I remember a time when the best marketing examples I could point to came from marketing teams at big companies not startup marketers. When traditional media was one of the key ways to get the word out about an offering, big budgets and big teams were necessary to do successful marketing.
Oh how things have changed. And for startup marketers, the world has changed in their favor.
Today in many ways the deck is stacked against the way larger companies have traditionally marketed in the past.
- Buyers are becoming blind to mass advertising as it becomes more and more pervasive.
- Buyers don’t trust brands the way they used to and as a result, traditional “push” marketing doesn’t work the way it used to.
- Buyers have access to more information than ever before so they can do their own research without talking to a vendor until very late in their purchase process.
On the other hand both buyer behavior and new marketing tools and techniques favor a more customer-focused, metrics-oriented, agile marketing operations approach. Working with both smaller and larger companies I see startup marketers adapting quickly while the bigger companies struggle to adjust their teams and processes.
Here are a few ways I see startups being smarter about their marketing operations and marketing team structure:
Marketing is eating sales: Buyers don’t want to be sold to and have access to more information than ever before. Increasingly by the time a buyer reaches your sales department, there isn’t much selling left to do. It’s now marketing’s job to get in front of those prospects by providing useful content that reaches these buyers where they go. Startup marketers are serious about tracking a pipeline and in many cases, managing and directing the inside sales teams themselves. From the earliest stages of a buying cycle through to product renewals, marketing is managing and optimizing the flow.
Getting Serious About Data: Part of managing this is taking a hard look at metrics that matter and understanding how those metrics translate to revenue. While big companies are still getting their arms around how to measure traditional media purchases, startups are hiring programmers and data folk as part of the marketing team to better understand how buyers buy. Big companies with larger investments in traditional media that is more difficult to track are trying to get their arms around the numbers but are not using them operationally to the extent that startups are.
Short Cycles, Fast Adjustments: Startups aren’t just tracking data they’re watching it in near real-time and making adjustments on the fly at a pace that makes the big guys look incredibly slow. Rather than looking at Weekly or Monthly reports, most smaller companies have dashboards tracking key metrics that are continuously available. Much like the way startups were quicker than their larger counterparts to shift from long waterfall development cycles to agile, smaller companies have been quick to adopt more agile, short, iterative marketing planning cycles that allow them to run experiments, analyze results, adjust and improve very quickly.
Marketing isn’t always a department (or even called “Marketing”): Sales isn’t the only department getting mixed up with marketing. Smaller companies that are seriously focused on customer acquisition are making it a priority across the company. The development teams at startups are looking at ways products can be designed that will help make the job of customer acquisition easier. Features that show off that a customer is using the product, features that make it easy to tap into and interact with a users’ existing social graph, features that produce automatic or user-created notifications have now become common among startup offerings. In more established companies we see less of this marketing mindset in development teams. Increasingly the line around the marketing department is blurry at small companies. As marketing becomes more product, sales and metrics oriented, we move further and further away from a traditional “creative” or “advertising” definition of “Marketing”. Startups in particular are rapidly moving away from using the word to help clarify what they want the outcome of marketing to be and we are seeing Chief Revenue Officers, Chief Customer Officers, Head of User Acquisition, and Growth Hacker being used to describe the head of marketing.
What do you think? Do you think startups are blazing a trail for marketing in terms of organization and operations?
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