HCL Technologies CMO Matt Preschern: On content marketing and keeping the C-suite sweet

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Seth Godin, in his acclaimed 2003 book Purple Cow, succinctly described the biggest issue marketing departments around the world face. If an audience doesn’t have the money to buy what you’re selling, you have no market. If an audience has no time to appreciate your pitch, you’re invisible. And if they do have time but decide they don’t want it, you’re in even more trouble.

The book may be approaching its teenage years, but the situation today is more relevant than ever. More explicitly, there is an ocean of choice and a vacuum of time that makes it so difficult to be heard. Any possible differentiation – be it video, SoLoMo, or those occasions where you’re present at the birth of a new social platform – is gratefully received.

Yet sometimes doing the basics right is more important than anything else. Content marketing is not exactly different. It’s similar to what the journalism trade calls Ninja Turtle syndrome – everyone is doing this, we have to do it as well – but for Matt Preschern (left), chief marketing officer at HCL Technologies – and a confirmed disciple of Purple Cow – quantity over quality in content can lead to a slippery slope.

“The most important thing is to develop purposeful content that allows you to achieve the business objectives that you’ve laid out,” Preschern tells MarketingTech. “I always ask the team…is our content remarkable? What are we doing to differentiate ourselves from the sea of sameness? In that context, more is not necessarily better.

“We have to as a marketing and communications community go back and really ask ourselves, is this video, this whitepaper, this short paragraph, actually making a difference?” he adds. “I’m very nervous that many companies and colleagues are so much on the volume side of it as opposed to really stepping back and saying ‘you know what, this doesn’t live up to what we actually want to do’. I push our teams very hard along those lines.”

Preschern is certainly a hands-on CMO, still checking copy from his teams on a regular basis; a fact he admits drives them “crazy”. And his hands-on nature is little wonder; HCL Technologies is one of the biggest brands in the world, with Q116 revenues of $1.54 billion. The firm secured a lucrative contract with Manchester United to undergo a long-term digital transformation and innovation project, of which Preschern was a key cog in the machine. Yet for all the awareness that a good piece of content creates, it’s difficult to judge the ROI – a point Preschern dutifully notes.

“I think as a marketer you have to be careful to not calculate the ROI of a content piece,” he explains. “My personal view is if you go down that path you’re going to have a really hard time. The question I like to ask is what’s the ROI of an integrated campaign, in a specific industry vertical, where we may want to position data and analytics as a key topic, and then as a campaign on a very specific notion of targeted outreach. What’s the return on investment for [the] entire set of activities, as opposed to the individual pieces? If you get too granular, you’re going to have a hard time making an impact.

“I do think that the biggest mistake marketers can make is that you get mired within what we have to develop, our own marketing metrics, and engagement metrics, and at times do not tie them back to the overarching performance of the company at large,” adds Preschern. “I can tell you that, as a CMO, I don’t have that luxury.”

Preschern’s philosophy is simple: define what specific business objectives you are trying to accomplish; look for a bigger theme as opposed to a specific level of content; and find the right balance between paid and organic, but most importantly to ‘develop purposeful content that allows you to achieve the business objectives that you’ve laid out’. On a wider theme, relationships with the rest of the C-suite are naturally key. If your marketing needs to assist the sales process, then you need a good relationship with the heads of sales. If you want to integrate more data in your marketing, then you need to be close to your CIO. If you want to position your brand authentically, your employees are key. “Marketing is a team sport,” Preschern observes.

But if we go back to Seth Godin and the somewhat precarious relationship between the consumer, with more choice than ever, and the marketer, with more data and information about the consumer than ever, what can we take away? “I personally believe that we live in an age today where the power paradigm in effect has shifted, and whether you’re a consumer in the B2C space or a decision maker in the B2B space, your access to information [and] your ability to interact and research as to who you’re doing business with changes the entire interaction model,” says Preschern.

“You have to assume that any time a customer interacts with you, they have probably done a significant amount of research and work on their own. As a marketer [you have to ask] are we using the right vehicles, whether that’s social listening, whether that’s all the transactional data, but increasingly some of the big data which very often is unstructured,” he adds. “Are we using that, and are we creating personas or profiles of those decision makers without necessarily being ‘creepy’?”

Get the most out of your data and get the right metrics for your content campaigns, therefore, and you might just have a chance.

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