Tackling the Challenges of Today’s Dynamic Marketing Industry: AMA Triangle’s CMO Perspectives Luncheon
This is a special Sponsor Insight report about the CMO panel of April 20. It’s courtesy of Ellie Baldini, the Content Marketing Manager of chapter sponsor inMotionNow. We thank them for their support which makes many chapter programs and events possible.
With the industry moving at lightning-speed, technology evolving faster than ever before, and brands being brought into closer and more frequent contact with consumers, it’s a thrilling time to be a marketer—but it’s also a uniquely challenging one. That’s why CMO Perspectives, the AMA Triangle’s largest annual luncheon this Thursday, April 20th was so timely: The gathering featured a panel of the area’s top marketing leaders moderated by Crisp Agency CEO Jeff Kilman, who tackled some of the toughest topics facing the industry today. Here’s what Kristi Eaves-Mclennan, Chief Marketing Officer at Meredith College; Randy Guard, Chief Marketing Officer at SAS; Karen McCall, Chief Marketing Officer at UNC Health Care; and Allison Rathke, Chief Marketing Officer at Northwestern Mutual – Raleigh had to share.
On Providing the Most Value to Audiences with Content
There’s no denying the vital role content plays in a strategic and successful marketing matrix—and the panelists at Thursday’s luncheon all agreed the most valuable content their teams produce educates, informs, engages, and drives conversions.
“SAS is a global company, so we need to make sure our content educates our thousands of customers globally about our new products,” said Guard. “For us, a focused effort became ensuring our content was developed and leveraged at the right stage of the customer journey, and also syndicating to get our market the information they need.”
“One of the most important objectives of our content strategy is to help families and prospective students make the process of applying to college simpler,” explained Eaves-Mclennan. “We want to communicate the value of that decision but also help break down some of the more complicated components like financial aid, or the application process. We also try to drive awareness of Meredith by appealing to the lifelong learner. We bring the expertise we offer at Meredith to life by engaging with our community through content, so we can introduce ourselves to new audiences and give prospective students a flavor of what it would be like to study here.”
On Showcasing to the Value of an Integrated Marketing Plan to the Broader Organization
For those of us who live and breathe marketing, it can be challenging to take the perspective of other stakeholders in your organization who might not understand the value of complex, multi-faceted marketing strategies. Each of the panelists had experience tackling this issue, and shared key recommendations around how to set baselines and clearly showcase results.
“Northwestern Mutual has been around for 160 years, but only had marketing for the last 15 or 16!” said Rathke. “It’s a great brand, but we found that people don’t always know what it is, or if they do, they’re confused by all of the facets and everything we bring to the table. A big part of my job is helping people at the organization understand that. We’ve been able to show the results of our efforts because people who are coming to the table now have a greater understanding of who we are and what we do, and at least a small sense of expectations.”
“Marketing is a relatively new concept in Higher Ed—only in the last four years have we even launched our first integrated marketing and branding campaign,” explained Eaves-Mclennan. “It’s been a challenge to get people to understand its value. One of the first thing we did was set a baseline of awareness around how many people in North Carolina know Meredith as a strong higher-ed establishment. We put a campaign in the field and have measured the results over the past four years, and we’ve seen a significant lift in people who recognize us as a higher-ed institution. We’ve also seen a rise in applications, enrollment, and fundraising, which we can point to as evidence of the value we’ve contributed.”
On Hiring and Keeping Top Talent
With the field of marketing and it’s many sub-disciplines constantly evolving, even the most seasoned marketers are finding it hard to figure out what roles to hire for and how to fill them with best-fit candidates. The panel weighed in on their hiring experiences and best practices they’ve had success with, like putting more stock in intellectual curiosity and cultural fit.
“How can we assess the right talent level and determine the capabilities that are necessary for domain expertise in that functional role when that functional role is changing?” asked Kilman. “We tackle that by focusing our hiring around alignment with our values, because then we know that you too will be able to adapt in a world that’s constantly changing; and by assessing your voracious appetite for intellectual curiosity. If you have that, and can demonstrate that, you’ll be up for any challenge.”
“Marketers in healthcare face a big challenge because there are so many stakeholders,” explained McCall. “Even when someone comes in with a lot of expertise in their field, the whole process of approaching physicians as knowledge sources and peers can be hard. We look for candidates who are going to be successful at actually building those partnerships.”
On Finding Success in Today’s Fast-Changing Environment
The session closed with each of the panelists sharing some final thoughts on how their teams are meeting the challenge of a dynamic and fast-paced industry to achieve more goals. The secret to their success? Failing fast, innovating often, and above all, always listening to their consumers.
“Don’t be afraid to test in the market often. Fail fast, then carry on,” said Guard. “Focus and alignment is something else we put a lot of attention to. As marketers, we can do a lot of different activities, but if we pick 19 things to do across 19 lines, then we’ll be doing 19 different things. We can’t do scale the way we need to in order to be successful unless we’re aligned.”
“We haven’t had as many hospitals across the state, so we’ve been trying to figure out who we are for quite some time,” explained McCall. “But we listened to our customers and are in the process of making what they told us more externally available: They said we’re ‘experts in empathy,’ and that’s what makes us different from other health care institutions.”
“I tell my team to act like they’re the internal clients so they can understand their experiences and perspective,” said Rathke. “Financial planning is super emotional, so when you go through that process and know what it feels like, it makes you a better marketer.”
“Innovate fast. In Higher Ed, we really like to think about things, but that’s not the world we’re living in,” said Eaves-Mclennan. “We need to think about things, but think faster, so we can get our campaigns out to market faster. It’s competitive, so we need to think about how we’re constantly evolving to meet the needs of our consumers.”
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Ellie Baldini is the Content Marketing Manager at inMotionNow, a leading provider of workflow management solutions for marketing and creative teams. Ellie is a creative and passionate marketer, content strategist, and storyteller who’s in-house and agency experience includes working with brands such as Walmart, U.S. Airways, Golf Pride, High Point University, and the cities of Charleston and Santa Barbara. She draws on her experience to connect creatives and marketers with the benefits of inMotion, so more teams can get back to doing the work they love.
To learn more about how inMotion helps marketing and creative teams work more efficiently to deliver more content and campaigns to market, faster, visit inMotionNow.com.