As marketers, we have so much to think about right now. We’ve scrapped our playbooks for 2020 overnight, and we are working hard to come up with new strategies for an all-digital world. 

As leaders, we need to keep our employees engaged and feeling well supported. And as businesspeople, we want to help customers navigate their own challenges. This is hard work! I wanted to start a conversation about the many obstacles we are facing, and about how to move forward in uncertain times. I believe that by sharing what we learn, we can get through this together and come out of it stronger than ever.

Against this background, I’ve launched a new video chat series. Each week, I’m inviting my marketing peers to share observations of our “current normal” and a perspective on how our “next normal” may take shape. Here are some the highlights we’ve discussed so far. The full series of videos also is posted on Sitecore’s YouTube channel.

Coping with the current normal

Marketing leaders have to consider the needs of two main audiences: employees and customers. From my first few interviews, it’s clear that in both cases, empathy and transparency are critically important to effective communication during stressful times. Allison Abraham Simpkins, Senior VP of North America at Valtech, emphasized the importance of listening to our teams and coming up with new ways to stay virtually connected. Her tips for engaging with customers cover three key ideas: Attitude, Awareness, and Authenticity. Does this ring true for you?

Along these lines, Ken Montgomery, VP of Engagement at Persistent Systems, reminds us not to forget the basics. “A simple ‘How are you doing today?’ can mean a lot,” he says. The leadership team at Persistent has introduced virtual coffee & tea breaks for its global workforce, organized around themes and employee-submitted photos. “This is bringing some normalcy to a very unusual situation,” he says.

Ever the optimist, Ian Truscott, who curates and advises B2B clients via his agency, Appropingo, told me he can’t help noticing that finally, everybody is turning on their video cameras. “We’ve always been able to do this, but video is nurturing some of the social that we’re missing,” he says. 

Drew Neisser, host of my favorite podcast, Renegade Thinkers Unite, and advisor to many top marketers, has been studying what's top of mind for CMOs right now. From rethinking SEO to getting products out the door in record time, he sees many opportunities to reassess our marketing strategies.

What about event marketing? Since in-person events remain a question, even well into the fall, we must plan for hybrid experiences. Event expert Kimberly Hardcastle told me, “Plan for anything. Take the time to do audience research and set expectations for what you want to accomplish with your virtual events.”

The good news is that organizations have adapted remarkably fast to the current situation. According to Liz High, Customer Experience expert at marketing agency Metia, B2B companies started tentatively talking about “what’s next” back in April. Liz has been monitoring conversation sentiment since early February and studying the trends. At the end of April, she reported, “40% of Americans say they want to hear about something else from brands.”

So where do we go from here? 

Forces shaping our “next normal” 

I’m excited to think about which new ways of working and doing business may stick around when the immediate crisis ends. We’ve broken out of our old processes, ready or not, and I don’t think we’re ever going back to the same way we did things before. As Ian Truscott pointed out, it’s hard to imagine people getting back on the treadmill of the commute after realizing they can do their jobs well from home.

At the same time, we have huge global companies handling unprecedented volumes of calls and website traffic, and a whole new demographic of customers experiencing “digital-only” options for the first time. As Ken Montgomery noted, from remote banking services to telemedicine, we’re reminded once again, innovation so often comes from forced change. 

Over at Metia, Liz has a hunch that using “super resonant content” will be the best way to triage the flood of incoming customer requests. “It’s not about adoption of technology anymore. It’s about consumption and use. Depth of engagement is what really matters.”

Stepping back from the immediate tasks at hand, I see a future where we embrace a more integrated way of working. That means digital whenever it’s the best option, and in-person as needed, too. When we combine the best of both, we’ll be able to let go of the past, bring products to market more quickly, and get back to the business of solving problems for our customers. However we proceed, we should remember, tone is everything. 

Thanks for joining me in starting the conversation! I’ll have more blogs in the coming weeks as I continue my video chat series. 

Watch the full video chat series on Sitecore’s YouTube channel.

Paige O’Neill is Chief Marketing Officer at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.