Marketing departments had a decidedly unfun time in 2020.

Fully 44% of CMOs are dealing with budget cuts as a result of the pandemic, according to Gartner. Job losses have been widespread. Marketing is often at the front of the line when it's time for cost-cutting (which is a bad long-term strategy, but that's for another article), and remaining marketing teams are finding themselves in much leaner departments.

So who's left on those marketing teams? A batch of lucky souls who might not always feel so lucky. They may be experiencing survivor guilt. They may be trying to juggle family and household responsibilities while working from home. And since one-third of marketing work has shifted from agencies to in-house (a trend that is expected to continue), they probably have more work to do.

The whole marketing team's workload may even be increasing. As social media apps such as TikTok grow in popularity and new ones sprout up, there are more channels than ever to supply with content. Marketers are charged with maintaining all of their channels while also trying to keep up with new ones, like a desperate game of social media whack-a-mole.

Then there's the matter of quality. The standards for good content have only gone up since the pandemic started. No one can afford to be tone deaf right now: Every communication must be crafted with the utmost care to keep from being "canceled." Nearly one-third of marketers have said that their CEO is paying closer attention to their messaging and content since the pandemic began, and about two-thirds say their language is more important than ever when connecting with customers.

To put it another way, what marketers say is extra important, and there are more places to say it than ever. So, all marketers have to do is maintain a high level of both quantity and quality with decreased resources!

So how's it going? Not very well.

The massive demand they're facing means that 82% of senior marketers say they struggle to create enough high-quality content. That's four out of every five marketers. (Tell us your secrets, fifth marketer!) So many content creators are under extreme duress, and something's got to change if we're going to make it through 2021 with our sanity intact.

With that in mind, I have three suggestions for every marketing team to consider as they try to find some room to breathe.

1. Ignore the shiny new things

Now is not the time for what's new; now is the time to double-down on what you know works. That hot new social media channel may or may not still be there when you come up for air. If Steve from Biz Dev pipes up with "I heard this one brand was doing something cool on Houseparty—don't you think we should put some budget there?" you have my permission to mail Steve a box of glitter.

You could also tell him that 69% of CMOs are focused on maintaining the status quo or taking only very limited risks right now, but the glitter thing is way more satisfying.

2. Put your money into perfecting email

We all know that email is the channel that works the best, consistently delivering ROI (measurable profit—how fun!).

If you're going to experiment with anything right now, you should optimize the heck out of your email: subject lines, header text, personalized content, multivariate testing, whatever you can think of that might make this high-performing channel sing a little bit more. And because 79% of CMOs are looking to their own customers to fuel growth post-pandemic, email is the obvious choice for connecting with them.

3. Bring some AI in to help

Human marketers can't do it all alone anymore (and alien marketers are nowhere to be found). It's nobody's fault; it's just where we are today. In the absence of superhumans or aliens, we're left with AI.

AI promises an extra set of hands that optimize, analyze, create, test, deliver, and even write copy for you! A survey of senior marketers found that 47% want technology to play a larger role in their organization's marketing, and 73% plan to invest in AI to support marketing in the next 18 months.

The other nice thing about AI? Just like email, it can prove that extra revenue showed up. So next time Steve starts blathering on about what your TikTok dance strategy should look like, you can show him the money—and then the door.

* * *

The lucky marketers who still have their jobs would probably feel a lot luckier if they could keep up with the increasingly heavy burden being placed on their shoulders.

But never fear, marketers: This too shall pass.

By prioritizing the right channels and bringing in some AI to help, you can get back to breathing easy.

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Three Ways Marketers Can Survive in 2021

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image of Parry Malm

Parry Malm is the CEO of Phrasee, which empowers brands with advanced AI-Powered Copywriting technology. He has been working with companies to optimize marketing results for almost 20 years.

LinkedIn: Perry Malm

Twitter: @ParryMalm