Curious about what senior marketing leaders are thinking right now? We participated in several CMO roundtables over the past few weeks to find out how CMOs are confronting their companies’ marketing challenges and guiding their teams through this time of unprecedented change. Here are the six themes that consistently came up…

  1. Messaging – a delicate dance. It’s been challenging for companies to craft messages that resonate, while avoiding the risk of being seen as tone deaf or opportunistic. However, most CMOs are finding that their audiences are starting to be ok with being marketed to again. Content has played a big role in this, as companies have developed new assets that focus on topics designed to help their customers navigate specific pandemic pain points.
  2. Tradeshows – who knew we’d miss them? When in-person events came to a screeching halt in March, a tried-and-true source of leads went dark. Most CMOs we talked to found that webinars served as a pretty good stand-in early on in the pandemic, but now Zoom fatigue is impacting both attendance and conversion rates. Event budgets have been reallocated to digital channels (or in some cases “donated back to Finance” as one of our clients put it), which is a good thing since digital conversion rates have gone wonky.
  3. Conversion rates – Covid chaotic. Pre-pandemic, conversion rates for specific marketing channels were fairly predictable. Now, CMOs are seeing the need for more touch points to get to the same conversion. And, to compound this, they’ve lost their event channels. To counteract these headwinds, their teams are laser focused on increasing conversion rates in the digital channels that are still available to them. Even a small percentage point bump can make a big difference. This is where analytics becomes invaluable.
  4. ABM – hotter than ever. With in-person events off the table and conversion rates wonky, there’s been a renewed focus on Account-Based Marketing, or “ABX” as one CMO called it because the strategy needs to involve Sales to be successful. ABM allows you to be more surgical in your targeting; however, it’s been harder to reach targets because they’re working from home and not anywhere near their office lines. More on this next…
  5. Direct mail –  yep, you read that right.  CMOs are actually focusing on direct mail, especially as ABM has become even more of an attractive strategy. But we’re not talking #10 envelope mailers; these are executive packages sent to high-end prospects. Think a bottle of wine mailed in advance of a virtual wine tasting event. The challenge is how to get prospects to ante up their home mailing addresses since they’re not in the office. There are several vendors out there who can collect this data for you – and do the package fulfillment.
  6. “Customer retention – the new growth opportunity”. We borrowed this quote, with permission, from Cindy Zhou, CMO of LogRhythm. After several years of what we call the MQL obsession, many marketers are shifting their focus from new logo acquisition to retaining existing customers. As one CMO said, we are “hugging our customers tighter”. Companies are providing free webinars, support tools, and how-to guides designed to help their customers do their jobs better. Net Promoter Scores are getting new scrutiny, and some companies are using product review tools like G2 for visibility into what their customers are thinking. And customer success teams, sometimes underutilized, are being recognized as an important channel for customer engagement.

The last few months have forced marketing teams to rethink everything – from having to abandon certain channels to doubling down on still-effective tactics to testing out new strategies entirely. But this is what we marketers do best when faced with a challenge – we assess the problem, devise creative ways to solve it and execute. Interestingly, many of the CMOs we’ve talked to say the new marketing tactics they’ve been forced to develop are graduating from temporary fixes to permanent best practices.