Rethinking Audience Engagement with Gina Hortatsos
Rethinking Audience Engagement with Gina Hortatsos
Marketing in the time of coronavirus. To say that we are in uncharted territory is an understatement to say the least. None of us has been here before. No other crisis has been quite the same as this one and as marketers, it presents its own set of unique challenges. How are you supposed to reach out to and engage with your audience in a time like this? With your strategy overhauled your events canceled, your campaigns up in the air. What is a marketer to do now? And where do we go from here?
We, like many of you, are pivoting our marketing efforts here at Casted in response to what's happening in the world today with COVID-19 crisis. As all of these changes started to bubble up, our team and I asked the same question that so many of you did. How can we help? It was and is so important to us wage seek first and foremost to bring you value and help you, our audience, navigate these uncharted waters. So what we're doing in the very best way we know how is starting with authentic conversations.
That's why we're starting season 3 of The Casted Podcast right here today. We're starting with this episode where you will hear from CMOS and marketing leaders as they are experiencing this whole situation right along with all of you. Hear as they are rethinking their strategies, retooling their messaging, allocating their event budgets differently or even taking their events online and working with their teams and other departments in new ways.
We're first going to hear from Gina Hortatsos of Logicgate as she shares how she and her team made the move to remote work, what metrics she's watching today, how that's changing over time, and her strategy and how it's adopting in this new state of normal.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Marketing in the time of coronavirus, to say that we are in uncharted territory is an understatement to say the least. None of us has been here before. No other crisis has been quite the same as this one, and as marketers, it presents its own set of unique challenges. How are you supposed to reach out to and engage with your audience in a time like this with your strategy overhauled, your events canceled,campaign's up in the air, what is a marketer to do now and where do we go from here ?I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted. The first and only marketing platform built around branded podcasts and this is our podcast. We, like many of you are pivoting our marketing efforts here at Casted in response to what's happening in the world today with COVID-19 crisis. As all of these changes started to bubble up, our team and I asked the same question that so many of you did. How can we help ? It was and is so important to us to seek first and foremost to bring you value and help you, our audience, navigate these uncharted waters. So, what we're doing in the very best way we know how is starting with authentic conversations.That's why we're starting season three of the Casted podcast right here today.We're starting with this episode where you will hear from CMOs and marketing leaders as they are experiencing this whole situation right along with all of you. Here as they are rethinking their strategies, retooling their messaging, allocating their event budgets differently or even taking their events online and working with their teams and other departments in new ways.We're first going to hear from Gina Hortatsos LogicGate as she shares how she and her team made the move to remote work, what metrics she's watching today, how that's changing over time, and her strategy, and how it's adopting in this new state of normal.
Gina Hortatsos: My name is Gina Hortatsos.I'm the chief marketing officer of LogicGate. LogicGate is a company based in Chicago and we help companies operationalize their governance risk and compliance programs.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Sounds awesome. So, Gina, I am really, really happy that you agreed to come on because this whole series actually came about from a conversation that you and I had last week about how you were rethinking your strategy and your budget and how you were working with your team in the light of all that's happening right now because ofthe COVID- 19 crisis. So, thanks for being willing to come on and share our conversation with all of our listeners. All right. So,let's go back a little bit and tell me what the last couple of weeks have meant for you at LogicGate with your marketing team. What has that, paint the picture for me about kind of the evolution that you've gone through that's gotten you maybe over the last three or four weeks.
