2020 has been a year that will live in infamy. I can’t recall a time that has changed how the world works so drastically. Practically everything I do, I do differently; eating, socializing—even simple things like getting dressed. To that last point, though, I don’t think society has ever dressed so comfortably on such a large scale (the sweatpant + buttondown combination is revolutionary). Unlike the new go-to wardrobe, though, much of 2020 can’t be addressed so flippantly. Unemployment is surging, bankruptcies are widespread, and nothing can reconcile the tragic number of lives lost worldwide.
I am, however, a big believer in the power of positivity, and as Ben Franklin once said, “out of adversity comes opportunity.” That’s been a big theme in my recent CMO Huddles: how to approach obstacles with a positive mindset and turn them into opportunities for growth. In a few additional discussions with huddlers, I explored how their companies took lemons and made lemonade. Check out some of the takeaways below.
Business (Not) as Usual
Work from home has been a weird adjustment, but it’s not all bad. If you’ve been on a Zoom call with me, you’ve likely been on a Zoom call with Louie, my French Bulldog. One of Renegade’s clients has a similar deal; I’ve had the pleasure of virtually meeting his young son quite a few times (and we’ve all grown to enjoy the son’s interruptions almost as much as the meetings with his dad!). I’ve even grown to know more about employees than ever, thanks to our weekly virtual coffee breaks.
Rebecca Stone, CMO of Meraki Cisco, said it well: “The biggest surprise for me was watching the way companies adapted to a work from home model. There is more tolerance for balancing work and home life. It’s something I appreciate more than I thought I would.”
Companies are learning to be more human. I’ve encouraged this many times in marketing, and though the driving forces are sad, it is nice to see empathy become such a powerful force in the corporate world. Khalid el Khatib, CMO of Stack Overflow, shared something else that resonated: “The pandemic has made me a more resilient and empathetic leader. It’s made me quicker to ask employees how they are doing, more proactive about addressing burnout in tangible ways, and it’s made me much more thoughtful about prioritization.”
Hopefully, compassion, attentiveness to work-life balance, and genuine care for customers and employees alike, will be a lasting change brought on by life’s recent challenges. Here’s an opportunity for workplaces to become more caring than ever before.
Separating to Come Together
There’s so much I miss about working with my team in person. Impromptu ideations, water cooler conversations, or comparing notes on the box of chocolates on the snack table. But, necessity is the mother of invention, and I’ve seen my team work hard to support each other in new ways, and to continue finding sources of inspiration for creative marketing.
Katie Risch, CMO of Centro, shared her biggest surprise of 2020: “Our typically centralized team didn’t miss a beat. In several ways, they became even more effective and collaborative working remotely. I believe it’s built levels of trust and accountability across our team that will lead to a positive and permanent changes in how and where we work.”
Mika Yamamoto, CMO of F5, shared a similar thought: “The need to cut over to a 100% virtual world brought sales and marketing closer together for our go-to-market approach. The virtual world pushed us further out of our silos and encourage us to work together.”
Change is hard. But for most of us, it wasn’t a choice—and seeing how people have come together as teams has been heartening. One point it’s driven home for me is that change is always an option. When you get pushback on new initiatives, or need to pivot, you can find a way. Sometimes it’ll take a little elbow grease, but I think we’re all up to the task. This is a big opportunity to rethink and get better at collaboration.
It's a Small World, After All
Paige O’Neil, CMO at Sitecore, noted that “Digital ended up having a silver lining, which was a much broader international reach.” Their digital event double in size from their usual in-person one, and included a huge influx in foreign attendees.
I can’t tell you how much I miss sitting down with a client for the first time and simply getting to know them; hopefully we can get back to that soon. But in the meantime, the virtual world allows for vast connections with an array of new people. The world looks a bit smaller on a laptop screen, but in many ways the world is bigger than ever.
Julie Kaplan, CMO at Versant Health found that creating a virtual space that prospective members could access 24/7 actually captured people’s attention longer than a typical, physical stand at an enrollment fair. We have an opportunity to reimagine how we reach and help our customers, just like Versant did.
Put plainly, this year has been awful. It would’ve been great to have these opportunities emerge without a pandemic’s worth of challenges, but here we are. Now, I hope these opportunities can provide some positive food for thought and can help your business and the people that compose it.
If you’d like to chat about any of this further, or share any positive opportunities you’ve seen, my virtual door is always open. Fair warning, though, you may have to chat with me and Louie, we’re sort of a package deal now. Otherwise, happy holidays and (almost) happy new year! Here’s to kicking off a wonderful 2021.