When Jenna Hanington’s latest entry, on the Pardot Blog (4 Reasons to Take Pride in Being an SMB) landed in my inbox, I have to admit a sheepish grin crossed my face. Having spent time in both large, multi-billion dollar international companies and small start-ups, I’ve been on both sides of the fence and can confirm that the envy Jenna describes is, in fact, a two way street – the grass is always greener, I suppose. That, or we marketers are truly a fickle bunch.
The security and budgets of bigger companies are nice, but are in no way guarantees of success – no amount budget or automation can overcome bad (or no planning) or disjointed execution. The smartest marketing teams I’ve seen, or been part of, have tried to stay true to the “lean and mean” mantra, emulating their smaller counterparts to stay agile and focus only on what really matters. Smaller companies may be more agile, but lacking the budget of their larger counterparts, are forced to live the idea of “do more with less.” Even the best laid plans require some spend, and when every cost is scrutinized down to the penny, true marketing automation can seem an unattainable option. So what, aside from mutual, but diverse, envy for one another do marketing teams, large and small have in common? They need independent, trusted advisors.
As Jenna points out, large organizations are steeped in process and policy. Things are done a certain way and those seeking change are met with resistance and bad analogies about how large ships cannot be turned rapidly. Woefully, the path of least resistance becomes the modus operandi. In these large organizations, the benefits of having a trusted advisor outside the chain of command are many. At the very least, this advisor can help re-assure you of your sanity when another unproductive directive comes down from on high. They can let the emperor know when he’s not wearing any clothes. Better still, drawing on their own experience, and that of their previous clients, a trusted marketing partner can help you anticipate and counter internal objections and roadblocks before you encounter them.
In smaller organizations, an independent advisor can lend credibility to your marketing plans. Often, having someone on the sideline who has been through what your organization is currently going through can be reassuring to leadership unsure of which direction to take next. In this case, such a partner has already navigated the murky waters that is marketing automation and knows where the rocky shoals are. They know what needs to be done, and just as importantly (if not more importantly), they also know what not to do. Such advisors can serve as CMOs right-sized for your organization’s needs and budget, helping marketing departments or teams shed the vestiges of “cost center,” allowing them to be reach their true potential as revenue drivers. The best of these, the ones who are true partners, are the ones who actively coach their clients, helping them arrive at “aha moments” on their own.
So what should you look for, when searching for someone to fill this void in your marketing plan? Start with your personal networks. Reputations truly do precede us, and who better to poll than colleagues you know and trust? When evaluating advisors, look for industry experience – you need someone who has “been in the same trenches” you’re in now. They need to technically proficient in your business systems, but more importantly, they need to understand the business drivers at play in your organizations. And perhaps most importantly, find someone you like – you’ll be spending a lot of time with this person, so you probably shouldn't loathe them.
Ultimately, there are pros and cons to organizations of every size. The most productive, regardless of size, however, are those who do not focus on what have (or do not have), but instead focus on unleashing their true potential – never settling for status quo, and testing every theory. The best understand that it is never better to “go it alone” and seek out trusted advisors that can help them chart their own course, while avoiding the pitfalls others (big or small) have already experienced.