Uncomfortable reasons why, months after dazzling you with buzzwords and promises, your marketing person still hasn’t delivered the expected ROI.
Hiring a new marketing person can be exciting. After all, if you hit it right, a small amount of investment can massively accelerate the growth of your business. You sit down to meet with them, and they break out an impressive slide deck that details what you’re doing wrong, what you’ve neglected, and what they will do to supercharge your growth. You’re sold, and you want them to start immediately.
But, six months later, the expected ROI is failing to materialize. You know they’ve been busy. You’ve seen your blog and social media accounts spring to life and publish regular content. Your website was polished up. they seem to be doing all the right things, and yet, it’s not moving the needle. So, what’s the problem, and how do you solve it?
Below, we’ll look at the classic pitfalls that leaders face when it comes to managing marketing personnel and solutions to consider.
1. You’re Expecting Too Much of Them
Unless you are a marketing professional or professional content creator, then you likely have limited knowledge of all the things that happen under the umbrella of “marketing.” In fact, the field encompasses a broad range of specialized skills, including the following.
Advertising (Google, Facebook, and others)
Audio and video production
Blogging and social media
Budgeting and procurement
Interviewing and hosting a talk show or podcast
Managing projects, vendors, and agencies
Photography, photo editing, illustration, and graphic design
Research, analysis and strategic planning
Search engine optimization (SEO) and/or app store optimization (ASO)
Translators & localization
Writing, editing, and copywriting
It’s highly unlikely that your “marketing person” has mastered all of these. If you’re lucky, they'll be great at one or two, be average at a couple more, and have a basic understanding of the rest. And, wanting to impress you during the interview process, they neglected to mention the reality of what they could bring to the table. I burned myself with their a few times and learned the hard way that it was better to be brutally honest about my shortcomings from the start.
Once you know what needs to be done, have an honest discussion to figure out where their strengths lie and talk about ways to outsource the rest to specialized freelancers. If working remotely is an option, consider using a freelancer job marketplace such as Conyac to source, manage, and pay on a task, project, or ongoing basis as needed.
2. You Keep Shooting Down their Suggestions
To found, lead, and maintain a startup requires guts, confidence, and tenacity. However, the flip side is that startup executives can be prone to steamrolling over sensible suggestions from the meeker and milder members of their teams and shutting down their initiatives.
This happened to me at a particular startup. We needed an efficient way to present our B2B offerings to prospective clients. I suggested setting up a landing page at a team meeting, and the COO told me not to bother wasting time on it. I obediently agreed... and then quietly went ahead and made it anyway. That landing page went on to become the central component of their B2B marketing and remains so to this day.
Realize that you don’t know everything and consider that you may be missing part of the picture. Before shooting down a suggestion, take a deep breath, and ask for more details. Take a little more time to explore the idea and be sure that it truly is a dead-end before killing it off. If you’re still not convinced, consider hiring a marketing consultant via Conyac to evaluate the situation and give you a second opinion.
3. You Won’t Let Them Ask for Help
At the same startup, said landing page had been reviewed by all relevant team members, the CEO, and COO. Everyone seemed to think it was good enough for the time being. However, I wanted to optimize it further in terms of its visuals to be more appealing and better communicate the value proposition.
Possessing limited design skills, I took the initiative to set up a meeting with the company’s designers and head of sales. This was after the CEO extolling the need for teamwork, and so we all assumed we were on the right track. However, the CEO angrily shut the meeting down as he perceived that we were wasting our time. they ordered us to spend more time talking to prospects and gaining a better understanding of their needs before we invested further time on the landing page.
Two weeks later, the firm’s investors were grilling the CEO on how the landing page wasn’t clear. He, in turn, started roasting me for it. I attempted to gently point out that I had tried to work towards solving this some time ago with the designers, but that he had shut it down. He just increased the volume of their shouting. Not only did this dissuade me from further collaborative initiatives, but it also did the same for all other staff present.
Aggression may be necessary on the sports field or in the military. However, in a startup, this leadership style results in higher staff turnover. And, even if people stay, they will tend to self-censor to avoid your wrath — thus killing off the introduction of new ideas. If your goal is to cultivate a creative, innovative, and enthusiastic team that sticks around for longer, then you must learn to manage your emotions and calibrate your communication style.
4. You Think You Know Better Than Them
Unlike other fields, almost everybody fancies themselves as a marketing expert. You likely have strong opinions about specific strategies despite never having done the hands-on work yourself. However, the reality is that even if what you think you know was correct at some time in the past, it is likely outdated by now.
Here are just three examples from recent years that I had to deal with:
Discounting Instagram: In late 2017, despite having just exceeded the 1 billion MAU (monthly active users) milestone, my client was convinced that Instagram was still a niche platform that wouldn’t work for marketing enterprise software. Today, most major enterprise IT brands have a significant presence on Instagram, yet this client is still not there, and so has missed out on gaining mindshare among younger decision-makers and industry influencers.
Relying on Organic Reach: We haven’t had significant organic reach on the major social media platforms since the early 2010s. Furthermore, the amount of high quality and compelling content being published has increased dramatically since then. Nevertheless, in early 2019 a client still expected that they could generate traffic from regular organic posts. They refused to allocate budget for boosting their content to better reach their target audience and wondered why their social media efforts weren’t being noticed.
Building Websites & Blogs: Back in the day, you had to hire a web designer if you wanted a website. And, if you had specialized needs, then you would likely need to hire a developer to get them met. However, nowadays, website builders such as Wix and Weebly are usually adequate and can be handled by non-technical people. Using these services will get you up-and-running quicker and at less cost. In late 2018 I managed to convince a client to go this route, and it freed up their developers to focus on their core SaaS businesses.
Platforms rise and fall. Algorithms change. New tools and services shift paradigms. AI is permeating every platform and increasingly automating tasks — sometimes in unexpected ways. Realize that what you think you know about online marketing is likely incorrect and at least outdated. Ask your marketing person to assume you know nothing and start from the basics in explaining the current landscape and how you should approach it.
5. You Won’t Let Them Use the Tools They Need
SMEs and Early-Stage Startups
These are usually open to new tools and services but are reluctant to pay for them. On many occasions, I’ve had to pay for things myself. For example, outsourcing social media content curation to Quuu, scheduling the posting via Buffer, and outsourcing blog content creation to a freelance writer via Conyac. Not only did I resent it, but later, after leaving, the data in the online account or software was taken with me.
Have a frank and open talk about what your marketing person really needs to do their job. Try to find a balance between tracking costs and avoiding waste versus getting in their way. For example, all login credentials and software licenses must be managed and tracked so that they can be taken over if they leave. And, subscriptions for unused services should be canceled ASAP.
If you’ve been feeling uncomfortable reading this article, knowing that one or more of these situations applies to you, then you’re not alone. In fact, they are so common that they’re considered cliche among marketing professionals.
While you don’t want to let your marketing person run wild and waste money, it can pay to take a step back and reflect on the situation. Try to see if either your approach or your company’s policies might be getting in their way. Take the time to have regular dialogue and at least understand how things work and what the best courses of action are. If you need a second opinion, you can always hire a consultant via the likes of Conyac.
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