Starting As CMO During The COVID-19 Pandemic

One thing Adam Singer learned when he was looking for a job over the past six months or so, was that Fortune 500 businesses aren’t equipped for remote workforce management.

One CMO didn’t feel comfortable hiring someone in Austin, where Singer moved this year, because she’d never managed someone remotely before. A well-funded tech startup said it was only hiring in New York City, despite the higher costs, because all of its employees worked at its offices.

This month, Singer was named CMO of Think3, an investment fund for SaaS startups, where remote work is no longer a job interview question: It’s the business.

This is a crazy time to be starting a CMO role.

Once the health crisis has abated, Singer said he plans to do quarterly in-person events with his own marketing team, which includes employees in Israel, Texas, New York and Arizona.

Creative and strategy planning sessions are still best in person, with a whiteboard, he said. But performance marketers in particular need a “philosophical shift” away from over-scheduling in-person meetings, so they can actually get work done.

For instance, marketers that rely on TV commercial production or central creative management are going to feel especially slow and cumbersome compared to disruptor brands, which are more likely to use social media and creators, bloggers, influencer be cranking out content through the pandemic.

In some marketing orgs, it takes 10 meetings to create one blog post, he said. This virus will reveal the drawbacks of that approach compared to distributed teams that might have one meeting per 10 pieces of content they create.

And if a CMO wants to hire top talent, it means letting those people choose where they want to live and how to work best.

But companies with a strong work-from-home culture need to do a better job figuring out how to onboard and train new talent remotely. Hiring a rock star marketing VP in Israel is one thing, but how does a junior employee learn by experience when there is so little exposure to senior management?

“I do worry about that,” Singer said. He’s putting together online course lists and resources for newcomers to learn from.

“If you hire bloggers to write content in a category, they know what to do,” he said. “In a remote-first world, training junior employees will be that much harder.”

At the same time, there’s a lot of marketing work to do around Think3’s collection of startups.

Think3’s five companies includes Sococo, an online workspace company for distributed (i.e. remote) teams, the SMB app development platform Bizness Apps and School Loop, online communications systems for K-12 schools.

“Now that I’m working on a remote product and am talking to people outside Silicon Valley tech bubble, there are a lot of people who have never experienced any remote work,” Singer said.

The biggest marketing push in the near time will be for Sococo, he said. Sococo’s priority out of the gate will be to organize education outreach programs to establish best practices, Singer said. That was a popular tactic for Google Analytics, where Singer worked almost seven years.

“Fortune 500 company executives still have a fear of letting go,” he said. “Their idea of management is to hold 10 meetings per day and walk around talking to people.”

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