It’s just painful, and it’s accepted as ‘the way it is’.

So much has changed as marketers in the past decade, the explosion of digital marketing and new technologies like marketing automation means we have to produce more content than ever before - but marketing budgets and resources haven’t increased.

We’re investing money in getting the right people, with the right skills, to deliver the best customer experience - but we’re not putting the right tools in place to make it easy for our teams to produce the content needed to feed these channels. This is where I see the real danger.

A senior marketer today can see every movement a customer makes, what they’ve clicked on, what they’re reading - but they can’t see what their team in the UK is working on, what stage their new campaign is at, or how many times a content asset has been used this month.

Getting visibility overall marketing activities is currently a challenge. But visibility is critical to realising strategy.

Without visibility, you don’t have consistency, and we all know that’s the foundation of customer experience. Visibility also drives collaboration, without it you end up with an overload of duplicated content. When I chat to senior marketers I’ll ask “How many times have your different teams created the same piece of content?” and often they don’t even know, because they don’t have the visibility.

This is a challenge we see every day - some of the biggest global brands, running amazing martech stacks to deliver on customer experience, but still using archaic manual processes to run their marketing team and manage content. It’s really hurting their teams, and it’s a hard cycle to get out of - there’s so much manual overload it simply buries you, and you don’t have the time to get your head above water and find a way to solve it.

What’s the purpose of Cognitives? Why now?

We were there, we had the same problems, and being in the tech space we thought “this is just ridiculous”. There has to be a smarter way to manage marketing activities and content.

So that’s what we do.

We bring together your marketing team and all of your content into one platform, giving marketing leaders a holistic view of all marketing activities. Want to know how your latest campaign is going? It’s there. Your Aussie team wants to see what your UK team is working on? It’s there.

The Cognitives platform manages the whole shebang - from planning and approval, through to distribution and measurement.

And it’s not just about streamlining your processes. Once you have everything in one place you not only have visibility and collaboration, you have data. Want to see content that has had high engagement in the past but hasn’t been used recently? It’s there.

Why is it important now? As I mentioned earlier the amount of content brands need to produce to feed digital marketing and customer experience is increasing exponentially every year. If the right structures aren’t in place to produce content at the scale needed then brands are going to start having serious blockages, and those problems are going to flow down to your marketing automation platforms and distribution channels.

That’s a costly problem to solve. One that you’ll need to throw both money and people at - and that would distract you and your team from executing on your strategy.

Or you can make sure you have smarter systems in place, and your team can focus all of their time on doing a smashing job. Not on admin.

Which Australian brands have you worked with? Has it solved these problems for them?  

We’re an Australian born and bred technology company, and we love working with top Australian brands. We’ve seen clients like Monash University, Salvation Army Australia and SFI Health completely transform from being swamped with manual processes to become agile, high-performing marketing teams.  

What we’ve found is that these marketing leaders had a great strategy and vision, but no engine to drive it across the organisation. We were that engine. With Cognitives they were finally able to see their entire strategy, and all of it’s moving parts, enabling them to identify and take advantage of new opportunities. We’re really proud of how fast these teams are now moving, and how they are able to innovate and execute on new strategies.

The most common feedback we’ve had is that they wish they’d done it earlier. Their teams just love it - it’s completely transformed their day-to-day, and given them the opportunity to collaborate with different teams, and see what’s going on at a global level.

For us it’s all about being there for our clients, being a partner they can rely on - whether that’s being onsite for a critical new hire, being one of the team at a global content strategy workshop, or working together on a new feature. It’s really about getting stuck in and working with the teams to help them succeed.

While we’re no longer what you’d term a ‘startup’ we still retain the same innovative and flexible mentality, and that influences the relationships we build with our clients.     

From all these experiences, what would you advise brands to focus on over the next year?

My suggestion would be to take stock of what we call your ‘upstream marketing activities’.

Look at all of your current team processes from planning and approval through to distribution and measurement. Identify the manual processes your team is using and find out how much time they’re spending on them. The results might scare you.

This work will give you the big picture, and you’ll be able to see where you need to implement better processes and technology solutions. You’ll also get insight into where your blockage areas are, so you can be prepared and avoid problems there down the track.

Treat your content funnel like your lead funnel. It’s just as important. If content stops then your digital marketing and customer experience journeys dry up and become stale overnight.

So protect that investment.

This piece was originally published in the CXO Leaders Summit newsletter. This event will take place in Sydney on the 8-9th August. You can find more information here. 

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