There’s a screencap that’s been doing the rounds on social media lately, a faux poll that asks its respondent to identify the main factor leading digital transformation efforts their company. The choices: the CEO, the CTO, and COVID-19, which is bolded in stark red digital ink.

Who led the digital transformation of your company?

  • CEO
  • CTO
  • COVID-19

Coronavirus has been able to force an overnight sea change that was expected to take years. Once solid business models are being destroyed, or remade from the ground up, in the blink of an eye.

The marketing world is no exception to the wholesale changes being implemented out of sheer necessity in response to the pandemic. But marketing ecosystems have been poised on the precipice of a dramatic shift towards digital transformation for years. It’s just that COVID-19 has unceremoniously shoved them off a cliff.

Martech and the Skills Gap

Even before the advent of COVID-19, businesses had been on a steady march towards wide adoption of marketing technologies. According to research from the SaaS management tool company Blissfully, enterprise level companies—those with at least 1,000 employees—used an average of 200 different types of marketing technologies.

Even small- and medium-sized businesses were found to employ somewhere between 100 and 150 martech solutions.

While martech applications certainly deliver a solid return on investment, their acquisition has made one thing clear. Most companies lack the skills needed to use them effectively.

Blissfully found that two-thirds of companies feel they lack the skills and talent needed to take full advantage of their marketing technology investments. This results in two painful outcomes: rapidly increasing labor costs (either internal hiring or vendors’ support teams), and a consequent inability to scale marketing.

Skill deficit

This challenge has been around for several years. But the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown it into stark focus. As a result, companies are beginning to adjust the fundamentals of their marketing operations to focus on three key factors: skills, scalability and costs.

The Playbook for Transforming Your Marketing Infrastructure

Successful companies that have stayed ahead of the game have employed three key principles to transform their marketing ecosystems to meet this new, transformed world’s challenges head-on.


Their marketing departments have reorganized and added human capital in three key areas:

  • Data
  • Business intelligence (BI), analytics and insights
  • Marketing technology

With these key pieces in place, they reorganized in a way that let them more easily take advantage of technological platforms and tools that let them more easily work with an ecosystem of partners, such as digital agencies and analytics and insights providers. This structure provides their marketing teams with internal teams that have necessary core skills, but the modularity to take advantage of partner expertise on an as-needed basis.

Interconnected Ecosystem


They have decoupled the strategy and creative side of their marketing teams from their implementation teams. This allows for operational efficiencies that makes scaling much easier.

Decoupling for scale


They’ve instituted new operating processes to more easily respond to a digital first world. That means establishing new roles focused on operational excellence, new processes for program planning and implementation, and establishing new key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the right outcomes.

Implementing these three strategies has yielded some serious benefits. Their marketing teams have increased capabilities and capacity. They are more agile, and therefore able to respond to both known and unforeseen changes more easily. And they are able to lower their costs, easing a concern that’s on everyone’s minds these days.

The future remains uncertain, but by taking these few steps marketing teams can prepare themselves as best is possible, no matter what tomorrow might bring.