Read Time: 10 min

Delivering Episode 39: Takeaways from the Future of Marketing Panel

In this episode of Delivering, host Jason Rodriguez looks at a recent panel on the future of marketing, digging into insights from marketing leaders from Litmus, Salesforce, and Epsilon, and discussing why getting good at collaboration will be increasingly important for marketers to be successful.

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Episode Transcript

Welcome to Delivering, a podcast about the email industry, where we talk about everything from strategy to design, code to leadership, and everything in between.

I’m your host, Jason Rodriguez.

Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the industry-leading platform used by marketing professionals around the world to send email with confidence every single time.

Head over to litmus.com to start a free seven day trial and see how Litmus can help you build, test, and analyze better email campaigns faster. And be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Earlier this week, our CMO, Melissa Sargeant, hosted a panel on the future of marketing with a few other marketing leaders—Jon Suarez-Davis from Salesforce and Kara Trivunovic from Epsilon. Throughout the panel, they discussed the effects of the pandemic—and everything else that happened in 2020—on marketers, and how those effects will likely ripple through marketing teams and programs in the coming months and years.

The panel hit on a whole bunch of different topics—and is well worth watching in its entirety—but I wanted to tease out a few key takeaways that I think it’s important for marketers to dig into.

The first is the need for every marketer to realize that it’s not just us and our customers in the conversation anymore. Early on in the panel, Jon mentions that one of the biggest shifts has been to what he calls multi-stakeholder planning, investment, and activation. That’s a fancy way of saying that there are a bunch of different stakeholders that need to be considered in our process, both formally and informally.

Yeah, us, our clients, and our bosses are still the key stakeholders in our work, but we all need to consider that there’s a whole chorus of voices beyond that. Our customers, sure, but other businesses, social and economic factors, political movements, people talking about us on social media and to their friends and family… the list goes on. With everything 2020 and the first few months of 2021 have thrown at us, it should be clear to most companies that they need to embrace all of those voices when planning campaigns, responding to issues, and trying to grow their businesses.

From a practical standpoint for email marketers, that means we need to get in the habit of engaging those different voices on a regular basis. Continue having conversations with your colleagues, clients, and bosses, but pay attention to what’s going on in the world and our communities, too. Whether or not they’re invited to proofread each campaign, they’ll have a direct impact on all of the work we do.

Some companies have been doing this for a while now, but the pandemic exposed the ones who weren’t, and the ones who weren’t ready to start that process. They went on with business as usual without understanding the gravity of the situation and responding accordingly. In some cases, this caused some relatively minor embarrassments, but in others, it made a significant—and negative—impact to their bottom line. And that’s just not something marketers can risk.

So, along with your formal stakeholders, try interviewing your customers and other subscribers. Keep tabs on major events that are going on in the world and how your peers and competitors are reacting to those events. And, if your mental health can withstand it, spend some time on social networks like Instagram and Twitter to see what your other stakeholders—your fans, their communities, etc.—actually want and need.

Speaking of mental health, Jon made another good point that 2020 showed everyone just how much can be done in marketing and, more importantly, how quickly. Marketers collectively pulled off one of the biggest pivots in digital history. Within the span of days, we all had to rethink our schedules, revise a whole bunch of work, and put out brand new campaigns focused on topics none of us have ever really experienced, under conditions that no one should have to experience.

And, for the most part, we did it.

That’s good for our customers, but potentially bad for us. The C-suite took notice and saw how fast marketers could move. While that came with a lot of praise, it also comes with increased expectations for marketing teams. They’ve seen what we can do, and most want more of that moving forward.

But this can lead to stress and burnout for marketing teams. And overstressed and burned out marketers can hardly be expected to keep up with that breakneck pace. The more stressed we are, the more problems will make their way into campaigns and strategy, and once-lauded efficiencies will be revealed for what they are: teams working in crisis mode and struggling to stay afloat.

We need to guard our mental and physical wellbeing and collectively recognize that, as great as that pivot was handled in 2020, it’s not sustainable for teams. Focus on what worked well during that crisis, bring it into your workflow where possible, but don’t try to force that pace on people facing other stressors like a global pandemic, social unrest, economic instability, working from home while juggling family life, and a million other things.

One of my biggest takeaways came from Melissa, Jon, and Kara talking about the most important relationships we have in our organizations.

I know for me, with a background in design and coding, I’ve always been closest to the product, engineering, and design teams wherever I worked. It’s always been easier for me to make friends on those teams since we speak a common language and share similar interests but, as a marketer, this could potentially be doing me a disservice.

We also all know that marketing works very closely with sales and customer support, too.

But, all three panelists seemed to agree that some of the most important relationships could be between marketing and our finance and legal departments.

Legal is important for mitigating risk, naturally, but smart companies have realized that legal can be a big part of the customer experience, too. As the world becomes more complex, so too do the disclaimers, terms of service, warnings, and popups that we all deal with.

By partnering with our legal departments, marketers can make dealing with all that stuff more tolerable in the worst case, and downright enjoyable in the best.

I’m reminded of a talk from Sarah Esterman at The Email Design Conference back in 2016. At the time, Sarah worked for Simple—a now defunct banking system—and her talk was all about making the mundane delightful. She used examples of how they worked with the legal team at a bank (!) to create account updates and terms of service emails actually fun to read! Can you imagine? A terms of service email that you actually want to read?

What most of us don’t realize is that, by partnering with our legal teams, we can uncover dozens of opportunities to make once boring interactions more enjoyable for our customers, all it needs is that direct line of communication between those two departments and a willingness to experiment.

When it comes to finance, they all seemed to agree that one of the best people to have on your side is your Chief Financial Officer.

Most people think of finance as the ones that reduce costs and deny requests for budget increases. Want that new ESP feature or a new analytics suite? Sorry, finance said no…

But, by working with them more closely, we can better understand the investments in marketing that they do approve. We can craft a better story about how those investments directly impact our businesses and then take that story to the C-suite and tell it more effectively. And when we do that, it’s a lot more likely that we can convince them to increase those marketing investments we all need and want.

I think it’s kind of funny that my major takeaways were really all around collaboration over technology.

Melissa, Kara, and Jon talked about a few different technology topics, like machine learning and AI in marketing, but even those discussions came down to collaboration, too.

While talking about machine learning, Kara repeatedly came back to the need to understand that data behind that technology. It’s no wonder that one of her most important relationships in her organization is with her analytics team. She works closely with them to understand not only the numbers, but the context around those numbers and what they mean for her marketing team. Leveraging newer technologies like AI and machine learning depends on our ability to communicate and collaborate effectively.

So, it seems clear to me, at least, that collaboration is what we all need to focus on moving forward.

We need to be able to communicate with our customers and the wider world—all of those new stakeholders I mentioned earlier—as well as with our colleagues that we work with on a daily basis. We need to get good at building relationships outside of our direct team so that we can invest in and use the fancy new technologies we all lust after. And we need to be able to collaborate effectively so that we can communicate our needs as marketers to avoid things like burnout.

The bad part is that collaboration is a hell of a lot harder than understanding and using technology. It’s softer, with fuzzier edges, and it doesn’t come with a step-by-step manual. But that’s a topic I’ll save for a future episode of the podcast.

That’s it for this week’s episode of Delivering, a podcast about marketing in email and beyond. Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the industry-leading platform used by marketing professionals around the world to send email with confidence every single time.

Head over to litmus.com to start a free seven day trial and see how Litmus can help you build, test, and analyze better email campaigns faster. And be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Cheers.

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