Marketing Your Startup

with Alice Lankester

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Making the most of your team

Alice Lankester

Startup Marketing Executive, Silicon Valley Veteran, Entrepreneur Enthusiast

Lessons Learned

Sales can give marketing great feedback, and marketing can help sales close quicker.

The best teams focus on amplifying the things we are good at and mentoring around our weaknesses.


Lesson: Marketing Your Startup with Alice Lankester

Step #3 Strengths: Making the most of your team

Sales will say marketing wastes money, and marketing will say sales doesn't know what I do. It's okay. So the sales organizations that I've worked best with are ones that work really in lockstep with marketing. I'm fond of saying sales people are born and not made. Sales people are real hunters and they go out and they relentlessly pursue the sale in a way that is admirable and absolutely imitable. Really great salespeople are good at that.

What does marketing do to support them is the question. So if you can build a good relationship with sales and say, where are you finding that the sales question is breaking down. Where do you need the proof points? What are the questions they're asking? You're trying to make it a sale, what are the questions you get asked most often.

It could be, how do you compare with XYZ company? How do you prove that you deliver ROI? How do you show that you're increasing productivity? There are questions that somebody who a salesperson is talking to is going to ask that salesperson. That salesperson, if they're good, will bluster their way through an answer, but it's probably better if they actually have decent materials to go along with it.

So I see myself, when I work with sales, as a way to learn from sales. They're asked. They're out talking to customers. Customers are asking them questions and it is my job to make that salesperson deliver better. So that salesperson is going out and selling and what can I give that salesperson to make that sale close quicker. So ideally, it's going work really well. It doesn't always, but it should.

Every company has, particularly in the small team, people on their team who exhibit particular strengths and particular weaknesses and you don't know what they are until they appear. You suddenly find that one of your colleagues whose brain is so big that when you sit next to him or her, you can hear it working, and they are so brilliant, are absolutely hopeless at communicating. You find somebody else is a great communicator, but is really bad at prioritizing.

If we were all good at everything, it would be a really boring world we live in. Everybody is good at something. I really hope that the best teams focus on mentoring the things that people are good at, and trying to really promote the things they're good at, and to mentor, to improve the things they're not so good at, or to work around them and to acknowledge them.

Say look, you're not as good as you would like to be in keeping your rally backlog up to date. How can we make that better? Could you have somebody helping you do it? Would you like me to meet with you every day and go through it. What are the processes you need to go through because this is a critical function. People will usually step up to that. People are surprisingly aware of what their weaknesses are; good people. You work around it. You can mentor people around it.

Then, I find that there are jewels in small companies. I hired, at a recent company, I hired a history graduate as an intern one summer. He was very smart from an Ivy League school and I hired him for the summer. Then I hired him full time because it turned out he was incredibly good at analytics. Who would know this because he went to an Ivy League school and studied history? Like it was not a terribly analytical subject. But I had given him some jobs to do to help sales come up with some post-campaign analysis, like what worked in this campaign and what didn't. He developed PowerPoints and all this kind of stuff and he had to go through data and so forth.

He was really good at it. Suddenly he said, boy, I really like this. I'm really good at analytics. I can sit down and get it done. Look out for things like that, because now he's working full time on doing all the analytics and he was a history student. Up until six months before, he was just learning about Hundred Years War or whatever it was he learning about. So be very aware. Not everybody's good at everything, and nurture and help circumvent and acknowledge. It's okay, I mean they're good at one thing. They may not be good at everything.

What services do you outsource that are so specialized that you really don't know how to do it. So SEO is a good example of this. It's an ever changing skill. My feeling about it is that I know enough about SEO to know that it's important, but there is no way I could spend all day long staying up to speed on it. It would be ridiculous. I would never do anything else.

So I know it's important. I know it's specialized and I know that there are phases to do. So I might do a couple of things. It depends how much money I have to spend. I've worked with companies where I've sent a particularly bright person off on two days of training. You can get these, just like you get Agile training. You can go and get SEO training and you can bring it in-house. That's ideal really, because this is part of the intellectual capital of a company. If somebody in-house knows it and they show a real interest and affinity for it, train them up.

Now it could be that they could work in collaboration with an external company who can say that they can improve it. But I question whether those really work. You have to go test it. Put an incognito window up on Chrome. Search. See where you get listed. See what people are searching for. You do a lot of figuring out, and you understand, and then you come up with the results. So maybe a combination. Build it in-house. Do some training. Spend money on training. Find someone in your company who really likes that kind of stuff. Train them up, and then maybe bring in some experts that help them and make them a better internal employee because that all changes.

The same with running Google ads. I mean this is a hugely specialized thing, and people just build whole businesses around it. So it really depends on the company and how much money they have. If they have a lot of money to spend and they want to go hire an external company to do it. Great. Just make sure that somebody inside is managing them well.

I find that external companies that you hire for services are only as good as the company internally that you manage that manages them. If you're spending $15,000 a month on a PR agency, you better have somebody in-house who's managing them to a set of achievable goals, and is meeting with them regularly and making sure they're staying on task. Otherwise, you might as well just flush that money away.

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