Companies of all sizes can be faced with high turnover rates for marketing leadership roles. Whether you’re the one hiring for a marketing position or the one applying, it’s critical to have a firm understanding of the role’s key responsibilities and expected performance.
Revell Horsey, PocketSuite’s Director of Strategy and Partnerships, elaborates on how companies and marketers can avoid certain pitfalls that lead to increased turnover in marketing leadership positions.
Hear his thoughts in this episode of our Marketing Expert Chat series.
CAROLINE: Hi, today I am here with Revell Horsey. Revell is a wonderful business leader. He was the founding president of HelloWallet which has been acquired by Morningstar, no big deal here. He also held numerous leadership positions at really large companies, and he is an advisor and board member to startups.
And I’ve had the opportunity to work with him when he was on the board of the start-up I worked at in the past. And so, it is an absolute pleasure to have him join us today. Revell, thank you so much for being with us today.
REVELL: Happy to be here Caroline. Always a pleasure to speak with you.
CAROLINE: Same here. So today my question for you, and thank you for taking the time to help us take this problem apart, is that I’ve read a lot about how, you know, marketing positions have a high turnover, especially at the C-level positions.
And I was curious, to have your thoughts, with your experience working with different size companies, what can cause these positions to have a higher turnover than other C-level positions in an organization?
REVELL:Okay. Sure. I respect the fact that this needs to be brief because we all suffer from ADD. So, I will try and provide you with a succinct and hopefully cogent response. You know, Caroline, my experience with startups has been that’s for sure, the marketing leadership is subject to a lot of turnover. And I think the reason for this is because there oftentimes is a lot of ambiguity and confusion about what the role of marketing is in a young organization that is scaling.
The first mistake that can be made is to hire a marketing leader too early or too soon in the development of the company. And that is an understandable mistake because the founder, the CEO is really anxious and eager to get product to market. And it feels that in order to do that, you have to have somebody who brings lots of marketing chops and that person arrives on the scene, and they will discover that in fact, the product really isn’t ready for prime time yet, and that it’s sort of a premature launch.
And yet as a professional marketer, you know, your job is to, you know, build these campaigns, but the product isn’t really ready for those campaigns. So that is one of the challenges, but I wanna leave that one aside because there’s really nothing that a market leader or marketing leader can do to avoid that pitfall other than to do really good due diligence before you sign on to join the company, just to make sure that is the company really ready for you know, serious marketing effort.
Leaving that aside and interrupt me if I’m not making sense or you have any follow-up questions, but leaving that scenario aside, I think that the other pitfall that marketing leadership often has in a small or a scaling company, is that the leadership team doesn’t really understand the role of marketing and the value that marketing brings to the organization.
And part of the reason for that is because there isn’t sufficient what I’ll call education internal education, where communication between the marketing leadership and the sort of key stakeholders. I always think of these key stakeholders, whether your head of sales or head of product, or the CEO, or head of customer success as you know, your clients and/or your customers and, you know, in my job as if I’m that head of marketing is, I obviously wanna, you know, I wanna help these people succeed.
Where you can get yourself into trouble, though, is if your key, if your important clients, if your internal clients or stakeholders don’t really understand what are reasonable expectations from a marketing effort or from the marketing team, then you know, what can happen is you get misalignment, right?
Because these key stakeholders, their expectations are not sort of not realistic. And oftentimes what will happen is there’ll be an absence of clarity around sort of quantifiable, you know, KPIs, or maybe more simply, how do you define success? And in the absence of having some clarity or some sort of, you know, a report card, you can create a lot of confusion, right?
Because people sort of look at each other and they say, well, like this doesn’t feel like, it doesn’t feel like we’re getting as much bang for our buck as I think we should have gotten. And, you know, and you have to sort of reset expectations and say, well, wait a minute, you know, here are the reasonable expectations you can get based upon, you know, the audience, based upon the spend, based upon the, you know, whatever it is.
But all of this requires a lot of communication and education and I think where small companies tend to break down is, and it’s sort of ironic because by definition, if it’s small, then you should be easy to, for there to be great communication. The problem is that, you know, when you’re in a startup world, everything’s moving so quickly that it’s sort of head down running as fast as you can, and the risk is that you don’t take the time to have the conversations and set the expectations and make sure that everybody sort of is on the same page.
Does that make sense?
CAROLINE: Yeah. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And you said something about establishing KPIs and sending what can be measured and how to be measured and I think, you know, in my experience, it’s really interesting we tend to think that everything is measurable at this point, right. And first of all, it’s not like it takes a lot of like background work to, put all these pieces together and to have your entire marketing funnel be measurable.
So, like, that’s one thing, right? It’s like, whenever you invest in your marketing and you should have this conversation about, is this measurable, and are we okay with the fuzziness that is around this before you invest into it, right? Because sometimes you need to invest in the things that we can’t measure, but I think it’s important to have the conversation first.
REVELL: Yeah. Well, and that also, I think that leads to another consideration, which is, you know, a startup company is in a place or in a stage of development where there’s such a focus on just transactions, like sell, sell, sell, you know, to validate your product and, you know, the value proposition.
And the end marketing is, I think, done properly is less about transactions and more about establishing authenticity and voice in the marketplace. And that’s to your point, I mean, that’s fuzzy, right? That’s fuzzy. It’s also longer term, right? It’s not like you overnight establish authenticity and so the risk is that you know, sort of in the perpetual fire drill mode of, let’s just putting out all the fires, you’re so focused on what’s right in front of you and not sufficiently focused on like, looking through the windshield down the road a little bit.
And yet that’s where, you know, that’s where real marketing happens, right? It’s thinking about, you know, how to establish a brand and identity, a voice and that’s a craft, right? That’s a very careful orchestration that requires, I’m gonna say it requires patience and patience is not something that is a comfortable bedfellow with, you know, with many startup cultures.
CAROLINE: Right. Right. Exactly. Okay.
REVELL: So, what else can I tell you?
CAROLINE: Well, but I guess, you know, what we should all take away from this is that good communication is really key so that we’re not spending our time on the wrong things and that everybody has the same expectation from the marketing team. And that would be good basis to step into a marketing leadership role wherever really small or large companies.
REVELL: Yeah, and I think related to that is make sure as a marketing leader that you’re being hired for the right reasons, right? Because the risk is that the CEO is hiring you as a marketing leader to solve a problem, which is really not a marketing problem, right?
For instance, product market fit right? You know that the CEO may think that the product is right for the market and it’s just a matter of turning on the marketing volume to, you know, so that the dogs eat the dog food.
But too often, it’s not a marketing challenge. It’s not a marketing issue. It’s that the product actually hasn’t yet been adequately tested for the audience, right? And so really important as a marketing leader, to know that you are being asked to fix a problem that is a marketing problem, and that you have the right assets and skills for that job.
CAROLINE: Right. Right. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. All right. Well, Revell thank you so much for your time. I think this was fantastic advice and a lot of food for thoughts for all of us. So, thank you.
REVELL: Thank you, all right Caro. See you soon.
CAROLINE: Bye Bye.