From a business perspective, the pandemic has reinforced how important remaining agile truly is. Pivoting marketing strategies in the face of an economic downturn is nothing new, but these past few months have been unprecedented in the level of disruption that organizations have faced.
Navigating teams through uncharted territory requires strong leadership and top-down alignment on the right objectives and approach. For marketing leaders, this has meant completely reevaluating playbooks to adapt to this new era of “business as unusual.”
Marketing’s New Reality
According to Gartner’s 2020 CMO Spend Survey, nearly 44% of CMOs are facing mid-year budget cuts as a result of the pandemic. While marketing teams and budgets remain in survival mode, protecting digital channels and martech remains a top priority for now. The study also notes that CMOs are bringing lower margin tactical capabilities in-house, identifying martech programs that don’t meet the threshold and mapping channel investments to maximize the impact of marketing initiatives.
Forty-four percent of CMO respondents said they canceled events as a result of the pandemic and only allocated 9% of their budget so far this year to event marketing. As in-person events have always been essential for demand generation and customer engagement efforts, marketers will need to adapt to this new landscape.
The reality is that there are certain experiences that marketers won’t be able to replicate in a virtual setting, but they can compensate by enhancing the experience with high-touch engagement. Marketers will need to meticulously evaluate each aspect of the virtual experience from start to finish to ensure they are building a journey and creating an experience and not just an agenda with content to talk at their audience.
For example, building in peer-to-peer networking opportunities with virtual break out and networking rooms, or adding gamification elements to make the experience interactive and fun for attendees. Creating these different touchpoints not only offers a better experience for attendees but it also allows marketers to more closely track each attendees’ journey throughout the event, something that wouldn’t be possible for an in-person event, which can provide a lot of great insight to do more curated follow-up post-event.
With various factors still unknown as a business consider returning to “work”, these revised marketing plans are designed to be agile and scrappy.
Riding the New Wave
This moment presents a unique opportunity to evaluate the shifting landscape as a whole and reinvent roles and adapt team structures accordingly. Any marketing team that’s still “sticking to the plan” or just making ad hoc adjustments should simply scrap it and start over.
If necessity is the mother of invention, an economic crisis is a catalyst for organizational optimization. If they haven’t started to already, here are five areas that marketing teams should focus on to ensure they are set up for success during and post-pandemic.
1) Brands will need to drastically redraw their customer journey maps to accurately reflect the new model of customer behavior post-COVID-19. For example, there should be a bigger emphasis on moving digital to the first point of entry for consumers and building a broader digital marketing engagement strategy that provides actionable insights on where to invest next.
2) Now is also the time that marketers need to get creative and innovative in redesigning or repackaging how they put their products together so they can help solve the immediate needs of customers in ways that they might have not needed to do before. This will not only ensure that brands are evolving alongside their customers but can open untapped channels and opportunities to expand their total addressable market to bring in new revenue streams.
3) With investments in martech currently on pause, marketers will need to be even scrappier with the technology they already have and engineer different ways to derive new insights. For example, how do they think about their martech stack and systems in ways that would inform product usage data and feed it into various programs? With this approach, marketing teams can be more agile and impactful with their existing resources.
4) Daily monitoring will be key. Pay close attention to web traffic patterns and eCommerce buying behaviors. Look at geographies that are days, weeks and maybe even a month or two ahead to inform longer-lead actions and program spend. And most importantly, break down business siloes businesses to ensure rapid sharing and reprioritization.
5) Reorganize sales and marketing teams. Centralize distributed functions where it makes sense to bring together similar roles into a center of excellence. For portfolio companies with multiple business units and product lines, marketers should see this almost as an internal agency model, where specialized roles can take on multiple internal clients.
From planning to execution, every aspect of the marketing playbook has been changed by recent events. It’s more important than ever that marketing teams remain agile to weather through the disruption. We are only beginning to adapt to business as unusual and these next few months will continue to be challenging but there will be moments of optimism and opportunity to continue learning, exchanging ideas, and ultimately, come out on the other side as stronger and more inventive marketers.