There are two types of marketing leaders: those who are putting their heads in the sand with Covid, holding out for when things “return to normal”… and those who are seeing the pandemic and recent disruptions as a rich opportunity for disruption, innovation, and needed change.
Last week, I co-moderated a master class with B2B marketing leaders of the second variety. Our topic: “How to lead your marketing team to thrive in a post-COVID world.” The panel was hosted by The Predictive Index.
A master class with marketing leaders who are stepping up in new ways
The Predictive Index
You can watch the replay here. Also, here are some highlights from the master class:
1) Adapt your leadership rituals to virtual settings; your team needs connective tissue more than ever. Rituals will strengthen your team’s bonds — professionally and socially. Some ideas: lunchtime trivia games on Slack, daily standups, having virtual lunches together, a virtual farm tour, a virtual beer and cheese tasting with a guide, and a game of “guess the desk from the picture.” One company has maintained their Monday metrics meetings and their Friday “show and tell” meeting to book-end the weeks together; the team really appreciates the consistency.
2) Hire – if you can hire! — generalists who have the agility to deal with change. The MVPs of today’s marketing teams are the people who have embraced new responsibilities and recrafted their roles. How to suss out if a candidate has the necessary agility? Ask them how they feel when a friend cancels on them at the last minute. Or, ask about how far ahead they plan. Show them an ambiguous situation or set of data and see how they deal with it.
3) Build, broaden and better your diversity and inclusion initiatives – and make them systematic to stick. One company is setting its sights on “building the new face of corporate America.” Some are hiring diversity consultants to spot bias and squelch it. Some companies are requiring executives to report to the board on measures of diversity. At one company, the founder, a white man, gave up his board seat to make room for new voices. Now, the board is benefiting from two new members who are both Black women.
There was agreement that whereas yesterday’s diversity efforts were more ad hoc, today’s efforts are becoming more formalized, systematized, pervasive, and public. And that is how true change will happen.
Here are some quotes from this part of the conversation:
4) Tune in to your customers and demonstrate empathy for them with your products and services, not just with your words. Customer marketing is key these days. One company discovered a new persona – small business owners who wanted to learn about their domain but were short on cash. The company provided training, and tens of thousands of small businesses took advantage. While some were nervous about giving training away for free, the company has seen its demand rebound after the initial Covid dip. The lesson? “Empathy is key. Be present; the demand does follow.”
Another company started a customer coffee hour; they anticipate the community engagement will survive beyond the pandemic. How can you find ways for your customers to learn from each other?
5) Realize that “today’s brand is tomorrow’s demand.” The best marketing leaders balance brand and demand, even if their company’s current appetite is focused on demand. Many marketing leaders are in situations where their CEOs are asking them for spending to have immediate ROI. However, the best ones are maintaining some brand investment. Often it helps to define that a certain percent of a given marketing budget will be focused on brand.
6) Go back to “fail fast and cheap.” Take the time to run bite-sized tests that will inform your plan. Demonstrate that you are staying in touch with customer needs. “If you’re not testing and iterating, you will be left behind.”
7) Realize that your empathy can be your best tool, whether it comes to leading your team or working with customers through changes. “Remember, this is not an MQL; it’s a person.”
Worried about whether your scrappy switches of direction may come off as unprofessional to your customer base? Not likely, was the consensus. Remember that it’s not unprofessional to change your plan, as long as there is intention and purpose behind it. And companies that have navigated change successfully emphasize how they do what they do, just as much as what they do.
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