Marketing Strategy
How CMOs Can Keep Marketing Organizations Agile in Changing Times

How CMOs Can Keep Marketing Organizations Agile in Changing Times

April 26, 2021
8 min read

The challenges we are facing have changed how we communicate with consumers and market our products and services.

We’ve had to quickly uproot some of the traditional methods we’ve used for years to adapt to new business practices and accommodate unique needs.

Here are some emerging trends we’re seeing this year and expect to see more of in the future:

  • Businesses are more boldly standing for or against political and social issues publicly.
  • The importance of marketing has increased for most businesses. Yay us!
  • Marketers are more optimistic than ever before.
  • Customer experience, trust, and product quality are quickly becoming top priorities for customers.
  • More marketers are beginning to implement AI and machine learning.


How can chief marketing officers empower their organizations to remain nimble in changing times? Where should you place your focus in 2021 and beyond to set your company up for growth and success?

We’ll dive into 11 crucial strategies you can implement in your business – not just to survive unexpected turbulence but to also stand out from competitors, build trust with consumers, and grow confidently into the future.

Key Takeaways

  • The most successful CMOs will be willing to reinvent their roles, get their hands a little dirty, think creatively, and challenge the status quo.
  • To remain agile during uncertain times, you should focus on short-term planning, consider outsourcing to fill talent gaps, be proactive, and prioritize building brand loyalty over winning new customers.
  • Understanding how your organization fits into society can help you remain relevant and address current challenges and concerns authentically.
  • CMOs must be strong communicators and empathetic to the needs of their customers and marketing team. They must prioritize inclusivity and diversity in their business moving forward.
  • The customer experience is still one of the most influential factors in successful marketing. Use data to create a more personalized and memorable buyer’s journey for every lead and customer.

11 Ways CMOs Can Help Their Marketing Organizations Stay Agile in Crazy Times

The CMOs who will be the most successful in the future are those willing to reinvent their roles, challenge the status quo, think outside the box, and get their hands dirty – metaphorically speaking. Creativity, resilience, technology, and reconstruction are four buzzwords that help define the role of marketing organizations in the “new normal” (our post-pandemic world).

Incorporating the following strategies will help your team and business become more resilient to challenges so you’re able to pivot quickly and favorably.

1. Make Short-Term Plans

The pandemic forced many of us to make drastic changes quickly in our businesses. Likely, your messaging, offerings, how you run your marketing team, and how you interact with customers have all changed in some way. The environment we live in is still highly volatile. Without the right strategies, businesses can quickly sink into an inescapable abyss (AKA go out of business).

One key strategy is planning for a shorter term than you have in the past. Rather than committing to a traditional annual plan, opt for quarterly goals. This leaves room for adjustments, introducing new initiatives, and keeping a flexible budget.


2. Understand How Your Marketing Organization Fits into Society

CMOs must understand their role within their marketing organization and how their business fits into society today. Has your brand purpose evolved in the last year? What do you advocate for in the world? What was your impact on society during the pandemic scare or political and social upheaval? Today’s consumers care about what you do – often more than what you say.

When tragedies occur, your audience will look to you as a leader to see how you respond and step up to help (or don’t). Showing through your actions that you understand the challenges society is facing can go a long way. Making people’s lives easier and bringing them comfort or joy during difficult times can help you stand out and win loyal customers.

3. Consider Outsourcing to Fill Gaps in Your Workforce

Leaders have learned that many positions and processes typically done in a traditional office setting can now be done remotely. Working remotely can lead to numerous benefits for you and your team:

  • Better work-life balance
  • Less stress
  • Higher inclusivity
  • Money savings
  • Higher sustainability
  • Increased performance and productivity
  • Fewer distractions
  • More efficient meetings
  • Quieter work environments
  • Fewer office politics

Consider outsourcing your content to small businesses like ours or independent contractors when you require consulting services, subject matter experts, or specific marketing skills you may only require for particular functions or temporary needs. This can help you fill gaps and cost-effectively strengthen your team. You can avoid committing to long-term hires that involve onboarding and training.

Tap into your current network for recommendations from people you trust. You can also look to reputable hiring platforms to find highly skilled and experienced freelancers.

4. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Suddenly laying off a massive number of people in your marketing organization to cope with an unexpected event may be unwise. Many marketing teams are already seeking and expecting growth again after the devastating effects of the pandemic. Letting too many people go too quickly could leave you with a lack of critical marketing resources.

Planning for growth without making huge decisions suddenly that impact your department’s structure could be smarter in the long run. Your business might quickly bounce back after an unexpected loss in today’s fluctuating market.

Striving to get the most out of the resources you already have can also be an essential skill in times of crisis. Use analytics to develop your marketing strategies before launching a new plan of attack. Having short-term goals and constantly monitoring your results can help you adjust appropriately to changing conditions.

Being proactive rather than reactive can help your marketing organization

  • Remain flexible and nimble
  • Use your marketing budget more efficiently
  • Keep your brand relevant
  • Identify what your audience currently needs and offer it to them in a helpful way

5. Pay Attention to the Data

Understanding the customer journey and continually enhancing it is another essential strategy for CMOs today. Ensure you have all the necessary capabilities in your tech stack to drive, record, and analyze data to improve the buyer’s journey for every customer.

You can create personalized journeys based on your data to better target new consumers and build brand loyalty. Keeping your customer data fresh is crucial in a changing environment. Your customers’ needs will evolve as their societal context does. As customer habits change, your customer journey must, too.

