How Marketing Leaders Can Build Trust and Drive Impact Today

I am excited to introduce Dan Kimball, Spectrum Equity’s first Chief Marketing Officer, to the portfolio. Dan brings decades of marketing leadership experience at companies ranging in size from early-stage startups to multi-billion-dollar industry leaders. He was most recently the SVP of Marketing at Yelp and previously the SVP of Global Marketing at Eventbrite and VP of Marketing at CoStar Group. At Spectrum, he will assess marketing capabilities of prospective investments and advise portfolio companies on all facets of marketing. His experience establishing marketing as a core driver of net growth will be an asset to Spectrum’s portfolio of internet-based software and information businesses.

As he embarks on his first 100 days with us, I asked him for his fresh perspective on how new marketing leaders can build and lead successful teams.

Q: You are starting a new role as Spectrum Equity’s first Chief Marketing Officer. What's the most important thing a new marketing leader can do to build trust in the first 100 days?

A: New marketing leaders are typically hired for one of two reasons. The first is because the company has a broad idea that it needs marketing, but it doesn’t have well-defined objectives or initiatives. This is a ground-up building effort. The second is because the last marketing leader wasn’t successful – more of a pivot than a full restart. Either way, your job in the first 100 days is to make a positive impact quickly, while painting a vision for the future. Here’s what I recommend:

Do not maintain the status quo. You were hired to build, change, or improve marketing. Put some quick wins on the board that demonstrate your ability to execute and drive a measurable outcome. This can be as small as changing a call-to-action button from blue to red or as substantial as launching a new paid marketing strategy. If these actions give your success metrics a lift, it’s a win.

Make it crystal clear why the decision to invest in Marketing is a good one. Connect the dots between top level company goals and marketing strategy, goals, and top initiatives. Start – and never stop – educating colleagues about the purpose and value of marketing, and most importantly, how your investments are moving the needle for the company.

Challenge assumptions, especially those that don’t have strong evidence. When you come in as a new marketer at a company that’s been around for more than a few years, there will be a hundred things you’ll want to test out. Ninety of them will have a note next to them saying, “we’ve done this before and it didn’t work, move on.” I guarantee you that in a good percentage of these cases, it’s worth testing again. Something was tried and it wasn’t measured properly, or it was years ago when the market, competitive set, or team was different. Try again. Sometimes you will learn the same hard lesson twice, but oftentimes you will find new opportunities to grow the business.

Build bridges with your cross-functional counterparts in product, engineering, sales, and ops. Align on what you’re trying to accomplish, map your functional interdependencies, and link up your goals and metrics. You are going to be better off by doing this work at the outset and celebrating your wins together. Marketers who avoid cross-functional collaboration rarely succeed because their growth is limited to just what their own team can accomplish. There’s so much more room to grow through cross-functional wins.

Q: How should marketing leaders work with their CEOs and executive teams to make sense of the marketing ROI?

A: Not surprisingly, marketing ROI is generally not well understood by company leaders. Because of attribution and incrementality measurement challenges, it can seem like a black box to people who don’t innately “believe” in the art of marketing. On top of that, if you’re new to a company, it’s going to take you a while to deduce your goals, top initiatives, and key metrics. This isn’t something that can be rushed, so commit to a learning process, and give it the necessary time. Important tip: Bring your executive team along on this journey, involve them in the discovery process, and solicit their feedback. Make sure you:

Commit to transparency. Most CEOs and executive teams appreciate openness about the journey of building new capabilities. Starting with a weekly update, share what you’re learning about the company’s marketing capabilities, key areas you’re focusing on, and metrics you think are valuable. The worst thing you can do is wait until you have the perfectly mapped strategy, because that takes time and patience will wear thin.

Share challenges. I’ve seen too many functional leaders paint only rosy pictures for their executive teams. Though often not intended to mislead, this has a detrimental impact on a new marketing leader’s success, as it both sets an impossible standard and also masks areas that need executive attention and help. The most effective leaders share both the challenges and the wins – and they spend more time examining the sticky challenges. This does not demonstrate weakness; it demonstrates resolve and commitment.

Q: What should be top of mind for CMOS today?

A: Even in a great economy there are always constraints on marketing resources. These constraints vary from a lack of engineering commitment and marketing technology to not having a budget for testing new marketing channels. In today’s economy, ROI driven marketers should:

Focus on the bottom of the funnel. Optimize your down funnel experiences and assets. These include your website, lead forms, self-service acquisition flows, and customer retention strategy. By making the bottom of your funnel more efficient, you will make every dollar you invest at the top go further.

Double down on your investment in marketing technology and tools. Every year, you should add one or two tools to your portfolio to help you automate and scale. In a resource constrained world, better software automation and more data transparency will make every one of your team members more productive, and your marketing dollars work harder.

AI and machine learning is no longer a novelty, it’s essential. If you’re not already getting leverage from these tools for everything from paid media experimentation to creative optimization to content creation, you’re already behind the ball.

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