This year I changed jobs and cities. I also changed perspectives. I didn't just change my direction. I flipped the compass.
Bent with novel challenges and complexities, 2020 has been a year of shocks, introspection, and realization at many levels. It has also been a year of unprecedented learning and adaptations. Who would have imagined entire populations to live in lockdowns and curfews for weeks at a stretch? Or that global businesses would move to a work-from-home scenario almost overnight? In hindsight, while we may think we could have done much of it differently, there is always something we can take away from experiences.
This is my take on how, as a marketing student and leader, I flipped the compass with respect to purpose, profession, life, and leadership, and what I learned along the way.
Focus on the need to improve, not impress. This year marketing as a function and across the board undeniably moved beyond delivering “aha” moments to building lasting customer conversations and relationships focused on improving their micro experiences. Even before the pandemic hit, a PwC report had suggested that nearly 60% of global consumers felt that companies had lost touch with the human element of customer experience.
And because businesses comprise human beings who were not immune to what was happening around the world, it was imperative to go above and beyond in introducing timely changes that would help pivot CX and bring back the “human” as the crisis unfolded. Whether it was ensuring constant communications with stakeholders or opening new digital channels of interactions, making continuous improvements to have a real-time pulse on evolving customer preferences and rapidly innovating to redesign journeys was key.
Too much clarity may hinder creativity. Some of the most path breaking and creative solutions come when people have the gumption to step out of their comfort zones and tread into the unknown. And this year, we saw this trend shaping the new normal. Right from schools to startups and large conglomerates, 2020 saw everyone at their innovative best to meet customer and stakeholder expectations without compromising safety. The marketing team at Cyient, for instance, leapfrogged to foster new channels of engagement with customers, thought leaders, and powerful industry voices. And today, we are proud to have cultivated CXO Cyience into a solid brand property from being just a platform for customer interactions for our internal audiences.
The limited clarity that we had as the pandemic gripped the world, left us with no choice but to be more agile, quick thinking, and nimble to adapt to the new normal. And that is always good for growth and the natural progression of any function. The proof is in the pudding, as the CXO Cyience trajectory has shown us.
It is always a good time to travel 360-degrees. Perhaps more than any other, this year saw many of us travel without stepping out of our homes. The confinement and lockdown allowed time for reflection and introspection on things that matter the most. When you cannot travel outside, travel inside. And, in turn, unlock your true potential, rejuvenate what you were once passionate about, or make the time to pursue a hobby.
One profound realization for me was becoming aware that we need so little, and we want so much. Many things that we thought were important and that had taken precedence over personal health and mental well-being in the pre-Covid era were no longer attractive. This was a year that gave us the time to find our mojo back.
And when we talk 360-degree travel, how can I miss out my travel to a new company (joined Cyient in June 2020), new role (that of Chief Marketing Officer in the most trying times ever), and new city (moved to Hyderabad in December).
A fluid marketing strategy has come of age. 2020 saw conventional marketing plans go up in smoke even before they were implemented. Fluidity and agility became all-pervasive. And while the marketing function has always adapted to changing customer demands, quicker pivots found a new definition and need. The pandemic has clearly outlined the need to quickly transform the way we work and established marketing as a critical function that provided the connect between new business dynamics, the brand, and key stakeholders.
Personalization took precedence as the focus was on delivering superior customer experiences. The limitations placed by Covid-19 restrictions allowed brands to think out of the box, adapt swiftly, and plug any gaps in customer accessibility. And digital marketing and social channels became our window to the world.
Empathy is no longer just a nice to have. It is fast becoming the core of doing business. And bringing back the “human” to all functions, including marketing and your brand-building efforts, is imperative. Spontaneity and imperfections are a part of being human, and if someone’s child pops up when you are in a call, or someone has a messy room in the background, that is ok too. In the same vein, this year has also made it acceptable to record videos from your kitchen or living room without high-end equipment and lighting if you have something of value to say.
This has also been a year of collaboration and collective partnership. Company-customer, employer-employee, vendor-partner, corporate-community—all relationships have evolved in unprecedented ways this year. And as we step into the new year that, with the vaccine, offers the promise of things moving to the “new normal,” one thing is certain: we are on a long road to recovery that will be realized only if leaders are ready to embrace continued change and focus on experiences.