Be More Human and Digital: Six Skills Marketers Will Need in the Post-Pandemic, Hybrid World
January 14, 2021
Whether you are an experienced marketer rich in expertise or new to the marketing fraternity, one thing is certain — the past year has been one of intense learning. I recall, just a few quarters ago, specialist digital marketers had to struggle mightily to get a sizable piece of marketing resources because traditional advertising and physical events consumed the lion’s share. Nine months into the new normal, digital marketers are the most in-demand talent in the business.
Well, does that mean the future belongs to digital marketing? Not so fast. While, clearly, this newfound appreciation for the potential of digital marketing is bound to last well after the pandemic has been tamed, each of us also craves human connection. As such, we will welcome the opportunity to connect in the real or offline world with greater enthusiasm than ever before. The future, therefore, is likely to be a hybrid one – we will embrace the physical, more human world and at the same time expand our explorations in the digital dimension.
Much as the future of work is fast becoming more hybrid, these lines will also blur for marketers. The call now is for marketing — and marketers — to evolve in two ways simultaneously, offline as well as online. To shine in this hybrid world, as more human marketers, here are three non-negotiables:
Grow in empathy: When you understand the customer’s needs and motivations, it is often easier to acknowledge their struggles and think harder about better solutions. We saw several examples of empathetic marketing – from listening helplines and no-contact purchase options to special considerations for disadvantaged and senior customers – shine through at the peak of the pandemic. This strategy of “walking in their shoes” – with context-relevant tactics – will work just as well in less stressful times.
Humanize experience: This requires us to be agile and thoughtful to meet a customer at the point of need and build a connection. It is about understanding what people value and engaging with them through experiences that resonate most.
A case in point is how the premium fitness brand Peloton has continued to thrive — even with the pandemic forcing consumers to tighten the proverbial belt — by humanizing the workout experience through a much-needed sense of community. Peloton riders are encouraged to talk to one another and exchange virtual high-fives during classes while trainers celebrate members on reaching their 100th, 200th, or sometimes-500th ride. Another example is how during the French Open tennis tournament — Roland Garros 2020 — Infosys developed and marketed #15 Love – 15 innovations that helped tennis fans stay connected remotely and enjoy the game in an immersive way, even in these unprecedented times.
Be a storyteller: Few things are more powerful — and more human — than a good story. A tale well told can persuade and inspire action. Today, we have more access to stories, more ways to tune in to them, and better ways to share them. Wielded well, storytelling can be a marketer’s greatest tool. One needs to look no further than GE Reports or Microsoft Story Labs to see what I mean.
As for honing digital skills, here are three more priorities for marketers:
Stay on top of the digital evolution: This is one domain where technology and user expectations are accelerating so fast, it is hard to keep pace. What will keep us in business is precision and persuasion. Precision in targeting and metrics along with persuasion through relevant content.
Apply AI to the challenge: Some problems that are larger than life are better tackled by intelligent software. Starting from eliminating the guesswork involved in customer interactions, predicting customer churn or simply boosting the return on investment (ROI) of marketing campaigns, AI can be a great ally for the new-age marketer. At Infosys, for instance, marketing leaders with leverage from AI, have been able to unify customer insights from across digital touchpoints and share vital intelligence with customer-facing groups, in addition to using these insights to drive campaigns.
Master that tech stack: When it comes to running campaigns accurately and effectively – especially multiple campaigns – marketing automation is indispensable from start to finish. Like most marketers – if you are trying to get a lot done, and done well, without getting mired in the mundane, then actively learning all there is to know about the rapidly evolving marketing tech stack is a great agenda to embrace.
Marketers who hone their ability to keep learning, rather than smugly assuming that they know it all or simply rely on experience or even qualifications will be best positioned for success in the post-pandemic world.
About the Author: Sumit Virmani is the Chief Marketing Officer of Infosys, a global IT services and consulting firm with revenues of $13 billion in 2020. He is responsible for realizing the Infosys brand ambitions globally. Sumit joined Infosys in 2004 and has since held multiple strategic positions including the Head of Infosys Products & Platforms marketing as well as the Global Head of Corporate marketing. He champions marketing effectiveness and enjoys the challenge of building strong connections between marketing metrics and business outcomes. Sumit has more than 19 years of experience in international marketing. He holds a master’s degree in business administration and marketing from the Institute of Management Studies and a certification in business leadership from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.