Shaken & Stirred - Influential Brand Profiling and Positioning

Sanjay Dholakia, CMO at Marketo talks Gen Z, engagement marketing, content marketing, Swipe Generation and Screenagers

Exclusive : Here is another big ‘brand ideas’ interview article from theMarketingblog. Enjoy.

This time round Sanjay Dholakia, CMO at Marketo talks Gen Z, engagement marketing, content marketing, Swipe Generation and Screenagers.

Sanjay is responsible for extending @marketo Marketo’s product leadership, developing business segments, and establishing a new solution ecosystem to increase the company’s reach.

Tomorrow’s Buyers: Gen Z (born after 1995) have just an 8 second attention span – please would you comment

Whereas most of us are digital migrants, Gen Z – sometimes known as “screen-agers” or “the swipe generation” – have grown up totally digital. Their phones have always been “smart” and they expect answers and information from organisations at the same speed as their search engine. With an ever-decreasing attention span (which, for the moment, is about eight seconds), Gen Z may be a bigger challenge for marketers than Millennials.

2. Please talk to the readers on the importance of content marketing – in terms of future results

Interesting, appealing and helpful content is the new currency in the age of uber engagement and connectivity. It’s forcing brands to reconsider how they market to consumers, and I think this is forcing a longer term rethink for many companies in how they target younger generations. Many companies are already realising the benefits of content marketing and we’ll see even more of this. It helps mitigate risk by building a relationship with buyers, giving them information that  that engages them in conversation and establishing your brand as a trusted advisor.

It’s also great for driving traffic to websites and capturing leads through forms, as well providing education for robust lead nurturing. Great content will also provide you with lead scoring based on how a prospect interacts with the web content through nurturing campaigns. Moving forwards, I think we’ll see content marketing gaining more importance, attracting more budget and being executed with increasingly more segmentation and personalisation.

3. You said that Gen Z was also referred to as the Swipe Generation and Screenagers. Please let’s have some crystal ball gazing – what’s it going to be like for digital marketers in five years time?

There’s definitely a fundamental difference between Gen Z and other generations and I think these differences will become more obvious as time goes on. While Gen Y grew up during a strong economy, Gen Z is growing up in a time of recession, terrorism, violence, volatility and complexity. Gen Z wants to change the world, and roughly one in four Generation Z-ers are involved in volunteering. Advanced college degrees are less important to them and they are more entrepreneurial than millennials.

These are all important characteristics to note but perhaps the most relevant to marketers is that Gen Z-ers typically multi-task across at least five screens daily and spend a large portion of their time outside of school with computers or mobile devices. It’s a very individualised generation. While millennials seek mentors, Gen Z is more about helping themselves. In five years’ time, I think we will see much more of deliberate focus on tailoring content and channels around these type of characteristics , such as the shorter attention span, entrepreneurial self-empowerment, and digital fluency.

We’re already seeing evidence of mainstream social media channels trying to engage with Gen Z. Google is reportedly considering offering user accounts to children under 13 with parents being able to set up accounts for their kids, controlling their usage. Likewise, Facebook faced a similar decision last year when it announced it would allow teens ages 13 to 17 to publically post to its site. The irony is that Gen Z doesn’t want to be tracked. They prefer Snapchat, Secret, or Whisper to communicate and more concerned with privacy.

4. Your views on the quality aspect of content would be interesting. How much emphasis should marketers placed on quality and how do they go about it?

Content needs to be engaging. It needs to speak to specific personas, answer common questions that inevitably come up at various stages of the buying cycle, and reinforce decision making. In that way, marketers can maintain continuous conversations with customers. Quality is important, but so is format. Think about how your content can be repurposed into longer formats such as eBooks and white papers, as well as into shorter more ‘snackable’ formats, such as slideshares, infographics and other visuals.

5. I found your views on engagement marketing to be very interesting. Please elaborate

The rise of the empowered, digital buyer; the proliferation of new marketing channels including social media; the rise of new platforms such as cloud computing and mobility; and the emergence of new analytic methods driven by big data — are driving deep changes in how companies market to and engage with customers. This is creating the need for a new and better approach that enables marketers to things they’ve not been able to do before.

For example, the trends I’ve just outlined mean marketers need to have the ability to track consumer behaviours, gain affinity, and understand the context across every digital, social, and mobile channel in a single data repository. It also requires the ability to design and coordinate engaging customer experiences to take each customer on a personal journey over time to drive desired outcomes through relevant and personalised and timely content. And on top of all of this, marketers are expected to plan and co-ordinate their content as self-publishers, track investments, tie the marketing budget directly to results, and know the ROI of each specific campaign across channels. It’s a tough ask, and it is not humanly possible to scale and still do this manually.

6. Your opportunity now to tell us about Marketo’s success story and how you see the future for the company.

Our cloud-based customer engagement platform is purpose-built for marketers, by marketers, to enable organisations ranging from SMBs to the world’s largest enterprises to orchestrate and optimise customer experiences. Marketo’s @marketo customer engagement platform powers a set of breakthrough applications to help marketers tackle all aspects of digital marketing from the planning and orchestration of marketing activities to the delivery of personalised interactions that can be optimised in real-time.

For each Marketo customer organization, our platform stores and maintains an individual, secure and trusted database with information about each prospect and customer, including context and online and offline behaviours. It serves as the marketing system of record for all interactions between customers and prospects with an organization’s marketing, sales and transactional systems.

Our applications are known for their ease-of-use, and we have a thriving network of more than 320 third-party solutions and more than 50,000 marketers in our customer community who share and learn from each other to grow their collective marketing expertise. The result for modern marketers is unprecedented agility and superior results.

We’ve won all sorts of awards for our platform, management team and rate of growth, but our future plans remain firmly focused on helping our customers to put marketing first.

Sanjay is responsible for extending Marketo’s product leadership, developing business segments, and establishing a new solution ecosystem to increase the company’s reach. Sanjay joins Marketo from Crowd Factory, where as CEO, he was responsible for the strategic direction and vision of the company. Prior to Crowd Factory, Sanjay was CMO at Lithium Technologies, the leading provider of Social CRM solutions. While at Lithium, he helped achieve dramatic year-over-year growth as well as significantly increasing the company’s valuation.

Prior to joining Lithium, he served as SVP and general manager for SumTotal Systems, and was an advisor at McKinsey & Company and Andersen Consulting. Sanjay holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in strategy and marketing from the Kellogg School of Management.