Foundational Marketing

Do This First Before You “Fix” Marketing

By Trusted CMO

When CEOs tell me, “We need to fix marketing,” I know that we’re in for a significant therapy session. Slow sales cycles, poor name recognition, competitive losses, slow product adoption are among the most frequent complaints. Capable marketers can resolve many of these issues, but they can’t fix everything.

If you want to set your company up for marketing success, you, as the marketer, have to be the guide. In other words, take your colleagues through a process to define what marketing should and shouldn’t be doing and commit the resources needed to make an impact.

Here are the first few steps of that process.

One: set goals that are measurable, worth doing, and doable.

Setting goals makes it real. Real enough for anyone to see whether you’ve achieved or missed them. Here’s an example:

  • Increase paid conversions from free trials by 30%.
  • Get 40% of our current customers to buy the new feature by the end of the year.

Two: two goals, one strategy

Setting your marketing strategy requires getting input and working backward from your goals to get to the “how.” You’ll get a lot of data from team members, venture capitalists, and “experts” on what they think marketing should be doing to meet those goals. Listen to the suggestions, synthesize them, and then line all of them up against your business goals.

When you have a small or incredibly busy marketing team, everything you do should meet at least two needs. For example, collateral that you create for sales can work for customer success or the account management team.

One strategy might look like this:  

Invest in product demo videos—featuring customer use cases and ROI—to increase free-to-paid conversions (30%), and customer upsells of this product (40%).  

The strategy is specific around one activity that can meet two objectives: 1) videos drive free-to-paid conversions; 2) videos help to upsell the new feature to current customers.

Three: define your tactics.

Tactics are important, and frankly, they comprise at least 75% of marketing. Executing your strategy should involve a detailed, tactical plan complete with project descriptions, task owners, milestones, metrics, expected outcomes, etc.

Here’s just one tactic that might sit under the strategy:


Mapping out just one tactic of your strategy forces you to think everything through.

Four. assemble your people.

People can mean marketing team members + internal stakeholders from other departments + outside resources. As you can see from the example above, we’ve detailed who is responsible for the project, contributors, deliverables, due dates, and costs. Scoping projects helps everyone understand time and resource investments. And finally, we can plug the actual expense into our attribution model to assess the ROI of this project. One $20,000 upsell would be a 300% return.

Five. communicate what you’re doing and why.

Feedback is a trigger word for many marketers. When someone emails saying they want to give you some feedback, it’s tempting to hit delete. Reframe your thinking. Most people actually want to help, and they trust you enough to have a conversation. If they take the time to respond in a thoughtfully and constructively, they deserve a reply or a phone call. You do not have to act, but you should listen.

And all the above can be avoided mainly with proactive communications—a once-per-week update or a dedicated hashtag on Slack, or even a lunch-and-learn. By explaining your process and the outcomes you expect, you are educating everyone at a grassroots level. And suggestions may offer a shortcut, needed assistance, or just a beautiful high five.

What about fixing marketing?

Get on the same page as your CEO who wants to do the fixing.

  • What does a world where marketing is “fixed” look like?
  • How would you have arrived at this place, and what did you prioritize that’s paying off?
  • What did the marketing team fix?

Seems like a basic process, but most CEOs and non-marketers are not very good at describing the reality of “fixed” marketing. Now’s the time to guide them.

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