Go global with virtual events
Even if physical events return, CMOs recognize that virtual events are here to stay. “Digital ended up having a silver lining—which was a much broader international reach," says Paige O’Neil, CMO of Sitecore. "Typically, our annual in-person customer event has about 80% US attendance and 20% international. This year’s digital event not only doubled in size from our typical in-person event, but it was also 50% international, 50% US.”
“Our virtual book tour," says Zijderfeld, "was a tremendous success, garnering over 83,000 views, with attendees from over 40 countries, reaching more people that an in-person book tour could have ever done.”
Heat up customer relationships
In the early days of the pandemic, securing customer relationships was seen as a survival strategy, one that involved renegotiating contracts and extending terms. As the year progressed, customer centricity matured into a growth strategy, one that isn’t going away.
“The unusually fast pivot to digital customer experiences wasn't something anyone anticipated at the beginning of the year," says Lynne Capozzi, CMO of Acquia, "but it has allowed organizations to explore new ways to serve their customers and communities. I expect to put more emphasis on engaging customers in activities that are valuable to them, both as customers and as individuals.”
Add spice to content strategy
An absence of physical events created what Isabelle Papoulias, CMO of Mediafly, calls “the ever increasing engagement gap.” To fill the gap, Papoulias is challenging her team to “create some FOMO (fear of missing out) around the Mediafly brand via more compelling and inspiring content.”
Dan Lowden, CMO of White Ops, agrees. His strategy involves “getting closer with my team and working together to completely change the marketing mix to best help customers including the creation of truly useful and compelling content.”
Jell with peers
One irony of 2020 is that CMOs worked closer with peers than before—a trend likely to accelerate even as workers to the office. James Dillon, CMO of Togo Energy, acknowledges that “one of the biggest changes had been to become the Chief Consensus Builder."
“The need to cut over to a 100% virtual world," says Yamamoto, "brought sales and marketing closer together for our GTM approach—the virtual world pushed us further out of our silos and encouraged us to work together to deliver value.”
Put experiments to the test
For many CMOs, 2020 was an opportunity to experiment; the usual approaches were not an option or no longer working. For Chi-Chi Liang, CMO of Alloy.ai and a veteran of startups, this was business as usual, “I'm used to operating in a continuous test and learn mode to make sure our limited resources are focused on the highest impact areas.”
Having taken this experimental approach, Liang feels ready for 2021: “Our core foundations (processes, systems, company/product messaging) will be in place and 2021 is our opportunity to really run!”
Find value in values
“Brand values have come into play in a big way during COVID, and I feel this is a trend that is here to stay,” says O’Neill. “Customers want to understand what brands stand for—that they stand for something.”
Liang, who shares this belief, is “leading an initiative to define our company purpose as part of a broader category design initiative. Defining a purpose statement and how it should become the north star for the company” is a top priority for her leadership team.
Listen like your career depends on it
If agility is the prized capability for 2021, humility is a close runner up. Julie Kaplan, CMO at Versant Health, says “2021 will be the year of the ear,” and that she “plans to listen more generously.” Says Lowden, "I plan to keep listening, testing and learning in 2021.”
By listening, Capozzi observes, “The tone of customer communications changed, forcing more marketers to cut the use of jargon. The focus today is on personalized, succinct, and authentic communications to create durable customer relationships, which is frankly long overdue.”