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Marketing Leadership in the Midst of Change: CMOs Share Strategies

On an otherwise run-of-the-mill day in early March, the executive team at Drift decided to do something drastic: They locked their office doors and directed all employees to work from home full-time. Immediately, indefinitely, and until further notice.

So did ServiceMax. And Bandwidth, and FoodLogiQ, and hundreds of other companies across dozens of industries.

Fast forward to mid-May, and the marketing leaders at these companies are still asking the same question they were at the start: How do we meet the needs of customers and employees in this new landscape?

After all, it wasn’t that long ago when leading teams still involved getting everyone together for coffee and in-person conversation. Strategies were being developed for a new decade full of opportunities, with messages designed to reach millions of ready-to-buy prospects who were still securely situated in comfortable, profitable jobs.

When you have to throw all that out the window in an instant, the implications are massive. And they’re bound to last for a very long time.

Thankfully, there is a silver lining. And we want to assure you that the future is still very bright for marketing teams.

That’s why we decided to make marketing leadership the central topic of our first monthly Litmus Live Day. In our inaugural session, we sat down with marketing executives at successful companies to hear how they’re handling the most challenging aspects of the new environment we’re all working in.

Turns out, there’s a lot of inspiration to be received.

For example, take a look at what the panelists had to say about two particularly pressing issues.

How are you delivering relevant experiences in the new landscape?

Since COVID-19 came on the heels of Q1 planning for many marketing teams, it rendered countless 2020 strategies irrelevant. Many of the best-laid annual plans, quarterly goals, and monthly KPIs are now resting in peace.

“Now all of a sudden, that email pitch that we’re sending about this cool new feature that we have seems pretty insignificant in some cases,” said Bandwidth CMO Noreen Allen.

But while a lot of prospects are at a standstill, plenty are still in the midst of active buying cycles and consumer journeys. And those audiences still very much want to hear from companies.

For marketing teams, staying relevant has meant a swift shift in priorities. Some are working very closely with sales to determine who’s most in need of various products and services; others are devoting more time to account-based marketing.

Above all else, all three panelists reiterated the need to take care of team members.

“If your employees aren’t in a good place, then it’s hard to have a consistent, strong message in a time of change,” noted Stacey Epstein, Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at ServiceMax.

For the teams Epstein oversees, one particularly paramount move was to document a new set of communications guidelines that have helped employees “feel good” about engaging with customers in this new environment.

Which brings us to another key element of this week’s Litmus Live conversation…

How will you continue to empower employees and prevent burnout?

Let’s face it: When leadership focuses first and foremost on taking care of employees, they’re far more likely to take care of customers. But with so many people juggling childcare and other responsibilities right alongside daily work schedules, this already challenging task can seem downright impossible.

Here again, our Litmus Live Day discussion revealed some inspiring approaches.

For example: At Drift, marketing leadership didn’t hesitate to pair down its newly created campaign plans.

The first goal, explained CMO Tricia Gellman, was to eliminate stress for employees. Some priorities were removed altogether. Others, such as the blog publishing schedule, were adjusted and reduced.

That’s exactly what others recommend as well. At FoodLogiQ, CMO Katy Jones has been spending more time in meaningful one-on-one meetings, and is continually looking for ways to help fuel passion and purpose at work. Those priorities have helped open the door for her team to get laser focused on figuring out what customers really need in these trying times.

“It’s really brought us together as a company,” Jones said.

The key, all marketing leaders agree, is to be bold.

“Because this is new territory, there is no playbook,” said Allen, who’s encouraging her team members to test new ideas frequently and freely. “We’re kind of making up the rules as we go, and that’s the case for everyone. So we’re really encouraging folks to be bold, to take chances, try different things and see what’s going to work.”

Those “chances” come in many forms, and can be deployed in many different ways.

If you missed our first Litmus Live Day, I highly encourage you to listen to our session on Leading Marketing Through Change for ideas you can put into practice with your own marketing team. It’s full of great insights, and even better advice on everything from reallocating budgets to revamping plans to stretching resources like never before.

Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming Litmus Live Everywhere announcements, too — there’s a lot more to come!