Earlier this month I attended a fantastic panel discussion hosted by the Chicago AMA on the topic of how small marketing teams can cope and even thrive under the pressures they face. The takeaways were spot on and offered important lessons on how to accomplish a lot when you're stuck with limited time and resources.
After all, who doesn't wish they had more of both?
First, though, major props to Nick Fryer, Director of Marketing at AFN Logistics, and Thom Duncan, CEO of Content Fluent, for sharing their insights. Two very smart guys who definitely "get it." Here's what I learned from them.
Nick kicked off the discussion, and he led with what might be the toughest thing for most marketers: Don't stay in your comfort zone.
Particularly when you're understaffed, it's tempting to stick with what you know and do well. But it's in those moments when you expand and grow that you can achieve something truly amazing.
It's hard to do. But hard is okay.
Train yourself to say "yes" to the crazy requests your boss asks of you. Then go back to your desk, put on your big girl/big boy panties, and figure out how to make it work.
Some tips to help with this:
- Take the time to build internal and external coalitions of resources. Knowing that you've "got a guy" who specializes in this, that and the other thing will be key to allowing you to push past your own limitations and deliver something more.
- Don't negotiate against yourself. Ask for more than you think you'll need, whether it's more budget, more time or more resources.
- Set goals for yourself – 30, 60 and 90 days out – so you know what you're trying to achieve. The longer-term goals might change, but that's okay. You still need to know where you're heading if you're ever going to actually get anywhere.
Which leads us to our next takeaway ...
Think long term.
Approach your current role as if you're going to be in this role forever. What legacy can you build for your company? What can you give of yourself that will have an impact for years to come?
In a related vein, invest in relationships within your company. When you're a team of one, it's easy to forget to lift your head up every now and then and look around you. But it's important to put yourself out there.
Related Content: Building Your Best Content Marketing Team
You never know what kind of crazy, circuitous path life may take you on, and the more people you know – and the more people think well of you – the better off you'll be.
Focus on results.
Particularly if you're new to your role, focus on landing a few quick wins, and build from there.
A great way to do this is to take on a task that looks hard to a non-marketer but is actually relatively easy to implement – and then wow everyone with flawless execution.
This might be something like incorporating better keywords into your company website so you can immediately start pulling in more search engine traffic. Or it might be revising the LinkedIn profiles for the sales team, so the profiles speak to your company's core value proposition more directly.
Whatever it takes, follow through and get the job done well.
Anytime you're picking up a new project, the first step to delivering results is thorough documentation, to make absolutely sure everyone is on the same page, and consistent communication throughout the project, to make people confident they are in good hands with you.
Know your strengths.
Thom came in at this point and singled out the key tasks any marketer might be asked to deliver:
- Graphics and design
- Technology integration
- Data analytics
Thom also pointed out a cold, hard truth: If you're a marketing team of one, you need at least some working knowledge of all of these.
But that doesn't mean you need to be an expert in all of them. If you've been thinking long-term and building your coalition of resources, you'll be fine.
Build project strategies that work to your strengths, so that you understand where you'll need to pull in additional resources if possible.
Start with strategy.
I love beginning with the end in mind. Similar to Nick's advice to set goals for yourself so you always know where you're heading, every project needs a road map for success.
Here's what every strategy needs to define:
- Who is the target audience? What are they looking for?
- What message do you want to share?
- How, and how often, do you want to share it?
- What are your goals, and how will you measure success?
Particularly when launching a new project or venturing into a new area, start small. You're going to have to make some assumptions for your goals, and that's okay. As the project progresses, look for data to validate those assumptions and see what works and what doesn't. Learn and grow.
And don't be afraid to advocate for support where you need it.
So there you have it. Above all, it helps to know you're never really alone. Plenty of marketers are in the same boat you are – trying valiantly to under-promise and over-deliver, working miracles on shoestring budgets, and tirelessly making their companies look good every day.
To all of you, we say "thank you." I hope this article helps make your jobs a tiny bit easier.