Aligning the Goals and Strategies with the Newly Evolving Pandemic-induced Marketing Landscape


“The pandemic has shone a light on where companies are on their digital transformation journeys – and for many, it is not very far,” says Matt Zilli, CEO at Clarizen, in an exclusive interview with TalkCMO.


TCMO Bureau: What, according to you, is the most prominent concern for B2B marketers during the COVID-19 crisis?

Matt Zilli: We are seeing that, for businesses in general, COVID-19 has exposed the companies that have always worked the same way and haven’t changed their processes in decades. Now remote working has changed the entire world of work overnight. It is impossible for many organizations to adapt without making major changes to the way they function and adopting digital tools to help them do that. The pandemic has shone a light on where companies are on their digital transformation journeys – and for many, it is not very far.

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The reflex for a lot of companies is to cut costs in the face of tough challenges. The trouble is slashing budgets is not always the right move because too often, executives don’t have visibility across the whole organization and can’t see where the real value is. They end up cutting people, programs, or projects. Of course, this impacts marketers more than any other function. They’re often the easiest budgets to cut, but it can have disastrous consequences long term. Marketing teams that can prove that impact and tie it directly to the work they’re doing have the best chance of defending against this.

TCMO Bureau: Why do you feel enterprises need to invest in adopting work management tools?

Matt Zilli: I think this is where we’ll see a difference between which companies are going to be successful in the aftermath of COVID-19 and which will struggle to rebound. Every organization has to find ways to make itself adaptable – and they need tools to do that. Organizations no longer want to be in a position where they aren’t prepared for the unexpected and because we now know this can happen at any time – but knowing that and doing something about it are two different things. We’re seeing plenty of companies investing in a future where they can proactively see exactly where their weaknesses and opportunities are so they can capitalize on that information faster. That’s where work management tools come in to enable digital transformation in a rapidly changing landscape.

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There has never been a more critical time to invest in these tools to unlock a new depth of understanding of what work is getting done, and by whom, at every level of the organization. The ability to see what’s going on across the business empowers leaders throughout an enterprise to make the right strategic decisions. It ensures businesses are equipped to deal with sudden changes. I guarantee the companies that are ahead of the curve here will be faster to capitalize on the opportunities that come from shifting market dynamics now and in a post-pandemic future.

The pandemic has acted as an accelerant for trends that have been taking place over the last few years – especially digital transformation. We’re now seeing companies trying to drive largescale change management in a bid to cope with the impact of COVID-19, and those without work management solutions are struggling. We’ve found that solutions such as Clarizen have been invaluable in helping companies handling a high degree of complexity to understanding how to manage and scale the work they do.

TCMO Bureau: How important is “agility” to ensure business continuity during the crisis?

Matt Zilli: Ask any company that wasn’t prepared for COVID-19 – I bet they’ll tell you it’s critical. Being agile depends on whether whole teams across an organization can quickly react and have the flexibility to make adjustments together when faced with unexpected challenges. It requires collaboration and information sharing across the business. The companies that thrive in rapidly changing situations are the ones that put in place technologies that empower teams to work together to recognize changing market dynamics, make quick, insightful decisions, and react effectively.

The COVID crisis has meant remote working has become unavoidable in most organizations, and a lot are having to manage a scattered workforce for the first time. Many traditionally structured companies with thousands of employees globally have, all of a sudden, had to quickly adapt to having everyone work from home. Without the right tools in place to make the organization agile enough to make this level of change work, remote working can cause serious disruption and risk to the business.

TCMO Bureau: What will be the most important criteria that will mark the post-COVID marketing era?

Matt Zilli: Businesses are having to ask questions they’ve never been asked before. The most successful businesses will truly understand the connections between their revenue, marketing budgets, and the work the marketing team is doing to impact revenue. If they can’t bring all three together, they’ll suffer the classic fate of budget cuts in favor of other areas. So, instead of creating a roadblock to success, investing in the right tools that can show the impact of every potential cutback and how to set up success in the long-term will be one post-COVID criteria.

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And moving forward, productivity, visibility, and adaptability will be key criteria not just for marketing but for every other aspect of a business. These are all interconnected and why digital transformation is so important. This is clear in every conversation I have with a customer. For our clients, I hear every day how having a System of Record for their work gives them confidence that they can prove the cost and benefit of every initiative they undertake.

Matt has over 15 years of experience in go-to-market execution, building and leading world-class customer-facing teams, and directing global marketing, sales, and customer success campaigns for some of the world’s most recognizable B2B software brands. He joined Clarizen, a global leader in collaborative work management software, in March 2020. Prior to joining Clarizen, Matt served as Chief Customer Officer at Marketo, where he supported its growth from $60M in revenue through to the $4.75B acquisition by Adobe.