Truly Great Marketing Stems From Strong Culture

(Photo credit: Robert Owens)
(Photo credit: Robert Owens)

I frequently preach to my peers at Clickable that the marketing team is NOT the “marketing business unit.” Rather, the marketing team IS the entire company and our external stakeholders. We all contribute to the product, experience and culture that forges our reputation and business success. Departmental structures help drive accountability. But if marketing is not fully embraced as part of everyone’s job, then the firm is strategically disadvantaged.

Which is why I was delighted by three events that occurred at our startup this week. Specifically, three significant marketing and business development contributions came from unexpected places.

The first involved our 15-year-old summer intern, who’s a passionate entrepreneur. He enthusiastically talked us up to one of his classmates, who was interning at a successful lead-generation company across town. That exchange and reputation-building resulted in an upcoming meeting between that company’s CEO and our enterprise platform team. Yes, even the high school intern can make an impact.

The second example involved one of our young, talented engineers. He enthusiastically talked up our startup to a fellow Carnegie Mellon alum, who’s now a rising young associate at one of the most successful private equity firms. This associate happens to be one of the leads on an investment with a major online publisher, which has a significant footprint in one of our core growth markets. My colleague’s reputation-building resulted in an introductory lunch, followed by discovery and exploration of an important partnership opportunity. Yes, even a junior engineer, whose poetry is software code, can spark meaningful corporate development.

Then there’s the small agency that uses our solution to manage its pay-per-click advertising. Our vice president of product development and I met with the agency’s search team to observe them using our product, and bring home frontline insights for our own product innovation. Toward the end of our meeting, the managing partner asked where our business was headed.  We explained that an emerging pedestal of our growth was white-labeling our core technology to service bureaus that manage online advertising for thousands of local businesses. The managing partner said they believed in us, wanted to grow with us, and would like to introduce our firm to one of its clients. This client was looking for a local advertising solution for its 4,000 affiliates. A small agency customer turned out to be the gateway to a meaningful opportunity.

The lesson here is that impact and success can come from unexpected places, especially in marketing. The key is to cultivate an ethos and value system where all your employees, customers and other stakeholders really want to participate in your success. Doing so will lead them to do little things outside of their periphery — the little things that result in your success, and theirs.

Great marketing stems from a strong culture, and it’s everyone’s responsibility and opportunity. At the end of the day, everyone is on the marketing team.

(This also was my latest MediaPost Spin column.)

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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