Cattle Dog Digital

Uncertain Times: Why Marketing Needs to Adapt & Stay Proactive

by Deirdre Mahon 

July 8, 2020

The only assurance in our current pandemic is that we’re all in this together. We’re only halfway through 2020, and it has already been a heck of a year.

It’s safe to say that all marketing teams had to perform a 360 ‘about turn’ to align spend and resources with an ‘all-in on digital’ focus. Budgets have been cut, teams down-sized and if you’re lucky, maybe you experienced just a haircut. One thing is certain: everyone is closely watching KPIs and dashboards week-over-week looking for signs of an upturn.

Gartner just released survey findings from 400+ CMOs to better understand COVID-19’s impact on the business outlook as the shock to economies reverberates around the globe. Businesses, the world over, big or small are adjusting in real-time for what may lie ahead. Marketing and sales teams continue to make adjustments, try to stay calm, and find new ways to engage customers and prospects. 

Gartner’s findings reveal, “44% of CMOs have experienced budget cuts and 10.7% of those expect significant cuts of more than 15%.” Unfortunately, marketing tends to be the first place to take a hit when a downturn occurs. Most C-suite execs believe if you cut spend, you extend the runway which is often a short-term survival response. With the desire to maintain status-quo where possible, you focus on retaining valued employees that you’ve worked hard to onboard and engage.

With COVID-19, ‘business as usual’ is all topsy turvy. The harsh reality when you make deep cuts is you ‘cut-off’ customer engagement which then sends the wrong message. Hunkering down means buyers don’t hear from you and they may fear the worst or forget about you altogether. This is probably why 33% of CMOs believe maintaining strong brand equity is the #1 goal during uncertain times, according to Gartner. 

Regardless of our new normal, marketing is a critical part of the business and especially when it comes to executing strategy and plans for the long-term. Teams need detailed milestone-driven plans for half-year increments and depending on the organisation size, quarterly tracking is a must in order to understand why buyers engage and what attributes to conversions.

Gartner reveals that “analytics remains a top priority but has dropped nearly 10 percentage points year-over-year, with only 27% of CMOs ranking it a top three priority. This is because marketers continue to struggle to build even rudimentary analytics capabilities.” 

The good news — martech investments have survived unscathed so far — “making up 26% of budgets in 2020. Combine that with the fact that 68% of CMOs report they expect to increase their investments in martech over the next 12 months.”

Now is the time to step back and review what’s working along your buyer journey, essentially the funnel. A recent report by LinkedIn claims, “over half of teams are focusing on social media engagement with rich content thought leadership.” Now is the time to engage differently and stop talking about why your product is great. Change the narrative and make it about issues and how you can help. Buyers who learn and trust your knowledge are more likely to ask more questions and engage.

This is also an ideal time to review and better align marketing resources, coming together with a clear understanding of what’s working and what’s not. Do you have the right set of dashboards to inform which campaign and which assets are yielding the highest engagement levels? Is everyone on the team looking at the same metrics and dashboards?

With an all-digital investment, below are 5 steps you can take now, adjust to the new normal, and get clarity on what is engaging prospects along the journey:

  1. Martech Tool Audit: Are you fully using all tools? Do you need to take the time to integrate? Beyond Salesforce and marketing automation (e.g. Pardot), are you using ZoomInfo, LeanData, or Clearbit? Is everyone on the team aware of how all the tools work and are they providing the right data visibility to all stakeholders?
  2. Campaign Attribution and Analysis: Are webinars and virtual events yielding results? Is your attribution multi-touch and how are older on-demand assets performing vs new content? Is it time to change the narrative to thought leadership pieces?
  3. Retrain & Refresh the Team: For team members previously focused on conferences and field marketing, now is a perfect time to take online training and learn new capabilities across all martech tooling.
  4. Integrate, Integrate Across Channels: For every asset and campaign, define the calendar cadence across multiple channels including paid social, organic, landing pages, and outbound push. Buyers consume in different formats, so optimize for that.
  5. Reframe Your Messaging: Be more helpful, insightful, and empathetic with your voice. Tone down the sales rhetoric and focus on adding value to your customers. Sell less, educate more. Measure engagement and adjust from there.

Stave off budget cuts and focus on getting a return from your technology stack investments. If investments are not implemented, adopted, and integrated to deliver data-driven decisions, you will continue to drive blind. Then no one will understand the value that marketing and sales teams deliver. The last thing we need is more uncertainty.

Start with the outcomes you want to achieve and be specific about timeframes. It’s a good idea to begin by agreeing on the types of reports and insights that would help the team better understand the business and how customers are engaging and converting. Spending time to understand changes quarter over quarter in terms of growth by customer segment, source, and channel, including latency by stage and initial deal size, invaluable insights all stakeholders should be aware of. Marketing teams should take a step back to deeply understand the full-funnel is critical during our new normal. This will absolutely pay dividends when economies stabilize and life becomes a little bit more predictable.