Hi Randy! We are glad to have you here, what do you think was the most challenging task you had to face as CMO in 2020?
My team at Uberflip was very excited for the New Year 2020 to begin. We hired some really good people, we had a really strong go-to market strategy, we had plans of how to segment our sales team and we had really gotten a handle of our own ABM strategy. Everything was very well planned.
But as you can guess already, many of us got hit with major changes in the first quarter of 2020. For us, the biggest impact was changing where we intended to spend our budget. We had made commitments around technology, and around different platforms –– a lot of which included go-to-market. For us, a big part of our strategy has always been events. We had really strong ROI at events, with a great field marketing plan in place. Obviously, this strategy was now on hold. Eventually we had to continue to delay our events strategy until we realized the new reality was not going to allow events in 2020, and likely not in 2021. So for us, it was the need to shift.
I think the biggest shift was not just in the planning, but the trickle down into our entire team. When you think about this, you’ve got people who have jobs who are very much connected to some of these strategies. For example, the job of an event marketing manager, who goes into that year expecting certain responsibilities, most of which are dependent on events happening. We had to refocus many of our employees on new tasks as well.
How do you feel you performed during the pandemic?
So the good news for us, and I think a lot of other marketers that I’ve spoken to, is that we were able to adapt quickly. Yes, we had a rough first quarter and a lot of business was essentially on hold, especially on our SMB side. But the key for us throughout 2020 was adapting. And adapting was the key term that we used within our executive team down to our management levels, and company-wide.
Adapting really set us up for ultimately having a strong Q3 and Q4. We were also fortunate to already be in the digital space. And when digital is the only option and we are powering a content experience, naturally people are going to turn to us. We also were able to focus on verticals that showed promise, including manufacturing, healthcare and financial services. This was all possible because of our adaptation policy.
How do you see sentiments changing for marketing and sales professionals in the B2B tech space during the pandemic?
The biggest sentiment that has changed was a shift from outward hard selling to empathetic selling. I started to use the word empathy during many of my conversations with CMOs and VPs of sales. The reality is people weren’t ready to be sold to. They weren’t ready to get an email in their inbox about a COVID-19 related discount. What customers wanted was empathy. They wanted to feel that you understood the challenge to their business, that you had advice for them, and that you could guide them.
Another part of this sentiment change that led to additional changes for marketing and sales was a concentration on customer retention. The shift over to customer retention really meant ramping up hires around customer marketing or refocusing some of our individuals on customer marketing, and having a plan to nurture our existing customers. For many companies out there, the reality is that net new growth was completely off the table, so the focus ended up being on retention. Not that we haven’t focused on retention before, but it started to be a priority that people were planning around at a more strategic all in level.
How do you think has Covid-19 influenced technology innovation trends? What was your influence on the martech industry during the pandemic?
During COVID, digital went from a priority to a must have. The reality is if you didn’t have a strong digital strategy, you were completely left out of the conversation with your buyer. The reality for a lot of us who invested heavily in events and travelling sales reps, is they could no longer go face to face. And that meant changing the dynamic of how we communicate with our customers.
Marketers already knew how to communicate through digital channels. Many of us used email blasts and marketing automation nurtures, but what we needed to do was find a way to replicate that personalized feel that we would have at an event. This meant a shift in thinking and strategy, eventually leading us to learn how to target the right accounts and then send communication to them in a more personalized way.
There are many great solutions to help us understand the intent of our buyers, such as Demandbase and 6sense. The next step was making sure we were attracting buyers in a personalized way. We now have the ability to send personalized ads or personalize the content sent within an email, whether it’s sent by the marketing team or using sales tools like SalesLoft. Personalization is everything and that’s where we had to create personalized destinations aka content experiences. This was the platform where we actually can show you personalized content that’s going to match your intention.
We would love to know a bit more about your remote workplace collaboration tools and how do you think have these helped you stay on top?
I wouldn’t say that our tech stack for remote collaboration is that unique as compared to many other companies. We have communication tools like Slack and Zoom, and we actually moved our phone system over to Zoom months before the pandemic hit off, which was just a bit of luck. To me though, the real tool was picking up the phone and calling one of your team members. That goes so far in a world where we don’t have these face-to-face interactions like passing each other in the hallways or jumping into a meeting room as a one-on-one or a group.
One of the things that I put in place with our team is what I called “Walk and Talks”. And the rules of a Walk and Talk were simple. First of all, we had to all go for a walk. There was no sitting in front of a screen and no slides to be presented. To me, that was one of the best ways to understand how members of our team were coping through the pandemic and what some of their struggles might be with the new approach to work. I found that both sides really got a lot out of it and actually started to look forward to it versus yet another Zoom meeting.
What can you predict for the role of website content and social media content in this era of live streaming?
I think the reality is we’re headed into a world where remote working will be embraced more than ever, not just during the pandemic, but after the pandemic. You’ve heard many companies say that they’ll allow people to work at home after the pandemic ends. In these cases, what we need to realize is that people will also choose to work during hours that work for them. If we have family requirements at home, if we have different time zones we may be working in, the idea of a live stream only is relevant to the person who can drop everything else they’re doing and tune in, in that moment. To me, the real trend that we need to look at is how to make that content available on demand so that anyone can find it conveniently.
Part of being relevant means that someone doesn’t have to go looking for content on your site. Now the beauty of live streaming of course is, you’re streaming something that is relevant in that moment, but that content may continue to be relevant a week later. And if new people are coming to learn about you, part of a new cohort, it’s also not reasonable to expect that we can live stream content every single day.
Tell us about your favourite webinar that you have been a part of:
During 2020, we ran a campaign where we went out and we spoke to marketers who were adapting during the pandemic. This was enlightening for me in so many different ways. First of all, I got to chat with marketers in this real authentic manner. Some of us were really struggling, and some of us were really excited about certain changes and how we’d adapted. But what I started to realize is most of the companies I was chatting with (or at least the ones who were willing to chat) were ones who were being proactive. I realized we can either sit back and do nothing about it or we can view this as an opportunity and be one of the first to adjust.
I remember chatting with Jacqueline Fleming over at SAI Global. She talked about how they moved within a week of the shutdown in March to hijack an event that was cancelled and bring all the attendees to their virtual experience. We were fortunate to partner with them at Uberflip, and host that experience. We saw other companies like Wiley, who saw a huge increase in terms of their e-learning business. Even in the healthcare space, we saw companies like Medtronic, who used to send field sales reps into hospitals, forced to pivot but thrive sending personalized content destinations for each hospital. These types of stories motivated me. We were able to motivate each other that key right now is to simply adapt.
And lastly, what are the 3 Questions you want to ask every CMO or Customer Success Officer?
I want to ask CMOs, are you seeing value in investing in virtual events? And if not, are you waiting for in-person events to return to go after that channel? Second, I’d just be curious to understand how CMOs are running their individual team events. I’m not talking about all-hands or all company meetings, but the kickoff meetings for a quarter or the type of internal event that can take days. What I found with our team is that when we tried to run a quarterly kick off the first time virtually, an eight hour day was just too much.
To a customer success officer, I would like to ask, are you at the point of leveraging content for retention in the same way you’re leveraging content for that first sale?
Thank you, Randy! We hope to see you back on V3 Media soon.