In a previous article I wrote for CMO.com, "What Does It Take To Be A Great Digital Leader?" I argued that brand marketers were ideally positioned to become digital leaders in their organizations. I also stressed that those who are digitally savvy will find it hard to resist further exposure to the start-up world. Start-ups, by their very nature of having access to limited internal resources, agency support, and historical knowledge, provide an unparalleled environment for marketers to innovate. And they provide a trio of important lessons for large organizations. Take note:
Speed Cannot Kill
Can you launch a brand new Web site in less than a month? Run an integrated digital campaign in less than a week? Respond to those Twitter comments in a few hours? For brand marketers, it’s only natural to take baby steps before they get to the implementation phase. Alignment with overall business strategy, planning, stakeholder engagement, legal review, etc., typically lead to a phased implementation process.
All of those steps matter to start-ups, too. But start-ups tend to worry about another factor--one that could shut them down in a matter of months. What if a competitive start-up develops a first mover’s advantage? This fear of being too late to market creates an unrivaled sense of urgency. Start-up marketers launch marketing initiatives quickly and scale them up or down even quicker. This ability to experiment in a fast-paced environment is a powerful motivator for an innovative marketer.
Networked Knowledge Applied
Do you regularly attend internal best practices sessions? Sharing knowledge inside of an organization is essential to generate new ideas for your business. In addition, being able to network with company peers provides a great support system. More often than not, it’s easier to reach out internally than to have an open discussion with best-in-class marketers.
Start-ups, by definition, have no institutional knowledge and few marketing peers to discuss the next big idea. What The Economist once dubbed “networked knowledge” is where start-ups excel: Start-up marketers have to look outside for ideas. Our marketing toolkit is Quora. The necessity to leverage a broader pool of marketing resources and the humility to build on others’ ideas make start-ups a great learning environment for marketers.
ROI: Return On Individuals
How do you measure your digital marketing initiatives? Most brand marketers have developed sophisticated dashboards to measure the performance of their marketing mix. In the digital world, we talk a lot about the C-Family (CPM, CPC, CPA, etc.). Quite often, individual costs are embedded into a larger marketing budget.
One of the most fascinating facets of start-ups is their limited access to budget and agency support. As a result, start-ups have to rely more on individuals’ capital. For example, let’s suppose we ran a combination of online and offline campaigns to attract clients to a trade show. Ad budgets and exhibition costs apart, most of the investment required is time spent by the marketing and sales teams. That makes it possible to create a Return On Individuals (ROI) based on how many sales are generated from those initiatives.
By stressing the individual contributions instead of burying those costs into a larger marketing budget, marketing simply becomes more transparent and agile. And this ultimately creates a favorable environment for innovation.