Four key strategies that will help marketers thrive in 2021’s new normal
As we look to what it will take for marketing organizations to succeed in 2021, Gartner says marketers must focus on four primary competencies: Customer understanding, adaptive planning, data-driven decision making and strategic cost optimization.
While agility has been a long-standing goal for marketing leaders, the events of 2020 underscored just how important agile approaches were to enabling a high-functioning and highly adaptive marketing organization. According to Gartner's 2020 Cost Optimization Survey, nine out of ten marketing leaders faced budget cuts last year due to the pandemic -- requiring many to, "Focus on high-impact initiatives and get rid of misaligned, mediocre and vanity projects.”
During his keynote at last year's virtual Gartner Marketing Symposium, the company's VP, Advisory Rick DeLisi emphasized that to be more adaptive and agile, marketers must place a renewed focus on four core competencies:
- Understanding your customer and how they relate to your brand.
- Embracing an adaptive planning mindset that puts agility and speed at the center of your organization.
- Creating a data-driven culture where decisions are based on valuable data-points that allow brands to course-correct strategies in real-time.
- Enabling strategic cost optimization systems, focusing on efforts that deliver the greatest ROI for the entire business.
Agility must be at the core of everything
As an agile email creation platform, stensul has been on the "agile bandwagon" for some time now, but Gartner's latest findings drive home the importance of putting speed and agility at the center of your marketing organization.
One of the four primary competencies marketers will need to adopt, according to Gartner, is an adaptive planning strategy. Per Gartner's definition, this means, "Evolving from an organization that does agile to one that is agile."
In other words, it is not enough to have an agile process in place for various marketing functions. Instead, marketing organizations must fully embrace agility and speed, making both attributes the core of their team's focus. Gartner's own research showed that many marketing organizations are practicing agile marketing, but that agility most often is connected to project management versus serving as a mindset.
AgileSherpa's co-founder Andrea Fryrear echoed this same sentiment last November. Her company's research showed, while marketing organizations were adopting agile practices, very few organizations reported "high-levels" of competency when it came to agile maturity levels.
"To succeed in 2021 and beyond, marketing leaders need to make a decisive move to agile, adaptive planning so that they can respond and react to future shocks and ongoing business changes," reports Gartner.
For now, marketers will have to do more with less
CMOs across the board are currently faced with a major challenge: Having to do more marketing activities with fewer marketing dollars. Not only did Gartner's Cost Optimization survey find that nine out of ten marketing leaders experience budget cuts last year ("Many of which have been severe," writes Gartner), the research firm's 2020 CMO Spend Survey reported nearly half of the CMOs it polled (44%) expected midyear budget cuts in 2020.
"Marketing is operating in a time of needs versus wants, and budgets will likely continue to be strained for some time to come," wrote Gartner in December, 2020, "Marketers must think beyond the inevitable cost cutting and defining costs to strategic cost optimization."
There are reports that point to increased levels of optimism this year. A recent survey by the CMO Council found that 65% of its members plan to increase marketing spend this year, with only a quarter of marketing leaders looking to downsize their organization. These findings represent a significant reversal from Gartner's survey, but even so, the increased levels in marketing spend most likely have not kicked-in to full gear so early in the year.
Still navigating the "new normal," many marketers trying to overcome the challenge of declining budgets in the face of so many digital transformation priorities will need to focus on marketing investments that deliver measurable outcomes for the overall business, reports Gartner.
"This allows marketers to better defend the most important costs and maximize the value of strategically important investments," writes Gartner, "The goal is to shift from reactionary and one-time budgetary efforts to an ongoing approach."
Not only does such a shift make for sound financial investments that boost long-term growth, it feeds into the notion of building an agile organization. By streamlining processes, and moving away from reactionary routines, marketers are not only building an agile foundation — they are elevating their marketing maturity levels, enabling teams to focus on strategy and high-value projects.
“As we look to the future, the challenges marketing leaders have faced in 2020 will continue to impact marketing in new and different ways in 2021,” said DeLisi during his keynote at the virtual Gartner Marketing Symposium, “Marketers will need to continue to adapt, becoming more agile, digitally oriented and leaner than ever before.”