We see every marketer as a leader inside her organization.
We believe the insights needed to demonstrate marketing’s value to the organization and to align the team with the customer should be within the reach of every marketer.
We built Cobomba for marketers who recognize that content is the future--both for inbound and outbound marketing--but are overwhelmed by the amount of manual effort required to maintain effective content strategy. Cobomba’s content strategy platform uses artificial intelligence to guide marketers to optimize the value of their current and future content.
But, before I get ahead of myself, Cobomba didn’t always know what it wanted to be when it grew up...
Getting close with customers
I met professor Joe Urbany around a conference table in downtown Sydney, Australia in 2010. It was about a month after I’d airlifted my wife and 4 kids from Ann Arbor, Michigan to the other side of the globe. After completing a graduate engineering degree, I was starting what became 4+ years as a senior research fellow in marketing studying and advising on how people make choices.
Professor Urbany, a marketing professor from Notre Dame, introduced me to his strategic growth framework built on the concept of a 3-circle Venn diagram. The principle behind the model is that growth comes by being different in ways that matter to customers.
Fast forward to July 2014, and I was sitting around another conference table with professor Urbany -- this time in South Bend, Indiana. I’d joined Vennli, a tech startup, and the brainchild of founders Urbany and Gary Gigot.
The Vennli team built a survey and data visualization engine to show companies exactly what customers value about them versus their competition.
It was an exciting time. I was knee deep working with 60+ companies during the rollout of our early adopter program. We knew we had unique data and a unique way to turn that data into valuable insights for our customers.
Now you have data, answer me “What’s next?”
Still, something was missing. After seeing the data, we expected our customers to run out of the virtual meeting with their hair on fire knowing exactly what changes they would make in their business to take advantage of the opportunities we’d uncovered.
One experience with a brand manager of lunch meat trying to break into Whole Foods highlighted the gap. You could feel the excitement as we reviewed his results over GoToMeeting. (Remember those days?)
“This data is amazing! I’m having so many ideas about what I want to explore. What’s next?”
What’s next? What’s next?!
You could have heard a pin drop on our side of the line. We’d finished our presentation and demo. But, our customer wanted more--needed more.
Learning how to help
Our hero, the lunch meat brand manager, was experienced, strategic, and smart. Why didn’t he run out of the room rallying the troops to make changes based on his new insight?
Marketing is hard. There are so many things to consider. It takes creativity and foresight--not simply looking up answers in the back of the book.
It’s easy to see the gaps with hindsight. We learned marketers need three things to be successful. They need:
- Real customer data
We had that. But the also need...
- Guidance on what to do with the data in the context of their business
- A platform for telling the story about what and why changes are needed in a way that connects with the rest of the organization
Vennli evolved from a software platform to a technology-enabled services company. Serving customers in this way allowed us to fill the gaps preventing success. By the end of 2017 we’d served more than 200 organizations including tech, medical devices, industrial manufacturing, financial services, higher ed, and nonprofits.
Our process wasn’t for everyone. Although we were speedy, it still took time. The invested time and expense made sense for some business questions but not all. That left marketers making many decisions without the support of customer data.
I was still haunted by the question, “What’s next?”
How could we help more marketers answer this question for their marketing activities?
Software that did more of what our people were doing would allow us to help more marketers in more cases. I had the itch.
With the help of the Notre Dame IDEA Center we interviewed more than 90 marketers and then surveyed over 100 more so we would deeply understand other marketers’ needs and the context around their decisions.
Our customer discovery confirmed that marketers faced a number of challenges:
- The buying process was changing (or had changed) across every industry
- Customers had higher expectations for personalized experiences with brands
- Marketing content was a requirement to lead the way for brands
- Marketers made most decisions around target audience, content topics, content formats, and content channels based on past experience, intuition, a/b testing, or costly and time consuming research
Our new Content Intelligence product would streamline a marketer’s content strategy workflow while providing data-backed recommendations on audience, topics, formats, and channels for marketing content. Halfway through 2018 we started building the new product alongside our traditional tech-enabled research offering.
Early in 2019 Alex Davis and Jason Stele joined, adding additional marketing and technical muscle to our product development. Progress was steady and early design partners were enthusiastic. I even made an appearance on Inside Indiana Business.
