Thriving in Tough Times: Christopher Lochhead Shares how Legendary Leaders Leverage Marketing

This is part two of the Mayfield series, “Thriving in Tough Times: Expert Insights.” In this series, we will share key takeaways and lessons learned from experts across a variety of fields. Stay tuned for content on reputation management, leveraging marketing, leading in challenging times, sales strategy in times of crisis, pivoting field marketing to digital, and more.

Following up on last week’s lessons on reputation management with Amanda Duckworth, this week’s Thriving in Tough Times session features marketing legend Christopher Lochhead, a three-time public company CMO, top podcaster, and advisor to 50+ venture-backed companies. Christopher shared his insights on how legendary leaders leverage marketing in times like these – as he put it, “It takes courage to be legendary, and we are clearly living in a time where legendary leadership is required.” From radical generosity and transparency to owning and evangelizing your category, his tips can help leaders navigate the current climate through marketing.

Here are a few of his key takeaways.

Lead through marketing and get thoughtfully aggressive.

When economic downturns happen, 10% of companies come out stronger on the other side, taking market share and emerging as category kings and queens – leaders should set a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) to be one of those companies. To do that, lead your category and company through marketing. Staple yourself to your CMO or marketing lead and think about the ways in which you can get thoughtfully aggressive with marketing. In times like these, most companies are playing defense, which is good, because there’s a lot of defense to be played – but there’s always room for a little offense. This is a chance to redesign an existing category or launch a new one – thoughtfully, while taking the current climate and mindset into consideration. People look for leaders in challenging times, and those leaders often emerge stronger on the other side.

Be radically generous.

Now is a good time to do some good. Leaders need to step up, assess the situation, and see what they can do today, both as individuals and as companies, to make the biggest difference. And while some of the ways you help may not benefit your bottom line, it’s okay to do good while positioning yourself for success. Take Zoom for example, which provided its software to schools for free. It’s a radically generous act that will have significant costs and effects on the company’s bandwidth, but it will also result in incalculable uptick in brand awareness and category awareness. The important thing is to see how you can make a difference with you and your company’s core skill set.

Drill down on your marketing budget.

With pipelines and revenues declining, budget cuts are an inevitable reality for many companies. Now’s the time to get at anything that doesn’t make sense. Cut more than you need to – measure twice, cut once. Marketing should also be focused on shoring up short-term revenue at this time.

Hone your digital leadership skills.

In a time where communication can’t benefit from all the nonverbal cues we are accustomed to, digital leadership – the ability to lead via digital platforms and channels like Zoom or conference calls – is more important than ever. To start, Christopher recommends leaders practice radical transparency with their teams or employees, speaking to them two to three times per week on video, and always taking questions in these sessions.

Evangelize your category, not your brand.

Right now everyone is reprioritizing purchasing, and decision-makers prioritize based on how important they perceive a category to be. As a result, leaders and companies need to position what they do as a painkiller, not a vitamin. Legendary leaders are taking this moment to create a POV about their category, which is all about customers not their company, and then evangelizing that POV to be viewed by buyers as more strategic.

In challenging times, the difference that marketing can make is immeasurable. Leaders must have the courage to lean into marketing if they’re going to thrive and emerge stronger on the other side. Thanks again to Christopher for sharing his lessons learned with us – if you’re interested in hearing more marketing lessons and stories from him, please listen to his podcast.

For more expert insights on thriving in tough times, check out the previous posts in the series.

  • Originally published April 13, 2020