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Life after the pandemic: Navigating the next chapter in marketing

By Esther Flammer –Head of Wrike Marketing at Citrix

There’s no doubt that the last 18 months have proved challenging for marketers. The pandemic created an unforgiving landscape, as shrinking budgets were met with growing expectations. Industry-wide cut-backs resulted in dramatic decreases in spending and marketing leaders and teams around the world were under pressure to do more with less while searching out new and innovative channels in an increasingly saturated digital market.

As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape, we’re starting to see the return of some normality. However, for marketers, not everything is set to return to the way it was pre-pandemic. Fundamental shifts in both consumer behaviour and employee working habits mean that the industry will never be the same.

In order to navigate this new landscape and come out on top, CMOs and their marketing teams will need to adapt and innovate in order to become more strategic drivers of business and revenue.

Prioritising digital

For consumers, the pandemic is set to have a lasting impact on the way that they interact with brands and access services. Whether it’s shopping, entertainment or even just communicating with colleagues, family and friends, many aspects of our daily lives took a digital format even more so over the last year and a half. Whilst initially thought of as a temporary way to limit the spread of the virus and keep the most vulnerable safe, this new online environment has had some unexpected benefits – especially in terms of convenience – and the likelihood is that it is here to stay.

In fact, according to McKinsey, consumers are continuing to shift towards digital and reduced-contact ways of accessing products and services, with 84% of marketers believing that their customers are placing more value on digital experiences than before the pandemic. Whether it’s developing a meaningful brand image, or executing specific campaigns to attract and retain customers, marketing teams need to take this shift in consumer preferences into account.

In this new digital world, marketers need to focus on delivering personalised offers and messages that truly speak to their audiences. In order to know if these messages are landing, they need to be able to measure which marketing channels deliver the best content to the right audiences at the right time. Teams are under more pressure to ensure projects are a success and deliver noticeable return on investment (ROI). Therefore, having an effective multichannel marketing tech stack – to centralise and maximize all of your data and manage complex customer journeys across multiple platforms – will be key. A good system is essential to track all of your leads’ interactions and engagement. It can also help you make better decisions and take action on your leads’ unique paths.

Managing hybrid

It’s not only customers that are increasingly preferring online methods of buying. The pandemic also saw a drastic shift in terms of how employees expect to operate moving forward. Although remote working isn’t a new concept – especially in the marketing industry – since the outbreak of the pandemic, work has infiltrated the home at a never-before-seen scale. Many individuals have embraced the flexibility that comes with this and want it to stay in place permanently. In an effort to attract and retain the industry’s talent, marketing leaders are having to adjust their working practices. In fact, recent research discovered that 82% of marketing organisations have new policies in place around remote work following the pandemic.

When we transitioned to remote work, organizations made sure we did not lose something that we all took for granted in an office environment – the benefit of face-to-face communication. When shifting to a more flexible, long-term model, marketing departments need to ensure that they do not lose something that we might take for granted – visibility. Relying on chat platforms and video conferencing tools to collaborate could make it more challenging to keep track of projects happening on other platforms.

One way of creating visibility in a hybrid environment is through the use of collaboration software. These technologies make it possible for information sharing and greater transparency across marketing teams. Tasks are easily accessible to everyone, meaning fewer mistakes, greater consistency and a shared knowledge of what others are working on. This not only helps encourage a certain level of transparency and accountability within teams, it also promotes a culture of open communication.

Through increasing visibility, you can ensure that each individual is aware of exactly how they are contributing to a project and their role as part of the wider team. If a certain element of a campaign is delayed or not where it should be it quickly becomes apparent, and can easily be picked up on before it has a knock-on effect. This helps marketing teams keep things on track and swiftly spot mistakes, leading to an overall increase in productivity and results.

The role of the marketing team has never been more important. In today’s uncertain climate, innovation  is essential and implementing the right tactics at the right time could be the difference between an entire business surviving or collapsing. By focusing on digitally-driven multi-channel strategies and leveraging technologies that can facilitate communication and collaboration amongst employees, regardless of their location, marketing leaders can set themselves up for future success, regardless of what comes next.

Top trends to watch out for as marketing investment makes a comeback

By Saranya Babu, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Wrike  

There is no doubt that last year had its challenges. With the economy at rock bottom and the majority of businesses facing severe financial hardship, marketing departments across the world felt the pinch. Industry-wide cut-backs resulted in a dramatic decrease in spending throughout the year, accumulating in the fourth quarter with 24% of marketers recording a further decline in budgets as a result of the pandemic.  

