How these Top Martech Leaders are Coping with COVID-19 Disruptions

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Helpful insights and observations from these top Martech leaders should inspire us in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

COVID-19 has made a dramatic impact on the way marketers interact and engage with their customers today. Brands around the world understand that customers are more sensitive and mindful of the current circumstances that have emerged from the ongoing global pandemic crisis. For those who have stayed away from truly connecting with their customers, they would still believe that an effective brand management strategy during a global crisis as bad as COVID-19 pandemic revolves around Marketing, Customer Experience and Services. But,  for a proactive martech leader, all these are just a pedestal to build familiarity with customers, not sustain a private relationship during unforeseen circumstances.

Who’s a proactive Martech Leader?

A proactive Martech leader is a technologically advanced marketing and sales leader who responds to not just marketing and revenue generation challenges, but also tactically enables company’s HR, Corporate Communications and Finance with realistic “optimism”, cost-saving ideas, and benchmark remote workplace management. A proactive CMO would focus not only on the customers and audiences, but also on employees and team members from cross-functional departments.

In a recent partnership news, Mike Ammerlaan, Director of Microsoft 365 Ecosystem marketing at Microsoft said, “More organizations recognize that employees throughout the business contribute to outstanding customer experiences – not just those in the contact center.”

Olivier Jouve, executive vice president and general manager, Genesys Cloud added how Genesys-Microsoft Teams integration is an important step forward in helping customers deliver the promise of “Experience as a Service.” This experience for customers and end users depend on how well CMOs equip their team members and employees with “the right tools to collaborate with colleagues across the enterprise while benefitting from features like advanced routing, call recording and interaction analytics to deliver consistent service.”

According to Gartner, a proactive CMO is someone who does these 4 activities, set up like a perennial task:

Scenario Planning: Evaluating “best” case or business as usual scenarios with the worst-case scenarios.

Sentiment Analytics: Listening to “Voice of Customer”, email monitoring and balanced response.

Digital Transformation: Manage Operational impacts of COVID-19 situation with a grounded approach to ramp up digital delivery, address customer service volumes, and drive efficiency with an optimized marketing budget.

Amplify Content-driven Marketing plans: Organize podcasts, webinars, chats and video interviews to build a competent and compelling experience-driven content that can be distributed across various media and marketing channels.

I would add a fifth dimension to the COVID-19 marketing plan– Media Partnerships. These 4 activities together with media planning and partnerships are habitually performed and championed by the top CMOs.

Here are the top technology leaders who are leading the way with their innovative COVID-19 ideas and tactics.

Chris Kozup, CMO at Aruba Networks (a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company)

“During a global pandemic, Marketing can play a leadership role in helping the sales process transform into a digital engagement model. While this approach has certainly existed in the B2C market, most B2B sellers – especially those in IT – are very accustomed to face-to-face interaction with customers.”

“Within Aruba, my focus is on setting a clear strategy and direction to ensure that every team member understands what the priorities are and how they support them. It’s also been very important to invest in the human touch with the entire employee base at a time where people can’t be physically together.”

Read his full interview here.

Jaron Waldman, CEO at Rakuten Ready

“Building technology that is first and foremost for consumer advantage (vs. those that ping mobile devices constantly to collect more data) is a guiding light for us. Our focus on seamlessly timed customer experiences is what also enables us to power safer contactless handoffs – especially important during times like these.”

Tami Erwin, EVP and Group CEO at Verizon

“The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed businesses of all sizes to rethink the way they operate. This global health crisis has turned business norms on their head and permanently changed the way people think about the future of work. Now companies are taking a hard look at their ways of working and what the ‘new normal’ will mean for them and their workforce…

… For businesses, the shift to remote and virtual due to COVID-19 means we’ve seen faster digitization of data and more data created in many more places (from a distributed workforce, assets, and facilities).”

Tricia Gellman, CMO at Drift

“To start, remote working is no longer a benefit, luxury or convenience… The successful marketers of the future are going to be the ones who are able to balance both the creative and empathetic emotional side of marketing with the more scientific, analytical side.”

“It’s obviously not business as usual right now. But we’re still focused on helping our Sales team generate leads and pipeline; we just need to lead with empathy, evaluate all messages to ensure they are not tone deaf and generally be even more creative than usual.”

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Shawna Wolverton, EVP at Zendesk

“Throughout all of these unprecedented changes, customer service has remained the first touchpoint with agents being the unsung heroes keeping businesses going. Despite a rapid influx of tickets on a global scale, agents have quickly adapted and remained focused on being there for customers during an extremely challenging time. We see agents doing incredible work and are committed to delivering the reliability, scalability and flexibility that they need to get their job done.”

William Tyree, CMO at ringDNA

“Don’t change what works just because you’re remote. In fact, double-down on what works. For example, we have onboarded several employees in Marketing during the COVID-19 era, and we use the same role-specific onboarding document containing product education milestones, company cultural education milestones and project deliverables they need to achieve.”

