In recent history, there have been three important events that have led marketing teams to shift their focus and embrace digital marketing transformation.
The first event was 9/11 in 2001 and how fear and uncertainty gripped the U.S. (and others). This hindered planned marketing activities including travel and events where thousands of people congregated. The second event was the economic crisis of 2008 which had both businesses and consumers concerned about the repercussions that came out of every dollar spent. Third, is how COVID has affected many lives and how we conduct business.
March 2020 provided the world with a new chapter. Those who accepted and embraced the changes with compassion for each other have figured out ways to conduct business, despite the challenges many businesses have faced.
My guest this week on the Modern Marketing Engine podcast is Sara Larsen. Sara’s experience and “marketing scars” come from years of marketing leadership roles at organizations such as IBM, SAP, and Dassault Systems. Most recently, Sara was the CMO at Brightcove, the leading online video streaming platform.
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Sara and I spoke about what she describes as the three digital marketing transformation pillars every organization needs in order to become successful in the face of significant change.
Marketing Transformation Pivot
Before I reveal Sara’s three pillars, the word pivot warrants attention. This word is likely on the list of words that marketers didn’t anticipate we would use so much in 2020. The word is commonly used to define a slight change that ensures short term survival. This is exactly what many marketers thought 2020 needed, a slight change in the way we market our businesses.
But as the events of 2020 unfolded, we continued to see no indications that things would return back to its pre-COVID state. So, the word pivot was not only used to describe short term survival, instead, it was used to describe long term resilience and growth.I agree that in the face of #DigitalMarketing transformation, #alignment is more important than ever, especially with the product 👏🏼 Great insights from @sararlarsen and @GoVengreso's CCO, @bernieborges in the @mmenginepodcast Click To Tweet
Most organizations have already gone through the first part which is ensuring short-term survival. For example, some businesses in B2C have adjusted for the short term such as bakeries pivoting to sell kits to bake at home and alcohol distilleries pivoting to make hand-sanitizers. However, these adjustments or pivots aren’t necessarily sustainable and we now need to think about how we pivot towards long-term resilience and growth.
Pillar #1 – How Relevant are you during this Marketing Transformation?
Many organizations began to experience the reality that some customers didn’t view them as necessary or relevant in the “new normal.” As marketers, we need to understand that buyer’s needs have changed, and we must ask ourselves, is what we’re selling still relevant?
This is where marketers need to be aligned not just with the sales plan but also with your product strategy. Sales can tell you what conversations they’re having with buyers. What are they looking for now? What are their highest priorities and where in their organization does your product fit in? This will help define how imminent a pivot will be from what you were doing before to what you need to be offering now.
We’ve always seen alignment as important but in the face of digital marketing transformation, we see that it is more important than ever. Business continuity is also at an all-time high. For example, video messaging can sometimes substitute for those virtual meetings that your buyers may no longer consider as high-priority.
Pillar #2 – The Marketing Mix Has Fundamentally Changed
Interestingly, many of us can tell you the exact day, hour, and even minute when we realized back in March that our plans for the year were going to be turned upside down. When the COVID-19 outbreak has deemed a pandemic everything changed.Thanks to this @mmenginepodcast I learned from @sararlarsen and @GoVengreso's CCO, @bernieborges the best video practices to keep an attendee engaged for over 20 minutes in #VirtualEvents that allow organizations to showcase technology Click To Tweet
The most notable marketing pivot in 2020 centered around events and event planning. Most events have either been canceled or have gone entirely virtual. These new events have given organizations the need to step up their innovation to keep attendees engaged.
Though Sara estimates that in-person events are likely to resume after Q2 of 2021, the results from virtual events have been mostly positive. At in-person events, it was tough to keep an attendee engaged for over 20 minutes, but virtual events allow organizations to showcase technology and this is all thanks to video best practices. Social content, podcasts, video content, these are all great platforms for brands to showcase their assets.
We referenced both 9/11 and the 2008 economic crisis earlier in this post. In 2008, similar to this year, everyone was saying that things would resume in 2009, and for the most part, things did. But how are things different this year?