However, with new vaccinations bringing the hope of recovery – both in terms of the country’s health and economy – the marketing industry is preparing to bounce back. After spending 2020 in crisis mode, many are ready to boost their investments. Earlier this month, the CMO Council found that 65% of marketers plan to increase their marketing spend in 2021.  

The challenge for marketers moving forward will be knowing where to spend that money. Despite future prospects looking bright, the road to recovery is likely to be a long one. There is no guarantee of success, and marketing teams must ensure that the tactics and strategies they choose to deploy deliver the ROI (return on investment) they need.   

Yet, with so many trends and the naturally fast-paced nature of the marketing landscape, it can be difficult to know what to focus on. Although the future is impossible to predict, there are three areas that marketers should take note of this year:  

1) The face of content marketing will change  

Content marketing has long been considered one of the most effective ways to increase audience engagement and develop a brand presence. However, in recent years, we’ve seen a noticeable shift away from its traditional written format.   

Although blogs and whitepapers will remain an important tool for brands wanting to communicate to their customers, the majority of today’s consumers are really after something a little more digestible. This is where video content, in particular, is set to play an important role. In fact, The Content Marketing Institute recently discovered that 71% of B2B marketers and 66% of B2C marketers already use this format to connect to their audiences. Whether in the form of short tutorials or live webinars, we can expect to see even more video content moving forward.  

If this video content is to be a success, we need to apply the usual principles when it comes to personalisation and the consumer journey. Today’s consumers expect more targeted and relevant marketing than ever before, with 66% admitting that encountering non-personalised content would stop them from making a purchase. Therefore, the most successful material will target customers directly and offer true value, without trying to explicitly sell them anything.  

2) Search intent will matter most when it comes to SEO  

We all know that SEO is one of the most important ways a brand can drive traffic to its website. The higher a page ranks on a search engine, the more likely users will click on it and begin that initial interaction.   

In the past, some have relied on keyword stuffing and other dicey strategies to boost their ranking. However, Google has worked hard to improve its algorithm over the years. So much so that it can now determine the search intent behind a specific search query. Whether a user is looking for information about the weather or searching for a product to buy, Google will rank its results based on what it thinks the user wants to see.   

This, in turn, makes it really important for marketers to focus on the end user and their search intent. Regardless of what marketing collateral is being produced – whether written or video – teams need to ensure that it is relevant to the user’s search query. That might mean making sure your landing page is informational as opposed to transactional, with links to separate sales pages for those looking to buy.  

3) Virtual events will become the norm  

When the pandemic hit, in the interest of keeping people safe and limiting the spread of the virus, industry events and tradeshows across the world were put on hold. For many, the solution was to go virtual. Surprisingly, this monumental change has brought about some positive results.   

Companies have found themselves saving money and time. Meanwhile, the pool of potential invitees and attendees has exploded, as people from across the world can instantly join without even having to think about travelling. This virtual landscape also enables marketers to collect valuable feedback and measure results in order to inform future events. Speakers can insert real-time polls or surveys into their presentations and it becomes much easier to gather certain data – such as number and location of attendees – when everyone logs on online.   

Even when things do return to normal and physical events are able to go ahead, the likelihood is that this virtual trend will continue in some format. In fact, 80% of people predict that in-person and virtual events will co-exist moving forward. Therefore, marketers need to prepare themselves for a hybrid future.  

Making the right choices  

The role of the marketing team has never been more important. In today’s climate, implementing the most effective marketing tactics and strategies could be the difference between an entire business surviving or collapsing.  With this year promising an increase in budgets, marketers need to ensure that they are making the right choices and setting themselves up for future success.   

Regardless of what trend the team decides to focus on, the key will be to think carefully and monitor efforts in order to understand what works best for the wider business and its key audiences. It is only then that marketers will be ready for whatever comes next.   

How intelligent technologies are helping marketers predict challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond

By Saranya Babu, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Wrike

Marketing is undeniably one of the most important aspects of modern business strategy. Whether it’s developing a unique brand image, or carrying out specific campaigns to attract the right audience, the activities of the marketing department are at the centre of driving growth and revenue within any organisation. 

This year, marketers have been presented with an entirely new and unexpected challenge – how to navigate a global pandemic. The economic uncertainty surrounding this ongoing crisis has forced many businesses to redefine their brand identity, in order to distinguish themselves from their competitors and survive. 

While many businesses are accustomed to crisis management, the scale of this pandemic calls for a more comprehensive approach. In order to truly speak to their audiences during these unprecedented times and beyond, marketers must focus on developing a meaningful and consistent brand image, with each and every project being a success.  

