Mirko Holzer is the CEO of BrandMaker, a leading provider of marketing resource management software.
A passionate entrepreneur and one of the most successful software managers in Germany, Mirko has been the strategic head and the driving force behind the success story of BrandMaker since 2008, which he co-founded along with Sven A. Schäfer.
Born in Karlsruhe, Mirko recognised the digitalisation trend in marketing at an early stage and dared to start his own business while studying computer science. It was during his computer science studies at the University of Karlsruhe, Mirko took his first entrepreneurial steps in an absolute field of innovation at the beginning of 2000: the development of individual software in digital asset management, web-to-publish and marketing resource management, which later became the central applications of the BrandMaker MRM platform.
In an exclusive interview with MarTech Vibe, Mirko speaks at length about marketing resource management, AI, data management, marketing strategies, and how CMOs worldwide can get into the driving seat for a company’s growth. Excerpts from the email interaction:
In your career spanning two decades, what are the most impactful changes you have seen in the marketing technology industry?
It was, undoubtedly, the explosion of channels, formats, codes and others through digitalisation, which companies today have to support and serve, and the associated explosion of marketing technologies and solutions. In addition to the challenge of making the right choice, digitalisation has also changed the demands placed on marketing. The increasingly data-based and individual customer approach as well as a consistently designed positive customer experience today extend far beyond the area of marketing and require interaction with a wide variety of corporate departments such as sales, production, finance, logistics and support.
The increasing complexity of the marketing process, global orientation, and the necessity to demonstrate the valuable contribution of marketing to the success of a company forced many marketing departments to work efficiently, saving resource. This is now only possible with system support. Today, a marketer uses an average of 90 different tools along his marketing strategy to operationalise, analyse and continuously optimise marketing throughout the entire customer lifecycle. However, a marketing technology stack only unfolds its full potential if the individual tools in the stack interact with each other and support automated processes based on artificial intelligence (AI).
What are the key challenges marketers face today?
A few years ago, the biggest challenge for CMOs was to create an optimal and seamless customer experience across all channels. But now, the priority is to turn marketing into a growth driver. How can marketing contribute to sales, and what value can marketing add to corporate success? Questions such as these require transparency, targeted control, volume control with simultaneous agility, timely control, and efficiency, which can only be mastered with the help of technology.
What is a Marketing Resource Management System?
Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) or Marketing Resource Management (MRM) systems are technology solutions that take a holistic approach to planning, managing, and controlling marketing budgets, campaigns and activities. They enable agile 360-degree marketing from strategic planning to the creation of the respective contents and assets as well as the regional rollout to the ongoing control and optimisation of measures. Marketing departments must be able to react to external influences and relevant changes at any time during the development and implementation of marketing activities. Efficient cooperation of all parties involved as well as the real-time view on marketing projects and their budgets is also of enormous importance. Holistic MRM solutions support the consistent alignment of day-to-day business with the overall marketing strategy and thus prevent the waste of resources for manual and administrative activities. In this way, marketing becomes the powerhouse of companies.
How can a CMO convince the board to invest in Marketing Resource Management system?
Above all, MRM systems deliver complete transparency about the performance of marketing. One of the biggest effects that marketing technologies such as MRM solutions have today is that the whole area of marketing becomes more apparent to the rest of the organisation – how it works and how marketing adds value to the overall success of the business. Those who see marketing as a black box make it easy for the management to cut the costs. Marketing departments, on the other hand, which can show the performance at any time, give the management or stakeholders a good feeling with regards to the use of the budget made available to them. More transparency about performance and success usually results in more budget. Ultimately, this helps marketing to gain a recognised place in the company, and CMOs can get into the driver’s seat.
Do you think MRM could empower brands in the Middle East? Whom would you like to help with your solutions?
Of course, MRM can help companies in countries in the Middle East to make their marketing even more efficient and successful. Just think of the many companies in sectors such as trade, logistics, tourism, financial services and others that operate internationally and address customers worldwide. Their marketing power is decisive for their position and success in global competition.
How can brands engage both sales and marketing channels to increase ROI?
This is precisely one of the critical applications of MRM systems! We support sales by providing marketing materials such as product information sheets, white papers, or brochures on a central platform. Sales teams and employees worldwide can thus adapt campaigns and sales measures locally and share them quickly and professionally with customers via trackable links, as well as generate detailed engagement statistics on content interaction. The information obtained can then be used automatically for further personalised marketing activities, and prospects can be transformed into sales-ready leads.
