The Two Simple Things you Have to Do to Succeed

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Last week I had the privilege of hearing Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist Eric McAfee speak at the Startup Summit in Edinburgh, a day packed with startup and entrepreneurial inspiration organised by the visionary folk at We Are The Future.

Eric McAffee is a wonderful storyteller and shared with the audience some of the experiences he’s encountered in his professional journey. He also gave us his view on what it takes to succeed. His advice is easy to apply to pretty much every situation, but let me focus on what it means to marketers.

According to Eric McAffee, successful individuals systematically do both of these things to get ahead:

1) Add value

To succeed, you must stop thinking in terms of how things have always been and come up with ways to add value. Simple.

For us marketers this means ensuring all our activites are adding value to the organisation. In other words, making sure that every single penny of the marketing budget we spend goes towards exactly that.

Scary? I know. But if we want to move away from the perception of marketing as a cost centre, that’s exactly what we need to do. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Focus. Go back to the drawing table. Look at your audience and what they want, then give them exactly that. Carry out a marketing audit to identify any gaps. Invest your efforts, resources and budget in what you know for sure that will add value from day one.
  • Measure, measure, measure. Put the necessary metrics in place to track your marketing activity and link it to the pipeline and sales performance data. Get used to measuring the return on marketing investment (ROMI), at least for your bigger campaigns.
  • Be ruthless. If something in your plan isn’t delivering, get rid of it. Even if you’ve done it for the last 15 years; if it doesn’t add value it has to go. Make sure your biz team is aware of this strategy; even better, make it a joint challenge to identify what can stay and what can’t.

2) Lead people

Eric McAffee’s second key to success is as simple as becoming a leader. And how do you become one? By making people want to work with you. It makes sense: leaders are inspiring, motivating, positive people – who wouldn’t want to work with one, be it as a client, supplier or team member?

For marketers this means ‘selling’ ourselves within our organisation, which is something most of us aren’t very good at – we’re generally too busy marketing the company to blow our own trumpets.

So, what can marketers do to turn things around and be seen as leaders?

  • Build strong business cases, particularly when drafting budgets. If you’ve done your homework (see point 1) you’ll have tons of data you can use. Get comfortable with the language of the CEO/MD/CFO/FD. Provided that the numbers add up, they’ll take you a lot more seriously.
  • Raise the profile of marketing. Now you’ve demonstrated the value marketing, convince senior management to give it more visibility within the business. Aim for a seat at the top table. It’s amazing the number of organisations that don’t have a marketer in their exec board.
  • Align (and aim to lead) sales & marketing. Quite a few companies already see both functions as a single one, so why not leverage this? Sell the idea to biz dev. If it means less headaches and higher commissions, they’ll love you. If not, they’ll have someone to blame.

As McAffee said at the end of his chat, remember to regularly ask yourself: do I add value? Do I lead people? Only an honest answer will help you on your path to success.

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