Marketers often find themselves on an island. No, I don’t mean wonderful President’s Club trips (we’re never invited to those). I mean working alone. This is one of those skillsets we just have to master. But we’re not alone. A ton of B2B roles find themselves alone, especially in smaller companies. Field sales, HR, accounting, legal – they can all be stranded on an island, expected to do the work of 12 people with the accuracy of IBM’s Watson.
But the big question is how do you do that?
This post is not about how to get your boss to hire more people or how to lower expectations. It’s about truly dominating your field – all by yourself.
1: Make a Plan
If you’re going to be stranded on an island, you should probably start making a list of what you need to do.
- Build a shelter
- Find food
- Figure out how to make fire…
You get the point.
In work it’s no different. For marketing, that plan is fairly straight forward. Their called “marketing plans” and you spent 4 years in college doing nothing but preparing for them. In large organizations marketing plans are usually a luxury. They are time consuming, cumbersome, and the only people who care about them are the people on your team. Many small or medium B2B companies will tell you they are a waste of time too, but don’t listen. When you are doing everything on your own, your marketing plan is your saving grace.
A well crafted marketing plan can do many things.
- Create buy-in from executives on time spent, budget, priorities, etc
- Define where you want to focus your efforts
- Show exactly how big an undertaking many campaigns can be
- Document your value to the company
It doesn’t have to be the massive business document you designed in school. When you’re a department of one, you can skip a lot of the pageantry and get straight to the point. Here is the outline I use:
- What I accomplished last quarter/year.
- My goals for next quarter/year.
- Marketing Mix
I don’t need to go through SWOT or Competitive Analysis. I can just speak to those when asked. The only people who ever read those are marketing anyway. I dare you to find a small business executive who wants to read marketing’s SWOT analysis. Go on, I’ll wait.
The other thing I highly recommend is writing them on a quarterly basis. Business moves too fast for an annual marketing plan. It normally takes about 3 months to throw them out anyway. Do them in 3-6 month increments and they’ll be much more useful.
2: You are the expert – Act like it.
If you are running a department by yourself, it is your job to execute. No one wants to babysit you and no one has the skill set to help. You are the expert – act like it.
This is one of the reasons I love my quarterly plans so much. I can take the time to think through what I want to do and why, rather than being put on the spot every 30 seconds when someone has a question. Planning breeds confidence, which breeds trust.
Pro-Tip: Ultimately the trust of those around you enables you to dominate a department of one. If they don’t trust you, you cannot lead.
Keep one thing in mind. Experts don’t know everything. They just know more than everyone else in the room. I am not the world’s foremost expert on marketing. But I am the expert on my team. And if I don’t know an answer, my expertise tells me how to find it. And 99% of the time, that’s good enough.
3: Know Your Limits
I had a VP once who called me “Wonder Woman”. The nickname was so prevalent that for secret Santa one year he actually gave me a pair of Wonder Woman pajamas (they are insanely comfortable). He gave me this nickname mostly because of the sheer volume of work I could churn out in a small amount of time. This ended up being my downfall. I got overconfident and determined to do anything and everything to succeed. I over committed. I made mistakes. And because I moved so fast, it took a while before anyone (including me) realized.
It was embarrassing, but the entire experience taught me a very clear and simple lesson – know your limits. Had I simply pushed back and told him I was going to start dropping balls if I took on any more work, he would have probably backed off or taken something off my plate. Just because I’m the resident “expert” does not make me a superhero. I can make mistakes and I can forget things, just like everyone else. Part of being an expert is knowing how far you can go before you have nothing left to give. It’s a hard lesson, but a critically important one. Especially when you’re all alone.
Working alone does not have to be a death sentence. You have all the creative and prioritization freedom in the world. The question is whether you will rise to the occasion.