Startup Marketing Madness

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Standing room only for sales and marketing startup advice.

Two weeks ago I attended an event targeted at startups. The content focused on how to model sales and marketing organizations in a growing company and who to hire. There were a few items that I found really interesting.

  • The VP of Marketing role is the most difficult hire for a small company.
  • Demand generation is the core competency for hiring criteria.
  • It will be difficult to get seasoned professionals, so look for someone to grow into the role.
  • If the person hasn’t shown results in 6 month, it’s probably time to make a change.
  • No one is mentoring the next generation of marketing leaders.

Revisit the last three bullet points. You need to grow into the role but you only have 6 months to be successful.  Wait .. what???  I guess we all need to be ready to take a leap forward without any resources for help. l always did like a good challenge.

So how do you make sure you put yourself on a successful path? I’m still learning but these are the things I’ve found important.

Build your own network of mentors.

I’ve been fortunate to have incredible bosses and colleagues with different marketing competencies. There’s been more than one occasion where I’ve called my network for advice on strategy or an area where I was light on experience. These people can make a world of difference on  important projects.  I also have access to our corporate advisor who provides great executive perspective on the really difficult problems.

Align priorities with the executive team.

You can be walking into a firestorm of issues and in a small company you can’t  fix them all right away. Assess the impact of all the work needed to be done, prioritize projects and get agreement with the executive team on the things that need to be done.

Realize not everything will go right.

This has been pretty hard for me. I had the same role for about 10 years with very little change.  I was really good at it. Now, I have more responsibility for areas in which I don’t have a lot of expertise. Things don’t always go right. The most important thing is to recognize when things go wrong, admit the issues and correct course..  The great thing is that I’ve learned more in the last 6 months than I have in the last 5 years.

The buck stops here.

I still find myself pulling reports or looking at data  as if I were preparing a recommendation for someone else. Then my internal voice says, “wait you have to make that decision now.”  I pull the data again and make sure I have all the information that I need to make the best decision.    After that I double  check the data against what my gut is telling me.  If I’m stuck, I’ll go out to my network for opinions and then usually run tests of the things I’m unsure of. (The best part about being in marketing is getting to test your theories)

Hire smart people.

With a small team, I don’t have a lot of time to correct mistakes or micro-manage projects. I need direct reports and vendors that can articulate needs clearly and manage my input on the projects that they own to meet deadlines. I’m pretty honest with these people  on my expectations so we can all be efficient on what are usually very busy days. This is how I’ve always managed my projects, but now I include mentoring my staff  toward taking that next step forward.

When do you take the next step?

When I last looked at job opportunities, I went on about 30 interviews in 2 months. My decision to take on more responsibility boiled down to one thing. With a lot of people, I felt like they were bringing me in to solve the same old problems. I wanted some new challenges to take on and I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity.

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