Monica Bowie, a Senior Marketing Manager at Salesforce and the Global President of BOLDforce, our employee resource group for Black employees and allies, recently stopped by the Marketing Trends podcast to chat with host Ian Faison.
Read on for a synopsis of her thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how Salesforce is addressing systemic inequality, how marketers can use digital tactics to increase customer engagement, and productivity in field marketing.
The new digital-first world has improved marketing productivity
Field marketers have always been close to their customers. Before the pandemic, they physically visited customers in the field, held thought leadership and advisory boards, executive dining engagements, and curated social experiences for customers to attend in person. When the pandemic arrived, field marketers had to pivot fast and shift all of those experiences to digital.
In the new digital-first world of customer engagement, field marketers are still searching for ways to get close to customers and understand what they want to experience. Many marketers are discovering that it’s easier to have more conversations with even more contacts now. With the barrier of travel removed, marketers and contacts are happy to jump into a video call practically anytime.
It’s also easier to respond to many sales needs in the digital-first new normal. Marketers can listen more closely to what sales reps need, and can personalize experiences for leads in a more one-on-one way. Because no big events are being held, sales reps don’t need to wait for a big event to initiate a sale, so many sales are now happening faster.
This approach is also more cost-effective, so many field marketers have been able to shift their budgets to accommodate for other higher-cost initiatives. They’re spending more money on personalizing campaigns and giving to those in need, such as the homeless community and underserved school districts.
Marketers are essentially doing all the same things as before, but now that everything’s digital, they’ve been able to move faster and engage with customers a lot more. They’re able to pivot more quickly, and they’re able to meet customer needs more effectively. Despite screen exhaustion — something we all now know all too well — and the occasional struggle with technical difficulties on a video call, marketing has an opportunity to become significantly more efficient and collaborative during the pandemic.
BOLDForce is breaking barriers and addressing systemic inequality
Bowie is the Global President of BOLDforce, the Black employee resource group, or Equality Group, at Salesforce. Equality is one of the four core values at Salesforce, and BOLDforce is one of 12 different equality groups at the company. Equality Groups are employee-led and employee-organized groups centered around common life experiences or backgrounds, and their allies.
Through BOLDforce, Bowie and her team have been able to respond directly to recent acts of violence against the Black community — including the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Jacob Blake — address systemic racism, and impact meaningful change within the Salesforce organization. Bowie shares 8 Ways to Stand in Support of the Black Community and BOLDforce has led Equality Circles (employee lead listening sessions), allyship training, and provided mental health professionals to support the black employee community and education opportunities for allies.
It’s crucial for companies to take the time to really listen to their employees. Employee surveys are a good place to start, but companies need to do more. The key value of employee resource groups is that they give different communities — some of which may be minorities within the company — a place to create community and share lived experiences. Other Equality Groups we have include, Outforce (for the LGBTQ+ community and allies), Latinoforce (for the Latinx community and allies), and the Women’s Network (for women and allies)
Amid important cultural shifts, companies need to be asking questions like: What does our society need? What do our employees need? What should we be doing for customers in our communities? To find answers to these questions, BOLDforce held a number of listening sessions with key Salesforce executives. These sessions resulted in the launch of a brand-new Racial Equality and Justice task force led by Salesforce Equality, Recruiting, Philanthropy, Procurement, and Government Affairs teams.
In addition to our existing goal, Salesforce is also making a new commitment to increase our U.S. representation of Black employees by 50% by the end of 2023. Salesforce has also committed to invest $100 million in BIPOC-owned businesses over the next three years.
Marketers are using new digital tactics to grow customer engagement
Engaging customers in real time is a top priority for every marketer today. It’s also a top challenge. Successful marketers are the ones who are virtually obsessed with data. Because more consumers are online than ever before while staying home during the pandemic, there’s more marketing data than ever before. For marketers, it’s crucial to find ways to understand that data even better, and that means you’ve got to be almost as much of a data analyst as you are a marketer.
The digital-first world of the pandemic has also changed hiring. Before, companies tended to hire people who were geographically close to their offices. Now, they’re hiring people from just about anywhere, because everyone’s working remotely anyway. As a result, it’s easier for companies to tap into new perspectives and diversify their teams.
To keep customers engaged during the pandemic, Salesforce launched the Leading Through Change digital content and virtual event series, and it’s been highly successful. We’ve also released Work.com to help customers reopen their businesses safely, and recently announced Salesforce Anywhere, which will help sales reps work anytime, from anywhere.
Ultimately, today’s marketers need to make sure that their customers’ digital journeys are continuous. It’s essential to keep providing customers with content and ways to engage with your brand no matter where they are in their journeys.