Post-Pandemic Evolution of Marketing – Investors’ Perspectives

Marketers always need to keep up with the trends and changes in technology so their lead generation and retention can stay optimal. In recent years, the scope has shifted from just bringing in customers to keeping them engaged and ensuring renewals. The pandemic forced companies of all sizes to re-examine how they run their business and migrate their go-to-market programs quickly from offline and physical events to online and digital channels.

Earlier this year on March 10th, I hosted a panel discussion with leading MarTech/SalesTech/ GTM Ecosystem investors Yashwanth Hemaraj, Partner at BGVApoorva Pandhi, Partner at Foundation Capital, and Tae Hea Nahm, Managing Director and Cofounder of Storm Ventures at the TiE Silicon Valley CMO Summit 2022.

In this panel discussion, investors shared their current investment theses in emerging areas across B2B marketing, sales, customer success, and other technology opportunities at enterprises serving customer-facing teams. Investors also covered how innovative startups can exploit new opportunities to reach, engage and serve today’s remote-first, digital-first, and collaboration-first companies, as they go through transforming their own go-to-market programs and plans.

In this blog, I summarize my learnings from this panel discussion with investors. I meant to post this soon after the event happened more than 9 months ago, but, it’s better late than never …  

Pandemic Has Changed Marketing and Its Future Forever

Due to the pandemic, we have become remote first and digital first. The traditional offline lead generation methods that had shut down are coming back full tilt. However, we will also see the procedures adopted during the pandemic stay and merge with these previous methods.

This shift to online meetups really helped streamline the sales cycle. Before, closing a million-dollar deal required physical meetings and dinners with multiple stakeholders. Now we see similar-sized deals being closed online and in a shorter sales cycle.

Previously, cross-border companies had to work with the handicap of always needing physical presence across the regions. However, covid removed this restriction and boosted online selling teams to close deals remotely.

Marketing Needs to Align with Buyer’s Journey in the Subscription Economy

Traditionally marketing started with the top of the funnel lead generation, lead scoring, lead engagement, etc., coming down all the way to the win or loss of the deal. However, with the subscription economy, where renewals become very important to sustain and grow the business, you must manage the retention of existing customers and upsell to them.

Yash Hemraj very nicely explained this during the panel discussion.

“With the subscription economy, you start talking about an inverted funnel where you have churn management, retention, and upsell…. Instead of thinking of the top of the funnel and the inverted funnel, you are almost looking in a circular way.”

Marketing needs to not only focus on the top of the funnel, but it also needs to map to the entire buyer’s journey. Now, more than ever, marketers need to work in close contact with customer success managers so the current customers are approached at the right time with the right messages that can convince them to upgrade their consumption levels.

Enhancing Adoption and Expansion After Landing

If we involve customers and engage with them in an informal setting, they can give us valuable insights on how to best advance in our efforts to provide a meaningful customer journey and valuable products.

Engaging with customers in webinars and podcasts is a great way of letting them genuinely talk about their experiences around our product and how it added value to their lives. By creating customer councils, we can have our lighthouse customers give us continuous feedback about the kind of features and products they would appreciate.

These suggestions and feedback can help us direct the company’s efforts in the right direction. What we build further will lead to greater happiness and satisfaction among our established customer base.

Doing our utmost in understanding our customers and making them the hero in the journey is key to retaining a long-term, continually evolving relationship with them. In addition to customer councils and advisory boards, we can also look at customer review sites to get feedback from our end users. This can be very helpful, not only in gaining some unsolicited feedback from end customers but also in using the reviews as customer references and content for social media marketing.

Marketing Efficiencies From Innovations in Artificial Intelligence

When we go to the cloud, we can kind of get AI for free since the best cloud technologies are by Big Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, and they are happy to share that technology as long as we are using their cloud application.

As we run these cloud applications, we are collecting data anyways, so it is best to utilize it to streamline processes and automate workflows.

As Tae Hea Nahm puts it during the panel:

“We have just seen this sort of proliferation of SaaS for X, as in DocuSign for signatures, balance sheet reconciliations, etc., and in the same way we’re going to see a proliferation of AI for X where anything that was workflow automation with SaaS will get AI enhanced and the value will go up dramatically.”

For best marketing practices, we need tons of data coming in from multiple sources. However, we still depend on data scientists, engineers, and analysts to extract quality information from the collected data.

Enhanced integration of AI in complex data analysis processes could enable less technical folks, such as on the marketing or customer success side, to make better, well-informed, and real-time decisions without being so dependent on the data engineers. AI is a force multiplier for marketing technology since we can bring about significant productivity improvements through it and stretch the marketing dollars for other marketing opportunities.

Evolution of Product Led Growth (PLG)

In product lead growth, we focus on end users and their value realization first before selling them something. An effective go-to-market strategy is to land individuals or small teams through PLG in a very low-friction manner. Once you land a reasonable volume of end-users, you can learn from their usage and feedback and ensure that they are realizing the value you intended to deliver before adopting the traditional direct sales model for larger enterprise deals.

In the PLG model, the Product is at the core of the GTM strategy, but it still requires a collaboration of product, marketing, customer success, and sales to increase the adoption of the product.

Apoorva Pandhi articulated it well in the panel discussion.

“You need to define the product in a way that aligns itself to a marketing-led, self-serve approach which we are trying call PLG today…. With this approach there is a convergence of customer success, sales, and marketing functions, like in consumer products, to work together even more closely to make the adoption and engagement happen as the next stage.. and then some of these users will turn into paid users.”

Marketers need to help with content, for example, how-to guides to help improve the usage of the product features. Technical marketing teams (or engineers – TMEs) are a critical part of the PLG model to help with technical product content, videos, podcasts, and community support to help with product adoption.

Key Takeaway

Several technological and GTM advances are changing how companies market and buyers buy products. By integrating AI, reimagining the GTM models, prioritizing customers, focusing on the entire buyer journey, and being flexible, we can market more effectively than ever before. Due to these advancements, we will see more companies and startups coming up with tools and solutions to improve efficiencies in marketing, sales, customer success, and the GTM ecosystem that increases collaboration between these functions.

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