Cisco’s Jenny Hooks answers 10 questions on omnichannel marketing, content strategy and cross-channel experience

In the first of OmnichannelX’s series of speaker spotlights, we’ve asked 10 questions of Cisco System‘s Omnichannel Digital Marketing Strategist, Jennifer Hooks. Cisco is a global leader in omnichannel content strategy for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business content marketing, so we take things Jennifer says very seriously!

Jennifer heads up a global team who seeks to keep up a consistent and aligned presence on a variety of channels that drives audience value during the sometimes long and complex sales cycle of their products.

This post covers topics like

  • the relationships between omnichannel and customer experience when crafting your business case, strategy, and processes
  • the impact of omnichannel content strategy on collaboration and teams
  • recommended learning resources from someone who has lived through a full-scale omnichannel content strategy implementation, and
  • much more.

What is omnichannel? Your personal definition…

A seamless, data-driven, personalized experience that allows customers to engage with a brand how, when, and where they want, regardless of channel (live experiences too!) and device.

Do you feel it’s becoming urgent for brands to consider content strategy in the context of omnichannel experience?

I heard someone from Google say, “you’re competing with the best experience your customer has ever had” and I feel like that’s 100% true.

The way our buyers engage, educate themselves, and purchase continues to evolve. Their expectations are changing as well – that brands anticipate their needs and make it as easy as possible for the customer to find what they’re looking for and do what they’re trying to do. And these expectations don’t apply to a single channel or a single part of the buying process. It’s expected at every engagement, every step of the way.

Where does an omnichannel content initiative usually start?

Ours started in Marketing, with our Chief Marketing Officer’s vision to build a customer-centric organization that delivers value to the customer, and revenue to the business. Omnichannel experience is how we deliver on that vision – by creating compelling, personalized, data-driven experience that meets the customer exactly where they’re at with exactly what they need.

We’ve gained a tremendous amount of momentum, and are now seeing stronger partnerships with our sales and services organizations to help expand past just marketing-led initiatives.

What tends to motivate an organisation to go omnichannel?

For us, it’s the laser focus on improving our customer experience. We are a large organization with a very broad sales portfolio. Taking a data-driven approach that’s orchestrated across all channels helps us focus the conversations we’re having with customers and ensure we’re giving them what they need vs. marketing to them in uncoordinated silos.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge holding back organisations from delivering excellent omnichannel experiences?

One of our biggest challenges has been finding and building the right talent.  Omnichannel marketing requires a different mindset and skillset than traditional single-channel marketing, and since it’s still a growing practice, we’ve had to spend a lot of time re-skilling our marketers in addition to bringing in external talent from other industries.

What skill-set or skill-sets do you recommend those trying to drive omnichannel strategies should develop?

Data and MarTech savvy is a must. Successful omnichannel marketing requires real-time data exchanges across all activation platforms.

The ability to understand what data is available, what data actually matters in the experience design, and how that data passes from one channel to the next to drive the overarching experience.

Also, the ability to be empathetic to the customer – digging in and looking at their experience as a whole, identifying ideal-state, then bringing in single-channel experts to help deliver against the end-to-end vision.

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How do you reconcile omnichannel’s cross-silo, cross-channel nature with the usual funding and resourcing model of an enterprise?

We developed a holistic engagement metrics that combines KPIs across channels. It enables us to still optimize based off of single-channel KPIs, but gives everyone an overarching view into the overall experience and the performance of combined channels.

Top down or bottom up? How should you move forward?

Different approaches will work with different organizations, but leadership has to be aligned. Ideally, you have buy-in and focus at all levels of the organization because omnichannel marketing really does impact every single role.

How should you move towards omnichannel? Big bang or incremental change?

Literally, every role in marketing has to adapt and evolve to make an omnichannel approach successful.  In my opinion, it’s less disruptive to the current state and current results to take an incremental approach.

Start by prioritizing channels – based off of engagement, investment, etc. and connect the ones that make the most sense.  Another simple step is to align on customer messaging and start to govern the customer experience.  Customer’s don’t care whether what they’re seeing is orchestrated by sophisticated technology, they care about relevancy and consistency in message.  You can make huge strides in this direction simply by implementing stronger governance around what the customer sees.

Another small step we made was to start planning our budgets based on customer personas instead of by product-line.  This forced conversations and visibility around all marketing activities touching the customer and exposed a considerable amount of opportunity to align and integrate those activities.

What books do you recommend to learn more?


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About Jenny Hooks, Cisco

Jenny leads the US Digital Marketing team whose mission is to engage Cisco’s diverse range of customers with data-driven, personalized, omnichannel experiences.

In the upcoming Omnichannel Conference, Jenny will be presenting B2B Omnichannel: A Look at Cisco’s Marketing Evolution looking at content marketing and strategy from a global perspective with her European counterpart Lucas Betés.