We’ve spoken to many marketers about their new normal, but nobody from a big martech company yet. So, we decided to fix that and catch up with Paige O’Neill, Chief Marketing Officer at Sitecore, the web content management and digital experience platform.

O’Neill discusses the great “digitization experiment” happening right now, as well as how she and her team are adapting to new working processes and demands.

Join Sitecore CMO Paige O’Neill and Econsultancy analyst Sean Donnelly at Sitecore’s Virtual Marketer Day on May 20th. Four regional start times, eight sessions and three tracks. Sign up here.

Please describe your job: What do you do?

As CMO, I lead Sitecore’s global marketing efforts to help the world’s biggest and most innovative brands leverage our industry-leading digital experience and commerce technology to become digital-first organizations.

It’s more critical than ever for brands to be able to connect dynamically with audiences across every channel and offer more impactful, personalized customer experiences that will translate to stronger brand loyalty and increased marketing ROI. My focus is on informing decision-makers from technologists to marketing executives on how they can make better use of their data and technology, and where Sitecore can help.

Internally, I also drive Sitecore’s own digital transformation, most recently launching a content-rich, highly personalized experience on Sitecore.com.

How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?

One of the biggest adjustments, along with many others, has been a shift from a schedule pretty full of travel and events, to conducting all work from my home office. My role typically requires lots of travel between Sitecore’s global offices to meet with teams and strategize, plan and implement our marketing initiatives. I also speak at and attend numerous events through the year, which of course have been canceled or moved to virtual.

I’m thankful that we’re all able to turn our cameras on during conference calls and stay visually connected while sheltering in place. This is a trend I think should and will continue post-pandemic.

In terms of day-to-day operations, decisions I make are now based on our new reality. Every piece of content I review, every customer contact, all marketing strategies now require new considerations such as, “Will this message be appropriate for my audience right now?” and “What are we communicating as a brand that is helpful and not viewed as self-serving or tone deaf?”

What are your favorite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?

As mentioned, video conferencing’s been a lifesaver and provided a way for co-workers to feel less isolated right now.

I’ve also been using social media more often to connect with industry peers. After stay-at-home orders began to take effect, I wanted to dialogue more with other marketers, partners and customers to see how they were adjusting and responding to the pandemic, and use the opportunity to connect in a more personable way. Each week, I post a couple of video chats I’ve had with other professionals in my own community to my LinkedIn page, and it has proven invaluable in terms of gaining new insights from both my guests and others who participate in the conversions via comments.

Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?

I think businesses leveraging their omnichannel capabilities to better serve customers during the pandemic really stand out. Sitecore customer FoodStuffs, a New Zealand grocery chain, already had online and mobile ordering available for deliveries and pickups, but the capability has proven extremely useful right now. They’ve done a great job of promoting these services to support social distancing efforts and reduce heavy foot traffic at stores, as well as to support customers who’ve had to self-quarantine.

From a leadership perspective, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff has been a tremendous role model for other companies navigating the crisis. His commitment to pledging no layoffs for 90 days and encouraging other technology companies to also take the pledge has set a great example and is something we quickly adopted at Sitecore.

What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?

We’ve focused primarily on being empathetic in our messages and interactions. When approaching customers, it’s really about asking what their needs are and seeing how we can help meet them. The crisis is a source of great stress right now, and you don’t necessarily know the toll it may be taking on an individual customer from both a work and personal perspective.

One of the first things we did was to outreach directly to all of our customers to see how we could help. Given that our technology is so ingrained in what is now the lifeblood of many of our customers’ organizations, we wanted to discuss any additional resources they may need, let them know that our own business continuity plan was working well and ensure they know we’re here for them.

In some instances, we also upgraded our customers to premium support levels, specifically in the healthcare industry, to ensure their sites are up and available to serve their increasing audiences.

What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?

We’re seeing a shift in how the content we share is resonating. There’s increased engagement on the information that focuses on personalized content, commerce, efficiency and making human connections in a digital world. This makes sense, as having omnichannel capabilities to connect with customers and conduct sales online and via mobile can mean the difference between being able to do business right now or not.

Digital is providing a lifeline for businesses with consumers stuck at home who are more engaged online and turning to brands with e-commerce capabilities to make purchases. For restaurants, grocers and pharmacies, it means being able to function more effectively and serve customers with pick-up and delivery options to help with social distancing efforts as well as serve consumers who are most at-risk or in self-quarantine.

The seemingly overnight requirement for businesses to run 100 percent remotely during the pandemic is a challenge most never expected. Companies not far enough along on their digital transformations are having to rapidly reevaluate priorities, and this is a trend I see continuing for months to come.

Recently, the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” has never rung more true when it comes to digital transformation. Once this storm has settled, we’ll be able to take the results of this great digitization experiment and apply these learnings and innovations to better understand what kind of digital experiences and technologies are most critical for both customers and employees. We’ll be able to take a retrospective look at lessons learned during this hardship and come out stronger from both a customer relationship and digital perspective.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

For the moment, marketers need to work within the context of the pandemic. Whether you’re targeting consumer or B2B customers, you’re still dealing with human beings who are impacted in different ways—including on a personal level. For any branded content or direct communications, it’s important to be empathetic in your message, geared toward asking and showing how you can help in their current situation. While this is always the case, it’s especially important right now that marketers do their homework and provide messages that aren’t opportunistic or insensitive to the difficulties many people are having today.

I’d also recommend marketers focus on internal changes that can be done right now to set their own organizations up for success as economies reopen. There’s been a dramatic shift in need for digital transformation to enable omnichannel capabilities in the pandemic. However, these changes really need buy-in from the entire C-suite for an effective implementation because it requires a cultural shift within the organization to work well. Now is a critical time to get ahead of your company’s digital transformation because the demand for it will only grow.

What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?

We’re much more nimble, and I don’t see that changing post-pandemic. It’s become very apparent that a six-month marketing plan is not relevant in today’s world where new customer demands and requirements change literally overnight. We’ve learned that a marketing strategy can be put together and implemented in weeks, not months, and that’s something I don’t see changing.

When it comes to digital transformation, Sitecore will be on the frontline helping customers prioritize and get their digital strategies where they need to be. So, this is where we’ll continue to focus many of our efforts.

Further, Sitecore is committed to delivering the industry’s first comprehensive SaaS platform, streamlining processes for customers with greater security, reliability and automatic updates that just work out of the box. We started with the acquisition of Stylelabs, which became Sitecore Content Hub and our first SaaS solution. A major value proposition of ours has been that we provide end-to-end content management capabilities across web, mobile and commerce in one place. With the next generation of Sitecore, expect to see offerings that will prepare customers for easy transitions to SaaS as well as our first steps toward providing a comprehensive SaaS digital experience platform, which will be the future of our business and the industry.

Join Sitecore CMO Paige O’Neill and Econsultancy analyst Sean Donnelly at Sitecore’s Virtual Marketer Day on May 20th. Four regional start times, eight sessions and three tracks. Sign up here.