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Terminus Blog

November 15, 2021

A Guide To Navigating Startups as a Marketing Leader

Category: FlipMyFunnel Post

It can’t be understated: Being a marketing leader of a startup can be crazy and chaotic. Out of the million tech startups formed every year, only 60% make it to series A, 20% make it to series B, and only 200 go IPO. The good news, however, is that once you make it, you have a strong chance of continued success.

Our guests today, Leela Gill, VP of Marketing & Design at Intelligence Node, and Vijay Damojipurapu, Founder and Principal at Stratyve, share two strategies to help grow your business and reinforce your position as a marketing leader. 

Understanding what makes early stage company success so difficult

If you’re a leader in marketing trying to build a startup, it’s going to come with it’s fair share of hurdles; and with so little chance of success, it’s crucial to know the steps to take to be within the lucky few. For Leela, she connects the scenario to that of baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean while the odds are stacked against them, the turtles that make it will live long and prosperous lives. 

And to drive home just how important marketing is to the success of the business, a startup incubator in the San Francisco Bay area, called Wilbur Labs, recently surveyed over 150 founders. After collecting the results, they found that marketing ranked consistently higher than the product in regards to business success. If you’re looking to invest your time, make sure marketing is on the table. 

Honing in on what specifically a marketer can do 

Leela and Vijay recognize that investors will look at a few key factors when decisions are made: Leadership team skill, product power, market disruption, and how large the market is. While important, they’re looking to help enact change specifically as a marketer.

”We’re going to try to hone in on what you, specifically as a marketing leader, can do to help your company grow and thrive in this crazy competitive world of early stage business.” — Leela Gill

The operating framework

In the same way that we all know some of the more obvious ways to lose weight, like exercise and eating healthier food, the framework that Leela shares might have seemingly obvious, but often ignored, advice. 

Time

Recognized as the first leg of the framework, this means to put together a formal quarterly cadence calendar that speaks to three different groups: The executive stakeholders, specific team members, and customers. 

And, while there’s a high possibility that a similar setup is already in place, Leela warns that those meetings tend to focus on what to sell to the board rather than problem solving. 

Money

Many startups don’t have the luxury of having millions or even one million to spend on marketing. Despite the desire to spend money on everything in the beginning, it’s important to invest in demand gen instead.

”When you have a limited budget, you have to really put the blinders on, focus, and make sure you’re executing that budget in a very prioritized way with respect to the pipeline.” — Leela Gill

Focus

This is more than just goal setting, it’s focusing on your exit criteria what is going to help you survive as you transition to the next stage? If you get to series C, you’ll need to have documented processes in place. 

The growth flywheel

Once you have the framework in place, where do you go from there? There has to be a way to push the boundaries to think and act differently. Vijay’s suggestion: You need an all-star CMO to pave the way for your team.

Winning CMOS are consistent; they know it’s going to take a long time and they’re in it for the long haul.” — Vijay Damojipurapu

After interviewing several exceptional CMO’s, Vijay boiled down the insights: 

  • Content: The currency of a go-to-market machine. Used to earn credibility and trust.

“The content has to be unique, but it also has to be done on a consistent basis,” Vijay explains.

  • Experiences: The CMO’s ability to create memorable events that focus on industry problems or speaking to the competitive ecosystem. 
  • Community: Sharing common pursuits and improving on a daily basis within the organization.

A key takeaway

Creating a successful tech startup can be a near impossible task. Arming yourself with the best strategies, like the operating framework paired with the growth flywheel, can give you the competitive edge that sets you apart from the crowd. 

This post is based on an episode of the #FlipMyFunnel podcast. Check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or here.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Flip My Funnel in your favorite podcast player.

Written by Sangram Vajre

Sangram Vajre is the co-founder and chief evangelist of Terminus, the leader of the account-based marketing (ABM) movement transforming B2B marketing. Before co-founding Terminus, Sangram led the marketing team at Pardot through its acquisition by ExactTarget and then to Salesforce. Sangram is the author of Account-Based Marketing for Dummies and is the mastermind behind #FlipMyFunnel. Follow Sangram on Twitter at @sangramvajre.

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