In our 3rd episode of Aventri's Event Strategies series, we interviewed Dan Bernoske, founder and managing partner of the Cortado Group. In this episode, Dan discuses the Cortado Group's Covid-19 Go-To-Market Strategy Framework, shifting your strategy to reflect the new buyer's journey, the "economic echo" and it's implications for your future GTM budgets, the best channels to shift your live event budgets to and which KPIs & metrics really matter, and GTM messaging in the age of coronavirus: go all in on your Covid-19 response or plan for the longterm? Lastly, we conclude with Dan's thoughts & predictions on the future of go-to-market strategies in the post Covid-19 world.
Watch the video, listen on the go, or read along with the audio transcription below.
Event Strategies: Episode 3 Audio Transcription
Aventri: Hello and welcome everyone to Aventri’s video podcast series we're focusing once again on Covid-19 and the impact that's having on go to market strategies, marketing departments, events teams, the impact and what you can be doing about that in order to continue to hit your goals and to rethink the future in light of the craziness that's going on around us.
So, I'm very excited to have a guest with me today. Dan Bernoske who is the founder and managing partner of the Cortado Group, that is focused on revenue growth and helping some of the world's private equity firms think through the go to market strategy, especially in light of Covid-19. Dan, thanks for being with us today.
Dan Bernoske: Thanks for having me.
Aventri: Awesome, and the reason that I asked Dan to join is because I've been having a couple conversations with Dan lately. He's been out in the market, listening to VPs of Sales and Marketing talking about the impact of Covid-19. All the plans that they belabored over through Q4 for now are out the window and so it takes a new approach and so Dan's come up with a framework based on those conversations that I think are really going to help you as marketing and sales leaders really reimagine and replan your year based on these circumstances. So, I guess I'll start with an opening question, which is, you know, we know that things are not in a good position, we know that there's problems and challenges, so in your conversations with VP of Sales and Marketing how would you kind of illustrate that challenge or problem the way that you see it?
[1:58] How should VPs of Sales & Marketing approach strategy based on current world circumstances?
Dan: Yeah, well, first of all, I can't take all credit on the on the framework. I've got a very talented team behind me, that is also done a good bit of the research with me. So really a team effort and what we've all heard is I think everyone is aware of at this point, but the way the buyers buying is obviously changed. That's, that's one massive change really shifting because of isolation. You can't go out on the street anymore, so you're buying much more virtually and the second area is that your team, your go to market team obviously is working much differently back to being virtualized. So those are the biggest two biggest changes that are impacting marketing and sales.
Aventri: Yeah, definitely and so we're seeing that here, as I'm sure most of these VPs of marketing and sales around the world are experiencing as well. The buyer is changing if you've been online lately you see there's a lot of online engagement part of the reason, we're having this conversation today is because people are craving interaction virtual engagement, so the buyers definitely are changing, their habits are changing. So that leads me into a kind of a complicated question, which is, as buyers are changing and good go to market strategy aligns you know your resources to that buying journey. So, as you think about your plan as a marketing or sales leader think about the impact to revenue how do you think about, you know, beginning to consider how to shift a strategy based on that new buyers journey?
[3:50] How should sales & marketing leaders be shifting strategies based on the new buyer’s journey?
Dan: You know, the first reality is that the forecast is going to shift. I think we all, experienced that pretty solid Q1 this year and so now all of a sudden, that's this massive trough of revenue. So, I think first and foremost, would you have to do is just reforecast your revenue, which would give you a brief forecasted revenue plan in general, so however you remodel your revenue. So, where's that revenue going to come from? What are the watering holes that your buyers are going to tap into really getting in touch with those things is step number one? That will set up really how you allocate your funds, going forward, but that's the first step that I would take.
Aventri: Okay, makes sense and so revenue plans are going to shift and the opportunistic leaders out there are thinking about new markets that they can get into and new ways to imagine their product and their go to market strategy based on that. So, you were going to go to budget next, and that is something that is near and dear to sales and marketing leaders right now. Which is what do I do with my budget and how do I allocate my people time and money effectively given these shifts, especially for our audience around marketing budgets and event budgets, but first we have to kind of consider the overarching go to market budget. So, where do we begin to think about shifts in budget around sales and marketing?
[5:18] What do I do with my budget and how do I allocate my team’s time and money, effectively?
Dan: Well, first of all, back to the buyer behavior change. What are their new watering holes? So, where many of your buyers may have been attending face to face meetings or events now, they are basically forced to work online and go through online resources. So, the first step is I would look at the new forecast and go bottoms up. I would look at what is your revenue target and you would know your average sales price, you would know your sales cycle length typically, so that gives you a number of new client acquisitions that you need to hit.
