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Diary of a first-time CMO - Building a media machine

Hey B2B marketers

Here it is. Four years, $50m+ ARR and 200 pages later… My journey as a first-time CMO.

Covering the key learnings I've gathered in four years of leadership. This diary reveals the lessons that helped me scale Cognism from $3m to $50m ARR, build a team from 3 to 39, and transform our set-up from a classic lead gen function to a demand gen engine.

It’s my handbook for B2B marketers looking to thrive in leadership.

(especially if you’re as daunted as I was when I started out!)

Diary of a first-time CMO by Alice De Courcy
By: Alice de Courcy
1 minute read

Building a media machine

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I love getting the whole team together to do some brainstorming; we come up with such great ideas when we have everyone bouncing off one another.

This was an H2 planning workshop where we made some choices for how we were going to work moving forwards.

One decision was to give our writers more creative freedom.

This was all a part of the switch away from traditional lead generation and moving to a demand generation-first approach for our marketing.

You might wonder how these two things are related; the content writers aren’t in the DG pods.

But what you have to remember is that the change from lead gen to demand gen doesn’t just impact the DG team. It impacts all parts of the B2B marketing function.

I knew that if we were to be successful in the switch, we needed to be creating game-changingly good content in an already crowded space.

This is really difficult to do if you are planning out a content calendar months in advance.

You end up tied to titles and topics that have been assigned to you because months before, someone decided they’d be a good fit.

I wanted to turn it all on its head and create our own process.

If our content writers were able to be reactive to the trends and topics then we could take advantage of subjects getting traction in dark social. In other words, be talking about things our audience cares about, while they’re still relevant.

The BBC or Reuters don’t plan what they write months in advance. My hypothesis was that if we applied the same logic to B2B, our sales and marketing content could truly resonate and stand out.

If we wanted to be a true media machine and THE place where these professionals come to get their content insights, then we needed to act like journalists. So it was time to wave goodbye to the content calendar.

As someone who loves the output, I was worried about ensuring that we still stay efficient from a content production standpoint.

Here you can look to set a ‘story’ number target and KPIs around traffic value or visitor growth that will hold the team accountable without the requirement for a content calendar.

One problem we have faced in the past is content distribution, so it’s an area we have done a fair amount of experimentation in.

In the early days of our switch from lead gen to demand gen, we had split out a content distributor as its own dedicated role sitting in the content team.

This got us some of the way there as it ensured that distribution had a focus, which helped in shifting the mindset.

But we found there was a big disconnect from the activities occurring in the demand generation team and that was an issue.

So we came up with an idea. To have dedicated DG Content Execs sitting in each of our DG pods.

It’s important to note here that these content execs aren’t just there to write blogs. They are content producers in all possible formats of content.

By sitting them in the demand gen pods, the distribution takes care of itself, as it is actioned via the DG activities and tactics.

So far this has been our unlock for building content distribution that can scale across channels and formats.

We have seen a huge growth in our traffic numbers to our blog, the time spent on these blogs and ultimately the number of high-intent demand demo requests that they drive.

We’ve also seen positive results such as:

  • High engagement within our always-on-paid social campaigns. 
  • Positive comments and shares of this content in dark social. 

I fully believe this has been the key to building out a media machine of truly valuable content for our target audience. And that content can cut through the noise of a saturated market and ultimately plays a critical role in the whole demand generation strategy.

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