COVID-19 has changed more than just our physical workspaces. The global pandemic is pushing marketers to do more with less money, develop new campaigns overnight, and attempt virtual events — often for the first time. 9% of all marketing jobs have been lost, and 33% of marketing work has shifted away from large agencies and onto in-house teams. COVID-19 has proven to be a frustrating, persistent catalyst for chaos on marketing teams.

Even without a pandemic, CMOs are under constant pressure to lead their department through every challenge. In part 1 of this blog series, we discuss the technical challenges CMOs face amid the pandemic, including proving marketing ROI in an economic downturn, integrating technologies to increase your team’s output, and getting actionable analytics to inform business decisions and move the needle. Here in part 2, we focus on the human challenges you encounter as a CMO in the COVID-19 era, who must support your department and customers through the chaos and remote work growth

The people you lead and the customers they interact with have new expectations. Your marketers need a better work-life balance and tools that work in a remote environment. Your customers expect empathetic messaging and valuable digital experiences. But how do you ensure a work-life balance while increasing productivity? How do you weave empathy into your messaging while also securing leads for sales? 

Every CMO is navigating through choppy waters, but how you rise to these challenges and guide your team and customers through this can set your brand apart and have a positive, long-term impact on your company — even in a post-COVID-19 world. Whether you’re transitioning to remote work in the “New Normal” or optimizing your remote or hybrid environment in the “Next Normal,” here are three key challenges CMOs will need to overcome to ensure lasting success for their department and enterprise amid the pandemic.

Leading marketers through a pandemic

COVID-19 has made everything stressful, and the effects on workers are quantifiable. An April 2020 survey shows that 69% of workers consider the coronavirus pandemic the most stressful time of their professional career — surpassing their stress levels during major events like 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2008. And think of how much has happened since April.

The added stress is impacting marketers’ ability to complete their work. 62% of employees note losing at least one hour every day in productivity, while 32% report losing two hours each day. 63% of workers say their company could do more to support their emotional and mental health, with 22% of this group citing their company’s response as “barely adequate,” “a disaster,” or “non-existent.” A May 2020 report showed employee engagement dropped by a staggering 7% when the wave of social injustice protests began, reaching a historic low. And 47% of workers say they’re not engaged with work at all, while 14% say they’re actively disengaging from their jobs.

Past research has proven that employee engagement leads to greater business success and higher earnings per share. “Companies constantly evolve, and they need new ideas all the time,” explains Jim Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s Chief Scientist of Employee Engagement and Well-Being. “Engaged employees are a lot closer to the best ideas. They’re thinking about the whole company and how they fit into it, and their ideas lead to better decisions.” 

93% of employees agree that companies who will survive COVID-19 will be those who support employee mental health.

CMOs must make changes that demonstrate their empathy during this time — to support their team members’ well-being, lead their department, and keep the business moving forward. One way to alleviate some of this stress is to develop flexible schedules and balance workloads using a resource management tool. Give managers better visibility of their team’s capacity, so they can reallocate assignments and prevent burnout. Let project managers customize work hours to best suit any changes in a marketer’s availability, which may vary if their children are learning from home amid school closures. Designate a priority level to every campaign, project, and task, so if an employee is struggling mentally or needs to step away from their desk, they understand what can and can’t shift. Plus, with 48% of remote workers wanting to stay remote, your department’s resource management tool should be able to do all of this remotely.

You can also contribute to a positive work culture by taking the time to recognize your marketers’ successes and remind them of their value. “Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment, and makes employees feel valued for their work,” Gallup found back in 2016. “Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.” Try providing your team members with the analytics confirming an impactful creation, campaign, or virtual conference they contributed to. Thank them for responding to the latest PR fire drill or for being available to incorporate last-minute revisions. Efforts like these will demonstrate that you understand their worth, appreciate their actions, and empathize with their challenges — laying an excellent foundation of trust that will support and benefit your department long after COVID-19.

Empowering your department with efficient tools and training

To adapt to all the stress and constant changes faced during the pandemic, marketers have had to develop new skills. A recent CMO survey revealed that “many marketers have prioritized the ability to pivot as new priorities emerge, creativity and innovation skills, and the ability to navigate ambiguity.” As marketing teams adjust to the times and brace for what’s on the horizon, they rely on the processes and systems in place to adapt to their new needs and help them deliver impactful results. 

