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Terminus Blog

February 4, 2021

How a CMO-Turned-Investor Navigates a Pandemic

Category: FlipMyFunnel Post

You can talk about vision all day long. 

You can bring others onboard and get them excited for that vision.

But if you can’t execute, it’s meaningless. 

That’s why CMO-turned-investor, Kelly Ford Buckley, General Partner at Edison Partners, looks at execution as one of the most important factors in deciding whether to provide capital. 

She joined me on LinkedIn Live to discuss this and other key considerations when investing. 

Why execution trumps vision

Kelly: We do like when the product appears to be almost more mature than the company. But it hasn’t been technology for technology’s sake.

“Product and tech is not a strategy. It’s the enabler of the opportunity in the market.

Everything else is just momentum and execution risk, and that’s where our capital goes: execution

Typically the companies we’re investing in are not spending 50% on product anymore, right? It’s primarily sales and marketing. 

So, you want to see a team, which goes hand in hand with the momentum of the execution risk, that has seen the movie before. Who’s well suited to the stage, and to the opportunity that you see.

This is the benefit, I think, of having kind of the operators working with the investors: We can really look at this too, because having worked in companies at this stage, you know what the right patterns are being able to understand the go-to-market models, 

There’s only so many business models and go-to-market models.  So, you need a market, a good team, and a lineman on the ‘if this, then that’ playbook to get there. 

Yes, sometimes you have to bring the right people aboard who can fill gaps in that regard. But that’s really what you’re looking at at the growth stage versus venture. 

At the very early stage, you’ve got to focus on the problem in the market, improving product market fit. 

By the time our capital goes in, that product market fit is proven.

How do you balance meaning with return? 

Kelly: The inclination is to just fill the funnel, right?

But in a pandemic, it’s back to basics: 

Revenue, marketing talent, and perhaps the enabling technology to support that.

You might be working with a leaner budget or what have you, and retention marketing does cost less. And growing your existing customer base does cost less.

Capturing more value from your existing customer base does cost less. 

So, I think a lot of the same levers and motions that marketing was doing, the basics and the foundations — if they’re there, it’s a beautiful thing.

“Regardless of how companies have shifted gears and objectives might have changed in the pandemic, what’s really critical is balancing meaning with the return.

Meaning is about people. 

It’s about deeper human connections, and, as a marketer, you’re marrying that with the right format and the right topics and the right timing

Everything still needs to have currency.

Can you see around corners? 

Kelly: I was in my first startup during 9/11, I was at a company during the crash in 2008/ 2009.

And now here I am, as an ambassador and not an operator, in the time of COVID. 

There’s a lot of our team that we learned during this time that had been crisis tested. Our team has a whole set of learnings from the function they were in, to leadership and cultural-oriented learnings that they’ve been able to bring to our team and our companies during this time. 

But if you dial it way back — crisis aside — it’s one important question: 

Are you someone who can see around corners? 

Are you someone who can anticipate and adapt and get ahead of what’s next? 

Whether you’re looking for a job or going for a promotion, this is really critical, at all levels, to develop. 

And, frankly, many of us have this. Even when we haven’t been through a crisis before. 

“Think to yourself: ‘Has there been a time when I’ve been able to put some breadcrumbs together ahead of something happening and avoid a pitfall?’ Those experiences are really marketable.

That’s a really marketable narrative. 

In times like these, when there are so many folks out of work, that’s a very marketable value-add to a client base. 

So I think that if you’re crisis-tested, develop a narrative around that.

What was your contribution in your function to that company? From a leadership and management perspective? From a culture perspective? 

And, even if you’re not crisis tested… 

Are you great at seeing around corners?

This is a #FlipMyFunnel podcast. Check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or here.

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