white pencil with the words "You Got This" against a yellow background
PHOTO: The CEO Kid

Long before the coronavirus pandemic shut down offices around the world, thousands of marketers became conditioned to remote work — probably without meaning to. Annual spending on marketing technology hit $121.5 billion before the crisis, and CMOs were spending more of their budgets on software than on staff. Some 7,000 plus marketing technology (martech) solutions billed themselves as absolutely essential to modern marketing.

And then came coronavirus. The pandemic is forcing marketing teams to cut their budgets. Perhaps you’ve discussed questions like: what systems are vital to sustain our inbound marketing strategy? What platforms do we absolutely need to take projects from inception to completion? Where do our analytics say we have inefficient spending or lackluster ROI? 

In other words, what are the bare necessities of a remote marketing team? As Baloo the Bear so famously sang in Disney’s “The Jungle Book”:

And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it
I'll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you

Those things marketers want that can’t be found — like perfect attribution, true personalization, and human-like chatbots — suddenly sound like things we can live without. And now that we don’t have the time or budget to go along thinkin’ about it, it’s all about the bare necessities. 

Hence, a silver lining of this pandemic: It is stress-testing the teams, technologies and processes we have assiduously built. It has revealed which tools we cannot live without. The following, I believe so far, are the bare necessities of a remote marketing team.

1. Project Management

Everything my team did in the office started in a project management system. Ditto in a remote work environment. It has enabled us to define, assign and route projects without endless email chains. It tells us who is responsible for what, when their piece of the project is due, and in what order. And our project management platform forces us to define the scope and strategic purpose of every project before we invest our resources in it.

Examples: Asana, Workfront, Jira, Trello, Basecamp

Related Article: Telecommuting Basics for the Newly Remote Workforce

2. Instant Messaging

Unable to spin our chairs and start a conversation, we’ve been banking hard on instant messaging. It’s ideal for quick feedback, check-ins and team bonding. And yes, bonding is a bare necessity. Our team members are locked down at home. Some have vulnerable or sick family members. Some have discovered that working at home with four kids is like setting up their cubicle in the middle of a circus ring. We’re leaning on each other right now.

Without question, instant messages can be a distraction during focused work. But the upsides of being able to circulate information rapidly offset any losses to distraction.

Examples: Slack,  Microsoft Teams, Hangouts Chat, Quip

3. Marketing Automation 

As a B2B software company running an inbound strategy, our continuity depends on marketing automation. Our system is already loaded with proven email campaigns and persona-specific content. As long as we continue to generate qualified leads, we can uphold our responsibility to the sales team and our company as a whole.

Examples: HubSpot, Marketo, ActiveCampaign, Pardot, Drip

Related Article: Marketing in a Time of Crisis

4. Digital Asset Management (DAM)

Yes, as a DAM vendor we are biased. Even so, our DAM system has provided our marketing and sales staff with the videos, graphics, photos and templates they need to engage an audience. We’ve continued to ideate, create, review, approve and deploy content via DAM.

Our customers have added users, created new training materials, and taken steps to provide their teams with fast access to their most popular assets. Many have also leaned into AI-powered image auto-tagging to save time. And we suspect that physical product companies are using a DAM platform and a product information management (PIM) solution in tandem to get their products to ecommerce sites, where there is plenty of business.

Examples: Not going there

5. Analytics

We are closely tracking email campaigns, digital ads and content metrics to see what has worked in recent months. We cannot assume that the same messages and strategies will work in our new economic environment. However, we can determine where to cut our losses. If it didn’t work in good times, it certainly won’t work in bad times.

Examples: Google Analytics, marketing and social platforms with built-in analytics

Related Article: What Does Great Customer Experience Look Like Today? Giving Customers Peace of Mind

6. Social Media Management   

With event marketing and conferences shut down, we’re banking on email, ads, content marketing, press and social media to reach our audiences. Our social media efforts wouldn’t be scalable or optimized without a social media management tool.

Examples: Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Khoros, Buffer

7. Cloud Document Editing

To craft and refine messaging, nothing works better than a good old word processor. And the only two games in town — Google Docs and Microsoft Word — have both beefed up their real-time, collaborative editing capabilities over the past year.

That said, don’t count out note-taking apps with sharing features. They are becoming a lot like light word processors, and they tend to have better systems for filing, tagging and search.

Examples: Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Notejoy, NoteApp, Microsoft OneNote, Evernote

Stress Test Results

Over the past few weeks, we’ve learned that our team not only maintains the status quo, but can move forward with a product launch using the tools above. Would it be nice to have some extra goodies? Of course! Did I leave out video conferencing because it was way too obvious? Yes. But for now, these bare necessities are more than enough.

And I’m curious: what’s on your list of the bare necessities? Share ideas with your colleagues at other companies, too, and the bare necessities of marketing will come to you.