Mastering your marketing material: How CMOs can harness Big Data

15th Mar 2012

Big Data is the marketer's biggest asset, says Mark Finch of OpenText - provided they can master their marketing material.

If entrenchment and consolidation were the watchwords for organisations during the recent recession, the overriding business imperative in today’s fledging economic recovery is to retain and expand the customer base. Competition between individual firms is intense, but so is the challenge of persuading consumers to part with their money at a time when many people are instinctively squirreling away their cash and declining to spend on any but the most important consumer goods.
With customer retention and acquisition so vitally important for businesses seeking to reclaim their pre-recession sales, the role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) arguably has never been more important; consequently, in many organisations the CMO is now the most important board member below the CEO or Managing Director.
Today, however, the CMO faces new challenges that did not exist only a few years ago. Two of the greatest are engaging customers across the expanding number of new marketing channels, and managing the explosion of marketing material that is the inevitable product of the digital age. While the problem of ever-increasing volumes of unstructured and structured information – termed “Big Data” by the IT industry – is not exclusive to marketers, it does create distinct and discrete challenges that CMOs must overcome in order to fulfil their responsibilities effectively.
If marketers are to succeed in boosting the customer base and acquiring customers, they must ensure that they are able to harness their reams of information, including customer data and marketing collateral, and establish uniformity of branding and messaging across all available channels.
This backgrounder sets out the specific challenges facing the modern CMO and explains how they can be overcome. By mastering their marketing material, CMOs will be able to capitalise on their newly exalted importance within their organisation, and deliver the real business benefits of a consistent and engaging customer experience that will retain and enlarge the customer base.
The CMO’s burdens: Content and channels
There have never been so many methods and opportunities for marketers to engage with existing and potential customers. The diversity of channels, including mobile, rich media and interactive, obviously multiplies the time and effort required by marketers to reach customers.
Few CMOs, however, have the luxury of commensurately increased marketing budgets. Indeed, in the current economy marketers are now expected to do more, across a greater number of channels, with fewer resources than before.
Further to this resourcing challenge is the difficulty of delivering a unified and consistent customer experience across all the different channels by which customers engage with their business. The problem of multi-channel marketing, twinned with the wealth of content, messaging and product descriptions available, presents an enormous challenge for CMOs seeking to create consistency across their communications, whether it is online video, e-retail sites or social media sites.
All CMOs understand the importance of maintaining strict consistency across branding and messaging. The power of marketing comes from the repetition of a brand, a logo or a message; it may take many repetitions across several channels before a customer is persuaded to make a purchase. If this consistency is interrupted, it dilutes the very power of the marketing effort, leaving customers confused or unmoved.
Another imperative for marketers is to maximise cross-sell and up-sell opportunities for customers. This is especially pertinent today, as businesses increasingly diversify their products and services; for example, an electricity provider adding gas to its portfolio or a supermarket offering mortgages or car insurance. The obvious challenge for marketers is boosting opportunities-to-see and ensuring that these recommendations are relevant to each individual customer, all the while ensuring consistency of branding and messaging across products and marketing channels.
In order to do this effectively, marketers need the ability to access and search through a huge volume and variety of content that often resides in multiple “hidden” repositories across many different business departments, bureaux and physical locations. Rather than embodying a critical business resource, content that lies in multiple, hard-to-reach and impossible-to-search silos actually represents a serious obstacle for marketers, making it extremely difficult, time-consuming and expensive to produce, access and share material. This is not only the case with customer-facing content but also applies to the internal expertise that is locked up in staff-produced content, such as blogs, reports and research.
When a business takes over another company, these problems are only complicated. After a merger or acquisition the CMO is immediately presented with the headache of integrating sales and marketing collateral from another firm, which itself may be spread over a large variety of platforms, databases, repositories and systems.
If marketers cannot harness their content, they risk being swamped by the very data that should be empowering them. The result will be inconsistent branding, missed opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling, poor customer service and a damaged brand reputation. None of this is acceptable for a business that is serious about recovering from the recession.
How they manage their content will have a direct bearing on marketers’ success, as well as that of the wider business. This they cannot do alone; they need the tools that will enable to turn their content from a burden into a strategic asset.
Mastering your marketing material
Without the right tools in place to manage marketing collateral, CMOs will fail to take full advantage of the available opportunities to engage customers and increase sales. At worst, they will start drowning in an ocean of content, unable to push out consistent and unified branding across all channels and unable to target customers with relevant offers – the antithesis of good marketing practice.
While the need to introduce content management tools may be obvious, it is often difficult for a layman to understand the lexicon of the content management industry. Terms such as brand asset management, customer experience management and web content management can cause confusion, especially since there is often a large degree of crossover between these systems’ functionalities.