Gina Hortatsos: As a member of the executive team at LogicGate, we realize several weeks ago that, first of all, we have to send everybody home. It wasn't safe to operate in a shared office environment and when we made that decision as part of that conversation, it was about how do we make sure that our teams are still connected and still focused and still feeling like we're giving them the environment that they so thrive in the office but from their home offices. So, that was the first major change. We were all very used to coming in every day. We all sit in an open floor plan. So, sitting next to each other and the impromptu conversations that happen. We have a lot of team members who their various living situations really made the office environment a great place for them and how could we maintain that culture ? How can we maintain that sense of comradery and teamwork if people weren't physically sitting next to each other ? So, that was the first big change. I instituted a series of daily stand ups with my team. Every morning at 8: 45, we all stand up, we all get on our cameras, we all talk about what we did the day before and what we're doing this day. We also use a project management tool in order to kind of track progress of our core initiatives in order to make sure that we are still concentrating on the stuff that's most highly prioritized and if anything changes, we use both that daily standup on that system to communicate that out. We also heavily use Slack. We are masters of Zoom just like everybody else is now and we also have,I've kind of amped up the one- on- ones and just the, hey, how you doing kind of check- ins. So, that was the biggest change from a company and culture perspective. Obviously, on the marketing side, the biggest change along with everybody else has been the cancellation or postponement of events. As you know, high tech events are heavily concentrated in the spring and in the fall and so we had several events move or cancel. We were counting on demand creation awareness, achievement of some of our awareness metrics through those events. So, the past couple of weeks have also been characterized by figuring out how to make up for the loss from those events. So,it's been a lot of data analysis, a lot of conversations both within marketing and with our sales and customer success and biz dev teams to kind of work through all that. But those conversations have been pretty fabulous in terms of the things that we've uncovered and how we can continue to invest to make sure that we're finding people who have problems that are aligned with what we can do to help them.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Absolutely. I think as you're sharing your story,you're not alone. I think a lot of listeners have basically lived the same last month. Right ? From everything from there's kind of this phase of, yeah, how long does normal last to, okay,we're all going home to what does this mean now to finally, okay, here we are, what next ? Looking at the next days, weeks, months, but next months, quarter, year, possibly years that the strategy that I had in place, this messaging that I had in place no longer fits. So, what have you been watching and have the things that you've been watching, have those metrics about, you mentioned awareness metrics, have the numbersthat you've been watching changed ? Has your dashboard changed ?
Gina Hortatsos: Our dashboard has definitely changed and I've been talking to some other marketing leaders in my network who have seen similar trends. Our lead volume is down a little bit. There are still people doing research, but if you think about where we were two weeks ago and last week, I think there was just a overall blanket of shock set through everybody's psyche,everybody's business. Anecdotally, we were hearing from our selling teams that people were introduced into the pressure process that had titles like CFO and head of financial planning and analysis because the operations teams are scrutinizing every purchase these days. So, that all had an impact, somewhat of an impact on our volume numbers. But what was really interesting is that the folks that had already sort of started engaging in content and were already kind of interested in a solution like ours, that conversion rate from kind of qualified lead to opportunity was much higher than it has been. We believe that that has to do with the fact that we're kind of fortunate to be in a space where we help companies manage their risk and there's obviously a significant business disruption risk happening right now. So, people who already understood that there is a solution out there that could help them, not only but this type of risk, but other types of risks to manage it appropriately had a maybe a heightened sense of urgency, and so that conversion rate was much higher than what we had expected. So, we expect that trend to continue to play out over an indeterminate period of time as this sort of settles in, as the macro economic factors become a little bit more clear. If it's a quick bounce back, we expect to, our numbers to kind of return to baseline in terms of conversion rates and volume. If not,we're going to have to keep our eye on the model and figure out how we adjust.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Okay. So,you've changed what you're looking at. You know that you're going to continue to have to probably tweak what you're looking at. How about some of the actual tangible pieces of your strategy ? You mentioned events so those either are no longer or at least pushed out. What are you starting to look at doing instead ? What are you looking at including into your strategy more than you perhaps had before ?
