16 Lessons From Scaling a Marketing Org

I was invited to address a top NY tech company in 2022 on a subject of my choice. The CMO was on my team earlier in his career, and since they were in a period of rapid growth, we thought talking about scaling would be appropriate. The address is the basis for this blog. Below are 16 ideas on how to scale your marketing organization with a link to the full posting at the bottom of the page.

#1 – Become an Expert at Goal Cascading

When you are small, everyone is fighting for the next round of funding, and revenue goals are tangible and close at hand. As more and more people join the marketing team and roles get subdivided, ensuring everyone knows their part in the overall revenue generation plan is essential to keep alignment. AOP goals from finance for new logo, upsell and cross-sell, and goals by product, by region, should be cascaded throughout the organization so that most teams in marketing have concrete attainment goals. While this sounds simple, it can get complex if finance doesn’t set these goals properly. Goal setting is a key element of getting the CRO, CMO and CEO aligned.

#2 – Measure Everything

In addition to top-line goals, marketing teams that scale measure everything they do and develop rules of thumb for costs and revenue generation. Every program or initiative that gets started has a metric tracked and reviewed at least monthly. Marketing organizations that scale know their costs per lead and cost per opportunity from whatever source. They measure the effectiveness of everything they do and stop doing programs that don’t yield results. They are creative in how to measure efforts that don’t directly drive revenue. This passion for measurement helps drive the right investment decisions. The storymetrix blog has lots of articles on measurement.

#3 – Build The Organization One Small Team at a Time

Small teams can get a lot done. Small teams are why start-ups are so nimble. An army is a collection of small teams. Investment banking uses small client teams, as does high-end consulting. Marketing teams that scale are collections of small groups with clear goals, the resources to win, and the ability to make decisions. Ask yourself how many people it takes in your company to update your website’s “About Us” page. If it is more than a few, then reconsider your organizational structure.

#4 – Practice Role Division

In the beginning, there was just one marketer in your company. Over time, as the company scaled, that role was divided. At some point, all the key marketing roles are “filled out,” and you are just adding scale to a specific role – for example, two people doing content marketing instead of one. Strategically dividing roles and adding duplicate roles avoids confusion and allows efficient scaling. Read more on the 22 Key Roles in Marketing.

#5 – Build a New College Hire Pipeline

Managers rarely want to hire new college hires due to the need for training and high turnover. Hiring recent college graduates, however, provides lots of organizational flexibility to move employees around, provides leadership opportunities for more senior employees, cultivates the next layer of talent as the management layers increase, and infuses new ideas into the organization. Training new employees also requires a rich knowledge-sharing infrastructure (#7 below) and written processes (#8 below), which the team should be doing anyway. Finally, new college hires skew lower CAC.

#6 – Keep Spans High and Layers Low

Individual contributors do most of the work in a marketing organization. Managers are needed to support their efforts. Organizations that allow small management spans and many management layers slow down productivity and stunt career growth for their team. Keep spans high, and the organization flat.

#7 – Develop a Culture of Organic Knowledge Sharing and Checklists

Marketing organizations require a lot of knowledge to run. Word-of-mouth sharing works when a team is tiny. Even then, word-of-mouth information sharing is risky if a critical team member leaves without writing down the key elements of their job. Hence, building a culture of formal knowledge sharing is so important to enable an organization to scale. Applications like Confluence or Notion are easy ways to build a knowledge store organically. Managers must always ask, “Is this written down somewhere” so the next new hire can find the required information to do their job.

#8 – In Marketing, There is a Process for Almost Everything

Marketing is a collection of workflows. Writing the workflows and creating checklists where necessary increases the team’s velocity. If everyone understands their role in a workflow, you avoid outside people derailing work while ensuring accountability. Some organizations use RASIC charts for this role, but that has always seemed like overkill to solve the problem. Consider creating checklists and workflows for product launches, new hire onboarding, press release, website updates, social media posts, recruiting, hiring, and budgeting.

#9 – Avoid Fiefdoms, Know Your (Internal) Customer

While marketing has many different teams doing different work, there is still an internal hierarchy of groups supporting and leading. As organizations grow, teams can lose sight of their internal customer. Demand generation teams are generally at the top of the pack. Demand generation teams are in a daily grind to build pipelines. Nearly the entire marketing org needs to rally around and support this effort. Ticketing systems, agile sprints, and OKRs help the supporting groups prioritize work and provide visibility to the front-line demand generation teams requests, but generally demand generation runs the group.

