Focus on Marketing: Executive Insights for Chief Marketing Officers
Q&A with Helen Wanamaker, Marketing Consultant
Insights for Chief Marketing Officers: Every quarter, we’ll present insights from top executives from different backgrounds and functions. To help you prepare for Q2 2021, here are marketing insights from Helen Wanamaker. Helen is an independent marketing consultant and member of the Cerius network.
What are the business struggles you see in the marketing function right now?
While my area is marketing, the challenges are really tied to the organization’s business model—offline, online, or a combination of both. Those doing both, but heavily dependent on offline, have had a hard time pivoting fast enough to remain competitive in an environment that has been almost 100% online for the past year. Some are still struggling with the allocation of resources (both people and dollars) across online and offline, because no one has a real view of what in-person and live events look like in the future.
Organizations that are 100% online have also struggled, but with different issues—from websites crashing to new competitors entering their space. For these organizations, the next year will continue to be about investing in back-end infrastructure improvements. Regardless of the business, focus on the customer experience will continue to be a major priority because the bar keeps rising particularly in the e-commerce space.
The second thing I’ve seen is with regard to people. Some organizations have done a better job keeping employees engaged and providing the proper level of support for remote working. Even if you’re used to working remotely, as I am, the last year has not been normal. As the economy improves, organizations that have not done a good job in this area will likely lose employees.
What are your top tips for Chief Marketing Officers in 2021? Why?
I have two tips—one on staffing and one on planning. In regards to staffing, make sure you’ve got the “right people in the right seats” with the skills you need to successfully navigate forward. 2020 was about surviving. 2021 needs to be more about growing, so make sure you have the right people.
The second tip is about planning. Create the plan and work the plan. Maybe you’ll have to modify quarterly, but you’ll have a roadmap that supports the organization’s objectives and provides focus and accountability for the marketing team. I have also never worked for or with an organization not looking to clearly understand and validate the contribution from marketing.
What’s your favorite piece of advice—guidance that you go back to time and time again?
Early in my career someone told me: “Take advantage of the opportunity to learn from all the people around you.”
That advice was particularly beneficial in the agency world where I started my career. I became more knowledgeable about all aspects of the business, a better partner to colleagues and more successful in my role. Since then, I have shared that advice with others, because too often people don’t look past their direct supervisor for learning and mentoring, which is a mistake in my experience. It limits your knowledge base, as well as your view of the organization’s business and culture.