How Drift Reimagined Events with Tricia Gellman
Lindsay Tjepkema: Do you remember the very early days of all this when Coronavirus was still new to our vocabulary ? Before it was deemed a pandemic ? Just as we were all beginning to transition to what would become our new lives at home. It seems like an eternity ago, but it was just a few weeks ago and most of us didn't know just how massive our lives were going to change. So as marketing leaders are faced with really tough, massive decisions like we have been over the last few weeks and will continue to be, how should we approach them ?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. Hereat Casted, like so many of you,we've been faced with a lot of tough decisions over the last few weeks. Everything from when to shift our team to working remotely to how to adjust our marketing strategy and messaging, to when and if to adjust our goals and what numbers we should be paying attention to most. And we are absolutely not alone here.I'm so thankful for our CMO guests in this new series that we're doing, who are sharing their very open and candid thoughts about how their teams and entire companies have responded in the midst of thisCovid- 19 crisis. Today we're learning from CMO of one of the hottest brands in B2B.That's Tricia Gellman, the CMO of Drift. She shares openly about how she and her executive team at this big, bold, beloved, fast growing SaaS company, sod down the street and around the corner in this unprecedented time to act quickly for the health of their team and for the business. Listen, as Trisha talks about the hard conversations they had early on at drift and also the creative, innovative thinking that came out of it as a result and what state of mind you should have to do the same.
Tricia Gellman: Hey there.I'm excited to be here today. This is Tricia Gellman, CMO of Drift.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Awesome. Thank you so much for being here, Trisha.There's a lot going on right now, so I appreciate you taking the time to chat in the midst of it all.
Tricia Gellman: No problem,I'm excited to be here today.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Okay. So obviously there's a lot going on right now.That's a huge understatement to say. This is unprecedented territory. Tell me a little bit about what that's looked like for you at Drift. Like in a nutshell,what's the last month at this point looked like for you and for your team ?
Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I mean it's crazy to think that it's already been a month. We as an organization have four offices. We have our headquarters in Boston, we have an office in San Francisco. This year we opened an office in Tampa and then we also have a very small office in Seattle and we up this point had zero work from home policy. And so it's actually been a huge adaptation for the company to have everybody working from home. I mean we were adjusted to the remote office thing, but like actually working from home. So that's been really interesting and really I think one of the big things there is like the focus on people. My number one thing as the CMO is how can I really be empathetic and engaged with my people to figure out like what is needed to keep the business moving forward ? And for some people,they're isolated,they're by themselves. For some people they have lots of distraction with kids and/ or like my husband for example, works in commercial real estate and like he can't work.There's like nothing he can do. So it's a bit emotional at the fact that I'm working 8: 00 to 6: 00 every day and he's like, " What am I going to donext?" And so, everybody has something going on. So that I think has been the biggest thing and we're really trying to really work on how do we help people ? How do we help our employees and then how do we help our customers ? The other thing is that at a company level, not just me,we've really embraced the idea that our number one thing is protecting our people. And so really quickly we moved to moving people to home. In San Francisco, that was happening pretty early, but then in Boston, they weren't as hyper to the situation. And yeah, we basically sent our entire employee workforce home like probably two weeks before anybody else, because we were really focused on the safety of our employees. And then quickly, I would say a week after that we moved to, this isn't a health crisis, this is potentially economic crisis. And so as our CEO inaudible really great article from Ben Horowitz, from Andreessen Horowitz about sort of peacetime versus wartime, within 10 days, our CEO is like, "I'm the wartime CEO now and we needed to be rethinking what we're doing." And I think just the way that leadership as a whole has stepped up really be visible, to over- communicate and to like be there for our employees has been super critical in this time.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's so important. Especially hindsight is completely different than what it felt like going through it because it's really easy now. It's like, " Of course we all went home. Of course, we don't know when we're going back to the office. Of course, of course." But I remember very clearly and very vividly, and I'm sure you do that as we were all heading into this, no one knew if this was going to be a health crisis or if it was going to be a couple of days, couple of weeks, and now it's turning into a couple of few, several months. In a way that you can project into the future, especially for our listeners as we go into lots of key decisions and tough decisions, other than just your gut, what kinds of things do you look at when you're staring down the barrel of just so much unknown ?
Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I mean I think the first thing is health. And so like how do we keep people healthy and how do we protect our people ? And for us two things.It's like the general like health, how do we help people not get Covid ? I think we sent people home early enough that people weren't spreading it through being in the office.We've definitely seen people contract it like even in the past week, which is really a proof point that it wasn't from being in the office and that has more to do with like them having a roommate that's like a healthcare worker or something that like we can't control but we can over- communicate about what we advise you do based on CDC, World Health, et cetera.That's first. Second is at a company level. How do we try to ensure that our company stays whole, that we're able to retain our employees and that we're able to build a sustaining, lasting business ? And I think we're fortunate. Like I was talking to CEO today about the fact that like if we were in our second year trying to convince people that conversational marketing was a thing and that people should listen to us,we'd probably be in a way different place than we are today, where we've already established a category.We've already established leadership in that category. And so now it's more about how do we sustain that and demonstrate to people the value of it versus like, " Hey,I'm here. Listen to me." Which I think is a very hard place to be in right now because people are just like really...they're kind of in the Maslow's Hierarchy of Need of survival mode.They're like, I don't really care about your new idea. So that's a second thing and I think our CEO with our CFO very quickly in the first week was like, " Be home for health." The second week was, " Okay, this is a economic crisis and we need to re- plan the business." And it wasn't a big effort that like everyone in the company had to get involved in. They very quickly looked at like, " Okay, in two weeks time period we've seen X impact to leads. X impact to conversion of leads to pipeline, X impact of pipeline to close and like how is that different than what we have seen in the past and how can we extrapolate that into potential revenue impact ? And then what does that mean in terms of what we need to do ? Like do we need to cut marketing budget ? Do we need to lay people off?" Whatever it might be. The last thing we want to have to do is lay people off. But at the same time, we also need to protect the longevity of the company. And so our number one thing has been like how do we continue to maintain the growth in the company and protect every person in the company. Those are our number one and two things. And so we quickly moved to assessing the head count we had open and then really cutting that, because if we cut that, then we're not taking on added overhead, added burn and then that gives us a way to protect our existing employees. And so that's been like number one thing and that's hard, but at the same time I think it's like a really good trade off. We also looked at the marketing budget and all the other CMOs I've spoken to have also been asked to look at their budget. And we pretty much had an event strategy, which obviously was impacted because people couldn't be in person. So very early on, before were really like stay at home even, we had events being canceled and we worked with our finance team to move that money until the future quarters. So like in January and February, people are canceling events and they're saying, " Oh,we're going to have these October, November." So a typical thing would not be to move the money from home quota to another. But luckily our finance team was willing to basically do that. But we had our own events that we were putting on which we had to cancel. And so then we took most of that money as like savings toward the bottom line for the company. And then we also like super early on when we started to see our events get canceled, realize like, " Holy crap,we're losing an entire component of our pipeline." And so we reached out to like 20 different SAS sales and marketing companies to say, " Hey,we're seeing this,you're seeing this. Like do you guys want to join together for an event?" And so we have this event on April 16th and 17, what we're calling the Red Growth Summit is a two day event for sales and marketing best practices, learning, grow together as a way to take that sort of learning and growth that people would have gotten from all these other conventions and bring that into a two day event.
Lindsay Tjepkema: In the midst of, people first and health first, but also the business being so important. How have you navigated these times when you know, especially as a marketing leader, other companies, your customers, your prospects are dealing with the same things but the health of your business relies on them maintaining their connection with you. How have you, just you personally as a leader, balanced those things about like needing to reach out to people that are so acutely focused on their own people right now ?