So, knowing your conversion rates or win rates would be the next step. So, once you have that information, then you can build up into your new marketing budget and what we're obviously seeing is that a lot of shifts toward the online and the virtual and virtual marketing. So, looking at traditional conversion rates, all the way through the funnel that's how you start to build your spend path. But that's, essentially what I would do, start bottoms up.
Aventri: Makes sense and so as we're thinking about that and you mentioned, obviously, we have to hit those revenue targets and there's pipeline required in order to do so. One of the balances with any marketing budget is always you know we got to generate pipeline for today, but we also need to drive awareness in the long term. And before we hit a record here, we were talking about what you termed, the “economic echo”. So just talk through what that means and the implications, you know, to budgets based on you know it's not just about Covid-19 but it's what comes after.
[7:26] What is the “economic echo” and what are the budget implications for after Covid-19?
Dan: Well, what we've seen is the average sale cycle length, especially in B2B is anywhere from four to six months. So, thinking about today, your sales reps have a tremendous amount of disruption to the Salesforce unfortunate riffs, just absolute disruption of budgets, etc. It is safe to say that your pipeline building activities today have dried up a little bit. So if you play it forward what we'll look at is Q3 Q4 probably late Q3 that pipeline that you are building toward late stage deals isn't going to be there and that's what I would call the economic echo. Now you don't have that late stage pipeline ready to close in Q4 late Q3, that's going to have another effect. So, when I'm looking at the budget, I'm thinking about not only today, how do I stop the bleeding now, but how do I plan for that echo down the road.
Aventri: Okay, makes sense and every organization is going to be different and their strategy into your point, the revenue plan and their buyers are all going to be different. So maybe you can just provide some guidance as VPs of Sales and Marketing are thinking about, you know, their events budget, how should they even begin to be thinking about that in terms of what to do with that budget should you be putting that money aside for future endeavors? Should you be moving that money quickly into virtual events? Should you be moving that money quickly into some other digital channels? How should a company even begin to think about you know what to do with that event budget?
[9:16] How should a company think about shifting their live event budgets?
Dan: Yeah, I mean, well, it's obviously is going to be very dependent upon the industry, some industries are hit so hard you probably be better to just leave that cash on the sideline. Unfortunately, but when I look at events, I look at it and to two lenses. The face to face events, you have, you have the exchange of ideas in the exchange of best practices by way of roundtables and presentations and seminars. So that kind of activity is that that's one and then two, the real face to face business development brand exposure that you get from a trade room floor and trade show. So, going booth to booth that kind of activity I look at those two things very separately and so let's talk about the first one, the exchange of ideas.
I actually think that that will get better because you shift that to an online space no one has to travel now so travel budgets go down your reach goes far beyond the space that you're presenting in now it's all virtual it's online, everyone now is getting pattern toward the virtual work environment. I believe that you just simply shift that budget to an online experience and make it as good as possible and suddenly your audience theory could get a lot larger. So, I think there's a lot of interesting business models. You can play there in that regard, I believe that the events industry is sitting in the best possible spot to enable your clients with more events like that.
The second one is the one that worries me more and that is no longer do you have the ability to do the face to face brand building and business development, at least not now. So, what do you do with that? That goes back to the buyer behavior discussion and we talked about earlier. Where do those buyers. Where do your target buyers go now and they're spending a lot more time online? They're doing a lot of their purchase decisions and research online now probably more than before. Then I would, I would simply shift it to an online budget. It's not that simple obviously, you have to know what to buy and how much of it to buy in order to meet your, your funnel demand your forecast, but I’ve very much look at those two things separately.
Aventri: Makes sense. Okay and I think that's an important distinction, especially when you think of all educational sessions versus trade shows and especially if you are using your events as a revenue generator to get close to share information to learn about your buyers interests, you know, there's, the virtual platform helps and really lends itself to being able to perform well in those cases. So, I think that's a major takeaway for VPs of marketing out there, especially when you're going to the CFO, going to the board and, you know, and fighting for that budget that you have. So that's a good takeaway.
Dan: You know, actually, to that point, by shifting things through online, your marketing spends. There is definitely an argument to be made that the conversion rates do tend to be higher but more importantly, you can track ROI much easier. So, for you to build as a marketer for you to build that business case and present that to the CFO or the C suite. It actually arguably gets better and easier for you to prove that ROI. So, I looked at that, as some silver lining.
Aventri: Okay, and that's a good point and I'd like to just dig into that for a moment. So, because I’ve talked to a lot of the VPs of marketing that my comes to ROI and proving the value of their events to their CFO they struggle. So just regardless of Covid-19, how should we think about, you know, an ROI discussion with your CFO. How do you prove it out? What are the key KPIs you're looking at?
[13:37] How should we think about the conversation around ROI with the CFO and what are the key KPIs to be looking at?
