A marketer and a data scientist walks into an early stage startup office:
Data scientist: "I don't believe in marketing"
Marketer: "Like, you don't believe it works?"
Data scientist: "No, I don't believe in it like I don't believe in unicorns. Like it doesn't exist. Because it's not real."
I know what you’re thinking: silly data scientist, unicorns obviously exist.
…and yes, this was a real conversation.
Not that this comes as a surprise to you, fellow marketer.
Because this particularly frustrating challenge happens so often that “convincing people that marketing is important” might as well be in our job descriptions.
I’ve been there.
Not too long ago, spinning a pen at my desk, I wondered: “How in the heck am I going to build a growth strategy, execute it and move quickly with limited resources when leadership and my team are convinced that I’m just on Instagram all day?”
If so, here’s a virtual hug — and four tips on how to educate your team, get everyone on the same page, and make marketing a real priority for your business.
Define “what is growth?” for your team.
“Can’t you hack our growth?”
*shivers in overworked marketer*
No, Tom, I can’t. Because you can’t hack growth.
This romantic idea comes from 2010, when growth first hit the valley and a few startups grew at breakneck speed.
Even though history has shown us the ugly, unsustainable truth behind this approach (see: The DropOut, WeCrashed), many founders, desperate to get in on the action, dump these unrealistic expectations on their growth marketers’ laps.
That’s why, before you can present any ideas, launch a new strategy or dig into your work, you need to make sure you, your collaborators and decision makers are operating under the same definition.
Get on top of this before it gets on top of you.
HOT TIP: Interviewing for a growth marketing role?
Ask these questions to make sure they take their growth seriously:
- How do you define growth, and what metrics do you prioritise to measure success?
- How do you make sure that your team operates under the same definition?
Get in their heads.
The appetite for marketing at a company starts at the top (and so does culture, but that’s a topic for another day).
If leadership is skeptical about how effective marketing is (i.e. “it’s not real”), the marketing team becomes the “weird” art kids who eat lunch alone in the corner.
When that happens, marketing loses out on having any meaningful leadership to guide them — you won’t be seeing a Marketing Director or VP hired because their salary doesn’t count as a meaningful investment for the budget.
No leadership means no strategy, with marketing becoming little more than a last-ditch effort to get more clicks/engagement/sales.
So how can you make sure your growth efforts are taken seriously? By aligning them with your company’s north star.
This way, you’re making sure that all the work you do is supporting your company’s greatest objective. Your company’s goals are defined by your executive team, so you’ll want to get to know them better, too.
To do this, you’ll want to treat your executive team like you would customers in interviews.
Get the most out of your conversations with leadership by asking yourself the following questions:
- How are they describing the company’s mission? Do they believe your success depends on growing your online presence, or increasing sales? This gives you a sense of where they’re more likely to invest resources.
- How do they view their position in/contribution to the company? By knowing what excites them, and how they define success, you can build strategies that includes their area of expertise — making them a collaborator vs. a detractor.
Mine this information, digest it and let it drive your strategy. Seed it throughout your presentations, pitches and projects to bridge the gap between the work you’re doing and the impact it will have on moving the company forward.
Remember: You are the expert. Yell about it.
This is where you channel your inner Chad.
Chad is boldly sitting in that boardroom, pitching his next 6-figure campaign idea: refusing to take no for an answer, not letting a single question waver his confidence and, when leadership tries to pull back, he asks for more money.
When you work for a team that struggles to understand the benefits and values of marketing, you’re going to be met with a lot of questions. Often in this case, there will be a propensity for you to begin questioning your work and decisions.
Remind yourself: you were hired for a reason - the more support and resources they give you, the better off everyone will be. The best thing you can do is get comfortable with being loud in this position and boldly ask for what you need. Which leads me into my fourth point…
Control the convo.
Even when you’re not in the hot seat, it’s natural to second guess your work.
But when you are on the hot seat — well, hot damn. Chad may like it, but most people don’t.
Whether you, informed by customer feedback, are pitching a better onboarding solution to the product team, or presenting your go-to-market strategy to leadership — your work may be met with a lot of questions.
But not all questions are made equal.
If someone asks a question with good intentions, that means they’re focused on helping fill gaps that you may have missed.
If someone asks a question that’s overly critical, it typically means they don’t understand what you’re talking about. Don’t take this personally, but don’t let it derail your presentation, either.
Not getting the constructive insight you hoped for?
Here's how to respond to feedback, and get the conversation back on track:
- Let them say what they have to say, and take a beat to process it — don’t rush into replying, even if it means filling the air with an awkward silence.
- Make sure you’ve understood their feedback. Do this by repeating back what they said, i.e. “If I’ve understood you correctly, you’re saying that…”
- Offer steps you can take to address their concerns. Often, that can be as simple as letting your colleague know that you’d like to continue the conversation, and will follow-up with them after your meeting with the team. In a one-on-one, start to brainstorm with them. If the conversation feels too emotionally driven, give yourself a breather, and set up another time (ideally the next day) to touch base.
- You don’t have to agree or disagree right away. Doing either when you don’t mean it can build resentment towards your team. Instead, focus on how you can collaborate to build a solution — or, if you agree to disagree, how you can do so respectfully.
Another way to encourage constructive feedback is to ask specific questions from your team, instead of opening the floor. Here’s a few questions you can use to make this happen:
- I covered a lot today. Is there anything you’d like me to share more information about with the team?
- Is there anything that surprised you about what I shared?
- How do you see my strategy supporting your work?
Surround yourself with good people.
A little louder for my solo marketer friends in the back: find! your! community!
When you’re the only one spearheading growth in your company, it’s easy to get caught up in self-doubt. That’s why you want to find your people — fellow marketers, working elsewhere — who understand what you’re going through, and can offer support and a trustworthy set of eyes when you need them.
Playing defense can be tough. Lean on a team. At Growclass, our community is filled with folks who are supportive as heck and that want to see you succeed.
Guerilla market your decision makers.
This tip is most useful for folks who report to a founder, or need the approval of a decision maker — be they on your team or not.
If you’re a marketer, this blog is likely one of the 100s of tabs you’ve got open with other posts, articles, newsletters and twitter threads. Staying up-to-date on the ever-evolving world of growth marketing is part of the job — and, for most of us, getting to test new theories, tools and tech is what excites us most about it.
Use this energy to your advantage. After all, enthusiasm, joy and excitement are emotions that are easily passed from one person to another.
So, get your leaders excited about marketing.
1. Share the goods
Found an excellent article, case study, or data point that resonates with your work? Share it with your team.
2. Connect the dots
In your message, include a few bullet points that explain how the takeaways could be applied to the work you’re doing. Try to be as specific as possible about how what you’ve learned can be used to advance your work — whether to grow your presence on TikTok, improve your latest email marketing campaign, or increase sales for a specific service or product.
3. Circle back
Your goal here is not only to keep leadership informed, but to build rapport and trust with them. The more informed and educated your founder feels on the topic, the more empowered and excited they’ll be about growth.
Have a hot tip that could be added to this list? Reach out, I’d love to learn from you.