Content marketing has become an integral part of marketing strategies. How can marketers create content that is not only relevant but enhances revenue?
This is primarily a question of how to use data such as the engagement statistics mentioned above or other content- and transaction-related CRM data intelligently. Artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) can provide significant support here. In campaign planning, for example, self-learning algorithms based on the knowledge of which contents work particularly well for which target groups in which countries and channels (e.g. clicked or downloaded, leading to a request for proposal and so on) can independently optimise corresponding performance benchmarks in subsequent campaigns. On this basis, the creation of the corresponding marketing material can then proceed automatically.
So how can marketers leverage the powers of AI for content marketing?
There are many possibilities – from the AI-based forecast of next relevant content in the customer journey for a successful conversion of a prospect to a buyer to the use of ML for managing digital content (Digital Asset Management (DAM)). We recently invested in artificial intelligence in the area of image recognition to reduce the amount of work involved in uploading and managing content in the media pool and saving costs associated with, for example, the unnecessary restoration of content due to poor traceability. When an image is uploaded, the system recognises the elements within the image, such as colour or shape of the product, relevant data about the product environment, people depicted, time of year and, the image mood. The software suggests keywords for automatic description so that these do not have to be entered by the user. Based on the target languages set in the system, the AI also translates the keywords into the language of all relevant markets. When marketers search for media files, the system not only suggests relevant content based on these keywords but also considers similar images. In this way, it is easier to share content across the entire company and with agencies for advertising campaigns, for example, and to improve the quality of results while saving time and money.
Visual content, especially videos, are really big in the Middle East. How can brands use video to reach the target audience?
Video marketing is an extremely effective form of brand communication but faces several challenges. Above all, video spots must be authentic, informative, and entertaining at the same time. Content and its added value for users play a decisive role at that point. Then it turns out that the choice of media and channels has a considerable influence on which target groups can be reached with video content. Moreover, the classic TV spot is losing more and more of its impact.
On the one hand, this has to do with the changed media usage behaviour of younger target groups in particular and their increased consumption of video on demand instead of classic TV. On the other hand, second and third screens such as tablets and mobiles are increasingly competing for the attention of users. Social media channels such as Youtube or Instagram and dedicated video websites ensure the distribution of videos and are now an indispensable part of our everyday lives. In general, if video marketing is to be successful, country and culture-specific communication patterns must be taken into account when addressing target groups.
How do you define an experience-led business? Do you think customer experience has received its due?
The business success of companies has always been closely linked to the individual experience of consumers with the products and services of a brand at the most diverse touchpoints. In this respect, the concept of experience-led business is not new. What’s new, however, is that consumer expectations of high-quality customer experience have changed significantly with digitalisation – and will continue to do so. Requirements such as high-grade personalisation, real-time dialogue, multi-channel availability and others are a matter of course for today’s digitally-conditioned consumers. This has led to the topic now being given strategic importance. Companies have recognised this critical success factor and are giving it the importance it deserves. However, many still find it challenging to take the right measures to make the necessary changes. This also, and especially, applies to the use of technology to cope with the increasing complexity and dynamics in marketing.
According to you, what disruptors will make an impact in the MarTech space this year?
I would rather talk about relevant developments in marketing technology instead of disruption. Here I see AI, or more precisely, ML, as one of the drivers. In the future, the ability to generate success-relevant individual customer knowledge from vast amounts of data in real-time and directly convert it into corresponding marketing measures will only be possible with the support of self-learning systems. Especially in the area of content or campaign and budget management, intelligent predictions for resource and time planning or the detection of budget anomalies open up numerous possibilities for making processes faster and more efficient.
One key advice you would like to give to CMOs and CEOs.
Marketing departments are running at the limit. Instead of enabling growth, marketing today is often the bottleneck in companies. That doesn’t have to be the case. Marketing can be scaled to become a growth driver for companies. To achieve this, marketing must be freed from its isolation. Marketing technology can make a significant contribution to better networking marketing within the company and to making the performance and value contribution of CMOs and their teams more visible. This allows better strategic decisions to be made and the company’s success to be developed positively in the long term.