Why Scenario Planning Keeps Me Agile with Marina Antestenis from Comcast Business

Four years ago, Marina Antestenis joined Comcast where she successfully builds and leads campaigns to drive rapid revenue growth, cross sell to existing customers, and grow customer relationships. In her 20 years of experience, Marina has held senior leadership roles with technology and marketing firms including Comcast Business, Avoka Technologies, TapInfluence, and inContact, Inc. She’s passionate about driving results that matter and identifying creative methods to influence and significantly impact the marketing and sales pipeline. 

1. Can you tell us about your role at Comcast and how that influences the planning process?

Comcast Cable is separated into B2C and B2B functions. I sit in the B2B group. In my current role, I lead the overall marketing strategy for the Mountain West Region as the Director of Marketing with oversight of four markets: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. Every region operates independently with their own budgets, strategy, sales targets, etc. Each region operates very much like a well-funded start-up. 

Catch Marina on our agile marketing planning webinar here!

I’m responsible for driving demand for our small-medium businesses (SMB) and enterprise sales organization as well as helping accelerate opportunities already in the funnel. In addition, I support our base management organization to drive more up-sell/cross-sell conversations with our existing customer base.

2. What’s the annual planning process for your marketing organization and how does that affect the planning process for your team?

We start planning from a budgeting perspective, with a four month budget season. Once we have targets and overall budget guidance from our headquarter and division teams, it’s the responsibility of the region to ensure that our strategy/plan is in place to hit our sales targets. 

It’s our goal to streamline our marketing efforts to cover all of our segments (enterprise, SMB, and base) simultaneously. How we message will differ depending on our audience, but the program/campaign might be the same.  

Our investment strategy from a mix perspective will depend on what’s worked in the past, what hasn’t worked, and what we’ve learned to help make adjustments for the future.

We’re focused on driving demand and interest at the top of the funnel while applying pressure to what’s currently in the funnel and helping close deals. We’ve also put together a plan for how to get more from our customer base through up-selling and cross-selling. Over the past two years, we’ve launched more products and services than we’ve done in the last ten years therefore there’s a ton of opportunities for us to engage our existing customers. 

3. With COVID, some companies can’t commit to an annual plan. Instead, many people are looking at more agile two to four week sprints for execution and budget. How does that look for your team?

Comcast Business is in a great place – where some organizations had massive budget cuts, we were asked to shift our strategy from in-person to online.

Usually we plan at least one quarter in advance. We started thinking about 2021 planning back in May. And we always operate with a back-up plan. 

This was enormously helpful back in March when we’d started planning an in-person September event. We weren’t sure how long the pandemic and social distancing would last. But we made the call to pivot to a virtual conference which allowed us to open it up to the rest of our whole division. So many more people could participate. 

Goals that we set at the beginning of the year don’t change, however how we obtain those goals depends on the market. Things happen. You can plan as much as possible, but life happens and you’ll have to pivot. 

We do on-going scenario planning to prepare for multiple contingencies, because there are so many things that can impact us. In Colorado for example, with sudden weather changes it can become unsafe for people to travel. Even though we plan in advance, there’s also a tipping point when we have to make a call for which direction we need to take. 

4. Do you do the same level of contingency planning for other channels besides events? 

Yes and no. We have a mix of campaigns to ensure that we always have programs in place to drive qualified leads for our sales organization. 

You never want to depend entirely on one channel only to watch it fail and dry up your funnel. 

We measure everything to see what worked, what doesn’t work and what we can learn from it. If a campaign didn’t work, is there something we can change to make it better?

5. What is the biggest strategy shift you’ve had to make recently, and how did you plan for it to make sure it had a positive impact?

Traditionally we’ve gone after the IT audience but now, there’s an opportunity for us to engage our non-traditional audience. It has been an extra undertaking to focus on new personas, but an important one. We need to make sure we’re meeting the market where it’s heading while still supporting our traditional and consistent buyers. 

6. How have your field activities changed in the face of COVID and how do you think about future planning for that channel?

We did so many in-person activities: events, sponsorships, conferences, and in-person meetings. Now, we’re 100% virtual. 

The most critical thing we did was focus on sales enablement. How can we enable our sales reps with the tools to be successful in this environment? We’re focused on working together to achieve our goals. Marketing’s responsibility is driving awareness, interest, and demand to support sales and their responsibility to close deals. 

We’re also trying to come up with innovative ways to continue to engage our audience as folks are starting to get virtual event fatigue. We’ve partnered with GrubHub to offer things like breakfast, lunch, snacks, etc. And we’re partnering with some local chambers and technology associations to host events together. 

We’re planning an event later in the fall that’s a hybrid of in-person and virtual. A small number of people will be in-person, but we’ll also stream the panel and open the event up to a number of other regions. There’s so much more cross-team collaboration now. We’re leveraging each other to make sure we all drive what we need to hit targets and numbers.

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