How did you get to the new messaging?
We split the teams into two groups. One Zoom breakout room was all my messaging development. Who am I talking to? Why am I talking to them? The other group: Without your target audience, without anything, think about all the ways we should be activating this.
After the first few days we had a good draft that the execution teams could work with. In 10 days, we had new messaging that was relevant to the market. It has that sense of urgency—based on fear of not knowing what's going on. If I'm feeling that way, I can guarantee that every single company is feeling this way. This is actually a really good time for our business because we can help solve that. That's the story we need to tell.
How did you get buy-in with the executive team?
I ended up going to our exec team and said, “I'm going to tell you I'm doing this the wrong way. It takes 12-14 weeks to build this. I'm doing it in two. What am I missing?” Our CFO said, “Can you take someone from sales enablement? Can they sit in on this process so that they're part of this, and they'll help you focus on making sure we enable the field?” I said, “I have to trust this person to represent the whole sales org. If you're good with that. I'm good with that.”
Our chief customer officer asked “What are we doing with customers? We have to make sure the CSR [corporate social responsibility] is enabled.” I said, “That's phase two. I cannot do this now.” The whole time I was really transparent with the fact that I was choosing to do the wrong thing and that everyone had to be OK with that.
Where did you activate the new messaging?
We made changes to the webpage and a campaign hub. We looked at outreach sequences that the SDR (sales development representatives) team is going to use—sales emails, our pitch deck, all of the ads we show on the internet, the content we had that could be adapted and rewritten. We did webinars. We came up with a virtual roundtable series for field marketing. We also needed to put that in the hands of our salespeople so they could call their customers and say, “We know there are a lot of business challenges right now. Would you like to hear our VP of Cloud talk about ways that resilient businesses are thriving in this environment, surviving?” Then they’d invite them to a webinar or a virtual roundtable.
How did you activate the messaging so quickly?
We did everything in a very imperfect way. It was going to take all of this time to write content for webinars, but they weren’t on for another month. All I needed was a title and an abstract. In the background we're saying, “We’ll figure out the actual content later. Right now, we just need to start building that funnel.”
Did you have to replace any physical events?
We pulled our user conference up from November to the end of May. Honestly, we did it the exact same way that we ran the campaign, which was, “We know the right way to do this. We are choosing to take shortcuts and to do it this way.” We could have done one user conference, but we decided to do three in ten weeks. We had one in North America, one for APAC, one for Europe. We'd never done a virtual event like this. The good thing about having some experience in virtual events—but not like this—is you don't know what you can't do.
What was the most important aspect of planning your virtual user conference?
Everything we did with this event was to approach it from this place of empathy. It was, “What are people going through right now, and how do we deliver based on what their needs are?” versus “I'm going to try to fit this event in the box that all events have sat in”—because that isn't reality anymore. Take that into consideration when you build an event. A user conference is usually a day, two days. No one has the mental bandwidth for this. You cannot expect anyone to sit down for that long, so what can you do in three to four hours?
How did it work out?
It was more successful than we could have expected. The biggest piece of customer feedback we got was: “We didn't feel like this was virtual. This felt like we were there.” We had targeted 2,500 registrants for the event and thought that was a good number. We had 5,300 people register and our yield was about 3,200. All of our sessions had transitions from the presenter to a customer speaker. We had demos. It felt real and we really focused on the little details. It’s not a kludgy webinar. You were sitting there and part of it, which meant we recorded in advance. We did a bunch of editing.
What has been your key takeaway from the last few months?
Start with "why." If you do something like this, the worst thing to do is jump to the answer and just redo the messaging. When we broke into the groups for the campaign and were just starting to work on messaging, I got so much pushback. I said, “Let me take a step back. Let me explain why this is so important.” After I walked everyone through it, something clicked in everyone's head and they knew we had to change right now.
Also, don’t have emotional attachment to the work that you've done. In this time, more than ever, we have to cut and run. It doesn't matter how much time you have been working on this or how much you might love it. The world has changed. If you are not relevant, you have to be willing to cut and run even if it's your most favorite thing you've ever worked on.