Leading a data-driven content marketing journey with Vitor Peçanha

No matter how significantly the digital space has evolved over the past 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 globally recognized leader in content marketing.

In 2013, Peçanha built the first tables for the startup from the old doors of a country house belonging to the father of his co-founder.

At these tables, decisions big (and small) were made that made Rock Content what it is today. And the Chief Marketer sat at the center of every decision-making process, driving growth and purpose with creativity and analytics.

Today, his role as CMO is more dynamic and influential than ever.

What does it take for today’s CMOs to become the influential leaders who lead their organizations to success?

Peçanha has a few views to share.

Share and reach a common goal

What was your vision when you took on your role as CMO?

Vitor Peçanha: “As the founder of a marketing startup, I initially only had an idea and a plan to implement it.

We founded Rock Content because we believe there is a better way to do marketing, using content to attract and engage your audience and generate business.

When we 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 by first launching it in Brazil.”

How do you ensure that your marketing goals are aligned with the overall organization?

Vice President: “At Rock Content we have a structured management model.

Every six months, the leadership team reviews the company’s goals – such as revenue, net sales 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) starting at the top and ending at the individual employee where all the steps are connected.

One of the implications is that many of the departmental goals are usually pretty close to sales and sometimes even shared with the sales team.

For example, my individual goal is the company’s sales target, not a marketing-specific metric.”

Investing in people and education

How has your philosophy on building and managing a team changed over time?

Vice President: “I’ve learned a few things over the past 10 years, but I think the most important thing is that a great team member who delivers consistent quality and goes the ‘extra mile’ is worth 10x someone who just does, what he is told, even if it is right.

That courage that some people have makes a huge difference, and now I focus on those soft skills more than anything else when hiring.

In a higher position, experience naturally plays a major role, but I prefer to train passionate young people than to deal with an adequate senior.”

A 2022 Gartner survey identified a lack of internal resources as the biggest gap in executing content strategies. Faced with this challenge, how do you attract and retain top marketing talent?

Vice President: “We have built a huge brand in digital marketing over the last 10 years. We are recognized as innovators and trendsetters in the industry, especially in Brazil, so we have no attraction problem when it comes to talent marketing.

One of our “hacks” is also our Rock University learning center, which has already passed the 500,000 student mark because we are basically educating the market for our needs.

Retaining employees is a different game because we need to keep them engaged and enthusiastic about the company, so we invest heavily in training and other initiatives.

I prefer smaller teams so that each member has more responsibility and recognition. Because we outsource our content creation to our own freelance network, it’s easier to have a scalable team.”

Leading a data-first culture

What kind of content marketing metrics do you focus on and how do you determine if you have the right strategy?

Vice President: “My team’s most important metric today is Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), so I need to generate not just volume but quality prospects for the sales team.

It’s easy to tell if we’re doing well or not using this metric, and we’re constantly monitoring the SQL sources based on how much pipeline each source is generating.

So if, for example, a sponsorship generates 1 million in the pipeline and costs me 100,000, I increase the investment there.”

They say the CMO’s role is largely driven by analysis, not gut decisions. Do you agree? How do you use data in your daily work?

Vice President: “I agree, and most of my decisions are based on data.

I constantly review how many SQLs my team has generated, the cost per dollar generated in the pipeline, and channel and campaign performance. But data alone is not enough to make informed decisions, and this is where gut feeling and experience come into play.

A CMO needs to look at data and see a story, understand it and write the next chapter.

Of course, not every initiative is heavily data-driven. It’s still important to do things that aren’t directly measurable, like brand awareness campaigns, but these represent a small part of my investment and time.”

What skills do CMOs need that aren’t getting enough attention?

Vice President: “Being able to write and tell a great story both internally and externally is one of the greatest skills a CMO needs to have and doesn’t get enough attention in a world that’s data-centric.

Of course, data is essential, but if you can’t turn it into a strategy that not only drives results but also inspires people, you’re going to 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?

Vice President: “A great content marketer can create content that seems simple and easy to write, but there is always strategy behind it, lots of research and skills that are invisible to the end user, and that’s the way it should be.”

What do you think the future of content marketing looks like? The role of AI in content strategy?

Vice President: “If all goes well, the term content marketing will no longer be used in the foreseeable future.

Content strategies are becoming so integrated into the marketing department that it no longer makes sense to call it content marketing, just like we don’t call it Web 2.0 anymore.

Good CMOs and marketers will understand that the customer is following a journey where everything is content (even PPC, offline media, etc.) and there is no point in treating them separately.”

Watch this SEJShow episode with Loren Baker where Peçanha talks more about what’s ahead in content marketing.

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Featured Image: Courtesy of Vitor Peçanha

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