INTERVIEW: How have budget cuts affected the way marketers think?

As marketing budgets grow once again as we start to emerge from the pandemic, some ‘quick fixes’ have turned out to be long term solutions. 

Over the last year, growing expectations have been met with shrinking budgets for marketers. Industry-wide cut-backs have resulted in a dramatic decrease in spending and, despite pandemic recovery efforts beginning, this isn’t something that’s likely to change anytime soon. In fact, last month, Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey revealed the mean percentage of total company revenue allocated to marketing in 2021 is 6.4 percent, down from an average of 11 percent in 2020. 

In light of this, Performance Marketing World spoke to Esther Flammer, Head of Wrike Marketing at Citrix, to find out more about how the pandemic has impacted the industry and what comes next for marketing teams. 


Can you tell us a little bit about you and your role at Wrike? 

I recently moved into the role of Head of Wrike Marketing at Citrix. Wrike is the most versatile and intelligent work management platform for the enterprise, and we’re helping thousands of customers – including Estée Lauder, Nielsen, and Siemens – plan, manage and complete work at scale. 

I joined Wrike at a really exciting time in the company’s journey. I came in on the heels of the acquisition by Citrix and quickly understood the increasing demand to expand the Wrike platform wall-to-wall within organisations that are facing growing workplace complexities. As Head of Wrike Marketing, I’m tasked with fueling our business growth by creating a go-to-market strategy that will help us build out a scalable foundation for growth, elevate the company’s position in the industry, and dominate a heavily competitive and growing market. 

Prior to Wrike, I’d worked in several marketing leadership roles for leading technology companies, including Validity and Conga. 

The pandemic forced many teams to adapt and rethink their entire strategies almost overnight. From your own experience, what are some of the key challenges it brought? 

The pandemic was a great test to see what marketers were really made of. It challenged all of us to really think creatively. As we begin to recover, buying decisions continue to change. The market continues to be saturated. It’s getting harder to get consumers’ attention and to keep employees engaged.  

Marketers are continually being asked to be more – keeping our finger on the pulse of market/industry trends, staying ahead of competitors, finding messages that resonate and new channels to get in front of the right audiences, delivering personalised experiences to target personas, and delivering leads and pipelines that contribute to revenue all while motivating and mentoring world class teams.

Our jobs aren’t getting easier but it’s a fun challenge! Today’s marketers are challenged to be more innovative and targeted than ever before.

As we begin the journey towards economic recovery and hopefully ‘business as usual’, what will be the lasting impact for those in the marketing sector?  

For marketers around the world, the pandemic is set to have a lasting impact on the way that they interact with their audiences. While initially thought of as a temporary way to limit the spread of the virus and keep the most vulnerable safe, the new online environment has had some unexpected benefits and the likelihood is that it is here to stay. 

For example, over the last year, industry events and tradeshows across the world were put on hold. For many, the solution was to go virtual. As a result, some companies have found themselves saving money and time. Meanwhile, the pool of potential invitees and attendees has exploded, as people from across the world can instantly join without having to worry about travelling. This virtual landscape also enables marketers to collect valuable feedback and measure results in order to inform future events. The format has proved so successful that 80 percent of people predict that in-person and virtual events will co-exist moving forward. Therefore, marketers need to prepare themselves for a hybrid future.  

And it’s not just events that are set to ‘go digital’ long-term. According to McKinsey, consumers are continuing to shift towards reduced-contact ways of accessing products and services, with 84 percent of marketers believing that their customers are placing more value on digital experiences than before the pandemic. Whether it’s developing a meaningful brand image, or executing specific campaigns to attract and retain customers, marketing teams need to take this shift in consumer preferences into account and focus on delivering personalised offers and messages online – as well as in other formats – moving forward. 

Do you think marketers’ working habits will change long-term? What role will technology play in this? 

The pandemic saw a drastic shift in terms of how employees across all roles and sectors expect to operate moving forward. Although remote work isn’t a new concept – especially in the marketing industry – during the outbreak of the pandemic, work infiltrated the home at a never-before-seen scale.  

Many marketers have embraced the flexibility that comes with this and want it to stay in place permanently. A recent Citrix survey found that 80 percent of knowledge workers said it was “very” or “somewhat” important that they be able to work from anywhere. As such, in an effort to attract and retain talent, marketing leaders must adjust their working policies. In fact, recent research discovered that 82 percent of marketing organisations have new initiatives in place around remote work following the pandemic. Some of these new initiatives are going to be supported by modern technologies.

For example, work management solutions help marketing teams – as well as teams across other departments – to interact efficiently, regardless of where they are based. Tasks become easily accessible for everyone, meaning fewer mistakes, greater consistency and a shared knowledge of what others are working on.   

These technologies increase visibility so each individual is aware of exactly how they are contributing to a project and their role as part of the wider team. If a certain element of a campaign is delayed or not where it should be, it quickly becomes apparent and can easily be picked up on before it has a knock-on effect. They not only help encourage a certain level of transparency and accountability, they also help marketing teams keep things on track, leading to an overall increase in productivity and results. 

What do you think comes next for marketers? Are there any key trends we should be keeping an eye on? 

My team has been talking a lot about the rise in workplace complexities following last year’s accelerated digital transformations. We have seen a continuous increase in the pace of work, amount of data we process, and the number of applications we use daily. It’s caused a new level of chaos in the workplace, which has impacted productivity. Because of that, I believe we’re going to start seeing moves to reverse the damage done. 

There will be more intentional marketing decisions made in terms of the solutions and applications we use to plan, manage, and track marketing campaigns. There will be a consolidation of solutions that brings everything together in one place so marketers can focus less on finding where work lives and more on doing their best work. 

As part of that, we’ll need to be more intentional about selecting the right solutions to surface the marketing intelligence that matters most. The enormous amount of data we’re dealing with on a daily basis continues to rise, and we’re still trying to figure out how to harness it all. I hope to see more solutions that integrate with marketers’ favorite tools and channels in order to enable them to work with speed and accuracy and more easily validate the impact of their campaigns.