One of the most fun parts of working at a startup is the fast-paced, ever-changing environment. But that can pose an enormous challenge to the diligent marketer trying to plan, predict, and execute on a vision. Seemingly overnight, funding situations can change, new markets can open up, management can overturn, and new strategies unfold. How do you keep your marketing machine running smoothly amidst all the chaos?
4 things you can do:
1. Find a place to stand
Balancing short-term sales goals with long-term business and branding goals can be difficult. Hungry sales teams are looking to you for leads, and your executive team are looking to you to build brand value that lasts over time.
To marry the two, first get the leadership team(s) to agree on a messaging strategy, and make short-term calls-to-action deliver on long-term brand positioning goals. Create content that addresses near-term sales needs, but contains messaging and branding that is consistent with the longer term vision.
2. Don’t follow methodology off a cliff
Systems are gold for small businesses because they feed growth with minimal staff. But rigid systems can reduce your ability to bob and weave when necessary. Get smart about your marketing systems and ask yourself “Do we need this”?
For example, if timing is tight, have a roundtable meeting with decision makers to talk through and come to agreement on multiple moving parts. We have found that, counter-intuitively, it’s often faster, smarter, and a better use of everyone’s time to meet and move through multiple items in person than trying to manage them via email or text or phone. Watching your CEO wince at an idea in person is a more efficient use of everyone’s time than working out what’s the issue over days of email.
3. Know your responsibilities
With instability come pitfalls, with pitfalls come errors, and with errors, unfortunately, comes finger-pointing. Defining your role and responsibilities at the outset can help you avoid catching the blame when the business environment changes and difficulties arise. With increased ability to nurture leads through online marketing, Marketing and Sales are more integrated than ever before, so you want to have a good relationship with your sales team.
To that end, consider formalizing a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the departments where Marketing is responsible for delivering a certain number of qualified leads to Sales, and Sales is responsible for following up and closing deals. This demonstrates credibility to your executive team as well as setting clear expectations and responsibilities. As a bonus, there’s a positive correlation between SLAs and year-over-year marketing budgets.*
4. Make sure your providers can roll with you
Don’t work with any provider that isn’t flexible and responsive, especially with something as critical and iterative as your website. If you’re in a bad relationship with one now, get out and, before you hire the next team, get reviews from their other clients.
Good partners will help you feel grounded, secure, and give you tools to sell the work you do together through your organization. Bad ones will make you feel stressed, unsupported, and unheard. If a crisis occurs (funding dries up, management is overturned), you’ll be in better shape if you’ve invested in strategic materials that validate your current marketing efforts. They can be reviewed and amended as necessary to reflect organizational or directional change, and you’ll have the tools in place to quickly get back in gear.
*Hubspot State of Inbound 2014