The last few years have certainly tested marketers, but 2022 serves up a brand new array of challenges. SaaS continues to grow at record levels, but marketers are now being asked to do more with their budgets than before.
At Mutiny’s The Second Lever digital conference, SaaStr Founder Jason Lemkin hosted a star-studded CMO panel featuring Salesforce President & CMO Sarah Franklin, Box CMO Chris Koehler, and Attentive CMO (and ex-Twilio CMO) Sara Varni. In the eye-opening session, these marketing leaders discuss the market pulse, impactful branding, and strategies for the future.
Economic Climate, Customer Behavior, & Market Trends
When asked about the current market pulse, Franklin said that customers have been exhibiting higher signs of anxiety due to inflation, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages. However, SaaS can actually help businesses meet these challenges. Franklin stated, “The good thing about SaaS businesses is that technology is the solution our customers are seeing as the way that they’re going to automate themselves, get more productivity, more efficiency, and just help businesses run better.” Decision-makers are looking to technology to help curb any future headwinds by automating more processes, driving growth, and boosting overall efficiency.
Koehler emphasized the similarity in pain points across multiple customer segments: “It doesn’t matter if you’re an SMB…or a large enterprise: You’re trying to figure out, ‘How do I create a better customer experience? How do I engage my customers? And quite frankly, how do I make my employees collaborate in a world that is very hybrid?’ Those needs aren’t going away because of economic conditions.” Koehler goes on to say that the priority for Box is delivering mission-critical value to every customer, even during an economic downturn.
A Perfect Storm for B2C Marketers
Varni weighed in from a different market perspective, particularly B2C. The economic climate has produced the perfect storm for B2C marketers, and it’s been several years in the making. From inflation to the COVID-19 pandemic to increasing regulations around critical ad channels, the challenges have been sizable for the B2C market. Varni says, “I think everyone is trying to do more with less. And with all the regulation with GDPR…and IDFA…people are really trying to find new channels to engage customers at that same level of efficiency.”
In light of this strain on B2C, Attentive has shifted its strategy to be more consultative toward customers and advise them on navigating through legal and ethical customer engagement tactics.
The Future of Marketing in 2022
All the CMOs shared their thoughts on the near future of SaaS, experimentation, and marketing strategy. At Salesforce, marketing has shifted emphasis from tactical strategy to building brand reputation, awareness, and trust. Salesforce wants to demonstrate its dedication to customers and its commitment to giving back to the world. But Franklin cautions that in order to scale heavily on brand storytelling, you must ensure that your data is deep, detailed, and dependable. You will need that data to help teams automate the more tactical side of the sales and marketing cycle.
Since Attentive is a newer business, its current brand campaign is more simple and straightforward, and its messaging is deeply rooted in the value proposition. However, Varni explains that as time goes on, expectations evolve for brands, so planning ahead for deeper brand involvement and storytelling should start now.
Brand Awareness’ Role in Marketing
When it comes to brand awareness, Koehler states that the marketing team must have the trust of leadership and not expect an immediate payoff. He also explained that proving value through data is essential, and the way we frame that data should shift as well. In the past, marketing teams would often send MQLs along, and after that point, marketing wasn’t as much on the hook. But now, marketing should focus on pushing a lead all the way to the finish line alongside the sales team and track the data to show marketing’s role in conversions.
It’s Not Time to Cut. It’s Time to Get More Efficient.
When asked whether the marketing budget should be cut, all three panelists agreed –– definitely not! Sarah Franklin says, “Let’s not talk about how we cut; let’s talk about how we can be more efficient…Cutting marketing is very short-term thinking, and that’s what’s going to cut your future growth.”
Key Takeaways: What’s New in 2022?
- Salesforce: Going big on in-person and hybrid events.
- Box: Conversational AI technology.
- Attentive: Remote work opening the talent pool and expanding hiring possibilities.
You can find Mutiny’s takeaways, not only from this session, but from the whole conference, on their blog.