Dan: Well, first and foremost, you have to have a way to measure it, so obviously partnering with a company or having the people in house who can actually run digital campaigns and that's number one obviously, but also revenue attribution. So, think about revenue attribution you have be able to track ROI. You have to have the systems in place to do it. So, having something like a marketing automation tool one would hope you as a company, you already have that something you know like HubSpot or Marketo whatever your platform is that's number one. But I would look at your traditional conversion rates and that's all available today. I mean, there are benchmarks everywhere that you can look for. Your social conversion rates are obviously different than your ad AdWords conversion rates and different than your email. So, you definitely want to look at conversion rate by channel, but I would say the other big point I have is that don't get too wrapped up in what's called vanity metrics.
I'll give you a great example is a lot of marketers that I've seen in my client base, they get excited about things like email open rate or really low bounce rates on your emails, for example. That's not nearly as important as how many of those convert into qualified leads or MQLs. That is the metric that you need to really watch and then how many of those MQLs, then this is where the alignment with sales is super important. How many of those metrics or how many of those MQLs then convert down the road to opportunities. Those are the real ones that you want to look at and depending upon the channel you choose those conversion rates are very, very different. And I would recommend you benchmark those and then go to your management with some forecasting based on those unique benchmarks.
Aventri: Awesome! That makes sense I think that's a really great description your point about MQLs and qualified leads that the sales team are going to want to engage with and do so effectively is that critical metric and at Aventri we look at that daily to see you know what all of our channels are doing in terms of creating those MQLs. So, one last kind of major topic we touched on this a little earlier around that “economic echo”. Once you got that budget figured out, and you start thinking about campaigns, you want to run and content you want to generate right now, and this is an ever-evolving question that VPS of marketing are asking themselves, but how should I change my messaging and should I go all in on Covid-19 and our response to that and forego long term strategies which, you know, at the moment, don't seem relevant or should we be thinking about when we come out of it and getting back to our core. How do you balance that and how do you think about VPs of marketing dealing with content messaging campaigns that they should be running right now?
[16:15] How should I change my messaging? Go all in Covid-19 responses or plan for the long-term?
Dan: Well, first of all, I wouldn't go all in on Covid-19 you summed it up great. You've got a near term problem and you have the long-term problem. So how do I prepare for today and then prepare for that echo that's going to happen later on the year. So, two different strategies and everyone's already done it at this point. They've already come out with their Covid messaging, which is fine you can you kind of have to, but I wouldn't, I wouldn't place all my bets on that because I'm all about building for the future.
If you write all about today's event and you know what the industry called news jacking if I news jacked Covid my content is not evergreen next year is going to be worthless. I built up all this equity around that search engine optimization around the Covid piece and next year, people aren't going to care about it. So, I would very heavily shift over to building content that's going to be evergreen as much as you can go business as usual. Because what I would be doing as a leader, I'd be building toward that Q3 Q4, build knowing that my bottom of the funnel pipeline is going to be weak I've got to strengthen my position as much as possible. So, I would be writing content that's going to make an impact for my latter part of the year. That's my recommendation.
Aventri: Makes sense and I think that’s great advice for our VPs of marketing, especially out there, but even on the sales side, you think about generating your own pipeline doing your prospecting you know the time to be building that pipeline and be thinking, six months ahead, which sometimes is a little tricky for a salesperson who wants to hit their number this month this week, but thinking, how are we going to make sure that we're building pipelines. So, when buyers are buying again that we're ready to sell. So, I think that's a great, great takeaway.
All right. Uh, I guess, in conclusion, are there any last ahas any last best practices or major predictions about the future of go to market strategy?
[19:27 Any last ahas, best practices or major predictions on the future of GTM strategy?
Dan: I think, well, first of all, the majority of companies right now are hurting with this particular crisis. It's not the first time this has happened to our economy certainly won't be the last. One thing I have noticed, we have clients across all different industries in that everyone is affected differently. We have healthcare clients that are obviously impacted much differently than some of our tech clients, it just different terms of how it affects their revenue plan, but ultimately, they're all faced with the same problem. The same exact problem. And it's that the buyer behavior has changed. So, what I would recommend highly is to collaborate with other CMOs as much as possible, regardless of industry and learn from each other and get through it together. That's my biggest takeaway right now we've noticed that with our clients we connect them together to talk more and it's becoming very, very beneficial. So that's my biggest takeaway at this point.
Aventri: Yeah, makes sense and obviously a proponent of that this conversation is indicative of that which is just collaboration. I think everyone is going through the same thing right now, which is this is new to me. I was not thinking about this two months ago. So, everyone is kind of on the same playing field and in need and really hungry I think for collaboration and for some of that engagement, so I will take that away myself and recommend that any VPs out there.
Well, thanks, Dan, for your time today. Thanks to the Cortado Group for putting this together. I wish you the best of luck in navigating through Covid-19. Stay healthy. Stay hungry and we'll catch you next time.
Dan: Sounds good. Thank you for having me.
Aventri: Thanks, Dan.
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