Content conversation with Tara Moody - Marketing Experience & Engagement Leader, IBM

by GCN Editor
We had the opportunity to chat with Tara Moody, Marketing Experience & Engagement Leader at IBM* (former Content Editor in Chief, IBM Asia Pacific), to discuss current content marketing trends & opportunities. Here are some highlights from our discussion -

Q. What are your key learnings as a Content Leader from the last 12 months? 

TM: I believe the last two years have accelerated the need for strategic, valuable content marketing. The impact we can have now is greater than ever before, if we are out there serving our target audience and delivering real value consistently and authentically. 

Live events were cancelled and moved online. Sales teams had to reach clients without face to face meetings. Marketing was under pressure to deliver leads without live events. 

And so clients were inundated with virtual events, digital sales and marketing – all while they wrestled with the dynamics of working from home! As Content Marketing Institute put it in their annual report, “The sleeping giant (that is content marketing) awakes.” 

Of course the companies who had already invested in great content marketing had the upper hand, because they already had a trusted relationship to build upon. You’re much more likely to attend the one event or open the one email or take the one call from the company that always delivers you the right information at the right time, especially when you have 100s of competing invitations.

So now we as marketers have to step up and get better. Deliver more value. Deliver that value when your client wants it, where they want it, and how they want it. Connect with stories with empathy and emotion. Experiment and test all the new and old formats to find the right mix, and continue to optimize every day with data and even artificial intelligence. Live events and face to face will return, but we can deliver the hybrid experiences that our clients value. Great content marketing has a key role in that hybrid experience.

Q. What major changes have you witnessed in terms of brands/organizations spending their energy on Content Marketing?

TM: I want to believe that companies are seeing the value of real content marketing versus just spraying their target audience with a variety of one-off content pieces. You do see some incredible content out there, and big companies being inspired by content masters from entrepreneurs to Netflix.

The research shows that companies do want to invest more in content marketing - StudioID reported 67% in a study of 100,000 say they will increase content marketing budgets. CMI reported 66%. 

My hope is that the content marketing professionals that get behind those budgets can move their organizations towards strategic content marketing, the kind that adds unprecedented value to the target audience rather than just more noise. If we can keep looking at the data around what really works, I believe it will support this shift and make it easier for content marketers to stand by their data-driven strategies.

Q. How has the consumer behaviour changed - Can you share some perspective on your target audience? 

TM: Much has already been written about the challenges of the past 2 years, and how it changed the rules for marketing. Even before the pandemic, B2B buying teams were conducting online research well before talking to a sales person. In their 2022 B2B Software Marketing Trends, Gartner validated that marketing's role is becoming more critical to the success of B2B companies. 

To me, this speaks to the critical role that content marketing and digital marketing now must play. There's new pressure, and opportunity, to break through. If your target audience doesn't know you, if they can't find you, if they can't see how much value you deliver when they are trying to solve a problem - then you're really going to struggle to sell a solution. 

In an ideal content marketing scenario, they know you as the go-to expert and so they come to you first. And you've established this relationship over time with great content marketing. You've helped them with content that combines the art of storytelling to connect with the science of data to listen and optimize.

Meanwhile Edelman has been tracking the trust gap for years and how it has led to individuals expecting more from companies - the brands they buy as well as the companies they work for. This has an impact on revenue as they say 60% of consumers will buy based on values.

I believe companies that authentically align their values and play a bigger role in issues such as climate change, economic inequality, workforce re-skilling and racial injustice will benefit. I'm proud to work for a company like IBM, where we stand by our values, have programs around these issues and invite clients and partners to create solutions with us that make the world work better.

Q. What do you see will be top 3 trends in Content Marketing discipline for the year 2022? 

TM: On top of more spend in content marketing and that expertise being used throughout the marketing function, I'll say:

1. Data analytics maturity: Using data to do a much better job at optimizing things like messaging, relevancy, format to engage across platforms.
2. Brands turning individuals into content creators and ambassadors: Employees, clients, partners, influencers. I've been lucky to work with Andrea Edwards on this area!
3. More mutually beneficial partnerships: Partnerships, such as with media, that lead with empathy and focus on co-creating solutions to societal issues. I think this will help break through while there is virtual event overload. 

Q. Given IBM targets B2B audience, how do see communication becoming more Human or Empathetic?

TM: You need to breakthrough to even have a chance at solving a client's problem. You need to connect. Here's where that art and science must come together, as mentioned above. It's getting harder to breakthrough. So yes, I see B2B becoming more human and, to do that well, more empathetic. I believe people connect with people, which to me means being human is a must. And to connect with someone, I believe you have to walk a mile in their shoes. You must have empathy for their world and their struggles. All the data, the tools and the proof points in the world can help you deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience. But first, you must break through. A human story told with empathy helps.

Q. Do you think large organisations are culturally ready for this new focus on Content? 

TM: I’m not sure it will be a choice for much longer. The buying journey has changed so much that I think great content marketing offers a big advantage to those who embrace it. Sometimes it comes down to how you explain the change internally, so it doesn't feel like a bunch of marketing jargon. Everyone understands what it is to have a problem and go online and search for answers, sign up to follow an expert on a topic, read the email from the one expert they know will deliver value. I believe if the leaders in your company can relate their own experience to the way your clients are purchasing, they will prioritize how your company shows up online.  

Q. Content Marketing efforts are difficult to measure for a majority of marketers, What do you advise them? 

TM: Keep measuring, testing, optimizing! It isn't perfect, but we can see a lot in the analytics. Look for trends and patterns, and make the best decisions with the data you do have. We need attention to data to be taken seriously as a discipline. I think successful content marketers will have this solid grounding in the science as well as the art of connection.

Q. Your most important advice to Marketing Managers for this year?

TM: Study content marketing and share what's working for you with the marketing community! Look outside your own company and industry for great work and inspiration! Content marketing can help you with any specialty you are already within - especially hot areas like account based marketing, product marketing, event marketing, digital experience, etc. Specializing is great but in many companies across APAC, our marketers wear many hats. Great content marketing strategy can make all the other things you're trying to achieve easier. 

*Please note that my answers on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.