David McGeough – Director of International Marketing at Wrike – has over 20 years of marketing experience at some of the world’s leading technology companies. Having experienced the economic crises of the 1990s and the late 2000s over that time, the team at Netimperative caught up with him to find out more about how the current COVID-19 climate differs, and what the long-term impact is likely to be for marketing teams.

What are some of the major challenges that marketing teams are facing in the current climate?

In the face of COVID-19, remote working has gone from being an incentive to a necessity. Marketing teams across the country have had to quickly embrace the working from home lifestyle, whilst still ensuring that they are able to deliver engaging campaigns that speak to their audiences.

One of the primary challenges marketing teams are currently facing is ensuring that collaboration remains seamless and effective, regardless of where each employee is based. Marketing efforts require the entire department – alongside any external agencies they work with – to be fully connected. This alignment – which can only be achieved through consistent collaboration – is critical in creating consistently high-quality campaigns at both speed and scale. It ensures that every individual working on a project is on the same page and able to meet those all-important deadlines.

However, in the current crisis, collaboration can no longer be achieved in face-to-face meetings or in-person catch-ups. Instead, marketing teams are turning to new ways of working, adopting the tools and technologies that will enable them to achieve the same levels of collaboration and productivity they are used to.

As businesses struggle with the economic impact of COVID-19, the majority of marketing teams are also facing stark budget cuts and projects are being put on hold. In fact, recent research discovered that 86% of marketers are now delaying or reviewing campaigns. This is not necessarily something new. Over the years, whenever any kind of economic downturn has hit, as consumers and companies become more cautious with their money, quite often marketing budgets are one of the first costs cut in order to stay afloat. Whilst the full impact of the most recent COVID-19-related cuts might not be felt for a while, it’s certainly a concerning time for marketers across all sectors.

When faced with COVID-19-related budget cuts, how can teams rethink their strategy both online and offline in order to ensure the best return on investment?

Short term, it’s likely that the budget cuts will force companies to focus on performance as a matter of urgency. As part of this, marketing teams will need to analyse each individual campaign, as well as every tactic used within that campaign, in order to assess the return on investment they are achieving from it.

In times of crisis, marketing performance is often under huge amounts of scrutiny, especially seeing as key performance indicators tend to fluctuate and priorities shift. There’s no doubt that marketers will need to be creative and transform the way that they work in order to survive the current climate. However, taking a step back and rethinking a marketing strategy could be good for innovation, both long term and more immediately.

Every marketing team is different and the current crisis provides an opportunity to test both online and offline strategies in order to find out what is having the greatest impact. The result is likely to vary across different industries and, even individual companies within those industries. If marketing teams take onboard their findings, they could improve their strategy both now and in the future. It could help them to find new channels and tactics that work even better than the old ones.

Do you think COVID-19 will change marketers working habits long term? What role will technology play in this?

Recent research revealed that just 32% of UK marketers believe that their working practices will go back to normal completely once the threat of COVID-19 has passed. It’s likely that the wave in remote working, for example, will splash over into the post-coronavirus era. Some marketers might find that they’re more productive whilst working from home and some companies might even decide to incorporate new remote working requirements into their contracts.

Regardless of just how many employees decide to alter their working habits permanently, businesses need to be able to support those working remotely during this time of crisis and beyond. In order for organisations to implement these new practices as seamlessly as possible, technology will need to be a critical consideration.

For example, collaborative work management platforms help marketing – as well as teams across other departments – to interact efficiently, regardless of where they are based. Tasks become easily accessible for everyone meaning fewer mistakes, greater consistency and a shared knowledge of what others are working on.

These technologies increase visibility, meaning 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. They not only help encourage a certain level of transparency and accountability, they also help marketing teams keep things on track, leading to an overall increase in productivity and results.

What impact will the current crisis have in terms of investment and spend on people in the marketing sector and is this likely to affect the digital marketing skills gap moving forward?

Unfortunately, it’s likely that hiring will slow down or even stop entirely during the COVID-19 crises. In some cases, there might even be redundancies.

However, this period also provides a unique opportunity for individuals to re-train and upskill. Field marketing for example, especially event management, has seen a total shift in terms of the way activity is being carried out. Whilst many events which were due to take place during this period have been put on hold, others have gone digital and therefore require a different skillset entirely. Many teams might need to get external help, but this change in tactic also offers the chance for internal teams to learn something new and gain experience in a new area. As a result, marketing teams will likely consider different tactics in the future, putting to use the skills and experience they have gathered during this period.

In general, it’s likely we’ll see an increasing demand for skills in digital media and demand generation as the COVID pandemic continues. It’s the teams that are able to adapt and alter their mindsets that are most likely to survive.

Do you think the economic impact of COVID-19 is different than the other economic recessions you have witnessed?

It’s very difficult to say at the moment whether the economic impact of COVID-19 will be different from other recessions. All the large economies in the world have been affected and the down turn has happened so quickly.

However, one thing’s for sure. COVID-19 has forced us all – on a global scale – to reevaluate the way we do business and to adapt the way that we work. Business leaders are having to be creative and rethink product offerings, key target audiences, hiring and budgets. There is no longer the option for organisations to do things the way they always have, forcing a certain level of innovation on even the most established of brands.

In essence, organisations are having to streamline in order to survive. Those that adapt to this new climate of remote working by investing in the right technologies, strategies and skillsets will likely come out the other side and set themselves up for success post-COVID-19.

David McGeough is Director of International Marketing at Wrike

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