Q4 is always a challenging quarter.

Not only are you trying to make your year-end numbers, but you’re also grinding out a marketing and business strategy for next year.

That said, Q4 2020 is a whole other animal.

This year forced us to hit the reset button – as businesses, as people, and as citizens.

So take a breath.

Then another.

Take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work you’ve done this year.

The hoops you, your team, and your family jumped through to get to this moment. And breathe.

Now, roll up your sleeves.

As you approach Q4 and 2021, your job as a marketing and business leader is to help your team end the year strong, give them a game plan for next year, and fulfill your promises to customers. Here’s my advice for doing just that:

  1. Be realistic around Q4 goals and expectations: Hopefully, you’ve worked with finance and business leaders to adjust your goals in the face of COVID. If those adjusted goals are still out of reach, prepare your team. Find the right balance of pushing while also using this time to learn. What can you do in Q4 to improve as a team for 2021? Try to end the year as close to your goals as you can – but also focus on the new learnings and plays that will help you find success in Q1.
  2. Align your team & reignite their passion: Q4 fatigue is real. Burnout is real. And it is going to hit hard this year if employees were reluctant to take time off. Add on top of that a holiday season that will look drastically different than years prior, and it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. For these reasons, you need to practice extreme empathy and focus on your employees’ mental health. Work closely with managers to ensure they are supporting their teams and encouraging them to take time off. Plan fun virtual activities that celebrate their accomplishments and take a break from the daily grind.
  3. Continue to rally around your customers: Today’s CMOs aren’t just marketing leaders – they’re revenue leaders too. To succeed in both roles, you must hold yourself and your team accountable for revenue across the entire customer lifecycle. Make customer lifetime value (LTV), renewals, and expansion metrics a focus for Q4 and 2021. Continue doubling down on digital transformation initiatives that remove friction from the customer journey. Work across revenue teams – like sales, customer success, and even product – to coordinate and accelerate customer-centric GTM strategies.
  4. Fulfill your promises: Your brand is more than just a logo. Your brand is your actions. It’s the promises you make and the causes you get behind. It’s everything internal and external. Brands that took a stand during the George Floyd protests and advocated for Black Lives Matter must fulfill the promises they made. They must put their money and actions where their mouth is when it comes to racial equality, diversity, and inclusion.
    People like to say that Q4 is the last leg of a marathon. But it’s really a team sport.

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I couldn’t have gotten through this year alone. That’s why I’m so excited about what I’m announcing next 🤩

Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing this newsletter stage with a number of my peers for a new series I’m calling “5 Questions with the CMO of…”. In this series, I’ll be interviewing CMOs from companies including Twilio, Skillsoft, Palo Alto Networks, Box, and more. These awesome folks will be filling in while I embark on a new journey over these months: motherhood.

During my maternity leave, you’ll still get all the hard-hitting news you love, plus insights from some of the best and brightest in marketing. I’ve also pre-recorded a number of CMO Conversations podcast episodes – so be sure to tune in. (A huge shout out to the Drift content team for helping coordinate this effort while I’m out 🙏)

I look forward to connecting with everyone again in January to kick off the new year!

Now, here’s the news I’m reading this month 👇

COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report [Twilio]

We’re all looking forward to the day when COVID doesn’t make the headlines. But it’s impossible to escape the impact it’s had on our world. This report from Twilio takes a deep dive into that impact, particularly on B2B and B2C customer engagement.

Out of the 2,500 businesses surveyed, 97% said COVID-19 has sped up digital transformation by at least 6 years. How’s that possible? Well, for many businesses, the barriers to entry have been lifted. In order to service customers and operate in a more digital world, a pivot needed to happen.

Twilio CMO, Sara Varni, will be joining us in an upcoming newsletter to discuss both the significance of the report and the big pivots her team has made this year.

2020 State of Conversational Marketing [Drift]

Every year Drift publishes the State of Conversational Marketing. Just last week we shared our 2020 report.

Similar to the Twilio report, we found customer-driven immediacy to be a key component of companies embracing Conversational Marketing:

The expectation of an immediate response through a chatbot increased by 10% since 2019. Immediacy of response via social media grew by 19%. And online live chat saw an increase by 21%. Even more dramatically, email saw an increase in immediate response expectations by 45%.

You can access the full report here.

Becoming a More Patient Leader [Harvard Business Review]

If you asked me 10 years ago what skills define a great leader, I wouldn’t have said patience. Having now been a CMO during two downturns, I can say that not only is patience a virtue – it’s a leadership survival skill.

Empathy requires patience. Strategic planning requires patience. Quality requires patience. That’s why I love this article from HBR.

In a study with over 578 US workers, respondents were asked about their supervisor’s leadership style and level of patience. It then asked them to report on their own level of creativity, productivity, and collaboration. I think you see where this is going:

Their responses revealed that patience had a powerful effect: When leaders demonstrated it (meaning their employees’ ratings put them in the highest quartile), their reports’ self-reported creativity and collaboration increased by an average of 16% and their productivity by 13%.

It sounds strange, jumping from digital immediacy to patience in leadership. But if 2020 is the “year of anything,” it’s the year of “slowing down to speed up.” During this time, we must recognize when careful thought and reflection are needed for the long-term and when immediacy is warranted when responding to crises.

I’d love to hear what you think. Send me a note on LinkedIn, Tweet to @triciagellman, or reply to this email.

Enjoy the rest of the month,

Tricia

(P.S. Positive affirmations aren’t normally my thing. But this video of Chris Hemsworth is the 2020 pep talk we all need right now.)

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