Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Amy Protexter, Senior Vice President, North America Marketing at Insight, and discuss the Marketing landscape in our current reality. In our conversation, Amy unearthed many unique challenges that marketers face as we ease into a changed world, and highlighted areas of opportunity that we can embrace.
Q: How has Marketing changed because of the COVID-19 global pandemic? And what will marketing look like once the crisis has passed?
A: I think of the changes within two categories. First, we experienced changes internally through our people and processes, and second, the transformation of our client experience.
Regarding our people, I have been surprised and delighted at how our teams adapted to a remote environment. When the pandemic first hit, and things were locking down, there was a kick of adrenaline from the team – a sense of urgency – resulting in heightened productivity and creativity.
We had always talked about trying to be more “agile,” but we saw the team switch into a truly Agile methodology – in real-time. The question our teams asked was: How do we move the ball down the field?
Each week, the team rallied around a different “sprint” based on prioritization in the business. Instead of managing projects from a long-term perspective, we brought several different disciplines together to create a campaign or stand up a motion in short sprint-style projects, to execute and optimize within a week. And while the world was changing, we anticipated that our audience interactions would transform as well.
From a client experience perspective, we noticed a couple of really big shifts. As customers developed an appetite to purchase online, our e-commerce business spiked exponentially. Not only did we see a huge uptick in inbound volume, but also an increased number of customers using alternative channels to reach us. This was evidenced by a 100% increase in our chat volume, almost a 100% increase in our call volume, and web form fills.
In the past, customers may have gone directly to a salesperson. But given the state everyone was in, they did not hesitate to reach out via marketing-led channels. We also saw a huge uptick on social. In response, our content strategists amplified content every single day that has resulted in a 63% increase in the volume of sharing and 40% more engagements on our organic channels so far this year.
And despite obstacles, we kept connecting with clients. It became obvious that social channels are another big area of opportunity due to the way our customers were communicating with us.
Q: It is challenging for some leaders to make that shift to a remote leadership position and still liaise with the team without the physical face to face interactions. How have you maintained the energy and connections on the team?
A: Our team set goals for outcomes rather than just managing the email inbox weekly. We encouraged people to find energy in the project – find energy in the work. Maintaining communication has also been key to collaboration. We held daily 30-minute huddles and twice/week discussions for our managers and direct reports. Our goal was to update the teams on the surge of information that was needed around office closures, public relations, and state of the business. We kept up the huddles for communication, and our Agile project management methodology to stay on track.
We also encouraged our leaders to write regular messages to the entire team containing a short business update and recognition of a few folks who were doing an outstanding job. There have been heartfelt thoughts and authenticity from leadership.
Q: How has COVID-19 affected eCommerce?
A: We have definitely seen consumer behavior gravitate towards online purchasing, and we predict that this trend will continue and accelerate. In recent months, consumers have had limited options to purchase in person, and by presenting the convenience of services, customers’ first inclination is now to transact online.
Customers want to self-serve – they want good information – and expect their transaction to be an experience similar to B2C. Many analysts have suggested that e-commerce, now referred to as digital commerce, would surge several years in the future. The pandemic was the catalyst that reeled this behavior from the 3-year predictions into the present.
Q: How will the role of the Seller evolve?
A: Sellers who worked in Field Sales in person are now selling completely virtually, which has been a rather slow trend in the market. For customers in the research phase, it has been critical to get conversations with Sales in the past. But without the ability to connect as we used to, the tables have turned. Sales and Marketing have started to blend. Sellers are relying on Marketing to produce video/snackable content for customers, as well as milestone high-value assets (i.e. white papers) that will surface leads for the team. Our model embeds Marketing with Sales in the top two layers in the funnel.
Q: What does the event landscape look like in the back half of 2020 – and into 2021?
A: In the next six months, we will present our events 100% virtually. As an event organizer, we need to provide a safe environment, and we have the ability to maintain our virtual experiences for as long as needed. In the future, we will host live events once again, but they may not be as prevalent as we continue to effectively engage online and realize the convenience and cost benefits of it.
But at some point, it will be meaningful to be together, almost like a homecoming. We will all crave the opportunity to sit down with a customer … a colleague … a friend … and have a glass of wine at the end of the day. We look forward to doing business together and reigniting our relationships. What an incredible gift that will be when time is safe to revisit some of those connections that seem all the more precious to us now.