Rahul Sachitanand
Sep 10, 2021

CMOs will find it challenging to continue to virtually engage with customers: Salesforce's Wendy Walker

Salesforce's senior director of marketing in APAC holds forth on an explosion in data sources, saturation in virtual marketing and the re-skilling required for marketers as pandemic changes to the market turn permanent.

Wendy Walker
Wendy Walker

Wendy Walker has nearly two decades of experience in marketing across technology, telecom and insurance. She is now senior director of marketing in Asia-Pacific for Salesforce. As a company known for its high-voltage, in-person marketing strategies, the pandemic has compelled Walker and her team to rapidly adopt to virtual ways of doing business. In a free-wheeling conversation with Campaign Asia-Pacific, she discusses how Salesforce negotiated this tricky virtual pivot, the skills needed for marketers to negotiate this change, how CMOs can deal with a surfeit of remote content, and, two years into the pandemic, the looming saturation facing the industry.

The following interview excerpts have been edited for clarity.

CAMPAIGN: In year two of the Covid pandemic, What are the most important skills for marketers to negotiate the continuing shift to virtual communications?

WALKER: Marketers need to be able to use technology and data so they can develop strategies. And make sure these strategies actually engage and drive a deeper human connection with our customers. So that requires both hard and soft skills. I think the pandemic's really brought that to the forefront—brought data and data-analytics skills to the forefront.

Collaboration is a big issue, when you look at the changing work environment, with the 'work from anywhere' world likely here to stay. In the Salesforce State of Marketing, 77% of our Asean marketers say that the pandemic has permanently shifted how they collaborate and communicate at work. And they've indicated that it's harder to collaborate now than before the pandemic. And I think that's absolutely true. You know, I've seen that just within my team. We have the quick and easy ways to align and collaborate right across campaigns, both with our internal colleagues and our external agencies. And it's not just about shifting everything to virtual collaboration, but it's about that seamless communication. And so exploring how to achieve this has definitely been a big learning curve.

Why do you think virtual collaboration has become more challenging? Are people saturated with virtual content? 

Over the past 18 months, we've had to pivot to virtual experiences and we have had to rapidly adjust. And, in terms of skills, this has certainly seen development for some of our team. Those that were more comfortable developing and executing in-person events have had to quickly re-skill to what I can only really describe as quite a sophisticated level of TV production skills, to ensure that the experiences we take to market engage and innovative. To do that, effectively, you need to be able to collaborate with your external agencies, with studios. There are different channels that you can use to do that. But getting it so that there's that level of seamless engagement and communication is really key to keeping that efficiency.

How far down the road is the industry? What are the areas that marketers have done well within this reskilling, and what are the areas of improvement?

This is going to be an ongoing challenge. If we look at some of the key trends that came out around digital transformation, it's probably not a surprising one that it continues to ramp in our region. I think the potential for video is endless. And this is where innovation really comes to play.

You've got everything from short-form videos, user-generated videos, how-to videos, shoppable videos. I think marketers have got a huge opportunity to think creatively about how to engage consumers with video across different platforms and devices. And whilst there's really big opportunities that are created by some of these individual channels, marketers still now have that daunting task, which, again, has become even more emphasised in the last 12 months of being able to engage their customers across a multitude of different channels at scale. Yet without a doubt, digital fatigue is real.

Is it harder to keep B2B marketers engaged compared to their consumer counterparts?

I don't believe it is. I think that at the end of the day—and here's something I certainly have always coached my teams on—we as marketers need to get our messages to another human being. And in some cases, they're a B2B buyer.

And in some cases, they're a consumer buyer. We're going to have to continue to tackle this challenge of engaging our customers across this multitude of channels. Just the sheer volume of data and customer data that we have now is can be wonderful but can also be incredibly daunting. One of the big statistics that really stood out from our report for me is that the market is expecting a 40% increase in the number of data sources that are being used.

How does this change or change or complicate the job of a CMO?

If you look at the sheer scale of data sources that most organisations already have—and many are either not set up to manage that well, or aggregate it, but also maybe not satisfied with the quality of that data—for them to then take another leap and have an additional 40% more data sources coming in next few months, that could be quite daunting. And so I think being able to cut through all of that all those data sources and say 'these are for our business, these are the most important data sources, this is how we can aggregate it', is critical.

Another CMO we interviewed recently expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of her agencies' creative output. In terms of working with your agencies, do you think the quality of creative messaging can be improved for B2B marketers?

I think B2B and B2C can always all do better. But what I've noticed is we're seeing from the advertising industry is that there's a lot more empathetic and inclusive advertising out there, which makes me very, very happy. So, I think we can always challenge ourselves to do better. As an advertising and marketing community, we can always, always continue to improve.

Campaign Asia

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