In a recent survey, 97% of 110 B2B CMOs acknowledged that they had revised their marketing plans in 2020. This should come as no surprise—it’s been a tough year so far—but it’s clear evidence that agility is not just a desirable trait for CMOs, it’s necessary. Even more, pivoting on a dime sometimes means dropping old assumptions in favor of a bold new direction.
CMO Isabelle Papoulias is no stranger to the last-minute pivot. Back in 2018, Mediafly underwent two back-to-back acquisitions within a six-month period. The first went without a hitch, so they planned to follow the same playbook the next time around. But then, two weeks before announcing the second acquisition, Papoulias and her CEO threw those plans out the window. This acquisition was different, and it presented new opportunities to overhaul the brand for the better, which they ultimately did.
Although Papoulias’ story took place before the pandemic, her story is a lesson for CMOs to keep in mind as they lead their organizations through 2020’s challenges. “Check your biases,” shares Papoulias. “Don’t assume that the way you handled it before is the way you handle it now.” You can read some of the highlights from her interview below, and listen to the full episode here.
How did you take on the back-to-back acquisitions?
An acquisition is disruptive because you have to pause everything and focus on the things that are happening very, very quickly. There’s a lot of to-dos, so you have to build all of the roadmaps. Put someone in charge of merging the websites, tech stacks, content, and the sales process. It’s daunting and time-consuming, but we did it very well in the first acquisition. We planned in advance and had one clear leader per project. It took 3-4 months from the day we acquired to being fully merged.
The next one came about six months later. We came out of the first acquisition patting ourselves on the back for merging so successfully and figured we had the playbook. We had a similar launch plan in terms of announcement, putting out a press release, website, etc., and a similar roadmap for post-announcement. Everything was planned and we were ahead of schedule, but two weeks before the announcement, we pivoted completely.
Wow, why the pivot?
Our CEO told me he wanted a campaign, and after asking him a lot of questions, we realized that this new acquisition was a storytelling opportunity, a real chance to disrupt the category and elevate our brand positioning. It had the potential to be more transformative than the first one. Mediafly is perceived as a premium sales enablement platform for enterprise; it’s hyper-customizable for the needs of very sophisticated organizations looking to transform the way they sell digitally. With this acquisition, we were adding to our portfolio and expanding our total addressable market so we could service the sales enablement needs of all companies regardless of size, level of sales, or where they were in the sales enablement journey. This was our opportunity to bring sales enablement to the masses and democratize it.
How did you bring your brand’s story to market?
We didn’t jump in right away and spent a lot of time thinking about how we could make this more memorable, more iconic, and make sure it had emotional resonance. We really developed an integrated campaign, called “Sales Enablement for All” (SEFA), briefed our analysts, made a series of ads, long- and short-form content, added new information on our website, and had paid social. We made sure that our presence at trade shows reflected that branding and campaign.
After launching the SEFA message, we followed through with a premium offer, called the 100×3: one hundred users, for one hundred days, for one hundred dollars. We saw huge jumps in lead generation and pipeline generation as a result of the SEFA messaging and campaign content that we had out there. The 100×3 offer also worked very well, but not in the way that we expected. We anticipated it would be a demand gen tactic, and expected to get flooded with leads, but that didn’t happen. Instead, it’s become a great hook for our sales team to engage and convert prospects.
How do you sell the category and at the same time target your ideal customers?
We’re doing a lot of educational work, but we’re also successfully targeting companies that are hand-raisers or have proved in-market signals through account-based marketing technology. They’re past the education, past the awareness and exploration phase, and further down the buying cycle and customer journey. When we focus on them, the messaging is different. We look at our ideal customer profiles and industries and then target our messaging using that same language. We’ll develop display campaigns, serve ads, do e-mail campaigns, and so on. The big difference here is that we’re able to target the messaging very specifically to what we know they’re looking for so it’s more personalized and customized.
How does Mediafly use ABM as a tool?
ABM goes beyond marketing. For us, it’s the buzzword of sales-marketing alignment. The business development team is also targeting our same lists, those same prospects. We’re very much working together, so this is a surround-sound approach that our prospects are hearing from multiple channels. Through the ABM technology platform that we use, we monitor behavior online. We can see what keywords they’re searching for at the account/company level, the websites they’re visiting, and what they’re looking at on our website. Once we understand that they’re searching for sales enablement content then they’re more likely to want to talk to us and we have the procedures in place to act on that.