Perhaps never before has the chief marketing officer been so centrally in charge their organization’s overall response, strategy and action plan to move out of and through a crisis.

The many layers of adversity the coronavirus has thrown at companies – managing shifting market demand, communicating the organizations position, considerations for brand strategy, guiding employees through a new work environment, etc – requires marketing leaders to work at the forefront in each and every conversation.

And for marketing leaders who have long strove to elevate their influence beyond brand, demand and other marketing programs, this is your moment.  This will be where a new wave of future CEOs are created directly from the marketing organization.   This is when marketing leaders will demonstrate their ability to lead entire organizations, even entire markets.

It’s a scary time, for sure.  It’s also an exciting time to be a marketing leader.

I sensed some of that energy and optimism in last Friday’s CMO Coffee Talks, as many leaders shared early examples (and several success stories) of how they are leading their companies not just through this crisis, but also into the rebound and next phase of growth and success.

Some other topics discussed on Friday:

  • Short-term comp changes for BDRs and inside sales: Instead of making broader, longer-term changes to inside sales compensation based on prospects delaying purchase and, in some cases, demo commitments, many organizations are pivoting to short-term spiffs for reps based on a combination of outbound activity and longer-term pipeline development. In some cases, even just a value-added connection to share relevant real-time resources (vs pushing for an appointment) is forward progress towards near-future pipeline.
  • Leveraging video to increase humanization & engagement: Many marketing leaders are doubling-down on video as a communication tool, both in 1:many formats in their content as well as in a 1:1 format from their sales and customer-facing teams.
  • Imperfect is the new perfect: There’s increasing evidence that children on Zoom calls and inperfect backgrounds are increasing engagement, affinity and response rates with customers and prospects. Getting a glimpse into who we are beyond mere business is an asset.
  • Empathy vs ambulance chasing: We may be moving beyond the “selling with empathy” phase, but it’s a good, constant reminder to focus on the customer’s needs and mindset vs pushing for your agenda (in good times and in bad).
  • What’s your conversation strategy (vs conversion strategy): We focus so much in marketing on getting the click and conversation, what if we put just as much time into building value in the conversation?  Not just content (that’s one-directional, mostly) but a truly interactive, doubly-valuable interactive conversation.
  • Creative, in-context prospect offers: WFH gift baskets, gift cards to a local small business restaurant favorite, donations to first-responder charities, marketers are getting creative with offers to keep prospects engaged.
  • New budget is frozen, current programs are not: An interesting side note from the “how much are you changing your Q2 marketing budget” conversation in March.  Adding new expenses (campaigns, technology purchases) are more likely to be on hold for now, but previously committed programs are more likely to continue.
  • Channel partners are hungry for content & direction: If you aren’t actively engaging or feeding your channel partners, now is the time to engage.  They are also hungry for direction, content and offers/assets to feed their audience.  This moment could be an opportunity to turn your channel and distribution partners into meaningful and growing pipeline and sales volume.

If you’re a marketing leader in your organization I’d like to invite you to our CMO Coffee Talk series, presented by 6sense and Heinz Marketing.  It’s a new drop-in interactive Zoom meeting Fridays at 8:00 am Eastern and another at 8:00 am Pacific.

Think of it as coffee with CMOs – you can participate actively or simply watch and read what others are thinking.  Get registered with a hands-free calendar invite here.