Gina Hortatsos: One of the most organic and not to sound too cheesy, but heartwarming conversations that happened as soon as it started to sink in that this was really different was how can we help ? How can we help our customers ? It was sort of a fast follow from how do we feel, make our employees feel safe, connected. We turn quickly to our wider ecosystem of customers and partners and say, " What can we do?" So, the first thing that we did, which was a shift in strategy was to very quickly spin up a solution within our platform that we offered to our customers that is custom tailored to business continuity planning. So, if a significant business disruption happens, how do you actually manage the workflow of all the things that have to happen to keep your business up and running in that light ? So, we that first and that was just a free offer to our customers. Like, " Hey,we've got this module that could help you in your planning during this difficult time." Then, we started looking at the other people that we're maybe talking to or other people who might need a solution like ours. Do they understand that there is something out there that can help them ? Are we messaging to the wider market in a way that demonstrates our understanding of what they're going through and that we're speaking really in the language of their pain ? Because we're all feeling it,we're all sharing it. So, one major, we had already started down the path we had, we do a regular cycle of looking at our personas, looking at the people who participate in buying cycles for our product, sharpening our saw on making sure that the messaging that we're putting out there actually does meet the customer's pain.We'd already started that but we sort of got out those artifacts and we asked ourselves some tough questions about, is this messaging and is this kind of refreshed enough or do we really have to put a layer on top of that to say, " Hey, listen, businesses really disrupted, I understand if now is not the time, and also please know that we're here to help." So,we're looking hard at our content. Both are really top of funnel content but also our website, the way in which we're working with our SDR team on how they play outreach to the people in their network and the people in their area of responsibility so that we can provide messaging around that truly speaks to their pain. In the vein of we know that everything is very disruptive right now. So, really sharpening our pencils on content, which I'm really excited about because we'd already started that work and this just puts a finer point on it. When something like this happens, it really strips away all the stuff that doesn't really matter.I've been thinking a lot of, personally,I've just been thinking a lot, how do I keep my family safe ? Oh gosh. The fact that I don't like this ugly green chair that's been sitting in my living room, that doesn't matter anymore. So, how do we make sure that we are really focusing on what matters and something like this just makes that picture very crisp and clear.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely.I'm glad thatyou say that. I think a lot of us are feeling that. So, what have you found ? How have you worked through that ? What advice would you have for the marketers who are listening that are kind of going through a little bit of analysis paralysis, a little bit of fear in how their intention might be received through messaging ? How would you suggest working through that ?
Gina Hortatsos: I think it is both messaging but it's also …Let's go back to the whole conversational marketing philosophy, which is not, I see you at a cocktail party and I make a beeline for you and I walk up to you and I say, " Hey, I have something awesome that you should see." Right ?That's not what we want. Conversational marketing is about a more natural, organic interaction in which two people talk to each other, figure out what they have in common and start a rapport or relationship. At the end of the day as marketers, we don't want to talk to people who don't want to talk to us, and if you are doing completely cold outreach to people who have never shown a lick of interest at all in your stuff, maybe that's the piece that should fall off. Maybe it's more about doing some due diligence in your Salesforce database to see which people associated to your accounts have actually engaged with content even if they've never actually talked to us before. Maybe they've come to our website, maybe they've downloaded some things. Maybe they've picked up something at a trade show. If there's some evidence of engagement, those are the people that you want to be talking to because you have a little bit of an idea that they're interested in what you have to say because maybe you have a problem that they can solve. There are a lot of account based marketing platforms out there that can help you within an intent data to help understand who is actually in the market to buy that you might not see within the four walls of your own properties. So, that coupled with the messaging will prevent tone deafness and also give you a better chance of engaging with a person who actually might need what you have to offer.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Good advice always but especially in a time like this where everything is unknown and there's so much uncertainty and you're even less confident in how your message is going to be received. I think thatthat's good advice. So, I guess you said you were kind of excited and you were, out of all things considered, you were kind of excited about the messaging that you're working on. What, if anything, other opportunities have surfaced through all of this that you didn't expect or that you're starting to see emerge ?
Gina Hortatsos: One thing that I am loving is the outreach of like- minded marketing professionals through each other. I think the same thing is happening with other functions, sales, sales leaders, and operations leaders, and finance leaders and are all kind of coming together.I've seen a lot of them kind of open LinkedIn posts from CMOs that might not even be in my immediate network but maybe are two or three connections removed who say, " Hey,I'm going to start a Zoom office hours every Friday,let's just get on the phone and compare notes." So,that's been really heartwarming. Everybody really wants to help each other kind of sort out what we should do and lessons learned in this time.We're moving super- fast and we're moving in real- time and maybe what I would have thought around where to focus our efforts even 10 days ago is different from my perspective now. So,it's really nice to have kind of that expansion of the network. People are actually taking time out of their day to get on a call for an hour and listen and learn and provide their own contributions. So,that's been really cool. The other opportunity that have surfaced and it's kind of a residual of the work at home thing in our efforts to kind of make sure that we're all connected,we're learning more about each other, right ?Everybody's at home and I've certainly had a couple of flybys from housemates of mine, kids or what have you. So, people are learning about the home office set up,they're learning about pets,they're learning about, how their kids do and do not like to take naps. That just brings us all together as humans. It kind of reminds us that, " Gosh, who knows what's going to happen but the silver lining, one of the silver linings on all this is really getting to know our teams as people."They're great.They're great. So,that's been an opportunity that I certainly didn't expect. I was very concerned about feeling okay with all of this and while we're all in a really weird spot, that has been wonderful.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Okay. So, flipping, moving things around you are a decision maker. You are the decision maker in some of the purchases that your company makes. So, what advice do you have for marketers and for salespeople that are selling ? What resonates with you specifically as somebody who's making decision on really, really jumbled up marketing budgets right now ? How should people be approaching people in your seat ?