To read William Tyree’s interview, click here.

In another Genesys partnership news, Tim Myers, Vice President Strategic Alliances at Pointillist said,

“Today’s enterprise contact centers require robust visibility into cross-channel customer behavior. With Genesys, we are offreing even greater ability to visualize high-priority customer journeys, monitor and measure actionable metrics and KPIs, and continuously deliver value to their business and their customers.”

Bob Lord, SVP of Cognitive Applications at IBM

“A few months ago, businesses had to balance the IT needs of the office and remote workers. Almost overnight, many organizations around the world faced the new reality of shifting to work-from-home. This shift happened fast, and the value of Cloud Computing has never been greater.”

“There are many business-oriented applications available to connect remote workers to collaborative tools that enable business continuity. Cloud-based support systems like Videoconferencing, File-sharing services, Communications platforms, Data analytics, Graphic design, Accounting, HR, and Sales management programs allowed remote employees to continue collaborating globally.”

Steve Rowen, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research (RSR) says,

“With consumers shopping primarily online and retailers desperate to make up lost revenue from recent brick and mortar store closings, digital channels are the last frontier of survival for retail brands.

Today, retailers that cannot rely on their online offerings’ ability to serve as their primary face to the consumers now face the very serious chance of extinction.”

Amanda Mountain, VP of Marketing Communications at SAP Digital Commerce

“At this point, enterprises should realize customers crave self-service options that are quick and supply a simple path to purchase. To keep up with this transformation, businesses need to embrace that customers expect digital commerce to happen everywhere and at any time.

Keep in mind that while B2B buyers want the same transparency, simplicity, and speed of the B2C buying experience, their needs are often more complex and come with a higher risk. To maintain their business in 2020, it is critical B2B sellers ensure the sense of trust and assurance buyers are accustomed to receiving is at the forefront of the digital buying journey.”

Bonnie Crater, CEO and President of Full Circle Insights

“It makes sense to adjust marketing spend in this unprecedented time. Maybe your company had money budgeted for several industry tradeshows this year, and that’s not going to happen. But marketing is still important because it directly affects customer loyalty and sales, which you need now more than ever.

Instead of tradeshows, maybe shift your investment to outreach digital channels, webinars, etc., which typically cost a lot less and can be incredibly effective when you figure out which messages work best at a time like this. Data from A/B testing can tell you what resonates right now. This is also a good time to refine your ideal customer profile.”

David Wharram, CEO – Coast Digital

“During these uncertain times, many businesses are under pressure to reconsider entire digital marketing strategies. To stay on top, we must transform and find new ways to adapt to the current climate quickly and with maximum impact. By refocusing their digital marketing strategies, I believe that businesses can ensure they are in the best possible position to bounce back post-lockdown.”

Jim Berryhill, CEO and Founder, DecisionLink

“In the new business normal brought about by COVID-19, value management is the clear path forward. Companies are limited in their personal interactions, margins are razor-thin, and budgets continue to tighten. The only way to win within this environment is to articulate and deliver real value to your customers in ways they can clearly see, appreciate, and measure at every interaction.”

Ryan Urban, co-founder and CEO of Wunderkind (formerly BounceX)

“SMS serves as a complementary marketing channel to email. Email thrives for new product discovery, and the Gmail promotions tab has effectively become the new mall. SMS fits in well deeper in the funnel to encourage that last step to conversion through messaging like abandoned cart reminders, price drop notifications, and low stock alerts. In fact, SMS marketing opens a new channel for retailers looking to boost eCommerce revenue to offset the losses due to COVID-19 and re-engage with loyal customers.”

Joy Corso, CMO at Vonage

I joined Vonage at such a dynamic time. It is now fundamental for companies to stay connected to employees and customers from anywhere – through whatever channel they choose – video, messaging, chat, and voice.”

“At the same time, the demand for businesses to build unique experiences and disruptive solutions in their markets has never been greater. The ability to enable this kind of connection and innovation is the value the Vonage platform brings to organizations all over the world.”

Linda Chen, CMO at Cyara

“Many businesses have been experiencing a dramatic uptick in inbound customer inquiries due to COVID-19. There are numerous problems that cause CX struggles for customers. For example, one company we work with was consistently dropping every third caller; we figured out why. It was another group in the company that had implemented a change that caused the problem.”

“Another business was routinely experiencing dropped calls at the same time each afternoon. Other issues we detect and resolve are slow connection times, bad voice quality, SMS texts that contain bad URLs, and more. Identifying and quickly fixing these is important because 92% of consumers say they will leave a brand they love after just two or three bad experiences.”

Donna Fluss, president, DMG Consulting

Companies that have an interaction analytics solution that captures and analyzes voice and digital interactions on a historical, near-real-time and real-time basis have a major advantage over other companies (during crisis). Interaction Analytics or IA gives companies insights into customer needs and wants as well as their emotions and sentiment.”

