How are marketing leaders meeting the COVID moment?

It’s probably no surprise for marketers that September looks very different from planning assumptions made at the beginning of the year. We’ve seen dramatic shifts in tactics and priorities as the experience economy meets the COVID economy. But smart CMOs are realising that by keeping true to the learnings below, their business can not only adapt in this world. It can thrive.

Virtual contact doesn’t have to mean no contact.

Big product launches slated for trade shows, major user conferences, and channel advisory board meetings have had to be reimagined. In-person sales presentations and product demos are often no longer possible. Companies have embraced virtual meetings, digital-only experiences, and new ways for people to trial and experience their goods and services. And it’s working. Victoria’s caravan industry peak body, CIV, has attracted almost 40,000 registrations to its first ever virtual expo. See the campaign here.

The experience economy isn’t dead, it just went digital.

According to a recent report by The CMO Survey,* marketing leaders are shifting investment to digital marketing, and consumers are responding. Survey respondents reported that almost 84% of customers placed an increased value on digital experiences. “Marketers report increased openness among customers to new digital offerings introduced during the pandemic (85%), increased value placed on digital experiences (84%), and greater acknowledgements of companies’ attempts to ‘do good’ (79%).” This does not mean, however, allowing your brand to languish. The recent experience of Kogan highlights the need for attention at every stage of the marketing funnel.

Marketing expenditures take precedence in uncertain times.

According to the report, marketing budgets as a percentage of firms’ budgets and revenues are rising to historic highs at 12.6% and 11.4%, respectively, even as companies face overall budget and revenue contraction. Both business-to-consumer and business-to-business firms are building market share by prioritising marketing expenditure to retain customers and maintain brand awareness.

Here’s how to play digital catch-up.

For organisations that are shifting more budget to digital, there are some easy first steps.

1. Make sure your digital presence is healthy and hard at work for you. Assess your site traffic and optimise for search to maximise your inbound traffic.

2Increase the volume of high value content across your channels. Determine what makes you relevant and valuable to your customers and prospects and adjust your content calendar to reflect trending topics and pragmatic advice. Reach out directly to customers with relevant information on how to get more value from your offering.

3. Empower your employees to be more effective brand ambassadors, even while they work remotely. Realise that human interactions, albeit via video chat or teleconference, are still important ways to foster connections.

4. Increase attention on your social media channels. The CMO Survey’s report states that 84.2% of marketers say they have used social media for brand awareness and brand building, and 54.3% say they have used it for customer retention during the pandemic. Social media budgets have increased 74% since February—an increase as a percent of marketing budgets from 13.3% to 23.2%. And it appears to be paying off. The CMO Survey reported that contributions of social media to company performance rose 24% since February.

5. Invest in improving your customer experience. Determine where people drop off in their online interactions with your brand and upgrade the leakiest parts of your marketing funnel.

Preparing for the new normal.

Marketing-led organisations have realised that consumers are increasingly using digital channels and have increased expectations for the quality of digital experiences. The CMO Survey reports over 60% of respondents are planning investments in improving their digital experiences for the long term, while they continue to invest in brand building and customer retention.

As it will be some time before COVID-19 is truly manageable, successful brands will continue to evolve the digital experiences they design.

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*Covid-19 and the State of Marketing, Highlights & Insights Report, Special Edition—June 2020, The CMO Survey.


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