The evolution of technology marketing after COVID-19 and what CMOs should keep in mind

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalisation efforts across industries – from retail to banking and financial services – creating more sales opportunities for technology providers.
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In the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged traditional business models, accelerated digitalisation efforts, and changed the way enterprises engage their customers.

Customer expectations for speed, responsiveness, and personalisation have evolved significantly, with 43 percent of B2B customers preferring to buy a complex solution without engaging a sales representative at all, according to Gartner.

In turn, companies are looking to offer an end-to-end digital experience to customers, encompassing all stages of the enterprise technology sales cycle – from prospecting and presenting to follow-up and closing.

But what does that mean for the technology, IT, and ITeS CMOs? They have traditionally relied on user conferences and in-person events to launch new offerings, demonstrate their products, and generate interest in their offerings.

Digital outreach had already become an integral component of their marketing roster, but the pandemic made it even more critical. The pandemic also accelerated digitalisation efforts across industries – from retail to banking and financial services – creating more sales opportunities for technology providers.

How are future-ready CMOs adapting their approaches to enable the salesforce and drive topline growth, meeting the demands of enterprises looking to advance digital transformation efforts? This article discusses six considerations for technology CMOs looking to transform how they market to and engage directly with clients.

Experience and value – two critical levers of a tech CMO’s arsenal

With marketing budgets curtailed and the workforce working from home, technology CMOs have had to get creative and think of ways to deliver an immersive experience to their customers remotely. From webinars to video conferencing, CMOs are experimenting with different channels to engage customers and showcase the value of their offerings.

CMOs today need to curate unique experiences and deliver those digitally to create superior customer value. It is no longer about the underlying technology and marketing the core features of a technology product or service.

It is even more essential to ensure customers appreciate the 360-degree experience of using a technology offering. Interestingly, experience-driven companies can achieve more than six times greater profitable growth compared to their product-centric peers.

The hybrid event strategy

In-person events have been critical for technology businesses, especially in the technology and ITeS space, with user conferences, CEO roundtables, and networking events held around the year. However, global lockdowns and social distancing mandates made that impossible in 2020 and 2021.

Most sellers tried their hand at online events to interact with customers and launch new products and offerings. Buyers also realised they were saving time and travel costs by participating in events virtually.

As we advance, we will see a shift towards hybrid events consisting of in-person and virtual components, providing flexibility and convenience to attendees. It is also a more sustainable event strategy keeping in mind the recurring virus outbreaks worldwide.

Moreover, hybrid events are significantly more eco-friendly, and help enterprises reduce their carbon footprint. Using state-of-the-art, feature-rich live event streaming and virtual event platforms, CMOs can ensure attendees' interaction with the salesforce, sponsors, exhibitors, and each other is consistently high.

Hyper-personalised content for superior results

According to a McKinsey study, only 20 percent of B2B buyers hope to return to in-person sales. In this scenario, it becomes even more important to hone the content marketing strategy across the sales funnel.

Dynamic, personalised content across channels can help CMOs create awareness about their products, engage prospects, drive the buyer's decision-making process, help prospects gain executive buy-in, and close deals faster.

Using rich media, marketers can cut through the noise and draw attention to their offerings in the digital space where attention spans are very low. Further, they must continuously evolve their content to reflect the changing needs and expectations of the customer base by using techniques such as social listening and A/B testing.

Bolstering the analytics landscape

The sales process has increasingly become data-driven. In the post-pandemic age of virtual selling, data will be even more crucial to drive digital commerce and accelerate revenue growth.

Today, marketers can perform advanced sentiment analysis using social media data and compare it with buying behavior to uncover emotional drivers affecting the sales process. And the opportunities are endless.

CMOs must foster a thriving data culture to generate actionable, in-depth insights from large volumes of data from various unstructured and structured data sources.

According to HubSpot, 42 percent of technology marketing professionals point to a lack of quality data as a significant barrier to lead generation.

Implementing leading-edge data management practices can ensure the data used for decision-making is high quality, relevant, accurate, and constantly updated. While most organisations collect terabytes of data, few have effectively consolidated it and enabled a 360-degree view of the customer relationship.

And that is where the gold mine lies. Accomplishing that would require marketing teams to be inter-disciplinary – with creative talent, data scientists, and digital marketers.

Data privacy is key

Today's digitally aware customer is more private and wants to ensure their data is handled with the utmost care. Moreover, countries worldwide are rolling out stricter laws to protect their citizens' data.

CMOs need to stay ahead of legislation and adopt solutions to manage customers' data effectively while ensuring superior compliance. They need to build trust with their customer base, emphasising that the data collected still belongs to the customer, and sharing it would create more value.

By adopting a policy of "privacy by design" and building the highest standards of privacy into data collection and processing workflows, CMOs can instill that trust.

Other tenets of transparency and choice are also critical, and marketers must strive to allow customers to request information quickly and choose what data they share with the company.

Build a robust martech stack

Gartner defines marketing technology as "a set of software solutions used by marketing leaders to support mission-critical business objectives and drive innovation within their organisations". It consists of various tools responsible for streamlining and augmenting email marketing, content management, social media marketing, advertising, CRM, and analytics.

Marketing automation platforms track lead activity, including website visits, page views, content downloads, and email open rates, informing the marketing strategy with rich insights. They can be integrated closely with other peripheral systems such as CRM and CMS to build a complete profile of your leads.

CMOs must also make strategic investments in AI-powered tools that support SEO, SEM, and other marketing efforts, helping attract and retain customers backed by holistic data insights.

For instance, SEO can be automated using AI, where teams receive feedback on the usage of keywords, links and more, in real time. Another use case of AI is live chat. During the pandemic, it has seen rapid proliferation as the preferred channel for interacting and closing sales with B2B customers.

Tracking activity and measuring efforts

As the world becomes increasingly digital, a large chunk of the marketing budget is diverted to support digital marketing activities. Securing executive and CFO buy-in for critical initiatives can become challenging for CMOs if the ROI is not correctly deciphered.

Marketing teams can determine the impact of their programmes by tracking activity across marketing channels, ensuring they are looking at the right data, analysing brand and unbranded organic, paid, direct, and referral traffic, and setting up measurable conversions as goals.

The way forward

These pandemic-induced trends are likely here to stay, and the CMO organization needs to transform its people, processes, and technology to stay ahead of the curve and deliver sustainable growth for the modern-day enterprise.

Virtual sales will provide more opportunities for marketers to harness valuable data and significantly reduce marketing costs. By digitising the go-to-market model, CMOs will be better positioned to build a more loyal customer base, boost conversions, and deliver a competitive edge.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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