For starters, people’s lives are in play by contrast to 2008, which was an economic-only event. Today, the technology is more advanced, and with so much invested in digital marketing transformation and content marketing, marketers have the ability to pivot to this new normal. Sure, events will come back eventually but we might be looking at hybrid events.
Being Helpful can Benefit you in the Long Run
Sara’s team at Brightcove began to offer free live-streaming video to organizations who could use it to support their community. They offered this service to schools and churches and community theatres. They offered up to 50 free hours and this was not only rewarding but was also a very helpful research opportunity.
With the information gathered, they began to see what problems organizations were facing during the pandemic in the midst of their digital marketing transformation. It was a good way to learn what problems most organizations were facing and what solutions they needed.
Pillar #3 – Evolving Talent Needs in the Midst of Digital Marketing Transformation
Marketers often raise the question, what do I need to learn next? Marketing leaders and their teams need to continually keep up with the latest trends to stay competitive. But this year things have been different. It used to be, what would I need to know next year? Today it’s what do I need to know for next week? Trends are changing at an alarming rate. Selling with video and selling with social media used to be a suggestion, today it’s a necessity to stay relevant.
Sara says that as marketing leaders, we need to know where the world is headed. What does the buyer care about? How do we speak to buyers on their preferred digital channels?#MarketingLeaders need to know where the world is headed. I enjoyed the great takeaways in this @mmenginepodcast from @sararlarsen and @GoVengreso's CCO, @bernieborges ➡️ I'm now wondering what does my buyer care about and how do I… Click To Tweet
The conventional wisdom that in order to close bigger deals, customers need to meet with salespeople face-to-face is no longer true…That big sales aren’t likely to happen virtually. Sara highlights a recent study conducted by McKinsey that says, over 70% of B2B buyers are open to self-service models of up to $50k. Over 27% said they’d spend over $500k.
What does this mean? That your buyers understand that the world has gone virtual so you need to adapt as well.
A study conducted by Gartner in 2020 states that the modern B2B buying committee only spends 17% of its time in their customer journey, talking to suppliers. The rest of the time is spent defining their requirements, looking up websites, competitors, and watching videos and reading reviews. That means, instead of worrying about how much time you spend speaking to prospective buyers, you need to be thinking about what content will appeal to your buyer to be included in their research. This includes all forms of content including video, podcasts, and social media posts.
Many executives are reluctant to invest in online training or peer mentoring because they would rather wait until “things get back to normal.” Sara is an advocate of staying current by keeping talent up to speed on the trends that are needed today. She says that current talent demands include event planning, putting on digital experiences, investing in digital training and lastly, research. You need to determine whether or not your buyer type is the same or if your product or service is best suited for a different buyer persona.
Shifting Towards Digital Marketing Transformation
I thoroughly enjoy speaking with B2B marketing or B2C marketing visionaries who are constantly looking to better themselves and those around them. Sara says that digital marketing transformation isn’t always planned and this year is a clear example of it. We ended the episode on a high note with Sara emphasizing the importance of having empathy for your team, clients, and colleagues while driving our businesses forward.
This change has affected everyone so as we move out of this pivot and into the long-term resilience and growth, empathy will carry us through and into our next chapter.
Outline of this Digital Marketing Transformation Episode
[2:40] Sara Larsen Bio and Introduction
[3:50] 3 digital transformation pillars she wants to talk about
[4:00] Importance of Pivoting towards short term change and long term resilience and growth
[4:30] First Pillar: Are you Relevant? Will your traditional marketing strategies be enough?
[11:00] Second Pillar: The Digital Marketing Mix has Fundamentally Changed
[12:30] When are events coming back? Importance of Digital technology.
[15:45] The difference between this market change and the change in the 2008 economic recession.
[20:30] Third Pillar: Evolving Talent Needs
[25:40] Invest in Online Training and Peer Mentoring
[27:00] Marketing evolution and continuous need to reassess
Featured on this Episode
- Connect with Sara Ramlo Larsen on LinkedIn
Resources & People Mentioned
- The Modern Selling Podcast with Vengreso CEO, Mario Martinez, Jr.
Connect With Bernie and Modern Marketing Engine