In an exclusive invite-only virtual roundtable held on the 25th of February 2022 at Sofitel City Centrein Singapore, CMOs and VPs, Heads, and Directors of Marketing discussed how to help organisations market their products and services outside of traditional means. This report dives into the thought-provoking discussion on the marketing challenges, unique to the APAC region and how leaders are adapting, how companies can leverage bespoke events to reach potential clients and partners effectively, and how marketing departments can be the drivers for growth in uncertain times.
Over the last two years, marketers have been left no option but to reinvent their practice. Numerous go-to strategies and age-old methods have fallen by the wayside and have been replaced by newer, technology-driven, and more customer-centric approaches.
Marketing leaders now look to double down on ways to connect with their audience. Digital events are at the forefront of these efforts, integrating today’s technology with the personal touch ever-present in successful marketing.
- What marketing challenges are unique to the APAC region? How are leaders adapting?
- How can companies leverage on bespoke events to reach potential clients and partners effectively?
- How can marketing departments be the drivers for growth in uncertain times?
The past two years have been a rollercoaster for marketers across APAC. The oft-underappreciated department saw budgets cut and resources limited due to the pandemic and its many restrictions. However, marketing companies and teams were able to think fast and adapt, delivering great results in uncertain times. As resources shrunk, marketers grew and are now ready to bring their learnings from the past twenty-four months into a reopening world.
Ups and downs from the last two years
77% of respondents to the 2021 Marketing Trends survey indicated that their company’s senior leadership’s perception of marketing improved, according to ITSMA. ‘Marketing really moved to the forefront, and it’s being recognised as the engine driving demand,’ said one senior executive.
“Get on the same level as the reps. This actually helps set the context for where the investments are going.”
The status quo was disrupted, slowing down sales and operations, leaving marketing to pick up the slack. The gaps brought about by the pandemic were quickly filled, and then some, by initiatives like virtual products and digital campaigns constructed by quick-thinking marketing teams. ‘It’s really been a life-changer. We used to only be called on to create graphics for trade shows, send emails, and attend events,’ shared one marketing leader. ‘Now, we’re building a lot of different content, leveraging LinkedIn, and trying to find more avenues for outreach.’
On the other hand, marketers are frustrated that the perception of their function has to be discussed in the first place. ‘I wonder, do we ask management if they have an improved perception of sales? How about of finance?’ pondered one executive. Professionals in the field have always had a strong respect and belief in their practice, and this increase in external top-down support is welcome but long overdue. This is especially true in the B2B space, whereas in the B2C space, results are more immediately felt, and data comes in higher volumes. The goal now for B2B marketers is to maintain their momentum.
This may be much easier said than done as sales regain their lustre with travel reopening and restrictions lifting. ‘What I’ve noticed is that business is reverting to being very sales-oriented. Marketing is almost getting to this background again,’ an executive lamented. ‘I feel like B2B marketing is in a never-ending cycle where we have to prove every year how we’re adding value.’ Marketers must constantly justify their initiatives and explain why their function is critical to leadership. Business aspects such as brand building, reputation maintenance, and relationship management are of the utmost importance to marketers but are often overlooked by those outside the field.
A renewed approach to communication and collaboration is a potential solution to these frustrations. As with all functions within an organisation, marketing has its own way of measuring success and failure.
“I think what the pandemic has given me, as a marketer, is the courage to do different, interesting, and new things.”
The issue lies in a misalignment of departments’ metrics and goals that often results in marketing taking a backseat. When different teams’ objectives are clear and aligned in such a way that they can influence or lead to one another, a whole new level of collaboration can be achieved. ‘If we talk the way they talk, the conversation becomes much easier,’ said one executive.
Marketing moving forward
One significant shift in today’s marketing landscape is the increased focus on personalisation and account-based marketing (ABM). While no easy feat for many reasons, marketers are eager and willing to explore this methodology. During this transition, marketers also look to take the rest of the organisation along with them every step of the way. As new tools are introduced and piloted, sales representatives and other stakeholders are also trained to understand what goes on behind the scenes. ‘Get on the same level as the reps. This actually helps to set the context for where the investments are going to,’ advised one executive.
However, as is the case with most marketing initiatives, resources are not easy to come by. ‘I had to allocate 10% of my existing budget first. When Sales sees a positive impact, then you can top up,’ shared a marketing leader. Human resources are also scarce. While it would be much easier for everybody involved to bring in a fresh hire to take on a new function, this is not always possible. Marketers constantly need upskilling and training in order to accommodate new technologies and initiatives.
The sudden shift to digital saw marketers having to get quickly acclimated to the virtual space. Rapid reskilling was again required in order to deliver results. With budgets reduced, marketing teams had to get as much value as they could from digital campaigns and initiatives while consuming as little resources as possible. With that goal in mind, marketers sought to find new ways of creating value fast.
Virtual events were the perfect answer to many marketers’ needs. These events could be done in-house and were relatively inexpensive to pilot. Companies could then decide whether scaling was necessary and if it warranted more investment. ‘What we learned was, if you have a good topic and moderator and you know how to add a personal touch, you can actually open doors. Once we succeeded with one, we scaled it,’ said a senior executive. From there, marketers have partnered with third-party companies to reach new markets, added experiential add-ons, and incorporated gifts to expand these digital efforts.
With opportunities for large-scale campaigns and physical events coming back, marketers have realised the value of bespoke, small-scale virtual events. ‘We’ve just gone hyper-local through one partner to a small set of their end-users,’ shared a marketing leader.
‘It requires much more research, but the ROI is better.’ This focus on small-scale initiatives calls for more in-depth market research and consistent customisation of value propositions, but the quality of connections made and leads generated are unmatched compared to more widespread, regional, or global campaigns.
The pandemic brought about unprecedented challenges for organisations worldwide, but marketers were able to bounce back and capitalise better than most. ‘I think what the pandemic has given me, as a marketer, is the courage to do different, interesting, and new things,’ shared a senior executive. While many stumbled and struggled in this new digital space, marketing as a whole evolved and now has more momentum than ever going forward.