EM: How has Confluent adapted to Covid-19? Were there any new opportunities for the brand?
JW: Fortunately our brand is fueled by the love of the developer community. They’re the heartbeat of the organization and they got us to where we are today. Because they’re such strong influencers and advocates for the technology we offer, Covid-19 didn’t really affect the conversations we were having with them.
In fact, Covid provided opportunities for more people to get involved with what we do. For example, by making our annual Kafka Summit event free, and by pivoting into virtual, we went from roughly 2,000 people attending in person, to over 35,000 registered and close to 19,000 live attendees. On-demand sign-ups have also been pouring in daily since the event. And, thanks to the ease of virtual, we had attendees from over 143 countries represented. These figures exceeded our expectations, and are well above the registrant to attendee ratio for big summits like this.
Back in March, I was worried that the people we were inviting would have virtual fatigue after months of webinars day and night. But our attendance figures show that it doesn’t matter how many online events are being held, it’s the nature and the quality of the content that matters.
EM: What about your global marketing campaigns? Has the crisis affected your strategy and tactics?
JW: As I mentioned before, Covid-19 forced everything to turn virtual, and quickly. This shift had a big impact on our field led activities. Our field sales suddenly had to become “inside sales.” And it wasn’t just affecting us, our buyers became at home buyers overnight. Nothing can replace the impact of face to face interaction, but all of us had to adapt.
There are pros and cons of this change to virtual. What I mean is, by turning our field events (prospecting, deal acceleration, closing events, etc.) into virtual events, we were able to get more reach in many places. Before, if we were hosting a closing event in a specific city in the central region (USA) for example, we could only invite so many people who could drive a certain mileage in that region. Now, with our prospects and customers all being remote, they have the ability to engage in more activities, like workshops and forums. So we can invite more of them along. But the conversion rate with a broader exposure is still to be determined.
Of course, we have to be careful about bringing too many people into what is typically a more intimate setting as it goes against the personalized approach. We can’t lose the intimacy of what’s meant to garner the impact from 1-on-1 and 1-to-a-few activities. For example, if we’re holding an executive roundtable, the goal is not to get 100s of registrants as it takes away from the objective and the conversation, and ultimately lessens the impact. So that’s one thing that I work with my team on, finding the balance because it’s not a free-for-all.
EM: And have you noticed any regional differences in the reaction to Covid-19? How do you ensure you remain flexible with your marketing to cater for any local differences?
JW: We’ve noticed a lot of differences regionally. For instance, we’re a key sponsor for Big Data Paris and Big Data London. Big Data London pivoted to a virtual format, as to be expected. But Big Data Paris is moving forward with in-person execution which is a big mind shift from those of us operating in the US and most of the rest of the world. We’re here thinking how could in-person events even work? The new reality is, every one of our employees, customers and prospects are essentially tied to what’s going on in their area. So that’s just one example of a nuance that’s happening regionally that we’ve had to contend with.
Also, while virtual means we can easily invite global audiences, we can’t just turn our regional events into generic global events and target everyone. For example, our Confluent Streaming Event series is our customer marquee event where we invite top tier prospects too. It used to be in-person across 12 regions. Now that it’s virtual, we’ve been able to reduce them to 6 by making them a little broader, all while taking into consideration the language barriers. The registrations are still quality signups because, even though we shrunk the quantity, we didn’t make the events too generic. We didn’t derail their purpose.
EM: Thinking about flexibility on a local level, at Freedman we believe there’s a new generation of global marketers: the next gen global marketers. They help disruptive, digital native brands like Confluent adapt quickly to changing global situations. But what does next generation global marketing mean to you?
JW: To me, next generation global marketers are revenue marketers. In the past, I purposely rebranded my team as revenue marketers, and I continue to do that in my present career. Some people identify as digital marketers, others as demand gen, but I argue that we should all be revenue marketers. If you pivot your thinking to that mindset, you stop wasting time on vanity metrics like clicks and even MQLs – as those metrics cloud the picture and distract from the true value of marketing, which should be pipeline generation and, ultimately, revenue.
Thinking about your question, disruption to me means pushing out the old age thinking of “lead volume” as a market purpose. How many impressions are we getting on this ad and all of that. Maybe they’re indicators for a baseline portion of what you do, but not all leads are created equally, not all personas in the buying committee or the stakeholder stack are operating in the conversation in the same way. So, you really have to look at your accounts and ask yourself – what is the best way to really get to that account? Do you need a ton of lead volume, or do you need more high touch engagement with certain personas, like the executives? What is the best way to connect with the accounts according to their buying journey?
So, I challenge all global marketers to ask themselves: where am I willing to take risks, to up the ante on traditional marketing KPIs – like Impressions, CTR, CPL, Lead Volume and MQLs – and put more skin in the game on opportunity targets, timing to convert to opportunity and buying committee centric strategies?
EM: That’s a really refreshing and honest approach to marketing, and actually leads to my last question – what do you believe to be the secret to impactful global marketing? Can you share your 3 top tips?
JW: Impactful global marketing requires a culmination of strategic and tactical components that should not be forfeited.
First and foremost, there needs to be hand in hand partnership on the top down strategy with your sales leader counterpart. Bottoms up approaches and siloed marketing activities will only get you so far. The question I often pose when I see misalignment between sales and marketing is: what are we aligning to? Is it a pipe create goal? Is this a revenue goal? It should be both, in my opinion. It can’t be that marketing is focused on lead volume, and sales is focused on something else. If marketing and sales aren’t operating in cohesion towards a common goal, there’s just no way for you to measure, course correct or even determine success together.
Secondly, in fact probably right up there with my first top tip, content and messaging is king. If you aren’t sending out a message that matters to your target persona, then you’re wasting your time. You will only gain efficiencies of scale if you engage with your target personas around what they care about and what business value you can solve for them. This is an area a lot of marketers short cut around because that’s the easy route. But having focused content that resonates with each persona in your buying committee is simply a place you need to invest the time in for effective marketing.
Thirdly, not everything is “spreadsheet-able”. As much as I am passionate about key metrics – volume, account conversions, cost per opportunity, deal velocity – there are some complexities with making these metrics look good on paper, especially in heavily distributed attribution models. Take the time to align on what KPIs can be put on a “dashboard” vs. what qualitative insights you need to be able to uncover in your global marketing plans.
I’m going to add a 4th, even though you only asked for 3! Have a plan – a plan that aligns to the pipe and revenue goals. Document what success looks like. Create your roadmap. Act on your plan and measure it the way you stated it should be measured. Share your plan and results with your stakeholders, and talk about it often. Get feedback early on and incorporate it into the plan. Otherwise, everything will just feel and behave like random acts of marketing, random acts of doing, and will bring you further apart from achieving your common goals or operating as 1 team especially with your sales counterparts.
EM: And finally, any last words of advice?
JW: Covid-19 has changed the world forever. The buyer’s journey is now accelerated because everything is done virtually. If you aren’t moving fast enough in a deliberate and co-ordinated way, your competitors are. So whether it’s crafting your messaging, strategy, tactics roll-out or targeting decisions, get there faster before you miss out on the deal.