Your people have evolved, and your marketing tools need to keep up.

If your current processes or tools are deficient, rest assured remote work will expose and amplify the issues (if it hasn’t already). In July 2020, Wrike conducted a Remote Work Index Survey in which 32.6% of remote workers said their companies offer multiple processes and systems, but they’re redundant. With most offices still closed, inhibiting in-person communication and collaboration, it’s difficult to fix any procedural issues in a digital space — especially if you’re dealing with multiple processes across multiple systems. 

It’s crucial to find a work management platform that supports your department’s new innovative skills while enhancing your processes. Empower teams with dynamic request forms to minimize extra meetings that fill in missing context for assignments. Let creatives design assets, comment on works in progress, receive edits, and publish finished pieces within the task itself. Help PR expedite approvals from executives and legal with a single platform for their feedback and final sign-off. Consolidate all your marketing data from third-party sources into one spot, leaving more time for analysis than dashboard building. Bring all communication and collaboration into a central digital workspace with real-time chat and mentions, so employees aren’t fumbling through inboxes or toggling between tabs.

As you add new technology to your existing stack, ensure your marketers are getting the training they need. According to Wrike’s Remote Work Index Survey, only 47.6% of employees believe they’ve been trained enough to use the necessary work management platforms to create, manage, and execute remote work productively. Most vendors offer deployment services and have increased their support hours during the pandemic to help onboard remote teams. You’ll also want to make sure you select the best training program for your department, so they can get back to building pipeline and impacting the business.

Delivering a better customer experience

In addition to supporting your marketers, CMOs need to focus on developing assets and experiences that can support customers during and beyond the pandemic. 79% of CMOs are looking to existing customers to fuel growth in a post-COVID-19 environment. And over the next year, marketers predict that customers will place the highest priority on trusting relationships.

In response, many marketing departments are shifting their immediate priorities to invest in customer retention and brand loyalty. Since COVID-19, marketing spend toward customer experience has increased by about 10%. During the pandemic, marketing spend has also spiked for mobile (74%) and social media (70%); marketers anticipate that these digital channels will increase customer retention, customer acquisition, and brand awareness in 2021. And recently, 33% of CMOs cited brand strategy as their most vital competency, which is up from nearly last place in 2019.

The question becomes: How can your brand cut through all the COVID-19 content that’s out there? It seems like every company is “here to support you through these unprecedented times.” So how do you interact and communicate with your customers in a genuine and authentic way? How do you find the messaging, channels, and experiences that resonate best with your specific audience? How do you express empathy and encourage brand loyalty while still converting leads?

The key is to bring your customer relationship management tool (CRM) into the same system as your other marketing tools — for a complete view of what customers are engaging with, how you can drive more engagement, and how that engagement contributes to pipeline and bookings. Centralizing customer information helps your analytics team pinpoint which campaigns resonate most and which channels are most cost effective. Bringing audience data into the same space where your team develops content lets them use engagement metrics to inform creation and target messaging. Using information about customer interests and demographics can help marketing strategists develop campaigns in customers’ preferred channels, nurture their relationship with your brand, and deliver a valuable, memorable experience.

Supporting customers now only sets your marketing department up for success in the future. Organizing and consolidating your marketing insights into one location can help your team earn customers’ trust and loyalty with valuable content, set your brand apart from the competition, and demonstrate how customer engagement impacts company revenue.

Leading during a crisis is not easy; it takes patience and perseverance. As COVID-19 continues to turn the world upside down, your marketing department relies on you to steer them straight, your customers need your understanding and support, and your fellow executives expect you to hit your targets. 

Implementing the right tool can help you rise to these challenges by improving work-life balance to increase employee engagement, streamlining processes to drive remote productivity, and delivering targeted customer experiences to boost brand loyalty. 

How you react and lead during this pandemic will have lasting effects on your marketers, customers, and the company as a whole, so CMOs need a tool that helps your marketing team work better and sets them up for long-term success. Learn more about how Wrike can help you overcome these challenges by exploring our marketing solutions or watching a demo today.