MJTW Test Blog

I Cut My Marketing Budget. Now what? 5 Minutes with Former Rapid7 CMO, Carol Meyers

I Cut My Marketing Budget. Now what? 5 Minutes with Former Rapid7 CMO, Carol Meyers

Our campaign budget has been cut. Our staff has been reduced. We are in line with the post-COVID company plan. Now what? As marketers, how can we optimize our time to help our company accelerate through this new economic context?

To discuss the question, I brought in Stage 2 Capital LP and former CMO at software unicorns Rapid7 and LogMeIn, Carol Meyers. During Carol’s 8 year tenure at Rapid7, the company grew from less than $30M to $339M in ARR and she built a global marketing team of over 100 people including BDRs. Carol is currently an advisor to a number of early stage ventures. She has two tactics she’s used in her career during these times. Have a listen. She is quite dynamic.


A summary is as follows. First, Carol reminds us there is a 99% chance that one day our CEO will be back in our office saying, “Great news! The board just approved our “growth plan” budget. Can you send me a recommendation on how much we should expand the marketing budget and how you will deploy that capital?” Carol urges us that now is the time to develop that plan. In startup world, every second counts. It would be a shame if we had to delay growth execution by a few days in order to work on the CEO’s inevitable question. 

The assembly of the plan doesn’t mean simply leaning into the channels and messages that worked in the past. The buyer and market has shifted. Carol advises a series of test/learn/iterate sequences to optimize the plan for the times. She encourages that now is a great time to explore messaging against new verticals or new mediums that you didn’t have time for in the past. A small amount of funds can go a long way on the learning front.

I saw some great examples of this type of testing and analysis from marketing teams when the economic uncertainty began back in March.  An analysis that stands out to me was conducted by the marketing team at Stage 2 Capital portfolio company Enboarder led by VP of Marketing, Sarah Pern. The email is below.  We can imagine how useful these insights are useful far beyond marketing as the organization evaluates pivots in messaging, SDR geographic focus, and top line forecasts.

---------- Forwarded message --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Sarah Pern
Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2020 at 01:07
Subject: Top of funnel insights re COVID-19
To: Brent Pearson
Cc: Enboarder Management Team

Hi Brent and team,

We have been keeping a closer eye on the top of the funnel during this time and I thought I would highlight some findings so far. 

My plan is that if 'onboarding' as a use case isn't driving new business, we'll have to pivot the messaging and go to market as something quite different overall. Hence the new campaign test for 'remote onboarding' and 'remote employee experience'. However, we are still in the very early days. 

Unfortunately, we have seen something a little scary over the past couple of weeks.... Our Adwords cost per conversion (from click to demo booking) has increased by 32% in the past 14 days. This may seem granular, but the majority of our opps come from here and I wanted to share any early indications with you. 

Here's a deeper dive:

We saw 20% less searches and clicks for our current onboarding keywords.

  • We've had a decrease of 20% in impressions
  • We've gotten less clicks by 23% - even though we haven't hit spending levels.

This shows that for now at least, there is a little less demand in the market. 

We're also paying more per click and per conversion 

  • Cost per click has gone up by around 15% (which might be just a flux - it jumps about a bit anyway)
  • There have been two LARGE (like, LARGE) spikes in cost per conversion. One on the 10th and another on the 16th. The reason for this is that we had only 1 conversion on both of those days, but a lot of clicks attributed to this.
  • If we take out these spikes - the overall conversion rate (from clicks to demo booking) has dropped by 43%

This may indicate slightly less urgency from those researching onboarding solutions to actually wanting to talk to sales. 

Interestingly, Australia and EMEA are showing vastly different behaviour!

  • Regional conversion rate decreases show Australia dropped by 74%, USA dropped by 16%, and EMEAs conversion actually increased by 27%. 

I have no answers for this. Seems odd given Australia has had the least impact from COVID-19 overall.

Where are we now....

  • The overall cost per conversion after the last spike appears to have normalised at roughly a 50% higher rate, which worries me somewhat as Adwords is where we are likely to get the majority of our opps from, especially now we have no events in the pipe. 

However, we're still on track for opps this month, but the issue may present itself over the next 2 weeks

  • From an opps perspective so far this month we're 10% over in attainment (57 opps out of a total of 75 this month), however we know there is a 2-3 week lag from MQL to Opp. 

Reduced budget isn't a factor yet

  • We haven't hit our budget limit yet and pacing looks good so this doesn't play a part in this analysis 

What we've done

  • We've added limits to Cost per Conversion in Adwords and this is being controlled. This comes at a sacrifice of volume, which is why this has only been implemented now, but given our change in strategy, this is the best option now. 
  • We're in touch with google to investigate a discrepancy with clicks we've paid for and actual site visits - I don't think this is the issue, but we're checking anyway.
  • We've kicked off a number of projects to make sure our usual onboarding offer is doing well, and also in preparation for a quick pivot should we need to.
  • We're refreshing the landing page as a priority to increase the conversion rate and will then increase optimisation tests to a weekly basis
  • We're launching 3 new adwords campaigns (1. Remote onboarding, 2. Internal comms and 3. Remote employee experience) to see what traction we get over time.

I'll be sure to keep you updated.

Thank you and have a wonderful and well deserved weekend - I'm off for a beer! 

Sarah Pern
VP Marketing

Carol’s second area of marketing team focus is re-examining buyer journey and buyer persona research. We have yet to come across a buyer that has the same sentiment and priorities they had back in January. Carol urges us that these critical GTM assets need to be re-discovered and marketing should take the lead on it. She advises us to get back in touch with customers to dive into their perspectives. Reflect on messaging experiment results and how they should drive your buyer persona (re)definitions. 

For tactical guidance, a buyer journey framework using prop-tech unicorn, VTS, as an example is shown below1.

VTS buyer journey1 Roberge, Mark, and Michael Roberts. "VTS." Harvard Business School Case 818-048, August 2017. (Revised November 2017.)

Thanks Carol for your insights on how to focus our time. What other priorities are people pursuing?