One of the many grim realities caused by the coronavirus pandemic is the record-level unemployment rates among U.S. businesses. On Thursday, CBS This Morning News reported 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment during the week of March 28, according to the latest jobless claims report from the U.S. Labor Department. And while these numbers stretch across industries and business sizes, the martech community is already feeling the squeeze.
DataRobot, a Boston-based AI company, confirmed last week to BostonInno it had reduced its workforce due to uncertainties caused by the pandemic. The company didn’t say how many employees — or which teams — were let go, but BostonInno reports, “Posts by laid-off employees on LinkedIn show that the cuts affected teams in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Brazil, and employees on the software engineering, marketing, customer success, sales and data science teams.”
Two weeks ago, another Boston-based startup Lola.com announced it had eliminated 34 roles, including the sales and marketing team.
CMOs say staff cuts are a last resort
While the employment outlook is dour, Gartner VP analyst Ewan McIntyre offers one small ray of light. He says a recent poll by his firm found that CMOs are more likely to cut agency spend and media investments before in-house labor and martech.
“Over recent years, it’s become clear that talent investments are an essential component of marketing success,” said McIntyre, “Our last survey from back in late summer 2019 indicated that CMOs in North America and the UK spend a quarter of their total marketing budget on their people — without a doubt, a serious investment in talent. And, at the moment, an area of investment that CMOs are reticent to cut in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.”
According to McIntyre, even with 65% of CMOs expecting budget cuts this year, marketing leaders are reluctant to allow their teams to bear the brunt of those cuts.
But marketing and martech personnel are not bullet-proof. McIntyre notes that a March 25 Gartner poll of senior finance leaders showed 16% plan to reduce the workforce in the coming months, with 15% claiming they will delay or freeze current and new hire offers.
“The pressure to cut into the marketing team will come, and it will come soon,” said McIntyre, “CMOs must take action now. They must brush-off their talent roadmap to define capabilities and competencies that are essential for their long-term goals. And to build scenarios based on the talent that they need to defend as their budgets are squeezed.”
The #WFH movement widens career opportunities
Erica Seidel, founder of The Connective Good, a recruitment agency serving the marketing industry, says that in the past many tech companies have been adamant about their marketing executives needing to live nearby and able to come to the office daily.
“While this is great for collaboration and the necessary ‘shuttle diplomacy’ of marketing, it can seriously limit their access to top talent. Now, though, companies are being forced to rethink their remote working policies,” said Seidel, “I am telling companies that if working from home is working for them now, then it is likely to work for them in the future.”
Sheryl Schultz, the founder and COO for the martech managment platform CabinetM echoes Seidel’s comments on remote personnel.
“MOPs professionals today have one distinct advantage that didn’t even exist a year ago,” said Schultz, “Their location is irrelevant.”
She said, in the last 12 months, her company has witnessed an avalanche of firms, including many of CabinetM’s customers, hiring where they can find the talent without regard to where someone lives.
“We have MOPs partners whose teams are entirely remote. They’ve been using LogMeIn, Zoom and other tools to conduct their everyday business since their inception,” said Schultz, “This means MOPs professionals are no longer confined to their immediate geographic network.”
Coming together as a community
Brian Giese, CEO for the demand generation company True Influence, says he is proud of the ways the marketing and advertising community has come together and supported each other in such uncertain times. His company has pledged not to layoff any employees for 90 days as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“As a privately held company, we have committed to pay our employees’ salaries and benefits as normal,” said Giese, “This gives them the peace of mind they need so they can not only focus on their jobs, but on their families as well.”
One undeniable attribute of the marketing and martech community: We have an overlapping skill-set in terms of communication capabilities and communication platforms. We’re also resourceful — more likely to fall in the “just get the work done” column versus relying on the “that’s not my job” rhetoric. This translates to professionals who know how to pull together in a time of need and help others out as best we can.
“LinkedIn, Slack groups and other professional online affiliations are prime ground for network building … in a genuine and participatory way,” said Schultz.
My LinkedIn feed has included multiple posts from marketing and MOPs executives who are sharing the companies currently hiring (like this post from Jen Sable Lopez, the director of community at OutSystems), or offering to share LinkedIn profiles of connections who may be on the job hunt (like this post from Sara McNamara, senior marketing operations manager for Cloudera).
There’s also an argument to be made that marketing operations teams are needed more than ever right now.
“Many companies are taking a hard look at budgets,” said Seidel, “The imperative for marketing ROI has never been more important — cue the MOPs professional. ”