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December 16, 2020

The future of marketing leadership—3 imperatives from the 2020 Gartner Marketing Symposium

By the team at Workfront

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The Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo 2020 was a three-day virtual event billed as the world’s most important gathering of CMOs and marketing executives. It promised to help CMOs hone their leadership skills, refine their marketing strategies, and find innovative solutions to deliver growth during the transition from crisis to recovery in 2021. With a packed agenda covering a wide range of topics, we wanted to pick out three key insights for marketing leaders to consider in preparation for the year ahead.

 

The agile marketing imperative. 

Richard DeLisi, VP of Advisory at Gartner dubbed 2020 “the year of the pivot,” in his keynote address. Marketing leaders found so many ways to do more with less this year. They streamlined content production, switched to digital and virtual content, prioritized and clarified business goals, and constantly realigned marketing plans. 

These tactics and strategies will become the playbook for marketing in the future. Marketing success will be defined by the ability to adapt. Strategies must be focused on optimizing resources and delivering meaning and value to customers. A 2020 Gartner study, How to Prove the Value of Marketing to the Enterprise, found that 70% of CEOs expect CMOs to lead revenue growth. The pressure is on for marketing leaders to deliver results as we all adjust to whatever 2021 throws at us.

In her session on agile marketing, Nicole Keel, Senior Marketing Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, demonstrated the need for operational agility in marketing. Thermo Fisher’s marketing team harnessed the power of work management technology and implemented agile marketing as a department-wide methodology to get more done while providing visibility and transparency to stakeholders.

Gartner found that 66% of leaders say planning processes should be more adaptive. But only 2% had actually embraced agility. In 2021, agile marketing will be essential for staying ahead of the competition. 

 

The customer experience imperative.

We’d all love to have a crystal ball after the uncertainties of 2020. Jennifer Polk, VP Analyst at Gartner, provided the next best thing in her talk on top marketing predictions for 2021 and beyond. Here are a few of her insights on the importance of delivering amazing digital experiences with a customer-first mindset:

  • Consumers have embraced digital channels, but videoconferencing fatigue is setting in and people crave real-life experiences. Marketers can redeploy cost savings from in-person events to enhance virtual experiences. There’s an opportunity to explore the full extent of virtual events and incorporate elements of real-life, such as live streaming.

  • Similarly, while 50% of consumers have increased online shopping, many have no plans to abandon in-person retail. Omni-channel strategies can help to close the gap between digital and in-person shopping. To capitalize on this, CMOs should align teams around functions, rather than channels—switching the focus from the channel to the needs of the customer.

  • The pandemic exposed weaknesses in many enterprises’ ability to respond to disruption and continue to meet customer needs. Boards are pressing for greater cross-functional collaboration. Gartner expects that by 2023, 25% of organizations will combine marketing, sales, and customer experience into a single function. Accelerated digitalization will help to overcome cost constraints and create more nimble operations based around shared customer and marketing insights.

 

The integrated martech stack imperative.

One thought-provoking session offered CMO perspectives on martech leadership. The panel noted the rise in spending on marketing technology alongside the expansion of solutions on offer—up to 7,000 solutions/tools from just 150 in recent years. This proliferation requires a new level of rigor when it comes to investing in the right technology solutions. Marketing teams need to manage their martech stacks with a single marketing system of record to avoid redundancy and duplication, while ensuring people have access to the integrated tools and data they need for seamless collaboration. The panel asserted that, in the future, CMOs need to take greater ownership of technology investments within their organizations. 

A great example of the value of marketing technology is in scenario planning. Gartner data shows that scenario planning is rarely a formal capability in marketing, and half of marketing teams don’t do it at all. But the disruption experienced in 2020 has highlighted the importance of scenario evaluation in the planning process—helping marketers to adapt quickly amid a fast-moving crisis. Technology can significantly accelerate scenario planning, by enabling multiple options to be assessed objectively and efficiently. Now that volatility and change are a constant, the ability to quickly analyze scenarios to support decision-making could be a game-changer for marketing teams. 

For more on how Thermo Fisher Scientific embraced work management technology to boost operational agility and process efficiency, read the case study.

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