More Risks, New Challenges: How Covid Has Made Tech Marketers More Creative Than Ever

By Dave Corlett, new business director at creative studio - Shaped By

British advertising guru Dave Trott loves an analogy or two about creativity. 

His latest recalls an incident in World War II in which the British had a problem: the Germans had better tanks with bigger guns.

The Brits had to find a solution, or they’d be toast. So they did. In today’s lingo, they ‘hacked’ their existing tanks to fit anti-tank guns to them. Let’s just say, it was a very effective solution.

Now, please don’t think for a second that I’m comparing the marketing of technology solutions to the life-and-death horror of soldiers under shell fire.

The single parallel I want to draw is that when it comes to problem-solving, humans are often at their most creative when they’re forced to be.

This was illustrated around late March last year, when it became clear to tech marketers that channels such as events and conferences – relied on for millions of dollars’ worth of pipeline opportunities and revenue – were no longer viable. They had to get creative – and fast.

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So that’s exactly what they did…

The tale of what happened next is outlined in Perspective, a  survey we carried out  on creativity, innovation and disruption in technology marketing.

We asked 200 senior marketers at tech firms in the UK and US about the extent to which being ‘creative’ helped them achieve their goals in 2020. 

73% said they were more creative with their go-to-market approach than the previous year. A whopping 98% said this involved experimenting with new channels, such as webinars and online events. 

And it paid off. 72% of those in enterprise tech firms saw an uplift in leads generated, and 65% saw subscription renewal rates increase.

Breaking new ground

From speaking with folks at the coal face, as I do on a regular basis, the story runs even deeper than this. Marketers haven’t just been trying these new channels out; they’ve been pushing the boundaries of what’s possible within them to create rich and innovative experiences. 

Many recognised early on that all of their competitors (and every other vendor targeting their audience) were frantically pushing everything online. To cut through all that noise, they would have to go beyond the rapidly rising sea of sameness and out into new territory.

So they did. From virtual cocktail making to immersive 3D and VR conference experiences, savvy tech marketers tried it all in their quest to build relationships with customers and prospects from their home offices (or garages, spare bedrooms, garden sheds etc.).

The personal touch

Of course, events weren’t the only focus. Despite their newfound ingenuity “the influx of virtual webinars began to feel passé almost immediately”as Jess Ellis, Khoros senior director of brand marketing, told us during our research. As a result, her teams prioritised “ABM, high-touch interactions and a return to direct mail” in their efforts to foster “a bespoke connection with our prospects and customers”.

Account-based marketing scored consistently highly throughout our survey. 70% of enterprise tech marketers said they had increased their use of ABM for brand-building purposes since the start of the pandemic. And 37% said it had been a successful demand generation tool during the same period. 

This isn’t a surprise, especially when we talk about creativity in modern-day marketing. ABM is the perfect marriage of technology and creativity. As another of our contributors, Qabil Shah, Nutanix  global enterprise marketing director, puts it: “Using tech-driven insights, I can present you with an experience that’s tailored to you and feels special. It’s about having this seamless, unified customer experience that is finely tuned to whoever you’re targeting in a topical, relevant format. And that’s how creativity and tech coincide.”

Those stats, along with many of the other findings in our study, are further evidence of my earlier point about forced creativity leading to positive outcomes.

If their hands hadn’t been tied by events outside of their control, the boundaries of tactics like ABM and event formats may not have been pushed, and their true effectiveness may never have been unearthed.

More risks, more rewards

This leads me on to my next and final point about creativity. The events of 2020 placed multiple restrictions on what marketers could do. This sounds like a negative point at first. But if there’s one thing that creativity thrives on, it’s restriction.

You might have experienced it yourself. If you’ve ever sat down with the intention of doing something creative, you’ll know that a blank piece of paper is a terrible catalyst for inspiration.

Creativity is fundamentally about solving challenges. And challenges rarely come without rules applied to them. So what you generally find is that the more rules that exist, the further outside the box you have to travel to find an original solution.

The pandemic threw up several huge hurdles, without much warning and virtually unprecedented in number and nature. Many of the methods that tech marketers harnessed to jump them worked so well that they will become staples of their marketing plans long into the future.

They took risks because they had to. And many of those risks paid off – in handsome style.

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