Driving Growth Amid a Pandemic: Three CMOs Guide the Way

Developing and delivering upon a growth strategy is the most important mandate for a today’s successful CMO. Without this focus, the CMO faces a shortened tenure. And while it’s not easy, I applaud those who have pivoted from storytelling and brand building to driving revenue-focused growth with accountability across the entire customer journey.

Driving a long-term strategic growth plan requires alignment across all organizational business functions – from product marketing, analytics, and sales, to operations and customer success. Not a task for the faint of heart. However, the rewards are big. Companies (and growth leaders) who successfully align their people, processes, content, and technology around the customer journey deliver up to 10 times more sales growth* than organizations who do not unite all of these elements.

Delivering sustainable business growth is a marathon, not a sprint. With COVID-19, it’s as though several of the water stations along the course are dried up. (We’ve written about the results of real-world marketing strategy shifts since the onset of COVID-19. You can read about that here.)

As inspiration to keep us on the course, and move past the challenges facing CMOs today, I tapped into the insights from three growth leaders I truly admire. I asked these leaders how they’re addressing growth challenges today and how they’re keeping teams motivated.

For this blog, I interviewed:

Kira Mondrus
Kira Mondrus, SVP of Global Marketing, Tricentis
Steve Hardy
Steve Hardy, CMO, Secureworks
Alex Gobbi
Alexandra Gobbi, CMO, Code42

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read on to find both insights and actions you can take to move growth forward in your organization – including that rally cry to carry you through when the water stations are lacking!

What is the greatest challenge facing your demand marketing and corporate growth right now?

Kira Mondrus: Our demand marketing program has been significantly impacted by no longer having in-person events. We made a fast pivot to divert our program dollars to digital marketing (since we sell to large enterprise, the in-person events had been a key marketing channel for engaging with senior level decision makers). However, we have managed to keep our lead flow at or greater than we did with in-person events. We are optimistic about the second half (of the year) and 2021 since our offering is key to achieving Digital Transformation by accelerating software delivery.

Steve Hardy: Put simply, we’ve had to be responsive and agile. We are tasked with adapting to change in a highly fluid and volatile environment. We’ve had to transform and overhaul the way we market, while transforming our business. Then COVID 19, racial tensions, new working realities come along and add even more challenging realities. Keeping the team focused on doing the right things in a timely, responsive fashion is critical.

Alexandra Gobbi: Having recently completed a Demand Marketing Transformation, one of the biggest challenges is driving behavioral changes, especially with our SDR teams, to leverage all of the lead insights that are now available. We feel very comfortable that this challenge can be mitigated with increased training.

On a wider scale, as we think of how 2020 surprised all of us with the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, we had to switch strategies in the middle of Q1 to refocus more efforts on customer retention and expansion. This focus on the base – and in particular on some of our largest renewal and expansion opportunities – has accelerated the focus on account-based marketing.

A final challenge has been the need to adopt a very agile marketing approach. I’m super proud of the team and their ability to rapidly turn off nurture programs or adjust campaigns when faced with the change in the economic and social climate. The biggest risk in marketing today is for companies to come across as tone-deaf and insincere. Companies that have demonstrated the ability to be tuned in to the immediate needs and concerns of buyers will retain the engagement (and ultimately the trust) of their customers.

What is the most significant pivot you’ve made (or are in the works of making) to drive growth?

Kira Mondrus: In addition to moving our spend into more digital marketing, we also made a very aggressive effort at the end of March to realign our messaging to be more closely aligned to our buyers’ priorities during these times. We understood that cost-savings as well as increased collaboration were going to be key to our customers’ success. Additionally, we reevaluated our priority accounts and shifted focus away from industries that are currently not investing.

Steve Hardy: I’ve been at Secureworks for just over 7 months and the biggest shift we’ve undergone is re-orientating the organization from a brand first marketing posture, to being customer and demand marketing first. With this new posture, marketing has a broader responsibility across the entire customer lifecycle and is no longer just focused on comms and new customer acquisition.

Alexandra Gobbi: Our biggest pivot has been to focus on our customer base and to accelerate the implementation of a frictionless commercial experience. Buyer feedback on our product was overwhelmingly positive. As a result, we decided to shift and align product benefits earlier in the buying process by focusing on the unique features of our software (the simplicity and intuitiveness of the user interface and the rapid development of new functionalities). Our security buyers are incredibly technical and skeptical and quickly want to ‘see and experience’ any new security product, so this pivot made sense for us. We pivoted to create product demo videos, product webinars and are building an online live experience of the product.

How are you aligning your organization around this growth pivot?

Kira Mondrus: One of my favorite things about working at Tricentis is the strong alignment that we have between marketing and sales. Whether it’s new messaging or re-examining account priorities, our strategy was built together – so it ensures our alignment.