Make no mistakes with integrated insights

With businesses of all shapes and sizes facing a long road to recovery, tough decisions are being made across the board. Unfortunately, many marketing departments are bearing the brunt of industry-wide cut-backs. In fact, dips in business revenue have resulted in the largest ever decline in spending, with over  41% of UK firms  reducing their marketing budgets in the third quarter of 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic.  

During this time of turmoil, instant access to real-time performance metrics within existing work management platforms is essential for marketing teams, especially given the speed at which things are changing. The ability to examine the progress of ongoing projects and campaigns, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as potential areas for improvement can improve the chances of a successful outcome. 

After all, marketing is dependent on the ability to juggle several tasks at once. This is a lot easier said than done when multiple ads, email, and social campaigns are running simultaneously. Operating on outdated information – even by a day or two – can adversely affect the final outcome of a project. Moreover, as the remote work era continues, visibility will become more important than ever before. The lack of face-to-face communication demands accurate performance metrics in order to track and analyse a campaigns’ progression at any given moment.  

Ahead of the game 

Many different things can derail a project. Additional costs, failure to meet deadlines, or unplanned modifications can all have a negative impact and, ultimately, cost a business – especially in our current landscape. In order to increase the likelihood of success for a project and limit any potential risk, marketing teams should look to predict and plan for a series of different possibilities from the offset.  

This is where modern technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – come into play. These technologies can pinpoint at-risk projects and provide an early diagnosis, so that teams can take necessary action to minimise risk and solve any potential challenges before they even occur. By recognising signals and patterns based on hundreds of factors, including past campaign results, work progress, organisation history, and work complexity, the insights provided by these technologies can help to salvage entire projects. 

With intelligent insights readily available, marketing teams can work towards prioritising matters of high-importance, such as mitigating and managing risk. This can be done by evaluating a project’s ‘risk tolerance’. In other words, how much can you allow before you need to act. This is a crucial step in any project management process, enabling marketers to choose the most effective response and ensure that resources are being used in the most effective way.  

As competition rises and budgets shrink, marketing teams are under increasing pressure to deliver. Connecting with desired audiences through brand consistency, strong messaging, and impactful campaigns is still important. However – thanks to the increased pressures brought by the pandemic – there is no longer any room for error. Therefore, guaranteeing all activities are on course and risk is at an all-time-low must be a priority. While there isn’t a single ingredient for success during these unprecedented times, integrated insights and AI and ML technologies could play a significant part in enabling marketing teams to predict and mitigate any possible risks ahead of time. 

Priorities for marketers amid a global pandemic

By David McGeough, Director of International Marketing, Wrike

Around the world, businesses are adapting their strategies to reflect the COVID-19 era. For some this means pivoting to a blanket e-commerce approach; for others it has meant creating completely new content hubs and microsites.

Whatever the changes may be, relevancy has never been so important. Your audiences want to know exactly how you are responding to the current challenges and how you will come out the other side.

Now, more than ever, marketing departments are being tested. Previous plans must be replaced, budgets must be cut, and teams must try to maintain the same level of productivity while working remotely.

Stay connected, keep collaborating

Most workforces have now been logging on from home for around nine weeks. During this time, we’ve all had a chance to adapt to our new working routine, finding alternative ways to stay connected with our colleagues.

This has quickly brought to light the importance of collaboration, and how much we take for granted being in close proximity to team members. No longer able to ask someone a question at their desk or get campaign updates in daily face-to-face meetings, we’re relying on technology to bridge the gap. Regardless of where employees are based, marketing teams need to be able to quickly and easily see the status of a task, know the latest developments, and have full visibility of crucial deadlines.

Not only do these tools and platforms need to boost collaboration, they also need to bring every aspect of a campaign or activity under one umbrella. This means should external agencies, freelancers or third-party suppliers be involved, everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.

With technologies such as work management platforms helping businesses maintain productivity away from the office, many organisations will continue their remote working policies in the future.

A spotlight on ROI

As the pandemic continues to transform the economy, many businesses are experiencing a severe decline in revenue. Inevitably, this has had a knock-on effect internally, with multiple departments taking a hit.

Despite marketing playing a key role in promoting products and services, as well as ensuring the right audiences are being targeted, it’s unsurprising that the vast majority of teams are having to work with reduced budgets. While we’ve seen the same happen as a response to previous recessions – including those in both the 1990s and late 2000s – it has led to certain campaigns being put on hold or cancelled altogether.

