The Reset: rewriting your 2021 marketing playbook (again)

We recently hosted our first live webinar episode of The Reset, with a panel led by Acoustic CMO Norman Guadagno featuring two previous podcast guests: Drew Fortin, SVP of Sales & Marketing at the talent optimization platform the Predictive Index, and Kristin Cronin, Head of Marketing at product agency Rocket Insights and Head of U.S. Marketing at its parent company Dept.

Watch the full discussion on-demand here.

Questions the group addressed include:

1. What have we learned in the past year that will cause us to behave differently this year?

With the absence of live events, and with customers and prospects at home and not as accessible, we had to change a lot, such as:

Keep it real and be humble

When so much was changing around us, and there was so much heartache, worrying about day-to-day marketing tasks like ensuring fresh LinkedIn content felt trivial. This “reality check” helped marketing teams to really think about what matters, at the core, brand level. It became clear again that marketing isn’t just about data and numbers and getting leads to sales. “Brand is back!” And, ensuring that your brand beliefs resonate with all employees is key.

Add value and embrace creativity

In a changed world, and with limited resources, we needed to really think about how to add value by helping our customers and prospects navigate many difficult challenges. We were forced to get creative with our content creation and production, but that helped us to evolve. We won’t, and we can’t, go back to old patterns.

Quality over quantity

Intentionally bootstrapping resources is a byproduct of the uncertainty that the pandemic caused. A marketing team with a sharpened focus is a force to be reckoned with, though. Quantity of event sign-ups isn’t what we’re after anymore; we can drive more value from a high-touch event for 15 highly engaged participants than we can from a virtual event with 500 people who aren’t all that interested.

2. What does “playbook” even mean to marketers? And how does it come to life in 2021?

Is it just another marketing buzzword?

A playbook is a plan, and one that should be written in pencil

If last year taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared to pivot—at a moment’s notice. What’s most important from a planning perspective is ensuring there is constant communication within marketing team stakeholders with budget oversight. What happened last quarter, and how did those activities we paid for perform? Should we adjust course or reinvest? There should always be planned themes, and goals/OKRs—but be OK with making changes when needed.

A playbook isn’t always replicable

Leaning too heavily on a past playbook means you might miss out on the opportunity to evaluate approaches and tactics in-the-moment. This mentality limits creativity. Smart executives know that to get the right outcomes, you might need different, unique approaches.

3. How has the fundamental role of marketing shifted in the past year, and how will it transform in the year ahead?

For example, will we ever go back to live events?

Virtual events limit both cost and attendance barriers

Nothing can replace the three-dimensional nature of a live event. No virtual experience is a substitute for being in a room with other people, feeding off each other’s energy. Is the pre-COVID time and effort spent on large-scale event production and sponsorship worth it in a post-pandemic world? It depends. Smaller, hyper-relevant virtual events with experiences curated around attendees’ specific passions will continue to increase in prominence.

4. Will we keep doing more with less?

In some cases—yes; but, it should never be at the expense of team workload.

Cutting back didn’t break the system

Even as budget limitations put pressure on advertising spend and demand generation plans, marketing still filled sales pipelines. So, there was, in some circumstances, a healthy prioritization of the most effective channels. That focus will remain.

Don’t forget to test, though

New channels will continue to emerge, and we need to save space in our budget for the unexplored, and the things we’ve never done before as marketers.

Saying no is as valuable as saying yes

Often, it’s our natural inclination to “say yes,” and to want to support all the requests that other departments have of marketing. A smart playbook outlines the things we’re going to say no to, as well as the activities we’ll prioritize.

5. Closing Advice for other marketers working on refining 2021 playbooks

  • Don’t limit yourself to the way you’ve done it before.
  • Set expectations that’s it’s OK to feel uncomfortable as you explore new approaches.
  • Don’t feel like you have to be good at everything—seek help from the experts in other marketing specialties when you need it.

Check out more of our The Reset content here.

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