5-Step Game Plan for Scaling Your Startup Marketing Team

Jeff Whatcott on Scaling a Startup Marketing Team | OpenView Labs

 HatchLearn CEO and co-founder Jeff Whatcott shares the keys to building the team you need to dominate the market.

Scaling a marketing team is hard. Jeff Whatcott should know. Over the course of his career, he’s run the gamut — from building out the marketing team at Acquia during its pre-series A startup days to leading the worldwide marketing functions at Brightcove as the public B2B software company’s CMO.
Along the way he’s seen firsthand the impact (and stress) rapid growth and expansion can have on a team. In order to scale successfully, he says marketing leaders need to be able to anticipate, envision, and articulate business requirements across multiple dimensions, and then deploy the right resources at the right time with the right scope to dominate the market.
Simple, right?

5-Step Game Plan for Scaling Your Startup Marketing Team

Before you start expanding, first, you need to know where you’re going. Then you need to get everyone on board. Once those two pieces are in place, you can put your team to work on making that vision a reality. Just remember — at each step in the process, clarity rules.

1) Anticipate

You may not be able to see the future, but as a marketer you can create a very specific picture of what the next scale of your organization looks like, Whatcott explains. You need to understand not only the problems you have today, but also the problems you will have tomorrow. This is critical. Stumbling down the road in the general direction of “bigger” will not cut it. You will get fired.

2) Envision

If you can’t (yet) see that created future, you need to talk to people who can help you envision that future in crystal clear detail. Who in your organization can help provide context, guidance, or forward-looking perspective?

3) Articulate

Once you have the vision, the next step is getting it out of your head so you can convey it clearly to your marketing and management teams. You need to be able to articulate precisely what’s coming next so everyone understands the strategy and knows how they can prepare, why you’re launching the campaigns you’re launching, and hiring the people you’re hiring, etc. This is leadership 101 — you need a vision and then you need your team to align with that vision. This is especially true when it comes to scaling, Whatcott stresses. Without a vision, you’re dead in the water.

4) Think Big Picture

Scaling a marketing team isn’t just about marketing. It’s about business requirements and the overall vision for the company. Marketing shouldn’t be continually surprised by how the company is evolving. As the VP Marketing or CMO, you need to get a seat at the table so you know what’s going on across the multiple dimensions of your organization — the product team, sales, C-suite. Get the insights you need to be proactive and succeed.

5) Right Resources/Right Time/Right Scope

If you’ve done a good job envisioning and articulating your strategy, it will be much easier to build a strong case for acquiring the resources you need to execute it. The fundamental question you always need to be prepared to answer is “why” — why do you need another team member, why are you focusing on this new channel, etc. If you have the “why” locked down, you’ll be able to get to “yes” much more quickly, allowing you to build the team you need and execute when you need to in order to deliver on your vision and dominate the market.

Getting Started: Questions You Need to Answer

There are a number of key questions that Whatcott says any marketing organization planning to scale must ask and answer:

The Most Important Element of Scalable Teams: Adaptability

With Whatcott’s 5-step game plan and your answers to the questions above in place, you should have a solid framework for scaling your organization. That said, Whatcott acknowledges that even the best intentions and most complete due diligence sometimes aren’t enough to keep things going according to plan. There will be mistakes. There will be unexpected twists in the road. Especially during your company’s growth and expansion stages.
That’s why Whatcott believes that one of the most important qualities a CMO can have is adaptability. The key to that? Building a strong culture of agility, versatility, and rapid learning.
In the midst of scaling, who you are as a team matters a lot, Whatcott says. The ability to learn and adapt is key. That means not only being constantly aware of where you are right now, but also of where you need to be tomorrow. To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, you need to determine what you need to do to get to where the puck is going before it gets there.
In short, have a plan, but be ready to adapt, and always be thinking ahead.
Photo by: @Doug88888

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Jeff Whatcott
Jeff Whatcott
_Core Member

Jeff Whatcott is A Underscore Member at Underscore VC, which is a community of entrepreneurs and investors focused on developing cloud intelligence opportunities. Previously he was the CEO and Co-founder of Outlearn, a radically easier way to create, share, and deliver customer online learning for professional software development. He was also the CMO at public B2B software company Brightcove, VP of Marketing at Acquia, and VP of Marketing at Adobe.
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