Kenny Kim, CMO at Udacity

“Show that you’re willing to help your customers — no strings attached…

…Map what you’re good at and how that meets an immediate need for them. The one recent example everyone points to is Zoom. They recognized that everyone was working remotely in the foreseeable future, and offered free access to their product.  Taking that example and applying it to Udacity may mean offering more access to specific Nanodegrees. For example, our clients may be scaling back their budgets and reliance on agencies. We have a variety of programs that could help enable them to bring their team in-house and thus save critical marketing dollars.

Christine Rimer, VP of Customer Experience and Advocacy at SurveyMonkey

“With everyone working from home because of coronavirus, feedback “in the now” is critical to understanding your customers’ needs in these ever-changing times. Companies need to be listening consistently to proactively help their customers.

We have seen businesses accelerate their investment in the digital experience as customers engage with businesses more than ever through the digital channel.”

Kevin Knieriem, CRO at Clari

“Organizations are also starting to understand that if they want to compete globally, and meet the current challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, they can’t afford to have their business units functioning in a disconnected way. The old way of passing sales prospects through the buyer’s journey (from marketing to sales to customer success, etc.) is no longer acceptable.”

To read Clari CRO’s interview, please click here.

Robin Bordoli, President at RollWorks

“We think about COVID-19 preparedness along the two dimensions of people and time. On the people dimension, our first priority was our employees and we moved to mandating working from home for all employees globally on March 5th which was 12 days before the San Francisco shelter in place public order.”

“Once we had 100% of our employees working safely from home, then we started to think about how to best serve our customers. We did this through guides that helped B2B marketers address the demand gap from canceled in-person events and operate in a down economy.”

Tim Brown, CEO at Magnolia

“Magnolia’s global footprint meant we already had a well ingrained remote-working culture for many years prior to COVID-19. That, and our partner-first business model have helped us maintain the same high level of local support & services to our clients even if remote. We try to remove any obstacles for our clients to get the most out of their Magnolia investment. That has led to increased communications and establishing more digital means of engagement. For instance, we bought forward the launch of Magnolia Academy, our on-demand learning solution to provide a way for customers to enhance their skills. We also started delivering many of our established trainer-led training courses remotely.”

Read Tim’s full interview here.

Roy Lindemann, CMO at ReadSpeaker

“Because of COVID-19, more consumers are likely to use AI-enabled home appliances and virtual assistants, largely because they don’t have to touch surfaces to use them. As more business is done digitally and comfort levels with voice technology increases, branded voice will become a part of a brand’s personality, much like visual marketing tools have become integral to how a company is perceived. Companies looking to invest in a branded voice will need to dedicate time to researching who the right voice partner is for them.”

Som Puangladda, VP of Global Marketing at GumGum

“No matter how drastic the change, I’ve always relied on a philosophy of adaptability and embraced trial and error as a fundamental practice. I am always making little adjustments – changing things all the time – so when big industry shifts happen they don’t really feel that big.”

Shashi Seth, SVP at Oracle Marketing Cloud

“When humans interact with one another, they measure their words, tone, body language and much more based on the context of the conversation or situation. Similar to personal interactions, business and marketing communications need to be contextual, personalized and relevant.”

“Significant progress has been made on this front, but several more changes are coming. Good marketing is defined as introducing the right content, at the right time, on the right channel. The right headline, the right image or video, the right words, the right colors, the right call to action are all very important elements of a successful Marketing interaction.”

Read Shashi’s full interview here.

Ian James, Founder and CEO at Silverbullet

“Businesses must start to think smarter and better in order to establish a sustainable, long-lasting Marketing future – especially when it comes to the use of customer data.”

Harmon Lyons, Vice President, Marketing Solutions, TransUnion

“Direct to consumer is a categorical example of the type of brand that has become particularly adept at identifying a customer base, reaching them across channels, and engaging them in relevant and direct ways. The COVID-19 era offers brands –even non-digitally native or smaller ones– the opportunity to jump in where other advertisers are missing the mark, with a net effect of leveling the playing field.”

Alexandra Marcu, VP Marketing at 2Checkout

“Partner with a company that complements your own – this way you share audiences, expand your reach and you keep your offers fresh and exciting (create bundle offers, cross-post on each other’s sites). In some cases, scaling on your own may not even be possible.”

Conclusion

Suppressed consumer demands might continue to hurt businesses, but this is the best time to optimize marketing tactics and customer experience objectives with some really innovative long-term Martech commitments. From enabling customers find better products, solutions and services, to equipping effectively your own digital marketing teams with right mix of analytics and intelligence, martech leaders from around the world are more or less utilizing every available resource to meet opportunities through branded and promoted content and advertising.

Safety and convenience are influencing customer experiences, and the lack of in-person interaction will influence spending on digital platforms if customers find brands selling with a lack of meaning or purpose. Eventually, customer experiences would influence buying journeys that blend in emotions, insights, and focus on personal interactions, and not products’ information.

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