#10 – Beware of Technical Publishing Debt

While engineering teams have to wrestle with technical debt, marketing teams must guard against publishing debt. Every web page, piece of collateral, and PPT deck produced must be maintained if rolled out to the sales team or the public. Creating something new and not updating older versions with further information generates an immense amount of out-of-date material. To effectively market products, the list of documents to maintain is small. You need a website with product pages, feature pages, some solution pages, and an about us section. Throw in some partnership pages, and you can cover almost any requirement to publish information. SEO requires pillar pages of high quality. The sales team needs an overview deck, an objections sheet, product decks, a call script, and an ROI document. Keeping a small number of core documents up to date and using the law of “measure everything” to grade the completeness of each document quarterly will limit publishing debt and keep the core documents current.

#11 – New Program Patience and Worrying About Scale Later

Major new initiatives, like BDR programs, outbound calling, and new products, take time to gain traction. If your core product has $50M ARR, a new product in its first year might only have $50K ARR. Giving up on the marketing for the product since “it is so small” is a way never to develop new product revenue streams. Scale takes time, and planting the next seed of revenue takes patience when you are at scale.

Conversely, sometimes starting something new takes a lot of manual effort to figure out how something will work. “Scaling” isn’t a concern when you are starting out with a new product or program. For example, part of your new product launch program might have the PMM “get on every sales call.” If you have 100 sales reps, getting on every sales call with them doesn’t scale if all 100 book appointments every week. But we all know how hard it is to get a sales team to sell a new product. The first problem is likely getting the sales reps even to sell the product, not scaling your participation on sales calls. Not doing programs because “they don’t scale” is perhaps the #1 reason organizations don’t. They worry about scaling before they even have traction with a program.

#12 – Diversify the GTM Streams

Many SaaS companies start as web-driven inbound or outbound demand generation platforms. Over time, these channels reach a point of slowing growth. More channels need to be added to the mix. Diversifying revenue streams to channel partners, integration partners, verticals, OEMs, and marketplaces keeps growth going.

#13 – Local Investments Should Be Additive

At some point, companies start to expand their footprint globally. The key is to make local investments in people and programs when those investments result in additive marketing muscle for the region. Simply hiring local talent in a country to roll out global programs doesn’t dramatically change the capabilities of a company. Local investment should leverage corporate programs and build, contribute, and deliver local programs independently of the central team.

#14 – New Products Require Advocacy

Eventually, a company adds new products to its portfolio organically or through acquisition. Each product requires an advocate in marketing whose compensation is tied to the product’s success. AOP goals should include product revenue goals. WIthout an AOP goal, only the most significant products get the attention they need, and investment products are forgotten. Without assigning marketers to a specific product, getting results isn’t guaranteed. By practicing the law of role division, start with one marketer who is a generalist, have them leverage the rest of the marketing infrastructure as needed, then gradually add people to the team for that product to increase revenue and program coverage.

#15 – Implement Zero-Based Budgeting to Keep Investments Efficient

The free-wheeling budget spreadsheet of an early stage company can morph into a bureaucratic budget discussion as an organization grows. Assigning a team’s budgets in an annual planning process creates organizational resistance to change, makes managers avoid new projects “without a budget,” and fosters endless discussions about budgets and spending. Instead, build budgets dynamically as the year progresses, allowing the CMO to allocate money where needed to drive maximum ROI. Of course, some expenditures have to be committed in advance. But many marketing expenditures can be deferred until the quarter they are spent. By practicing zero-based budgeting, money becomes a dynamic resource that flows to the projects that produce the greatest return and are not allocated to managers based on prior year funding allocations. No one owning a budget means everyone has a budget until the point where spending approaches finance targets for a quarter.

#16 – For Every New Workflow, Custom Report, or Custom Field Created, Delete Two Existing Ones

Since CRM systems are easy to modify, most organizations change them to the point that they start losing track of how the systems work. A mound of technical debt is created, and getting basic information from the systems becomes challenging. Too many custom fields, workflows, and secondary tooling make the system a mess. The ROI from these changes is always suspect. To solve the problem, CMOs and CROs should limit the size of their administration teams and create a culture where changes to the systems are a last resort that is accomplished systematically. In addition, for every new change in workflows, fields, and custom objects, two similar objects should be deleted until the system corrects itself to a manageable level.

Photo by Petr Slováček on Unsplash

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