The Importance of Leadership in Marketing For Your Fast-Growth Company
Guest post: Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last five years in marketing. She recently stepped down from a senior marketing position to focus on growing her own startup and consulting for small businesses. She's written for sites such as Lifehack, Inman, Manta, StartupNation and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 for more small business tips and marketing ideas.
Not every startup is considered “fast-growth” but the ones that often stay in the high-risk, high-reward mode for a long time. There’s a lot to gain and even more to lose if managed improperly:
“These types of businesses often start fast and never let up, which stresses a startup financially and can leave its owners emotionally drained. To maintain an advantage, they need to have the proper building blocks in place in order to go full speed ahead with the best chances for success,” says Rory O’Shea Say, a faculty member at Smurfit Graduate School of Business.
This makes leadership a critical part of the business. It’s the leaders—managers, c-suite, and founders—who create the necessary structure, manage budgets and encourage innovation.
Everyone feels the stress of a high-growth startup, especially the marketing department, who works to gain new customers quickly and effectively, while building brand authority, voice and impressions. As such, leadership is necessary—learn why and how.
It’s the job of leadership to: Structure the team so the workload is dispersed appropriately. Startups have a reputation for requiring employees to wear multiple hats—and yours probably can, and already do—but put too much load on one or a few people, and you risk losing them.
A fast-growth company can quickly become challenging to manage as hiring increases and the business has to handle an influx of new clients and adapt new processes.
As such, leadership is important in creating and maintaining structure so the work load doesn’t fall on too few people: “… You have to find a way to deal with added complexity that acknowledges and incorporates human limits,” according to How to Manage Your Startup’s Fast Growth.
In marketing, this structure becomes even more important. As a diverse team of people, including those in paid advertising, organic advertising, content and editorial, social media, internal communications, and PR, there are already many tasks being shared. Structure ensures work falls on the right people.
It’s the job of leadership to: Manage spending as it increases, ensuring that the extra money spent is yielding positive ROI. If not, head back to the drawing board to figure out what’s wrong and where you can pivot.
Knowing your numbers is critical, whether you’re the CEO, CFO or marketing manager: “You must know your numbers inside and out. Integrating the financial performance and metrics of your business into everything you do is a must! If you don’t know how to do that, hire someone who does and learn,” says Ted Rollins, global entrepreneur.
As a leader in the marketing department, you’re managing a variety of budgets. As the business grows, increases in spending might include new employees, more paid advertising to target new audiences, or even acquiring email lists to reach more customers.
While everyone may track and maintain spending in their departments, it’s your job to track the changes, calculate how they fit into the growth of the company, and decide whether or not that extra money is being spent well.
Balance Innovation and Risk
It’s the job of leadership to: Put metrics in place for testing and tracking new ideas. Data never lies and will paint a clear picture of how your innovation is paying off—did you drive more leads using this method than others? Was it more cost effective? Did it come at the cost of more labor? Leadership assesses this information and manages the team and ideas accordingly.
Leadership is critical in finding a balance between innovation and risk. In a fast-growth startup, innovation is happening all around you—whether or not the ideas that come from it are valuable to the business is up to you.
Developing a culture of testing and tracking is the best way to balance innovation and risk. You can keep close tabs on new marketing initiatives and then use this data to determine if a new idea is worth testing or not.
It’s the job of leadership to: Identify new marketing opportunities that can be tested quickly and effectively. Be open to trying new ideas—they may or may not work, but being agile and flexible in trying them is what’s most important.
Things move quickly in any startup, much less one that’s growing faster than normal. As such, it’s critical that leaders are agile, with an ear dialed into the industry. What are you competitors doing that’s successful? How can you replicate that within your organization?
It’s the job of leadership to: Identify inefficiencies in your team and present options for eliminating or reducing them. For example, if employees have to walk to the second floor to print, get a printer for the floor you’re on, eliminating the 5 to 10 minutes it takes for the round trip.
In a fast-growing startup, there’s no room for inefficiencies. Yet every organization has them. For example, one of the most common reasons for business inefficiency is a lack of time management in meetings. It’s hard to avoid meetings in the marketing department, which allow all sub-teams to connect and work together.
To improve efficiencies, come with a plan: “Meetings should have a purpose; an agenda guides that purpose. Set goals for your meeting, accomplish them and call the meeting to an end so that people can get back to work,” according to experts at The Office Club. Anyone hosting a meeting should be required to write an outline, including: Reason for the meeting, goal, topics of discussion, exercises to be done and wrap-up.
That’s just one inefficiency of many—ask employees what other time-sucks they see or experience and then create a plan to take care of each one as quickly as possible.
In a fast-growth startup, the job of leadership is important, especially for the marketing department. Remember your role in managing innovation, improving inefficiencies, and staying agile to keep your team productive and effective.