"Those who lead organizations from good to great first get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figure out where to drive the bus. They always think first about 'who' and then about 'what'. Great vision without great people is irrelevant." - Jim Collins, Turning the Flywheel.
There's a reason why the best CEOs obsess about culture and nurturing leaders within an organization.
While the best strategies and tactics can certainly propel companies forward, they don't prepare organizations for uncertainty and chaos.
When you're dealing with uncertainty, having the right people in the right seats is the highest form of strategy.
This is why whether you're a startup of a $100M company, thinking about who is on the journey with you is the most critical question and the question all CEOs and leaders should start with.
Everything else falls into place when the who is sorted out.
The most natural career path for marketers is to move from a Director of Marketing to VP or a CMO position. This is the obvious path. Less obvious is what comes next. Where do you go from CMO?
The most natural path is to evolve into the Chief Growth Officer for organizations (Note: A Chief Growth Officer is not the same as a CRO).
Chief Growth Officers bring together Product, Marketing, Sales and Customer Success to work on the biggest growth levers of a business.
While you could argue this is the role of the CEO, as organizations grow the CEO transitions his or her efforts to leading bigger picture items like Vision, Culture, M&A, Investor Relations and more. This typically happens as companies cross the $10M ARR mark.
This leaves a gap in the organization -- whose responsibility is it to lead the overall growth strategy of the organization?
The answer to this question is a CMO who can think about strategy at the highest level across functions and bring people in the...
One of the most common complaints from marketers is that their CEO / board won't give them more budget.
While it is true that some CEOs don't value marketing as much as others, all CEOs would happily allocate more budget to an area that is helping the business grow faster.
If you're starting with a small budget as a marketer, it is on you to figure out how to deliver value from that budget and perform.
More than that, show the impact on the business of that limited budget.
Then, ask the CEO / board for more budget by pointing the potential to scale performance even more.
Virtually a 100% success rate if you follow the above process.
It's not one thing. It's several things.
While the most popular stories around startups involve founders having the "big idea" that finally moved the needle for a business, this is usually not the case.
It's usually multiple, smaller building blocks that stack on top of each other and compound growth together.
So, you need to:
1) Drive awareness with content, paid media, social
2) Nurture customers as they enter your funnel with education, sales enablement, resources
3) Engage customers with an efficient and effective sales process
4) Empower customers to get to value faster, with better onboarding experiences
5) Enable customers to get more value from your platform as time goes on, including bringing on additional people from their teams / orgs onto the platform
6) Expand customers as they increase their usage on the platform with more effective pricing
7) Find additional products and services to offer more value to your customers
and much more.
You need to do it all. It's not one...
Too much content out there is self-serving. How do you tell if content is self-serving? Here are some tells.
1) It focuses on "look at me" as the main message.
2) It is not truly helpful at solving an audience's pain.
3) It is rooted in ego and uses cliche words like "groundbreaking", "cutting-edge", "seamless", "robust" etc. as a way to highlight how wonderful the person / company putting out the content is.
Servant content by contrast is all about the audience. It:
-Shows a deep understanding for a problem a person / group of people is facing
-Helps them solve a real challenge / pain they are facing
-Gives them as much information as possible to empower them to make the right decision for them.
Servant content is hard to come by because writing self-serving content is a LOT easier. Servant content means taking a lot of time, effort and empathy to produce.
Create more servant content.
Marketing reporting to the Chief Revenue Officer is one of the worst ideas generated inside the hierarchy of so many organizations.
"By having marketing report to the CRO, we have one revenue organization" -- this is the most common reason cited for the blunder.
The BIG error in this thinking is that the CRO is often a sales leader who defaults to sales thinking when it comes to critical marketing decisions. This is a recipe for disaster.
What would a sales-leaning CRO decide when hiring? One more sales rep or more marketing budget? Likely answer is one more sales rep.
The move also creates a layer of bureaucracy between marketing and the CEO -- the person who is ultimately needed to increase marketing impact.
By having marketing report to the CRO / VP of Sales, the CEO foregoes:
-Taking charge of the brand narrative and story
-Connection to the market and customers
-Understanding and balancing the investment in sales and marketing
-Giving marketing the right budget needed
The best companies are founded by people who have an earned secret or insight about a critical market problem.
These people have often experienced the market problem and pain points first hand. They also have unique industry knowledge and understand the required scope to solve the problem.
They end up being the first Product Managers of the company to figure out what a possible solution looks like. They also end up being the first marketers and sales people who bring together the story and positioning of the company to close deals.
This is why having the right founder for the right problem is critical. It is also why Founder-Market fit is more important than Product-Market fit.
There's a school of thought that suggests that creating a high volume of content is the key to building an audience.
There is some truth to that but there is also a false bar being set.
Creating unlimited content is valuable if you are able to find unlimited distribution.
The way to do this is beyond just posting 10 times a day on LinkedIn or Instagram or YouTube, which will surely lead to burn out because you constantly have to create more content to stay relevant.
You're also hoping the algorithm will help you find more people who view your content --- hoping that those people are your ideal customers as well.
This kind of strategy is pumped by proponents of hustle culture. Post 10 times a day till someone notices you. Keep posting. Keep grinding. (Forget your mental health, don't spend time with family, over-index on content vs. other areas of the business like services or product etc.)
Instead, creating the right pieces of content and finding distribution at scale is the key.
Pricing is and will be one of the biggest growth levers of your business.
The best pricing models tie higher price points to the metric that accurately represents the customer receiving more value.
Pricing connected to functionality does this to a certain degree. However, the best pricing models tie to a metric that scale with usage / value.
Some examples of the right metrics:
Hubspot: # of contacts
Patreon: $ earned from Patrons
Slack: # of team members
Models not tied directly to the success of customers inevitably have to increase price over time to capture "expansion". E.g. This is why Netflix has had to increase its price so many times.
The right metric ties the company's success to the customer's.
That's how you land + expand and ramp up expansion revenue from your customer base. It is also how you get to higher satisfaction and negative churn.
Alignment with the CFO is one of the most important relationships for marketing leaders. Why?
1) The biggest roadblock to scaling marketing is budget.
2) The way to get more budget is to have data to show the impact marketing is making.
3) The people to sell that story to are the CEO and board.
4) Your odds of success dramatically increase if you and your CFO are aligned on those numbers and the right-sized budget.
If you're a marketing leader and you haven't spent enough time on the P&L, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement or Financial Projections, start spending a lot more time there.
You will become a far better marketing leader and executive.
You can read more on this topic in our full article, CMO-CFO Alignment in Portfolio Companies: Why It Matters, and How To Achieve It.