It has also resulted in an urgent focus on performance, with a need to understand exactly what activity is having the most impact, and what can no longer afford to be a priority. Marketing teams are using this time to analyse every tactic and platform being used to uncover the return on investment they are getting.

Under close watch, marketers will be forced to transform the way they work in order to find their feet. This will mean getting creative, working with what they already have, and injecting innovation into every activity. This approach won’t just be critical for the current climate, but for those that want to thrive when the economy begins to rebuild.

Preparing for the new normal

While it’s easy to be consumed by the negative impact of the ongoing crisis, this period provides a unique chance for marketing teams to deploy different tactics and learn new skillsets. Employees that usually focus on events, for example, can transfer and develop their skills for digital webinars or conferences. As a result, teams will be better set-up to deal with the changes we are set to see post-pandemic.

If teams are willing to properly analyse the results of their campaign audits under new budget restrictions, they will end up with insights that improve their strategies both now, and in the future. New tactics, tools and ways of working will be replaced by more efficient, streamline and effective methods, without teams having to lose out on the collaboration that is fundamental to marketing success.

Taking a step back could turn out to be extremely positive for innovation. Despite recruitment being on hold, it’s very likely that we will see an increased demand for certain skillsets, such as digital media. The teams that are willing to adapt are the ones that will come out on top, having used this time to rethink product offerings, key audiences and technologies.

Short-term, KPIs and priorities for marketing departments will continue to fluctuate as businesses become more cautious with their money. The longer-term impact will likely be different; however, it is still too early to say how. COVID-19 has forced every marketing team, on a global scale, to consider how they spend and invest their money. Those that have been able to streamline and readjust to the new normal will find it easier as we begin to come out of this.

UK marketers ‘burying their heads in the sand’ on automation

A new survey has revealed that low-level, repetitive tasks are stifling the flow of creative juices and operational efficiencies among UK marketers.

And yet a third are choosing not to do anything about it.

The Digital Work Report 2018, commissioned by Wrike, found 33 per cent of UK marketers say that automation is not something they are considering, while 34 per cent saying they do not believe it would give their company a competitive edge.

However, nearly all (98 per cent) who took part admitted some aspect of their work is repetitive or cognitively routine, with a quarter estimating as much as 61-80 per cent.

Crucially, the survey found over two-thirds (69 per cent) believe they could achieve more work if technology could take on repetitive tasks such as filing, copying information between systems and documenting action items from meetings – with a quarter saying as much as 50 per cent more if that was the case.

If they could win back some valuable time, marketers would choose to focus more on creative work (32 per cent), team management (26 per cent), developing strategic projects (21 per cent), time spent listening to customers (20 per cent) and creating a better work culture in the office (19 per cent).

The report found that the ability to be efficient is hampered by some of the processes in place in their organisations; 27 per cent felt work is done across too many systems, creating duplication of work and communications, for example.

While 48 per cent said they have a culture of operational excellence in place, whereby they constantly review and improve how they are doing things within their team and organisation, only 10 per cent scored their company’s ability to consistently deliver high-quality work on time with existing resources as ‘excellent’. 30 per cent of UK marketers say their company strives to improve processes but changes are just too slow.

“Traditionally marketers are at the cutting edge of technology trends when it comes to the work they deliver, but these results suggest they are not always finding time to practice what they preach,” said Andrew Filev, CEO and founder of Wrike.

“With ever-increasing pressure around delivery times, personalisation of products and predictability, the marketing craft is being slowly buried under a mountain of disparate processes that leave little time for adding real creative value. With business automation developing at pace, change management is becoming an increasingly important part of the role.”

Interestingly, 34 per cent of marketers said they believe that when it comes to flawless execution they could do a better job than their boss. Worryingly, out of frustration with a lack of operational efficiency, 32 per cent of marketers have searched for a new job.

Wrike for Marketers ‘simplifies and frees’ creatives from technology overload…

The project management application service provider, Wrike, has launched a brand new solution which aims to provide marketers with a ‘core management platform’, as well as added capabilities specifically designed to help define, execute and plan standout campaigns in a multichannel digital world.

Wrike for Marketers claims to support all phases of the marketing lifecycle; as jobs are requested with customisable briefs and ideas and content created with a document editor and the Adobe Creative Cloud Extension that notifies, assigns and brings focus to creative work.

Founder and CEO of Wrike, Andrew Filev, said: “I believe we’ve built the easiest way for marketers and creatives to manage their work from inspiration to delivery. A big pain point for these teams has always been the time and frustration required to transfer information between the various phases of projects. Wrike for Marketers integrates those phases into one continuous stream.”

Find out more about Wrike for Marketers here