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Marketing Needs Big Changes? Think Small.

By Amy Abatangle | July 22, 2021 | 0 Comments

MarketingMarketing Leadership and Strategy

Clients are talking to us about marketing transformation, reimagining everything from organizational structure and operational capabilities to digital dexterity and brand strategy. At a time when marketing budgets are under increased scrutiny, there is a new mandate for CMOs to prove the value of marketing to the rest of the organization and provide greater transparency into the inner workings of their function.

This calls for a sea change in the way that enterprise CMOs see themselves and their teams. If marketing has ever existed in isolation, that time has long passed. Silos are breaking down, and the CFO is knocking at the door wondering where the budget went.

As responsibilities shift for defining business models, driving innovation initiatives, and testing new routes to market, enterprise CMOs must learn from the CMOs of smaller, more agile organizations.

Startup CMOs are the tip of the spear, directing go-to-market and overall business strategy for their organizations. They are responsible for fueling demand, outpacing the competition, and realizing exponential growth. They are used to working without a net in dynamic environments with limited resources but unlimited pressure.

Marketing leaders forged in the crucible of the startup have developed unique mindsets out of necessity that set them apart from their enterprise counterparts. They’ve figured out not only how to do more with less, but do it faster and better. Learn how to think like a startup CMO to accelerate innovation and execution, while inspiring your team to be more adaptable and resilient.

Be the Customer

Startup CMOs own the customer journey from acquisition to advocacy. Stop thinking that your job ends with sales or support. Instead, make it your mission to take every prospect on the path to becoming an evangelist by creating desire and delight every step of the way.

Start by building a customer-centric culture within marketing, then share the love with the rest of the organization. Putting the needs of the customer first should never be controversial, so bring in the voice of the customer to provide clarity, resolve disputes, and direct strategy.

Romance the New

Like it or not, marketing owns the vision of the future for the company. Knowing what customers want next is a necessity of the role. Startup CMOs embrace playing soothsayer, leaning into market trends and innovations, to stay one step ahead of the competition. Taking risks and betting big on what the future will look like is how startups disrupt entire industries.

Whether or not you own innovation outright, bringing an innovative, forward-looking mindset to your organization can help you not only see where your company or industry is heading, but provides a clearer lens on where you are now and what you need to do to improve.

Fail Forward

For many execs, fail is a four-letter word that they’ve banished from their vocabularies. Startup CMOs embrace failure as a necessity. Taking a test-and-learn, agile approach means that you not only fail fast, but you also learn from your mistakes. When you approach each new initiative as an opportunity to challenge the status quo, you move from reactive to proactive and create an environment where change is expected, not dreaded.

Continuous improvement depends on a cycle of feedback and adjustment. When you closely align strategy and execution, they become a virtuous flywheel. Just make sure you have the correct measurements in place to derive insights from test data. Taking a data-driven approach reduces the likelihood of friction and fiefdoms.

Exploit Every Advantage

Startup CMOs are definitionally underdogs, so they must try to create unnatural advantages wherever possible. Staying on the cutting edge of new technologies and approaches that slow-moving competitors miss is part of the playbook. They need to find ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness quickly, often with limited resources. So judicious investments into marketing technology, data and analytics, and business process management help them find ways to automate, accelerate, and streamline their operations.

Without time or money to waste, startup CMOs rely on the test-and-learn approach, insisting on proof-of-concept trials and ruthlessly cutting tools, technologies, and vendors that don’t perform. Bringing that same mindset to your marketing operations will help ensure your function is fully optimized.

Do it Yourself

Startup CMOs are hands-on, almost to a fault. When there are gaps in capabilities, they have to step in to get the job done. Cleaning the break room fridge aside, startup CMOs are used to rolling up their sleeves when there’s no one to delegate to.

They often have centralized organizational structures with clear functional alignment, do what they can in-house rather than relying on agencies for critical functions, and hire broad generalists who can go deep in a couple of areas. Embracing the DIY mentality can help you take a critical look at how your team is structured and what value you’re truly getting from your agencies, services, and vendors.

Don’t Hide

In a startup, there’s nowhere to hide. Startup CMOs have to collaborate with and justify their decisions to product, sales, IT, and finance. They value transparency and show their CEOs, peers, board members, and investors exactly where investments are going and what business outcomes they produce. Startup CMOs celebrate wins and learn from losses as a team. They communicate clearly so that the whole organization understands the value they create.

Don’t be afraid to take the same approach no matter how large, complex, or slow-moving your organization may be. Being a change agent takes courage, but it pays dividends.

More to Explore

Gartner clients can access this research to support their marketing transformation initiatives.

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