No matter how the digital space has evolved substantially over the last decade, one thing remains the same – a chief marketing officer wears different hats.
Case in point: Vitor Peçanha, co-founder and CMO at Rock Content, a world-renowned leader in content marketing.
Using old doors from a country house of his co-founder’s father, Peçanha built the first tables for the startup in 2013.
Big (and small) decisions that shaped Rock Content into what it is today were made around those tables. And the chief marketer sat at the heart of every decision-making process, driving growth and purpose with creativity and analytics.
Today, his role as a CMO has never been more dynamic and influential.
What does it take for modern-day CMOs to become high-impact leaders that drive their organizations to success?
Peçanha has a few views to share.
Sharing And Achieving A Common Goal
What was your vision when you started your role as a CMO?
Vitor Peçanha: “As the founder of a marketing startup, all I had at the beginning was an idea and a plan to execute it.
We founded Rock Content because we believe that there’s a better way to do marketing by using content to attract and delight your audience and generate business.
When we first started in 2013, content marketing wasn’t very well known in the country, and our vision was to become the largest content marketing company in the world, starting by introducing it to Brazil.”
How do you make sure your marketing goals are aligned with the overall organization?
VP: “At Rock Content, we have a structured management model in place.
Every six months, the executive team reviews the company’s goals – like revenue, net revenue retention (NRR), etc. – to create the overall business plan for the company.
Then, we have a model of cascading responsibilities and key performance indicators (KPIs) that start at the top and end at the individual contributor, where all the steps are connected to each other.
One of the consequences is that many of the department goals are usually pretty close to revenue, sometimes even shared with the sales team.
My individual goal, for example, is the company’s revenue goal, not a marketing-specific metric.”
Investing In People And Training
How has your philosophy on building and managing a team changed over time?
VP: “I learned a few things over the last 10 years, but I believe the most important one is that a great team member who delivers consistent quality and goes the “extra mile” is worth 10x someone who just does what he’s told, even if correctly.
This grit that some people have makes a whole difference, and now I focus my hiring on this soft skill more than anything.
Of course, if it’s a more senior position, the experience will play a big role, but I prefer to train a passionate junior employee than deal with an adequate senior one.”
In a 2022 Gartner survey, the lack of in-house resources stood out as the biggest gap in executing content strategies. Facing this challenge, how do you attract and retain top marketing talent?
VP: “We built a huge brand in the digital marketing space over the last 10 years. We are seen as innovators and trendsetters in the space, especially in Brazil, so we don’t have an attraction problem when it comes to marketing talent.
Also, one of our “hacks” is our learning center, Rock University, which has already crossed the 500,000-student mark because we are basically educating the market for our needs.
Retention is a different game because we need to keep them engaged and excited with the company, so we invest a lot in training and other initiatives.
I prefer to have smaller teams, so each member has more responsibility and recognition. Since we outsource our content creation to our own freelance network, it’s easier to have a scalable team.”
Leading In A Data-First Culture
What kind of content marketing metrics do you focus on, and how do you determine whether you have the right strategy in place?
VP: “The main metric of my team today is Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), so I need to generate not only volume but high-quality prospects for the sales team.
It’s easy to know if we are performing well or not with this metric, and we are constantly monitoring the SQL sources based on how much pipeline each source generates.
So, for example, if a sponsorship generates 1 million in the pipeline and costs me 100,000, I increase the investment there.”
They say the CMO role is largely driven by analytics rather than gut decisions. Do you agree? How do you use data in your daily work?
VP: “I agree, and most of my decisions are based on data.
I’m constantly checking how many SQLs my team generated, the cost per dollar generated in the pipeline, and channel and campaign performance. But data alone isn’t enough to make thoughtful decisions, and that’s where gut feelings and experience come in.
A CMO needs to look at data and see a story, understand it, and write its next chapter.
Of course, not every initiative is heavily based on data. It’s still important to do things that aren’t directly measurable, like brand awareness campaigns, but these represent a small portion of my investment and time.”
What are the skills that CMOs need which don’t get enough attention?
VP: “Being able to craft and tell a great story, both internally and externally, is one of the greatest skills a CMO must have, and it doesn’t get enough attention in a world focused on data.
Data is essential, of course, but if you can’t turn that into a strategy that not only brings results but also excites people, you’ll have a hard time being a great CMO and leader.”
If you had to sum up the value of a content marketer, what would it be?
VP: “A great content marketer can create pieces of content that seem simple and easy to write, but behind them, there’s always a strategy, a lot of research, and skills that are invisible to the end user, and that’s how it should be.”
What do you think the future of content marketing will be? The role of AI in content strategy?
VP: “If everything goes well, the term content marketing will no longer be used in the near future.
Content strategies will be so integrated within the marketing department that it won’t make sense to call it content marketing, the same way we don’t say Web 2.0 anymore.
Good CMOs and marketers will understand that the customer follows a journey where everything is content (even PPC, offline media, etc.), and it doesn’t make sense to treat them separately.”
Check out this SEJShow episode with Loren Baker, where Peçanha talks more about what lies ahead in content marketing.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Vitor Peçanha