Work management

‘Creation, curation and distribution of content is a marketer’s top job’

  • by Lara Sinclair
  • 2 weeks ago

Pat Duffy is one of Australia’s most experienced chief marketing officers. Until recently she headed up marketing at one of the federal Government’s biggest agencies, Defence Force Recruiting, for almost a decade, and was previously marketing director for brands including Telstra and MLC. Here, she discusses marketing, process and the customer experience with Simple.

Pat, thanks very much for talking with Simple. What would you say is the most important job a marketer has these days?

The creation, curation and distribution of content effectively is the most important thing a marketer can do these days. For example, digital media has been a boon to conversion paths when it comes to Defence Force Recruiting — they’re a lot shorter. But you have to get the right content out to the right audience on the right channel at the right time. For example, DFR needed to deliver content to students at times they were online — but it would be more effective to publicise an ADFA Open Day Air Force flyover rather than run a recruitment ad on Facebook.

Simple recently conducted some research on marketing resource management and the customer experience. We found marketers are increasingly being charged with responsibility for managing the broader customer experience as well as marketing. How much of a challenge is this in reality?

Many experienced marketers are being charged with managing the entire customer experience, including call centres and potentially shopfronts. Marketing is starting to take over call centres because it’s a touch point and you can then pull insights from call centres into marketing. I don’t think it’s easy but I do think it’s desirable.

How can marketing teams collaborate well, particularly when there are multiple stakeholders outside marketing?

At DFR we had a Marketing Working Group, which was a collaboration group that included recruitment operations, finance, military members – people across the organisation with a stake in marketing outcomes. We also did it via meetings, research and emails. DFR was a tri-service organisation and you had to get approval through the various chains of command. At the working level you’d have to call the Services in quite a bit. It’s great to work collaboratively — but it requires effort and you still need an audit trail.

How were approvals managed effectively in that environment?

We had a lot of exclusions [from the usual approval processes] because of the ongoing nature of our advertising activity, unusual in Government. For example, we would post things organically before we put them out there as a paid ad, so we were always gauging the reaction. Obviously, if something didn’t perform or was too controversial we wouldn’t put spend behind it. We were able to avoid a lot of the usual advertising pre-testing that really slows things down.

According to our research, one in four teams has adopted at least some elements of agile marketing. Have you ever tried it, and what was your experience like?

Yes, and I’ve found it can work quite well but not for everything. There’s some advantage with projects where you don’t want to over-engineer things. Also, taking a cross-functional approach can be really beneficial: teaming up people with market-facing experience with people who have brand-facing experience, for example.

But if you’re doing a big brand campaign, agile may not be the way to do that because of the time needed in each stage — a traditional waterfall methodology may be more effective. But if you can chunk the work down, I think it’s brilliant.

We asked marketers to nominate the one thing that would make them more efficient. One in two (52%) nominated simply the timely completion of work and approvals. Are marketers disciplined enough about deadlines?

Well, there are times deadlines matter, and times they don’t. If you’re doing something tactical to meet a specific deadline, that’s important. For example, if you’ve got 100 training spots to fill and you only fill 90, you can’t make that up and it has an impact in capability down the road.

But if you’re developing a brand campaign and something takes a few weeks longer than expected — does it matter? It’s important to get your campaign right. Deadlines are not mission-critical all the time.

We asked marketers about planning and we found one in two used spreadsheets as their primary planning tool. What’s your view on that?

You’ve got to do strategy first. I don’t know how you do strategy in a spreadsheet. If your mission is: I want more diversity in the Australian Defence Forces, for example, I don’t know how you could do that in a spreadsheet other than to define the numbers.
It’s the qualitative strategic insights and the job requirements that determine the marketing plan.

What about briefing? Are there a lot of people requesting work from marketing that don’t know how to write a brief?

In large organisations such as Government or a big companies there are always people who are not skilled brief-writers because they only request something from marketing infrequently. I couldn’t quantify it, but there is certainly the potential to waste a lot of time and resources if your briefing is sub-standard. It’s garbage in, garbage out. A form or template would certainly help you to capture the relevant information. Of course, you still have to come up with the insights.

Why do marketers still struggle to determine results and return on investment?

Measurement is hard, particularly for Government, where most advertising is promoting some sort of policy. They measure it via awareness but it’s hard for them to measure citizen behaviour change. In the commercial sector you can measure brand salience, customer retention, things like that.

To measure brand health at DFR we used a qualitative measure, which was ‘propensity to consider’, because it’s a number you can measure over time. For some segments it went from 22% to 40% and in some (adventure-seeking) segments it went to 68%.

Attribution — particularly when offline and online channels are involved — is really hard. Even in digital-only, there is still a lot of focus on the last click.

What are some of the reasons marketing teams might consider implementing an MRM system?

Government often requires marketing to audit their spend versus the agency retainer. You need to be able to say very quickly how much you have drawn down.

Digital asset management is also very important: marketing teams need to be able to repurpose marketing content.

Plus, in government, you have to do an audit of all your inventory whenever you review your agencies. Having all your creative assets on hand is a key benefit.

What has your own experience of marketing resource management been?

DFR uses a workflow management system with its creative and digital agency, and we looked at implementing a fully-blown MRM [not Simple] at DFR some years ago. The theory was great but it was clunky. We ended up with two email systems. You don’t want to introduce anything that adds time and complexity and the opportunity to make mistakes. So while I’m a believer in MRM systems in principle, I have yet to see one implemented in a seamless way that really integrates with existing systems such as Outlook.

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