CMO Insights: 360 Degree Impact Amidst COVID-19 (#1)

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Last Wednesday, MassTLC launched a series of virtual sessions for CMOs. The goal of this series is to develop a 360-degree business perspective on the business impact of the Coronavirus situation.

Mark Lorion, COO, Arxan (now Digital.ai), started the discussion presenting the approach his organization is implementing across all functions, including scenario planning and projected recovery. You can access the presentation here.

Noted strategies were:

  • Evolve company vision while ensuring support of your board.
  • Align all decision makers before execution.
  • Model everything from pipeline to revenue.

Prior to this meeting we surveyed the attendees asking what topics are most pressing. From that survey we organized the discussion to cover four areas: Planning and forecasting, marketing shift, communications/messaging, and team impact.

Planning and Forecasting
Mark presented data and tools that his organization, Arxan, is using to remodel their 2020 plan. Arxan will use the data to protect marketing investments as they drive into 2021. The group was asked how remodeling has effected sales quotas. Many of the CMOs are remodeling and reforecasting. Most CMOs were lowering quotas for the year in some or all areas of their company. One attendee remarked that they were repositioning sales EPS to focus on renewals and set up incentives to match.

The conversation shifted to forecasting. Many remarked that they were targeting Q2 and Q3. Some said they have entirely reforcasted their targets for the remainder of 2020. Others commented that they are planning beyond 2020, but reviewing every two to four weeks as things are changing rapidly. Some companies are holding on projects that will not give an immediate return.

Shifting Marketing Mix
Attendees said they are shifting their marketing mix, focus, and resources as they navigate through this crisis. Companies have experienced success moving to virtual forums from annual in-person events. Due to the COVID-19 situation, offering virtual events have resulted in an increase in attendance. This has removed the constraint of time and travel to meetings, allowing many CMOs to reach customers and stakeholders that previously would have likely not attended.

Here are strategies CMOs are focused on while creating a virtual even: Ensuring a strong positive user experience, utilizing chat functions for ongoing engagement, and creating shorter and succinct presentations. Some examples of success include:

  • An HR company wanted to reach leaders on the frontlines. They created an executive roundtable of people, who  would have normally not been able to convene.
  • An Annual Advisory Board moved to a virtual program finally bringing people to the event who could not attend in the past.
  • An international roadshow was converted from physical to a virtual program.  This resulted from a 1000 in-person event to a regional event that brought 5000 registrations.

The question was asked how companies are handling the top of the funnel creation and lead flow. Many are focused on existing customers. Also, an increased sensitivity to their customer needs during this crisis has led to less selling and providing more value to their current customer base.  While BDR activity is down, many are seeing a tremendous uptick in content and digital resources. One person remarked that in the first few weeks of this crisis, their podcast series went from 50k downloads/month to 250k/month.  Their prospecting webinars went from average 200-300 attendees to over 1000 attendees. There is also time to focus on brand messaging, reaching out to more customer as they have more time right now.

Communication and Messaging
As time was ending for the forum, Mark asked what communication and strategies are working. One company had their PR tactfully navigate their organization through a delicate situation, resulting in positive press. We hope to expand on this topic in the next session.

Team Impact
This discussion centered on how everyone is making difficult choices including where they are prioritizing and how their teams are being impacted. Some have decreased or eliminated all open requisitions, other have pivoted members of their teams to different areas. One example came from a CMO who  pivoted their large events staff to building customer messaging and stories until things pick up again.

Questions to consider for the next meeting in the series to consider is how has this impacted contractors, what to do with the martech stack’s that organizations are locked into, and how to repurpose and pivot people in order to keep teams intact as we emerge out of this crisis.

Our next session is taking place on Wednesday, April 29th, 8:30 AM to 9:45 AM, allowing more time for the discussion. You can register HERE.

To ensure the next meeting provides you with the actionable insights, please take 2 minutes to complete the survey here.

Please join MassTLC Central, our newly launched virtual forum where you can connect to each other,  join MassTLC CMO forum, here.