A year ago, we wrote about the top issues keeping CMOs up at night as they grappled with the impacts of a global pandemic. Unbelievably, 12 months later, we’re all still navigating the effects of Covid, with new contours and unexpected, permanent realities.

What are we also still doing? Participating in virtual roundtables with CMOs and marketing leaders. While these bi-weekly conversations tend to cover a lot of territory, and we’ve talked with dozens of different leaders, there are four key topics that we’ve been consistently discussing.

  1. The emerging role of the CRO. We’re seeing more companies create new Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) positions to whom both the Marketing and Sales teams report. Since CROs tend to come from sales backgrounds, this structure poses an interesting challenge for marketing leaders to ensure they have an equal seat at the table. As one CMO recommended, it’s important to learn how to effectively co-exist and to “celebrate and attribute the wins”.
  2. Gong, was that a customer insight I just heard? A year ago, we noted that customer retention was a key issue for marketing leaders, and that hasn’t changed. In fact, marketers have turned up the volume and are even more committed to listening to their customers and prospects. Several CMOs recently implemented Gong, which allows the marketing team to listen to recorded sales calls. But you don’t need to invest in a fancy platform; one CMO requires her Product Marketers to be on two live sales calls per week. On a related note, one of our clients is using the jobs-to-be-done framework to rethink their approach to her team’s product marketing. (The milkshake story has always been our favorite.
  3. Events reconsidered. It’s unanimous – not a single marketer on earth (or at least on our roundtables) believes that exhibiting at a virtual tradeshow works. Online tradeshows are “a bust,” as one of our clients put it. So, what does seem to be working? Smaller, more intimate events, both virtual and in-person, where you’re offering value, not a sales pitch, have been quite successful. Also, consider “analog plays” or what one CMO calls “hand-to-hand combat.” Bring donuts to a customer’s or prospect’s office. Send a wine (or olive oil) tasting kit to a target ABM account. Do something unexpected. I still have the lava lamp that a Washington Post account exec sent me 10 years ago – and I think of her every time I see it.
  4. Talent hiring and retention. It wouldn’t be 2021 if this topic wasn’t a part of every discussion we have. The Great Resignation (or The Great Reshuffle, as one CEO called it), has naturally led to what we’re calling The Great Backfill, which means this frenetic job market will likely continue well into 2022. This topic could be a blog post in itself, so we’ll summarize it like this: (1) 99.999% of people want to work remotely, even if they live five minutes from the office, (2) candidates are in the driver’s seat, so salaries and titles are being inflated (which has longer-term equity implications for your current team) and (3) your existing employees may be perfectly happy, but it’s hard to resist the pull of knowing that (2) is happening.

It’s been a long 18 months (and counting), and the world has dramatically changed. What hasn’t changed is what we marketers do best when facing the unexpected – we get creative. We throw out old norms and try new things, some that succeed and some that fail. We dig into the data to see what it’s telling us and course correct. We talk to our peers to get ideas about how technology can help us do our jobs better. We adapt, iterate and embrace change.

We’ll be back in a few months with more CMO insights. Comment below and let us know what issues are keeping you up at night right now.