In our second edition of The Movers & Shakers of Marketing, we catch up with Marije Gould, Vice President, Demand Generation and Field Marketing at Unit4. Marije reflects on her first year at the company, and looks ahead to 2021, examining the biggest challenges that marketers will need to overcome, as well as the greatest opportunities for us to take advantage of.

So Marije, you joined Unit4 at the start of the year, just before the pandemic hit. How has the year been for you?

It really depends on when you ask me that! We’re really making good progress but it does feel a bit like Groundhog Day sometimes, working from your home office every day. I just want to see my team and my customers again!

But in general I’m so amazed with what my team and our business development have been able to do, in spite of the pandemic going on around us.

Businesses have had different responses to COVID, but for us they kept our targets exactly the same and despite that, we are on track to hit them. So that feels really good. I’m not counting my chickens just yet but it feels like we are in a good place and that we have built a strong foundation that hopefully we can take into 2021 and build off from.

What do you think the landscape is going to look like for marketers in 2021?

It’s definitely going to be challenging. The feeling I’m getting is that people are really ready to engage again and are starting to miss face-to-face contact. There’s only so many webinars and virtual events you can attend. Ultimately people buy from people.

We’re all suffering a bit from digital fatigue. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty because we don’t know what next year is going to look like: if there’s going to be a vaccine, and if we’re going to be able to go back to “normal”. It therefore makes it quite hard to plan for.

There are a lot of event organizers that moved their events from this year to early next year, but I’m not sure that it will be possible to bring back these events so soon. There’s therefore a lot of uncertainty of how we can practically engage with our prospects.

Will we be in a position where we’ll be able to do face-to-face activities again or do we need to repeat what we did this year and reallocate those funds for digital? That said though, even if we can open up the world again, we can’t and shouldn’t go back to exactly where we were before the pandemic.

So I think the challenge is going to be finding a balance between continuing that digital journey we’re all on, but also finding those face-to-face opportunities where possible.

In the meantime, I think the big challenge for us is going to be around how we can stand out and cut through the noise in a digital-only environment. And I think the solution to that is hyper-personalization.

Do you have any examples of how you plan to achieve that?

One thing we are looking at is direct mail. We’ve opted to work with a company called Reachdesk and have just done our first send in an attempt to cut through the noise and get people’s attention.

We’re going to be using it for a few things. First of all, we’re using it with business development and sales to learn how to get a reaction and get introductions. We’re also using it with our existing customers for thank you gifts when they do, for instance, case studies with us. Or we might do “go-live” gifts where we send them boxes of cupcakes when they launch.

Another thing that we are going to be doing is using Turtl and its new personalization capabilities to create really personalized reader experiences. We want to deliver prospect journeys that are completely tailored by persona, segment, intent and behavior, and Turtl is a really fantastic way to deliver that.

I’m really hopeful that this will be successful. My team is putting quite a lot of emphasis on it in their plans, so we’ll see how it goes.

What would you say is the biggest challenge for marketers right now?

I think for a lot of people, at the beginning of this year it was a bit daunting because we had to change our whole strategy to adapt to the new world we found ourselves in. But now it’s all about optimizing, making sure you do exactly the right things and are super customer- and prospect-centric and really understand them, because ultimately that’s the only way you’re going to get through to them.

Like I said previously, with hyper-personalization and all these fantastic technologies available, we can achieve that but the challenge is how we tie it all together. Finding that balance between executing and making sure you focus on the right things can be really difficult.

The other challenge I think that we have is with our measurements and metrics. How much is that digital engagement worth? Because I think getting a box of brownies is worth much more than a click on an email or a download of a whitepaper.

Equally is joining a webinar as valuable as going to a face-to-face event? In my opinion it is not because you just can’t compete with people giving you a whole day of their time.

So in my team we’re playing a bit with our lead scoring and our MQL threshold and asking ourselves the question: at what stage is it the right time to pass these leads onto business development? We don’t want to send them too early, but conversely we don’t want to miss the boat by spending too long nurturing them.

Ultimately, the key is understanding our prospects and where they are on their journey.

And what would you say are the biggest opportunities for marketers?

Honestly, they’re probably linked to the same issues. There’s so much data and insights available to us now, more than ever before. And we can learn so much from it.

So I think this is really an opportunity for us to step up and be really data-driven in everything we do, using all those insights and metrics to actually create that optimal prospect or customer journey.

A key to this I think is optimizing what you have – really making sure you’re getting the most value possible out your existing tech stack and processes.

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