We are several months into fully remote work, and let’s face it, we’re still trying to adapt to this new normal. This pandemic has reinforced how important remaining agile truly is in terms of how we lead and communicate – both internally and externally. For marketing leaders, this has meant completely reevaluating playbooks to adapt to this new era of “business as unusual.”
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.
The new reality for marketing departments
Going into the new year, there were high expectations that marketing would plan a critical role in many organizations’ growth strategies. Even Gartner’s 2019-2020 CMO Spend Survey reported that 61 percent of CMOs predicted their marketing budgets would increase in 2020. But now, as businesses face financial pressure to decrease costs across the board, CMOs are reporting budget cuts and limiting spending. This has forced many teams to rethink forecasting and budget allocations.
With various factors still unknown as a business consider returning to ”work”, these revised marketing plans are designed to be agile and scrappy. Every day the news and media landscape is changing, and marketers need to be aware of the social and economic pressures impacting their customers and pivot accordingly.
The shifting trends
Hiring, spend, team structure, programs, and everything in-between look completely different than it did three months ago. Any marketing team that’s still “sticking to the plan” or just making ad hoc adjustments should simply scrap it and start over. This moment presents a unique opportunity to take a look at the shifting landscape as a whole and reinvent roles and adapt team structures accordingly.
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, particularly for brands with physical locations, and building a broader digital marketing engagement strategy that provides actionable insights on where to invest next.
Businesses should also look to expand their Total Addressable Market (TAM) by tailoring their marketing communications to talk about how their product, solution, or service can help address the needs of new markets or verticals they want to engage with. For example, organizations shifting their focus to small businesses should consider offering flexible terms on contracts as part of any tailored communications to this audience.
In terms of technology, there won’t be necessarily anything “new” that gets added to the marketer’s toolbox, as much as it will be leveraging the technology they already have in different ways. For example, looking at how to integrate all the tools and data across the customer journey to better message customers and prospects and optimize how you target strategic accounts. With this approach, marketing teams can be more agile and impactful with their existing resources.
The future of event marketing
For many marketing organizations, in-person events are essential for demand generation and customer engagement efforts. Since it’s likely that the large physical events will be among the last to return to “normal,” marketers will need to adapt to this new landscape. This transition will rely on making the virtual event more than just a webinar, but a truly engaging user experience.
Marketers will need to meticulously evaluate each aspect of the virtual experience from start to finish to ensure they are building a journey and not just an agenda with content to talk at their audience.
The reality is that there are certain experiences that marketers won’t be able to replicate in a virtual setting, but they can compensate for that by enhancing the experience with high-touch engagement. 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.
Where to go from here
For marketing leaders struggling to stay afloat, there are certain steps to incorporate into your current practices to ensure you are set up for success during and post-pandemic.
When the pandemic initially hit, many organizations were faced with evolving customer requirements overnight. To quickly adapt, these marketers needed to understand the challenges and updated customer mindsets to redirect any go-to-market activity. This process can be broken down into three main strategies:
- Daily monitoring: Take a deep look at daily website traffic to understand what your audience is looking for and what they might need. Are there any leading indicators that can be determined based on the organic demand coming in through inbound sales or chatbot inquiries?
- Reorganize your sales and marketing teams: Outline your normal marketing and sales processes and handoffs and determine if they should be updated during or post-pandemic for improved performance and better customer experience.
- Look at your entire product portfolio and rethink positioning and packaging in light of the pressures facing your buyers: Be nimble by breaking down the traditional operating model to fit this new normal. Get creative and innovative when redesigning or repackaging how you put your products together so they can help solve the immediate needs of your customers.
It’s more important than ever that we continue to work with our teams and customers to learn, exchange ideas, and challenge ourselves as digital engagement has become crucial to sustaining the livelihood of all of our businesses. We are only beginning to adapt to business as unusual.
From planning to execution, every aspect of marketing playbooks will forever be changed by recent events. These past few months have emphasized the importance of a plan, with flexibility. Remote work has change business as we know it and those that can adapt will lead their customers through an amazing evolution.