The world of fast-growth startups is an exciting one, but also a challenging one. Any one day will involve wearing multiple hats and checking in on all areas of the business, internally and externally. This can seem like an impossible task.
In an ideal world, you’ll have built teams to cover key areas, and these teams will form a smooth-running machine, working together to reach your business goals. In reality, even the most talented and experienced people need a little guidance. Involvement from the business owner in marketing activities can be invaluable. But where do you find the time?
In this article, I outline some ideas for how you can be directly involved in the work of your marketing team, without micro-managing or sapping your precious time.
We all know the importance of proper delegation, of trusting those you employ to do the job that they’re there to do. But reporting lines exist for a reason, and formalising some systems and processes will help things run smoothly.
If your content plan calls for monthly or quarterly reports, schedule time in for calls or meetings to discuss these ahead of time, with a recurring appointment. If you require sign-off on a key piece of content, then make sure a process is in place to determine when submission is expected and when it needs to be returned with feedback to make publication date; whether it’s video, audio, graphic, or a written piece.
If an agreed process is in place in advance (and visible at all times), you’ll not only be making the most of your time, but also sending the message that your team’s time is equally as valuable. If everybody knows what to expect, they can plan their time accordingly.
Input on inspiration, not execution
If you’ve worked with your team (in-house or agency) to devise and implement a digital marketing strategy, and then put a plan in place for how the activities will be executed in order to achieve your goals, you should trust them to proceed competently.
However, this doesn’t mean that your creative input has no place in the team. As the founder of the business, your ear is likely to be the closest to the ground when it comes to trends within your sector, hot topics, and industry news.
To make the most of this knowledge, you need to find a method of communicating with your team on a regular basis that fits your way of working. This could be weekly summary phone calls with your marketing manager, “brain dump” emails or instant messages to your team written on the train, or thinking aloud into your smartphone on your walk to work.
A topic, a question or an overheard argument can all be the seed for an excellent piece of content, so when you’re out and about, communicate.
Keep reading – I’ll look at some of the best communication tools later in this article.
A lot has been said of marketing automation software, and there are many businesses out there finding the good, the bad and the ugly when using technology to better tailor the customer journey and streamline marketing processes.
In essence, marketing automation is the introduction of software to your business that automates areas of your activity and helps you use data to execute tasks in a more focused and targeted way.
If used well, marketing automation can take some of the repetitive day to day jobs away from your employees, leaving more time and creative energy for other projects, it also improves the customer experience and helps with lead management to increase sales: according to The Lenskold Group, 63% of companies that are outgrowing their competitors use marketing automation.
As a business owner, marketing automation enables you to have more overview of your startup’s marketing activities, with clear and accessible reporting and readily accessible data to accurately measure the impact of your team’s campaigns.
Align your themes
Just by virtue of running the business, a lot of your daily activity will be contributing to your marketing activity. Meetings with clients, attending events and engaging with the wider industry are all ways to publicly profile your company and act as a brand ambassador for your business.
In order to capitalise on this, startup founders need to ensure that these appearances and interactions are backed up by agile and responsive marketing effort.
If you’ve recently attended a panel discussion on hot industry topic, make sure that your team are fully aware and can overlap those themes within the less structured areas of their marketing plan and directly promote the event to encourage backlinks and increased traffic.
This is where aligning the content calendar with the event calendar reaps rewards.
Feed the hungry beast
As the startup founder and business owner, you can aid content quality by feeding the monster the fuel it needs. Leave the bells and whistles to the team, but you can provide the raw materials to keep things moving.
Here are some ways in which you can efficiently feed content to your team.
Blog posts can be written on your phone, tablet, or laptop on-the-move. When an idea springs to mind, jot down some bullet points and rough thoughts. Failing that, record a voice memo, which can be transcribed at a later date to form the basis of a written article.
The process of editing, quality control, optimisation, upload, and promotion takes time. This can be the responsibility of the startup’s digital marketing agency or in-house team. If the written word is not your forte, try dictation apps.
In a world that’s becoming vastly more visual than ever before, your social channels must incorporate high-quality imagery, video, and graphics.
The power of the modern smartphone is incredible, and this is no more evident than in the camera capabilities. When you’re out meeting clients and leads, don’t forget to document your day through photographs and videos where appropriate.
The popularity of podcasts has soared in recent years. In the USA alone, podcast listening grew 23% between 2015 and 2016. According to recent research, around 3.7 million people in the UK listen to podcasts, and this number is growing every year.
Audio is the perfect medium to repurpose. An audio file can be text transcribed for Google to get its teeth into (always recommended), it can be uploaded to Soundcloud, iTunes, and paired with an image (or series of images) for its upload to YouTube. For reference, here’s the full process for uploading a podcast to iTunes.