But by the time we finished 2019, Vennli showed the strain of a small business pursuing two business models that were growing further apart. It was time to make a bet on ourselves and on the marketers that were cheering us on.
In February 2020 I pitched the Vennli board on spinning out the content intelligence product as a new company. In March, the world went into lockdown. We went into fundraising. By May 1, Cobomba was born with the support of Vennli and a small yet mighty group of pre-seed investors. Alex, Jason, and I formed the founding team.
Content Value Optimization
Content strategy is the messy front end of the content marketing workflow--many decisions to be made and much ambiguity.
Cobomba compresses the lengthy road to content marketing glory into a shorter and more effective process--one that puts the marketer in control of the content and the narrative around marketing activities.
Marketers refine Cobomba’s recommendations to optimize current content and plan new content. We call this Content Value Optimization, which ensures content is
- Relevant: Content covers questions and topics meaningful to audience
- Discoverable: Audience encounters and takes notice of the content
- Valuable: Content performs, as measured by traffic and engagement
The result is an easy to maintain content calendar that is
- Tied to the business objective
- Relevant to target audience
- Likely to be discovered by target audience
- Measurably valuable to the target audience and the business
- Communicated in a way that demonstrates value and aligns the team around marketing activities
The gaping hole in Martech
Marketers invest more each year in software to automate and optimize their ability to reach customers. However, the Analytics, Marketing automation, CRM, and Customer experience platforms available today assume that you show up with a good marketing plan as an input to those systems.
Many marketers fail to consistently achieve their growth goals even when they have sophisticated tools for execution because they cobble together a variety of tools or use spreadsheets to make content planning decisions. In other words they face tremendous manual effort to organize their plans and ultimately make decisions based on gut or expensive testing or research cycles.
What we see that others don’t is a giant hole in the MarTech ecosystem for marketing strategy platforms that take advantage of the available customer data and apply this data to automating and improving marketers’ most consequential decisions around who they will target, what they will say, and how they will say it.
One marketer describes us as “pre-Hubspot.” That is an accurate characterization, but I believe it is bigger than that. I see a whole new category: Marketing Strategy platforms based on the principles of Content Value Optimization.
Building for what’s next
Cobomba is showing that data can unlock strategy, and access to data can level the playing field for marketers everywhere.
Stated another way, there is way too much data to consider manually, but there is no excuse to ignore that data with the help of Artificial Intelligence and Content Value Optimization.
We’ve started with your website content. You don’t have to enter any data to start because we automatically crawl your website, gather search results data, and integrate your Google Analytics reports.
You receive monthly website content recommendations without the SEO overhead, and you’ll track your performance over time with the Cobomba Crawler product. You create templated briefs and manage your content schedule with the Cobomba Calendar product.
We’ll continue to add data sources that will enable Content Value Optimization for many more inbound and outbound marketing channels. You should sign up now. It will only get better (and more expensive) as time goes on.
It’s easy to try Cobomba for yourself. We’re committed to showing you how Cobomba can help you with as little friction as possible. Of course, we love to talk content strategy with you or answer your questions about Cobomba. Still, we’ve built Cobomba for the product to lead the way.
The Cobomba Calendar is a fully self-service product. It is available for a free trial. The Cobomba Crawler is on its way to full self-service. In the meantime you can request a free content audit to see our recommendations in action for your content.
The new marketing leader
We live in a world with rapid democratization of data - starting first with our customers’ access to data about us.
Business leaders don’t hope for, they now expect decisions to be tied to data.
Marketers are accountable for moving the organization forward in a measurable way. This means marketers are responsible for a revenue number or qualified pipeline leading to revenue. This revenue responsibility is not only for first time buyers but extends to repeat and expansion customers.
It’s a great time to be a marketer. The spotlight is shining squarely on you, and you have the wherewithal and tools to be a star.
Marketers have always been the bridge between the customer and the company. A marketer’s role is to earn the trust of both the external (customer) and internal (leadership) audience. This traditionally has been a squishy proposition. It required a lot of words and a fair bit of hand waving. Marketing doesn’t have to be that way now.
At Cobomba we are committed to taking this journey with you to ever tighter alignment between marketers, their teams, and their customers. It is so rewarding to see marketers connecting with their customers and driving their businesses forward with confidence.
The result is an increasingly valuable relationship for you and your customer. It starts today by optimizing the value of your content for your target audience.