Tricia Gellman: I think it's a huge challenge and we saw right away, especially in the first two weeks of people going home to work from home, massive disruption. We saw a lot of engagement on the website. We saw a lot of conversations, we saw a lot of people that are interested. We saw very little conversion of interested people and conversation to meetings and pipeline. It was just like people couldn't commit to the times to be in a meeting with an AE and the time to actually understand whether they had budget or not. All of that got super disrupted in weeks three and four,we've seen that start to level out and we're in a very, very fortunate position where what we do can actually help people. When you think of a marketer and you think of their challenge, should deliver pipeline and to try and help their company grow. One of the only channels they have is digital. Whether that's paid or organic. And Drift really has a unique opportunity to help people convert more to like enhance a brand experience and then to get a high ROI on the dollar spend. So we're in a unique position where we're not in the travel industry,we're not in the restaurant industry,we're not in food service that we actually have the ability to... I don't want to say capitalized because that sounds aggressive and non- empathetic but to really like help people. That said we have lots of customers in those other industries and so we have had one- on- one conversations whether that's with our people in customer services and support or directly with an executive staff member about where they are and what it is we can do to help them. And it's like 100% of one- on- one conversation.There's no overall policy we've put in place because we feel like everyone's situation is different. Maybe some people are worried about paying this month but they could pay next month. Maybe some people are like, " Yeah,we're like having to close a business."It's totally different. So we've had a more than normal focus on customer, from the marketing side and just in general from executive staff. And I think that's healthy. This year, we already had invested like three head count. We were hoping to do like five head count in customer marketing and really focusing on how marketing and the content that we produce and the materials can like translate more into success with our CSMs. And so we're just sort of accelerating that. The other thing I would say is like the first thing we did was realize,we're not going to Oh people to stop selling. We believe we have an opportunity to still add value, but like how do we do that ? And so we had to go through sort of like a virtual training for everybody, like just through Slack and emails of like, " Hey guys, like the number one thing is empathy." And you can still have conversation with people starting with like, " How are you doing and how is your business doing ? And let me just check in with you." It doesn't have to be, " Hey,I'm Drift. I have a way to help you." I think that's the answer, but at the end of the day,it's like if somebody is like so overloaded andthey're like, " Oh we're having to lay off half of our staff and whatever," they don't really care, that Drift can help them. So it's more like having the empathy and switching the mindset to the empathy and the conversation and the connection. And that translated to like our sequences with the sales team. It translated to how we instructed them to make calls. And then it also... we quickly spun up, added content in our blog to talk about like how can you just be a better marketer or a salesperson in this time ? So how do you write the best email templates ? How do you get the best conversion from your website ? What are the best practices for digital ? And so that's really us just trying to be there for people and demonstrate that we care about the future of sales and marketing.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So important. And it's such a fine line to walk to. In Casted, I mean I feel the same way with my whole heart that we have something that can help marketers connect with people now in a time where you can't physically connect with people.
Tricia Gellman: 100%.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. And I believe that and our team believes that and that doesn't make it a whole lot easier to reach out to someone right now and say, " Hey, I have something that can help you." And so yeah,it's a fine line, but it's important to talk through that with your teams and to make sure they feel supported and something that feels touchy.
Tricia Gellman: I also think that there's like something about it's being helpful but at the same time like what is that best practice ? So there's a lot of people that are just investing in themselves and learning and growing. And so that means that they're looking for like the best podcast and ways to find content and just understanding that and sort of being in touch with like, " Why,what's a motivation for people?" Versus, like what's your own company motivation ?
Lindsay Tjepkema: For sure. Absolutely. I think it's a good lesson back to basics. Times like these help us to look back at the fundamentals, which is marketing really is and always has been human to human. And the more people don't buy from businesses they buy from people and all these things that we all know, but it's easy to lose along the way. So easy.
Tricia Gellman: I mean, I think that's also one of the things that I've seen as a leader was coming in five months ago almost now to Drift just has been so good at building the brand and building this inbound motion of like conversational marketing and how do you do it and things like that. I mean that's one of my motivators to join. But at the end of the day, like I think for us to continue to grow, we have to be very specific of like what do we talk about and to who do we talk about it ? And that's been a change for the team and the time that I've been here. Like really moving from marketing for the sake of content marketing to marketing for the sake of who are we talking to, what do we expect ? And what I found a lot from this shift to work from home is it's a lot to work from home. Like my husband's always like, " Oh my God,you're working so hard." And honestly like I'm probably working the same as I did before. But it feels so hard because I'm standing in the middle of my living room. And so, just the perception and mentally of what's going on,it's like totally different. So prioritization is so key with the team, of like what are we focused on ? Like we had four different campaigns we were trying to run, which with the size of our team is fine but when you look at it,we're really number one trying to make sure people understand who we are as a company. And number two is like what can we do for you, which is like our pipe driving campaign. So we just had to say like, " Look like number one thing is how can we help people?" Number two thing is how do we help our customers ? Number three thing is like, who are we and any other thing related to brand. And that's just like if you can't get to it you can't get to it. But that's like the priority. Like keep our customers happy, help to drive the sales team. And then after that everything else is kind of like icing on the cake.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Because if you do those things, that is your brand. Sothat's it. All of that comes together helping people, serving people, looking for the opportunity to serve people, especially at scale. And that all leads to what you're doing right around the corner at RevGrowth Virtual Summit. So tell me more about that and how that was... how that came together so quickly and how that is the result of you pivoting in the time that we're in right now.
Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I thinkit's interesting because everybody's sounded this like emotion of like, " Oh my God, events are dead, events are dead." And at Drift we always like to be a little bit different. So we were like, actually events aren't dead. We just need to rethink events. Like we can actually still have events in our like slew of marketing mix, but it just totally needs to be different. And I think our head of demand was the first person, like all of a sudden she was just sitting there like, "I'm on the hook for this pipeline number." Seeing these events go away, more like the third party events we were participating in and realizing, " Holy crap, like how am I going to drive pipeline?" And she just had this idea that every other person who was a sponsor at these events had the same problem and we could really rally the community to put together something different. And I think through the power of the community,we're able to like be that much better and bigger and bring together content that has more impact for people both on sales and marketing. So that's been really great. And then we're really trying to make that a different event. So I'm not just like a general zoom, which everybody's stuck in zoom all day, every day. So we're trying to make RevGrowth Growth a different kind of event. And so we've sent a package to every single speaker. We sent a professional microphone, we sent lighting, we sent green screens so that like the quality of light is coming through, people can really feel in their participation that it's different as well. And I think like that's like a really cool component to it because it kind of unifies the event versus... like there is something nice about the authenticity of everybody being in their living room or whatever. But it's also nice to be like, " Oh wow, like this is like the unified thing across two days."
Lindsay Tjepkema: And it kind of feels like you're at an event. At this point, and I don't know, maybe this is a side note as you were planning it, I don't know if we realized how immersed in Zoom we would be at this point, but at this point it feels like I've been in everybody's houses and it feels like I've seen, behind the scenes for everyone.It's going to feel nice to step into your event even from my own home and feel like I'm at an event again and that's nice.
Tricia Gellman: Which I think is that's like our thing. And that's also like in this theme of rethink events. So we also said, like I've participated every weekend, two to four like CML, round table conversations and they're awesome and it's great to hear from abroad brush up like other CMOs and marketers like what's going on and like what are they thinking about and how are they replanting or whatever. But we're like, " Oh, we don't want to just do another virtual conversation. We don't want to just do another virtual webinar. We want it to feel different than those things." And then on our other events outside of the virtual summit,we're even thinking like, " Okay, yeah we're not going to have our 20 person dinner at The Modern," which is a Michelin Star Restaurant and the base of the MoMA. But we're going to actually offer that event at the end of this month and we're going to do a walkthrough of the MoMA because they have like an online virtual walkthrough. So it's like a shared experience amongst the people. We can then talk not about marketing, but about like what do they like and the recipes of art that we saw and then we can and have a conversation about driving demand, converting digital, et cetera. And like that becomes a network of people and we'll limit it to like the 20 people that we originally expected to have at the dinner. So it's exclusive, because I think like what I'm seeing is that a lot of virtual is opening up to like broader groups of people, which is great, but at the same time it's like you don't really get that shared connection. And I thinkthat's one of the things people are 100% after a month of being at home missing. And if you can actually be like, " Oh not that I participated in a 200 person conversation where I just listened, but I participated in a 20 person, people like me conversation and I can now one- to- one follow up with those people."That's our take is that, that actually has like longevity and interest for people and so it's just a different thing to do.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely. Connection right now. I mean,it's a basic human need and people have always needed it, but now more than ever, we just craving it. And so any way that we as businesses, even if you are a marketer on behalf of a brand, there are ways that you can help connect people. As we wrap up our conversation, any advice that you have for the marketers who are listening and who are still feeling maybe paralyzed about how they're supposed to reach out to their audience right now and what we're supposed to do in this crazy time ? What advice would you give ?
Tricia Gellman: I think everybody that's a marketer joined our company because they have a passion about what the company is doing. Like life is too short to go to work 40 plus hours a week in something that you don't believe in. So I would say as a marketer, like why did you join a company you're at and what do you think is that true unique thing that you do and how can you just like help people see that value ? And forget about the gates and forget about the pipeline and like just how do you get that message out there in a way that resonates with people because that itself will lead to success and that authenticity in terms of like who you are and what you're trying to do,it'll pay off.
Lindsay Tjepkema: 100%,that's fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Tricia. This has been really great.I'm excited for the Rev Growth Summit.It's going to be great.I'm excited to see how you pull it all together. I think it's going to inspire a lot of other people to do the same, but an excited to see what you do first.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.
Today we’re learning from the CMO of one of the hottest brands in B2B - that’s Tricia Gellman, the CMO of Drift. She shares openly about how she and the executive team at this big, bold, beloved, fast-growing SaaS company saw down and around the corner in this unprecedented time to act quickly for the health of the team - AND for the business.
Listen in as Tricia talks about the hard conversations they had early on, and also the creative innovative thinking that came as a result - and what state of mind you should have to do the same.