Although smartphone microphones are typically good enough for basic podcasting, it’s worth investing in an external microphone to improve noise cancellation and tone.
Inviting influencers for a conversation on your podcast is an excellent way to nurture relationships and offer a win-win incentive for both parties. Again, once the raw material is recorded (hopefully in a quiet setting), your team can cut, edit, repurpose, and upload to your various branded channels.
Always remember the link between offline meetings and your online marketing success. Whilst the team is badgering away to build an email list through social media, promoted content, and landing pages, you can contribute by signing up those you meet in the offline world.
Put simply, “would you mind if I added you to our newsletter? There are some articles I think you’d love this month.” goes far to boosting your list with qualified individuals.
In essence, this approach is built on your awareness about the marketability of your everyday actions as a startup founder. You learn new things, you meet new people, and you spot new opportunities. That’s a goldmine for content. By feeding insightful information and raw material into your digital marketing team, they can take content quality and depth to a new level. A level above your competitors.
Personally, I’m a great fan of Evernote, but the process of documenting your thoughts is up to you. Either way, using your insights and experience in a productive way is critical.
Using the right systems
The agile and communicative approach only works if you have the right business systems in place. The term “business systems” is often associated with clunky out-of-date software implementations. In fact, the advent of cloud technology has opened up flexible and scalable enterprise applications, many of which integrate seamlessly.
In order to have productive input for your marketing team, the right communication channels should be in place. We’ll start here, with three of the most popular.
Slack: A favourite here at Kurve, Slack is a powerful instant messaging system that can integrate with other platforms easily through tools like IFTTT. It’s available on desktop, tablet, and mobile and allows for useful (and entertaining) customisation.
Skype: One of the most established and popular communication tools on the planet. If you’re travelling the world, Skype is still one of the best voice and video calling tools around. Skype’s smartphone app has improved dramatically recently, which is important in fighting off the growing competition.
WhatsApp: WhatsApp is surprisingly useful for business comms. You can directly record voice messages with your smartphone and send in an instant, as well as images, videos, and note files. WhatsApp also has a desktop version, which team members can leave open in the office if you’re out and about.
This article by ProfitBooks even recommends using WhatsApp for customer comms.
Project management tools are a dime a dozen at the moment. It very much depends on the nature of your startup as to how you manage projects, but here are three of the most reputable on the market at the moment.
Asana: Together with Slack, Asana is a Kurve favourite. It can be accessed across all devices, enables managers to visualise progress easily, and offers solid comms tools within and between tasks and projects. It’s intuitive and intelligent.
Trello: This card-based project management system is simple and effective, and perfect for organising task lists at a basic level. It’s highly intuitive, and heavy on drag-and-drop functionality. Some startups find that they outgrow Trello as their process complicate, but many continue for the long-term.
All of the above offer useful communication tools within them, but may not be suitable as standalone solutions for regular informal back-and-forth messaging. Above all, they enable easy monitoring of project progress through any device, wherever you are.
Leverage your name as a brand
The next step for building on the work you already do day-to-day, is the conscious decision to leverage your name as a brand in its own right. A founder with a strong Twitter following and a reputation for sharing valuable industry insight online and offline is an asset in legitimising and strengthening the startup’s brand.
As I’ve already discussed, regular personal social activity can be combined with an awareness for what’s around you at client meetings and networking events. Understand the marketability of your actions, but also of yourself.
As the face of the brand, you’ll meet lots of interesting people. Hook them into writing a guest post, invite them to a podcast discussion, or ask them about collaboration on a project. Ask people if they’d like to be interviewed for an article, or vice versa.
Your personal brand is hugely important, especially in the realm of B2B.
The positive association built between you as an entrepreneur and your company’s output will only serve to support your marketing team’s efforts.
Be aware, be confident, and make sure you reflect the brand that you represent. It’s a lot easier to convince prospects to work with you as a person, rather than a faceless business.
Integrate your own values with that of the business.
Startup founders have a demanding role. They’re the face and voice of the company. They must keep investors happy, whilst leading a team of passionate and ambitious people – some of whom will be inexperienced and seeking guidance. Time management is particularly tricky, and micro-management is impossible.
You want your team to feel supported and to be working in a productive and streamlined way, but with a hectic schedule, it’s important to plan how to use time wisely and maximise productive input, without creating more work for yourself and others.
Simultaneously, as a startup founder, you’ll understand the business and its audience better than anyone. Therefore, input on marketing communications is invaluable.
Put simply, by remaining aware of your role as an influencer and the marketability of your everyday actions, you’re able to feed the team with insights, creative ideas, and raw content. This regular insight will not only generate higher-quality relevant content, but will educate your team and ensure your goals and ambitions are aligned at all times.