In these changing times, global marketing executives are looking for ways to navigate uncertainty and strengthen their connection with customers. Here we look at how marketing organizations are pivoting their operations to understand their marketplace better and quickly respond to changing customer needs.

1: Efficient marketing is paramount to survival

Marketing has often been hindered over the years by cumbersome manual processes, lack of visibility across the organization, and multiple versions of the truth. These shortcomings came back to haunt organizations during the Covid crisis.

Indeed, a quarter of respondents to the recent BrandMaker Pulse survey gave their marketing efficiency a grade of F, pointing to an overdependence on spreadsheets, poor collaboration and workflow tools, and difficulty accessing and sharing content, budget, and project status. Just 10 percent of respondents gave their marketing efficiency an A.

The last 12 months has underscored the need for a new age of efficient marketing and marketing that is better aligned with business strategy. The ability to execute a strategic marketing plan efficiently and effectively is the key to better understanding customers and fulfilling their needs. Marketing operations systems and technologies will be critical to these efforts because they get everyone in the organization moving in the same direction, enabling marketing teams to respond to new challenges and opportunities.

That’s why 75 percent of organizations say they plan to increase spending on marketing operational efficiency this year—because those investments will be critical.

2: Marketers prioritizing financial control

More than ever, CMOs must demonstrate value to CEOs and CFOs, because in any crisis, CMOs are known to be the first to have their budgets cut. Indeed, only 5 percent of our survey respondents expect an increase in their budget this year over last year.

The problem is that CMOs can only demonstrate value if they have their marketing department in order—if they have hard facts to map the results of their marketing efforts to real organizational goals. But this is easier said than done. Marketing departments need to level up and get their house in order before they can demonstrate their value.

And that’s where marketing operations come in. MarketingOps is mission-critical to the day-to-day functioning of marketing departments because it gives them the ability to accomplish such vital tasks as measuring, analyzing, and reporting on marketing efforts while continually optimizing activities to improve return on investment.

3: Strengthening the human connection consumers crave

Suppose you think about the typical way digital marketing works. In that case, many organizations try to

manage data and digital communications manually – using analog tools in a digital age. That leaves little time for anyone to dedicate serious time and mindshare to thinking creatively and strategically. We are at the point where the wheels turn and turn, but the car is not moving forward.

It is folly to think we are going to regain control of our digital marketing world with 20th century analog thinking. Our “thinking small” has led us to the place we are now – behind in our work, out of touch, out of control, frustrated, and exhausted.

This is what I call mechanical marketing. When people are demanding more from businesses, marketers will need to reintroduce the human element to marketing to get back the creative spark. Innovative organizations can add that authentic human element by transforming their marketing operations.

4: Marketers strengthening customer engagement through relevant content

Remote work, even in a post-pandemic era, is likely here to stay. Many employees will continue working from home instead of returning to the office, even after it is safe to do so. This changes the game for marketing departments because when their target customers are no longer dealing with one- and two-hour commutes, they have more time to consume marketing content. And, frankly, they’re getting overwhelmed with all the ads and marketing messages they see as they spend more time online and connected to their devices.

This means that marketers must do better. Because of increased consumer fatigue, marketers need to connect with consumers at a higher level and stop torturing them with the same content that doesn’t work. Instead, marketers must deliver content that is more relevant to consumers because the new and different work and lifestyle patterns of consumers post-Covid will lead them to want more engaging and sophisticated content.

5: Courageous marketers fostering innovation

Courageous marketers will add innovative channels to their marketing mix, such as virtual/augmented reality. Consumers are savvier than ever before, and they are increasingly demanding interactive and personal experiences when engaging with their favorite brands. That means marketers have to create content that can genuinely wow their audience. Offering consumers an immersive experience powered by AR/VR enables them to connect to brands in exciting new ways while reframing their entire experience with a particular product. A robust marketing operations platform will be vital to enabling this kind of innovation.

Companies are forced to become more agile, and CMOs will have an opportunity to capitalize on this agility to meet the demands of a new reality. Those who do will gain fast access to sales and marketing data and analysis, will be quick to enhance their marketing operations, and be far better positioned to survive and thrive in the coming year.