#MarketingExcellenceAwards spills: Sage imparts wisdom on future marketing trends

Taking home the silver award in the category "Excellence in customer engagement" for Marketing Excellence Awards 2020 is software company Sage Software Asia. Dishing tech solutions that manage accounting, HR, payroll, payments, assets, construction, real estate, and enterprise systems, Sage started as a British start-up in 1981, and has since grew to a company of over 13,000 staff, supporting millions of entrepreneurs across 23 countries.

Like many businesses, Sage had to pivot its marketing strategies to digital-first amidst the pandemic in 2020. While the company looked to develop new platforms and programmes, it never took its eyes off the needs of its customers. According to Nisha Goklaney (pictured), marketing director, Sage, the marketing team's role at Sage  has always been to be there for its customers, and its efforts have only increased with the pandemic to ensure it is by its customers' side, enabling them with products, services, tools and resources that can help them make their digital transition effectively. To further cater to its customers during the uncertainty, Sage also introduced an "Ask me anything" style Q&A session, to ensure its customers have the right access and education they need regarding the solutions they are looking for. 

More on the interview here:

What are some of the expectations your consumers now have for your brand?

Goklaney: 2020 has been a year like no other for a lot of our customers, who are small and medium business owners. They have had to work from home, adapt new ways of working, ensure they can run their payroll from home, have the same visibility into their cash flows and ultimately stay profitable despite the pandemic. Our role at Sage, has always been to be there for our customers, as their technology advocate, business confidant and support system– our efforts here have only increased with the pandemic to ensure we are by our customers side, enabling them with products, services, tools and resources that can help them make this transition effectively.

Throughout 2020, with all business going virtual, we have hosted frequent educational and informative webinars on online collaboration and company-wide integration, virtual events for both customers and partners, as well as thought leadership seminars with industry and product experts on key business topics such as Budget 2021. To help SMEs participate in various government stimulus packages such as the job-support scheme here in Singapore, we quickly updated our HR and Payroll offerings to ensure they were in accordance with new regulations and provided a clearer view of these stimulus support.

To provide flexibility to companies experiencing different challenges, we introduced an "Ask me anything" style Q&A session, to really give our customers the right access and education they need. We’ve coupled this by quickly pivoting to launch a COVID-19 resource hub at the beginning of the pandemic, product specific resource hubs and knowledge bases once again to help our customers with this fast-forwarded transition to digital, allowing them to self-serve into information around specific areas of technology and automation.

How has your marketing/your clients marketing plans shifted this year?

Goklaney: Our marketing efforts have drastically shifted this year to be digital-first, ROI-focused and with a heavy emphasis on testing and learning, into new scalable opportunities. Like many other companies facing budget cuts with continued business expectations, we’ve still had to maintain the opportunities and pipeline value targets we deliver for the business. Our opportunity this year, has therefore been to pivot our marketing efforts rapidly, beginning with re-evaluating the customer experience and their preferences given an increased "online" culture as well as deeply analysing channel performance, to ensure we had a common shared understanding of what works and what does not. We then, doubled down on our digital efforts, optimising our prospect and customer journeys and conversion paths, re-hauling our website, finding new demand generation opportunities, introducing new programs such as monthly customer webinars, virtual events, content syndication and government grant campaigns, amongst a whole slew of other innovative programs for both customers and partners.

We’ve also doubled down on our partner marketing efforts, bringing them new platforms and programs to help them accelerate their own marketing at zero cost, which greatly helped those, especially without a dedicated marketing team. This has been a game changer for us, with our partners calling this out as an impressive corporate support which reaped great results in driving their new customer acquisition.

Overall we’ve had a fun roller-coaster of a ride this year where our small but mighty Sage Asia Marketing team were able to contribute positively to the overall business and demonstrate the immense value marketing brings to the overall business. We are extremely proud of the results we’ve achieved, of over 250% YOY contribution to the business.  

What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?

Goklaney: We’re seeing marketing and branding that is a lot more authentic, honest and driven by purpose. We’re also seeing customer communication that is a lot more frequent and real, intended to provide high value to customers. Finally, we’re seeing a lot more webinars, virtual events and government grants – all aimed at helping businesses in the new normal. We’ve already pivoted to these new trends early this year, and our goal is to continue to optimise our efforts, keeping in mind the customer and ROI of each initiative. We’re investing time and effort to re-tool our marketing teams to be a lot more analytical, data driven, and ROI focused, expanding our digital first approach and encouraging them to take more risks with new tools and campaigns in a spirit of experimentation.

What do you think makes for great marketing these days?

Goklaney: Frankly, the key fundamentals have never changed. Marketing that addresses specific customer’s pain points and delivers real value will always make for great marketing! Our mantra therefore is simple – we start with the customer, understand their specific personas (who they are, what they need, what’s their pain point, why they buy from us etc.) and we then map our marketing efforts to this, to grow our ecosystem of customers as we deliver what they need and want, to help them grow their business or overcome their business challenges. This year we’ve instilled a strong focus on experimenting with new approaches and measuring everything. I believe Peter Drucker, great marketing guru, once said: "If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it!”  

How are you planning for 2021?

Goklaney: For 2021, we’re expecting our small and medium business customers to move forward from the COVID-19 shock, and to start to transition and grow in the new normal. Fueled by government grants and subsidies, we expect B2B businesses to move quicker on their path of digital transformation and we want to help them be more equipped on this journey and be right there as they look to buy their new software or add complimentary software to their existing tech stack. We’re working towards being more agile so we can quickly respond to the market with timely campaigns, content, webinars, events and more.  

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