It is more useful, therefore, to highlight the specific elements, functions and benefits that marketers should look for when assessing technology that will enable them to master their marketing collateral.
A centralised repository
As explained above, one of the key problems facing CMOs is the dispersion of content across a variety of different “silos” or repositories of content across the business. Effective marketing demands that these silos are consolidated into a central repository for all customer information and marketing collateral, where staff can quickly search and find relevant information.
By introducing a central repository for content, or a management system that brings together different silos through a single universal interface, marketers will immediately overcome the single biggest obstacle they face: knowing what information they hold, and where it is stored. This instant visibility of resources makes it quick and easy for CMOs to eradicate duplicated assets, out-of-date or contradictory content, inconsistent branding or messaging; it also hugely simplifies compliance issues, such as rights management.
A system that brings together multiple content repositories ensures better management of assets, and enables marketers to deliver consistent campaigns for many products across multiple regions simultaneously.
A common hindrance for product launches is the time taken to compile content, ensure consistency across output and re-purpose or translate material for different markets. Often, content and effort is duplicated across dozens or hundreds of sites, and the combined expertise and collateral resides in multiple locations. Centralising all marketing assets into a single information store means that marketers only need to create collateral once, and makes it quick and easy to re-use or re-purpose marketing materials in the future. The result is huge efficiency and cost gains, as marketers can quickly search, copy, edit and repurpose the full gamut of their marketing material.
Access and visibility to content is not, however, enough: any content management system must also feature real-time collaborative working functions so that all staff may contribute to producing, updating and re-purposing marketing and related content.
Multichannel delivery
Every media revolution, from the telegraph to Web 2.0, has brought new challenges to marketers. To succeed in each medium means adapting to the new technical demands, as well as adapting content so that it fits in with the tone, style or layout of that medium.
Delivering marketing across all these channels, and making the sometimes subtle alterations to content that is required, is an extra management headache for the CMO.
Any content management technology must therefore support the complex requirements of multi-channel publishing, which is considerably more complex than it initially seems. Take, for example, the issue of mobile. Publishing for mobile devices involves adapting and optimising content not only for the “Big Four” mobile ecosystems and operating systems, but also for the more than 1,000 different devices on the market. This is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process, and specialist technology and support is needed if this is to accomplished without placing an enormous strain on both marketing and the IT department.
Video is another potentially problematic area. Marketers’ video content needs to be adapted for different media; for example, while long-form ads are the norm for television, many online video ads are much shorter, incorporate interactive elements and provide click-throughs to other content. Re-purposing video and managing the relationship between the content, the interactive elements and other related marketing assets requires content management systems that have been designed with these particular demands in mind.
Similarly, social media needs to be incorporated into the information management system, both to ensure that the right content is pushed out to these sites and to incorporate and respond effectively to customer feedback.
Integrating with customer data
So far, we have looked exclusively at marketing collateral in terms of content created by the sales and marketing department. This, however, is only one half of the story, and ignores a source of potentially much more valuable information: customer data.
Organisations are now able to capture an incredible volume of information about customers, including demographic data, purchase history and buying preferences. This is naturally of enormous value to marketers, but the sheer volume of information that is produced, and continues to be produced, again presents the challenges of managing the data in the most effective way.
A successful information strategy must ensure that this rich customer data is compiled in a way that gives a 360° view of the customer; and must integrate it into multi-channel marketing operations.
Successful integration ensures the optimal chance of making a successful recommendation for up-selling or cross-selling to customers, in the most personalised manner possible, however they are engaging with the business. Having a full view of the customer enables marketers to deliver relevant offers, consistent branding and – perhaps most importantly – ensures that the process is visible to everyone in the marketing department, so customers are targeted in the most appropriate and efficient way, not bombarded with multiple sales approaches. Fewer, more relevant and more personalised approaches means better experience for customer, better reputation for the business, and lower costs.
Furthermore, this data enables businesses more easily to monitor performance against customer service levels; adhere to retention management; accelerate customer service enquiry / complaint resolution times; and incorporate customer feedback, such as on social media sites or corporate blogs, so they can respond quickly to criticism or improve their offerings.
These are only the most salient benefits of mastering your marketing material. There are numerous other ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ gains from implementing systems to content management; these are as numerous as there are different businesses with different requirements.
The rationale for implementing a robust information strategy is nevertheless universal, and is one that could be understood by marketers from any era: to maintain uniformity of brand and messaging; and to get relevant marketing to the right customers. Far from being a burden, “Big Data” is the CMO’s greatest asset – provided it is properly harnessed.

Mark Finch is VP of engagement business, Northern Europe at OpenText.


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