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Navigating Complexity

Cong Cao

Cong Cao is a Bay Area marketing leader with over 17 years of experience mostly in the tech industry. Cong graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in Economics. In her current role as the VP of Marketing at imgix, Cong is responsible for all marketing efforts across product marketing, demand generation, developer evangelism, and brand development.

To me, the marketing supply chain represents a complex network involving various teams, ideas, creative inputs, and distribution channels. In the realm of modern marketing, we have the advantage of amalgamating a diverse range of ideas, creative inputs, and distribution channels into a single campaign. Furthermore, we can tailor the marketing supply chain to craft exceptionally effective campaigns. For instance, I may collaborate with a writer specializing in data technology, partner with a designer known for their talent in creating visuals that resonate with data engineers, and disseminate the content through blogs and publications dedicated to data engineering. The nearly limitless possibilities within the marketing supply chain are indeed a superpower for marketers, empowering marketing teams to enhance their productivity, agility, and creativity.

It all begins with your marketing strategy and objectives. Depending on your industry, your unique value proposition, and your target audience, you should assemble the right blend of components. For instance, if you are promoting a front-end developer tool through a marketing event, it’s crucial to ensure that you educate developers in an informative, approachable, and creative manner. The event should feature a hands-on demonstration led by a developer marketing expert. There should be timely promotions and follow-ups with content and collateral that mirror the talk. And the event itself, from an experiential perspective, should be engaging, inclusive, and, if appropriate, even playful, resonating with the majority of front-end developers. That means having the right location, atmosphere, and swag. Bringing all these elements together demands a well-coordinated team that is completely aligned with the strategy, highly organized, and skilled in effective communication.

“The nearly limitless possibilities within the marketing supply chain are indeed a superpower for marketers, empowering marketing teams to enhance their productivity, agility, and creativity.”

Vendors play a crucial role in the marketing supply chain as they specialize in unique domains and functions that in-house teams often lack the resources to fully invest in. To ensure vendors align with our broader strategic goals, the in-house team should regard them as organic extensions. This alignment process starts in the vendor interview phase, where the in-house team must thoroughly assess the vendor’s suitability in terms of domain expertise, functional capabilities, and work style. During the project’s kick-off phase, the in-house team should prioritize transparency, sharing essential information regarding the campaign’s background, vision, and internal discussions. This enables the vendor to seamlessly adapt their execution to our core strategy. As the project advances, the in-house team should serve as supportive guides, available to answer critical questions, while avoiding micromanagement of the vendor’s activities.

The rapid proliferation of digital platforms and channels presents both opportunities and challenges. It’s unrealistic to expect one person or company to be a definitive expert on all digital platforms and channels. But does this mean you need a specialist for each platform such as Google Ads, SEO, social media, email marketing, and marketing operations? Striking the right balance between having a team of niche specialists and a few versatile ‘Swiss army knife’ experts depends on the size and capabilities of your in-house team.

For small in-house marketing teams, maintaining a large, disparate army of specialists or agencies can be counterproductive and time-consuming, demanding significant effort to manage each one individually. Coordinating between these specialists can also become a daunting task. Therefore, if you have a small in-house team, I recommend seeking a few ‘Swiss army knife’ partners capable of handling a cluster of similar platforms and channels, while also facilitating cross-channel coordination.