My strong belief is that we are capable of much more than we think. This is a story of an amazing team that did exactly that. In challenging times, they adapted, overcame, and achieved.
My name is Thomas and I’m the CCO at Complyon – a B2B SaaS company turning GDPR and compliance into a strategic entity for large companies. I joined in September 2019 and had a clear goal of setting a strong outbound team of BDRs and AEs, find our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), map our Total Addressable Market (TAM), getting the ball rolling, and within 9-12 months having proven a scalable sales model.
Aaron Ross, who I share many professional beliefs (and a WhatsApp group) with, inspired me to write this article.
Seven months into our journey, COVID-19 changed the way the world is functioning. Needless to say that we did not have a playbook for this scenario, much like the rest of the world. Complyon, fortunately, has a good stretch of runway but we do feel the effects of the measures that are being taken by companies and governments.
Our outbound team felt the new normal almost from day 1 of the lockdown. Almost no one picked up the phone (hit rate went down approximately 80%), decision-makers saying “yes – it’s still relevant and we would like to see your solution, but we won’t buy anything until we are on the other side of this potential crisis”.
“Had we been in signing mode some weeks ago, we would have signed, no doubt. Now we are laying off people and I’m not sure I can justify to our shareholders that we are going from Excel that is “free” into buying an enterprise-level compliance management system.”
We need to radically change to keep making progress
Two things happened that helped me change course; I decided to pick up a book my brother Christian recommended to me and started reading. “Switch” by Chip & Dan Heath.
Second, Joyce Mackenzie Liu, former colleague of mine, who is also playing a great part in supporting European B2B software startups, in a hands on way, wrote an inspirational post on Linkedin (Links at the bottom of this post). The post Joyce had written made me wonder; “who do I want to be during the crisis” – and yes, you guessed it, I identified myself being in the growth zone 🙂
Both things made everything very clear to me – we had to do something different and we had to do it fast.
The team and I decided that GDPR and compliance would still exist in this “new normal” and we wanted to make sure that Complyon would be a company helping shape it.
In the months leading up to the current crisis, we had shelved some initiatives for a later stage of our adventure. Namely, advertising on LinkedIn and starting a series of webinars. At our next all-hands meeting, I suggested taking a new look at these projects. We did not have a dedicated marketing resource, nor has anyone ever organized a webinar.
15 mins into the meeting and the roadmap for both were laid out. Four employees came forward and without hesitation started running with the ball. Our first webinar was going to be held in 2 weeks and the LinkedIn campaign would kick-off in about the same period.
From here on my role became more of a coach and less of an instructor and I did my best to simply ask questions to have the 2 teams reflect on their work and where they wanted to end up. At times it was challenging as I, as many other leaders, have their own opinion where a project should lead, so I constantly had to remind myself:
”you hired these talents for a reason – let them do this, challenge them, and reflect together when it’s over”.
How we achieved change in 14 days
The results were driven by having amazing talent, powered by a culture that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation. From the get-go, it was clear to me that it would not be perfect, but we are not aiming for perfection (yet).
The webinar project roughly looked like this:
- Creating relevant content like LinkedIn posts, invitations, and emails.
- Create a list of potential attendees
- Think of a topic and write a script,
- Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal.
- Get engagement around the invitations and social media post by active promotion
- Follow-up to all attendees with collateral, emails, and phone calls.
The prep work above was done in a matter of 3 days. After which Alexandra, Sine, Sebastian, and Clara delivered a fantastic webinar for 13 participants. 2 of which resulted in leads that sales are now running with!
The LinkedIn campaign that Barry took charge of, set out to create a baseline for our marketing, find out who our audience is, get actionable insights, and potentially generate leads. Again, an oversimplification of the steps looks like this:
- Set realistic goals and expectations
- Think of the ideal audience
- Create interesting content for the audience
- Create multiple ad copies for A/B testing
- Set up LinkedIn Campaign manager
- Monitor and adjust campaigns to optimize results
Against expectations but with great enthusiasm we started seeing results in a matter of days. Within 24 hours, six people from our target audience signed up for our gated content. Three of which were from the top five biggest banks in the Netherlands!
I never set out to follow the “Fail fast, fail often” methodology but reflecting on the past month the sentence came to mind. We gave it a shot and succeeded, and we are now preparing the improved versions of both projects. It’s a privilege to be surrounded by a team that encapsulated the essence of agility. My team is capable of radical change. This is truly inspiring and reshapes my ideas for the future of this company. A huge thanks to all team members in achieving this.
We took a slightly anarchistic approach, not overthinking before acting. This is in my experience extremely valuable for early-stage start-ups. And I’m grateful my team picked up on this fast.
During these times, there are not that many positive stories and I hope you enjoyed reading this or even learned something from it. I sure did. With the right people, change can be this simple.