Gina Hortatsos: Make your offering a need to have not a nice to have. Come to me with quantitative evidence that partnering with you will actually either save me money or a ton of time and understand that we are a little bit, not paralyzed, but we are all looking at our checkbooks. We are looking at our expense burn. We are looking at making sure that we can keep our staff intact even if our business experience as a short- term disruption. So, we might need a little bit more time, but be transparent in your selling, be transparent in your discount structure.Don't wait till I pushed back 15 different times to explain how your discount framework works. Be upfront with me on that and know that as a decision maker, my responsibility is first and foremost to be a responsible steward of the company's money and whatever you can do to provide me with evidence that working with you will be a very responsible investment for the company is what I need from you.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Good advice. So, how about some more advice for marketers who are listening, who are just trying to navigate this thing, who feel like their dry- erase board just got erased, right ? Their whole strategy is up in the air. Where would you guide them to start ? What should they be thinking ? Where should they be focused ? What advice do you have ?
Gina Hortatsos: I would say start with your audience. Start with the people who would benefit from the offering that you have. Make sure that you understand their language. Make sure that you understand how they're measured and make sure that you are able to crisply articulate how the offering you have will help them meet or exceed their goals. The best thing you can do is provide some kind of quantitative ROI metric. I know that's really hard. Believe me,I've bang my head against the wall many times over the years trying to figure out what that secret sauce is, but every single email you write, every single script you write for the SDR team, every single piece of web copy, collateral, social posts, what litmus tests I use with my team is, does this remove friction from the journey of that customer ?I've asked my team to remove the words targeting and prospect from their vocabularies and instead use future customers and people with whom we would love to have a conversation in replacement.It's not quite as crisp but I think words matter and we think of our future customers in that way. Being able to think about not only your content but the sequencing of your content in a way that provides them with a frictionless set of next steps that are aligned to their buying process, aligning to the questions they have along the way during that process, and you're answering those questions, and then they're wanting to engage more, and they have a very easy understanding of what they should be doing next because you're serving that up to them. It is in a way its marketing 101 but I think that in our zeal to try out the brand new channels or we've got this new content piece or we just won this award, we want to put that out there. That journey piece kind of gets lost. So, focusing on that journey of that customer, focusing on what you say, not to dazzle on your own product but what you can say that really meets their needs in that channel, in that format, on that step in their journey is what is going to be the difference between who wins and who loses during this disruptive time.There's already so much noise out there and people aren't listening to it anymore.They're tuning out everything except that, which is vitally important. So, how do you become vitally important voice that remains on their shortlist ? By acting as a trusted advisor even at the top of the funnel, by speaking their language, by showing up where they are in their journey and giving them content that answers their questions and helping them understand what that next step is.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So, is there anything else that you want to add to our audience that you think is really helpful ?
Gina Hortatsos: This will pass and the wonderful habits that we develop from this time of crisis, connection, sharpening this pencil on your messaging, becoming more educated on and aligned with your customer journey.Don't forget about those things when this thing passes. Maintain the wonderful parts and the silver linings from and learn those lessons and carry them forward.Don't go back to the old way when we're done because I honestly think that marketing will be better when this is over, as long as we all just remember what we did because everything else that wasn't important fell away in a time of crisis.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Beautiful, and so true. Well, thank you so much for your advice, your words of wisdom, and for your inspiration. I think this is really helpful to our listeners. Thank you.
Gina Hortatsos: Thank you. I enjoyed being a part of it today.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's our show. Thanks for listening. For more from today's guest including bonus content not included in this episode, like the stories you haven't heard about their career, and the advice they have for you in your path to becoming a marketing leader, visit casted. us to subscribe and receive our show as it's published along with exclusive content each week.