Use consumer behavior data to employ new strategies that connect directly with your customers. Your marketing efforts should address new demand triggers (e.g., location data or online traffic patterns) to increase engagement and customer acquisition.

Also continue aligning your marketing and sales efforts to work toward common goals within your organization. This connection will play directly into creating a relevant customer experience. Today’s consumers are well informed. Building trust with them is essential. Keeping promises, driving authentic experiences, and practicing what you preach may be more vital than ever. Align customer expectations with the experience you’ll deliver.


6. Focus on Diversity and Inclusivity

It may be time to build a more diverse marketing team. Having more diversity within your organization can help you build a more empathetic and inclusive corporate culture. Diversity also drives better economic outcomes, according to Forbes.

It may be time to reconstruct your hiring and recruiting processes to eliminate any built-in biases concerning gender, race, or socioeconomic ties. Once you hire a more diverse team, you’ll need to ensure each member feels safe, included, valuable, and comfortable contributing.

Also look closely at your branding. Are you marketing to people of different backgrounds or primarily catering to one race or people group? To create a truly inclusive organization, businesses must be proactive, identify blind spots, and directly address “problem” areas.

7. Prioritize Building Stronger Connections and Collaboration

Building stronger connections – with your marketing team and your customers – can give you a greater depth of understanding of your business. Building authentic relationships should empower you to create a better work culture and deliver better customer experiences.

Identify new customer pain points. Then use marketing to empathize with consumers and show them you have solutions to the challenges they face. Watch for recent trends in your market and identify potential product or service gaps to leap ahead of your competitors. This will also help you spot new leads based on evolving customer behaviors.

As for your organization, ensure you’re collaborating with other C-suite members and departments to develop a holistic picture of your business and customer base. Departments and team leads should no longer be siloed. They should be intertwined. All key decision-makers in a company should be collaborating and learning from each other to fill information gaps.

As a marketer, you should connect with and develop close working relationships with your colleagues in finance, operations and IT, and customer service. Collaborating with other departments can help you drive more stability and growth within your organization.


8. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative

In unstable times, making the best of a challenging situation demands creativity. It may also require taking chances and making decisions quickly when a small window of opportunity presents itself.

Creativity goes hand in hand with collaboration. To get the best results from your current talent pool, utilize every team member’s top skills. Empower your colleagues and employees to reach their full potential in their distinct areas of expertise. Trusting capable team members to own their roles can take your business much further than if you were micromanaging every activity.

As a CMO, having a solid creative background can also help you form stronger bonds with your team members. You’ll better relate to their struggles and can genuinely celebrate wins. You can also use your creative abilities to think outside the box at a high level, develop new and exciting solutions for your organization and customers, and motivate your team to achieve greatness.

9. Focus on Building Brand Loyalty

According to a Gartner survey, 73% of CMOs will fall back on lower-risk strategies in 2021. 39% say their primary method to fuel growth this year will be increasing sales of existing products to existing customers. 34% say they’re introducing new products to their existing customer base.

Focusing on your current customer base rather than venturing to acquire new leads and sales can be a cost-effective strategy in uncertain times. Instead of reinventing the wheel and risking failure in a volatile market, follow these tips:

  • Document every decision you make to “reinvent, rescale, reduce, retire, or return to pre-pandemic levels” (Gartner).
  • Be selective about what you choose to prioritize. Focus on the essential efforts you can accomplish in the short term. These should align with your growth strategies for the year.
  • Plan for different scenarios so you can adapt and adjust quickly.


10. Having Empathy and Being Sensitive to Others’ Needs is Essential

To be a strong, effective leader today, CMOs should have incredible communication skills. Be willing to have difficult conversations with your team to ensure their needs are being met within your organization. Proactively inform employees about new changes to give them peace of mind and show your company prioritizes their safety and well-being. You’ll build trust and loyalty internally.

If your workforce is currently working remotely, communicating clearly and consistently is even more critical than working in an office setting. Ensure your employees have what they need to be productive, stay safe, and feel supported. Continue collaborating, and put in extra effort to include everyone to boost your team’s morale.

You also need to show empathy in your marketing efforts to reach and connect with consumers effectively. Emphasize your commitment to corporate and social responsibility. Be honest and authentic in your marketing and advertising. Empathize with your customers’ most pressing needs, and focus your marketing efforts on what they value most.

By focusing on empathy, you’ll build long-term brand loyalty, as opposed to merely getting short-term sales.

11. Look Forward Instead of Backward

If you’re still waiting for things to return to “normal,” you could be waiting for a very long time. Instead, start focusing on the positive changes your organization has already made. What have you accomplished in the last year that you’re proud of? What creative solutions have your marketing team developed that solve relevant problems and have shaped you into a forward-thinking company?

It’s time to stop grieving what we’ve lost and start celebrating the strides we’re making and hope to make in the future. If you do, your business can evolve into a more inclusive, diverse, confident, creative, collaborative, agile, and impactful organization that thrives in times of change and uncertainty.

Take Your Organization to the Next Level with Consistent and Authentic Content Marketing

MIG can help you build brand loyalty and reach new customers through quality, consistent, and relevant content marketing. Our team will get to know your business, audience, and competition to develop a customized strategy for your organization. Based on your specific needs, we’ll produce SEO content to build your online presence and boost ROI.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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