Steve Hardy: We started by getting alignment across the business on the most ideal target customer. Luckily for me, much of this work was well underway, but it was largely focused on product development. We took that work, and operationalized it across the business, focusing all our demand marketing efforts on tightly defined target customers. This approach has allowed us to be much more focused, efficient and effective in all our marketing efforts – demand marketing, sales enablement, customer advocacy and ultimately, reshaping our brand, messaging and communications to focus on those customers mission critical priorities.

Alexandra Gobbi: Given the excitement and focus from our CEO, this has been fairly easy. We’ve created a number of competitions that engage the broader go-to-market team to learn how to demo the product. We’ve also featured our winning DGR on our home page with her ‘three click demo’. We are very fortunate to have a very talented product and engineering team and our marketing team is energized to ‘keep up’ with the pace at which we are launching new functionalities.

What is the opportunity that you’re seeing now – either because of your pivot or because of a change in market dynamics?

Kira Mondrus: Historically, we had pockets in the company, whether geo-based or more ‘traditional sales’, that never adopted digital marketing and only wanted marketing to run in-person events. COVID-19 has forced these teams to adapt to the new normal. What we have found with digital marketing is the ability to still have good engagement while also significantly decreasing our CPL (cost per lead).

Steve Hardy: Global quarantines forced the shift to digital and online meetings (and we were woefully overcommitted to face-to-face events). We’ve proven in a very short space, that prospects, buyers and customers will happily shift to a virtual environment and get great value from these interactions. We’ve been creative and have rapidly tested different formats: virtual Executive Briefings, small intimate discussions and large-scale summits with thousands of attendees. Without question, the ROI, velocity of engagement and overall efficiency of these formats considerably outstrips older formats. I do think there’s a need for face-to-face, but it will be in a much more focused capacity than previously.

Alexandra Gobbi: Internally, these pivots have allowed us to accelerate some key investments in areas like ABM technologies and virtual event experiential platforms. The current economic and social climate has also forced many companies to take a hard look at their financial health and how they are living by their values to behave in an equitable and inclusive manner. I personally believe there will be a natural shake-up where companies that were financially unstable will disappear. Equally, the current focus on social justice and on diversity will drive many leaders to take the necessary actions to walk the talk of their values and corporate social responsibility statements.  You will see more buyers integrating these criteria in how they procure goods and services – and that will be for the better.

If you had a ‘rally cry’ for your team and/or organization right now – what would it be?

Kira Mondrus: Don’t take your foot off the gas! Our team did an amazing job adjusting to working remotely, in many cases without childcare. Motivation and productivity have been really high. This is hard to maintain for months on end without burning out. We need to be careful and not let our guard down; We need to keep innovating, keep executing.

Steve Hardy: If you’re not changing, you’re not growing! And with that buckle-up! At Secureworks, we’re in the middle of a major transformation. Our business is shifting from 20 years of being a security services provider to a software-first company, with services at its core. This shift is driving major changes across our business, including how we go to market and drive demand for the business.

Alexandra Gobbi: One of the values that Code42 lives by is ‘get it done and do it right’. What I personally love about this motto is that it represents a focus on taking action, not reaction. We must be thoughtful with our words and our decisions and adjust where needed. While 2020 is not the year any of us would have imagined, I’m optimistic that we will look back and see a lot of positive lessons learned from this year. These lessons will ensure we are not asleep at the wheel or in autopilot. Rather, they will teach us to really engage and have the fortitude and critical thinking to respond to challenges (and opportunities!) as they come.

With an eye toward the finish line of 2020 I too, am optimistic that the lessons we’ve learned will create an even stronger foundation for sustainable business growth.

To summarize a few of the key take-aways to action on (if you haven’t already), they include:

  1. Re-orient messaging around current buyer (and customer) priorities.
  2. Optimize digital channels to ensure they are personalized, timely and relevant.
  3. Fortify the alignment between sales and marketing.
  4. Expand the focus beyond new logo acquisition and double down on customer loyalty. Retention and up-sell/cross-sell opportunities are essential.
  5. Be in it to win it!

The path forward will require strong contributions from all functions within an organization and will require everyone to rise to the occasion. Now, more than ever, it’s absolutely necessary to make sure your marketing strategy really is strategic. Continue to make sure that you’re not stuck in a cycle of random acts of marketing and if you haven’t already, start making the critical shift from tactical demand marketing to Strategic Demand Marketing.

Kira, Steve, and Alexandra, – thank you for sharing your pivots, silver lining, and rally cries!

*Source: ANNUITAS Data Science department benchmarking of actual ANNUITAS client performance over a five-year period

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