The Impact of the Digital Marketing Manager – Part Two SMBs

digital marketer swiss army knifeIn Part One, I discussed the areas within Enterprise marketing, public relations, and sales departments that digital marketers now effect. Digital Marketing Managers have even more challenges in SMBs – small and medium-sized businesses. It’s not uncommon for these companies to combine or outsource some of the tasks of multiple departments. Lean resources rule the daily world of the Digital Marketing Manager. Pressure to produce results with teams that are often overworked and minimally supported is common. They are expected to be Swiss-army knives that can do many things well.

Scrappy Teams
The latest buzzword to come out of Silicon Valley is “scrappy”. It’s code for lean to zero resources. A digital marketing manager who is part of a “scrappy team” probably doesn’t have a team at all. They are individual contributors with manager titles. This is becoming more prevalent as funded start-ups further establish their products and move through to B rounds of funding and beyond. They use most of their seed and A round funding to build their product – hiring engineers and developers. Product managers and product marketing are next and often staffed without adequate resources in terms of budget for marketing campaigns and staff. Beyond that, bonuses are small or non-existent usually provided to sales. Equity is a different crap shoot entirely. It’s hard to believe anyone would want to work under these conditions which make it very challenging for companies to attract top talent.

marketing automation brandsAutomation Experts
With limited resources, automation becomes extremely important. Software producers all claim to have the best system for your business. There are copious choices and once made, companies don’t make a change easily. Digital marketers need to have skills working with many of the major names to be in demand today. Most systems work similarly and a sharp digital marketer with deep knowledge of one can quickly learn the others as needed.  Next, they need to understand the components of the campaigns they are developing and aggressively test and measure their performance. (This is the same whether you work for Enterprise or a Mom-and-Pop firm.) Understanding the key elements of your company’s system that will assist in achieving your marketing goals is where art and science blend in digital marketing.

Given small budgets and lean teams, the digital marketer needs to measure each campaign with ruthless indifference.  Building and updating dashboards that your executives can understand is key. (Notice I didn’t say, “that your executives need.” More on this below.) One of the issues the digital marketer will inevitably face is poor data hygiene that interferes with accurate reporting.  This problem was probably unknowingly created when the systems were set up initially.  In an SMB, it’s probably a little easier to correct this evolution as there are fewer layers of management.  In the meantime, digital marketers rely on crunching numbers in spreadsheets and manually populate their reports. This sounds archaic but it’s done all the time. 

APIs and Integration
Fixing data hygiene problems is never easy. The contributing fields need to be identified and either corrected or built. The worst offenses are when fields were initially set as text fields. If there is one thing I wish would be omitted from all database programs is a text field option! Going back to administrators can be very easy, but they need to understand who else in the organization needs that field before making changes. Often it’s sales and sales doesn’t like change. Additionally, the past entries may require edits which means many hours of manual corrections. It’s a long road to clean data.

Stakeholder Management
Rarely is there full buy-in from stakeholders at the SMB level for a well developed and tested marketing solution. Revenue is often the sole focus which puts sales in the driver’s seat. There is little room for failure, which makes for a difficult testing environment. With slim budgets, SMB executives often want digital marketing managers to have the right answer without testing. Anyone with any knowledge of marketing knows testing is imperative to optimal results. This high-wire walk is challenging as marketing is easy to blame and fire. When the digital marketing manager sets realistic expectations and timelines, they may encounter objections and requests to do what they can within the executive’s preferred timeline. If this is done, results can be compromised. The most successful marketers in this position are buddies with the stakeholders. If the CEO is pals with the VP of Sales, it’s only a matter of time before you get blamed for something. Thicken your skin or stay in touch with recruiters!

Training and Continuing Education
Sure, most SMBs embrace attending the big conferences that their software vendors produce. These provide some good learning sessions if you can get into them! It’s not unusual for the best sessions to fill before the first ticket price increase while management still hasn’t decided how many people will be allowed to attend. More important to the digital marketer’s ongoing education are blogs, webinars, and skill specific training. These go on year round and are offered by leaders in particular marketing channels. Quarterly budgets for training are rare and it’s something that should be part of the marketing department overall. Some component of digital marketing’s best-practices changes on average every 5 months.  There is no degree from an accredited university that can replace the ongoing learning that’s required of a good digital marketing manager.

In my personal experience working for both, they each have their pros and cons. However, one thing holds true in both environments the digital marketing manager is a key component in today’s revenue cycle. They matter and they are the cornerstone to how your brand is perceived, the leads you mine and the prospects you close.  How you structure your company to support or hinder their ability to perform is one of the key limitations of their success.

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