How to be a One-Person B2B SaaS Marketing Department


Marketing is hard.

It's even more challenging when you're the lone marketer.

You need to strategize, coordinate, tactically execute, and organize. 

In other words, you have to be a multi-task player.

On the Marketing Spark podcast, Nancy Kwan talks about life as a solo marketer.

One of her biggest pieces of advice: "Don't become a yes person. Be comfortable saying no."

Nancy says that solo marketers need to be strategic and ask tough questions before committing to anything.

I'm Mark Evans and welcome to MarketingsBark. The podcast at delivers insight from marketers and entrepreneurs in the trenches intwenty five minutes or less. In the BB SASS marketing world there's a lotof talk about slick strategic plans and an army of marketers to turn plans intoaction, but many companies have small marketing teams. In fact, some companieshave one person marketing teams featuring people who need to do it all. What'slife for these marketers? How do they do their jobs when they're flying solo? To discover the secrets to success, I'm talking with Nancy Quan, directordigital marketing at bubble box. Welcome to marketings bark. Thanks, bark,for having me. Let's start by having you tell me about your job.I'm interested in understanding firsthand what it's like to be the marketing department. Yes, absolutely, I'm like you said, I'm the director of digital marketing atbubble box. A little bit of a background where a salespurce consulting partner,helping organizations integrate and continuously optimize their salesporce instance. So this includes anything fromlike Marketing Cloud Tableau data, Rama, sales and service, just to namea few. But to your point of that question of like, what doesa one person marketing team do? What are they responsible for? And Iwould say more off to the not it could easily bed as you might feeloverwhelmed, you might feel it at being a bit daunting at times, especiallyif you're not prepped to position yourself for success. But the daunting and overwhelmingfeeling could be very large, especially if you're new to the organization or ifthat role is also new to the organization. What you'll probably experience is everybody isgoing to be coming to you at that company with all their ideas,you know, the latest trends that they're reading on and what's happening. They'reprobably putting in the request mainly because maybe they didn't have a person there before. So they're all coming with their backlogs of great ideas and things that theywant to see on social or in marketing Clateraus, on the website. Andof course, one thing that sometimes get often forgotten is we are I'm alwaysfaced with that like okay, how do we optimize the user experience? Howdo we optimize customer experience? So that is probably what will happen if you'rejoined an organization and there is either a small team or just a one personteam, what somebody might like myself has experience in the past. So I'vebeen in the situation where I have come in as the marketing person on aconsulting basis. And you're right, the sales guy has something that for todo be done. The CEO has their priorities, the head of sales hastheir priorities. How do you coordinate all those different ass to make sure thatyou're not running in different directions that people don't know what paged you're on,what you're orties are? How do you...

...get that initial buy in and structureso that you're doing the right things at the right time for the right people? I would say my biggest advice take a step back and slow down.Just constantly remind yourself those two, those two pieces of a vice. Butto start we have to be strategic. So that would be my number onerecommendation. Be Strategic and don't just because of the excitement of all the differentbusiness units that there is somebody in that role now, don't just jump intoexecution, because that will only set you up for potential failure and also divertyou from what your end goal is that you're trying to achieve. So oneof the things I always say is take the time to really truly understand thebusiness strategy and ensure that you, as the marketer, has have alignment andthat you truly understand you know you're that you're spending the time to ask alot of questions and, more specifically, I find if you're especially if you'renew to an organization, spend the time to ask the tough questions that probablya lot of people aren't asking anymore because that you know, like when whenI say ask a tough question, it's not. It's not a hard question, it's the question of why, you know, why are we doing this? What are we working towards, and truly spend that time to understand whatis that that goal, or you often hear it a marketer say like what'sthat North Star that we're trying to work towards and what are we trying toachieve? Right, right, and at the end of the day, Ialways say don't hold back. You probably, I think both of us say thisquite a bit, mark if if you're thinking it, somebody else inthe room, in the company is probably also thinking about it too, butthe question hasn't been publicly stated and more times than one everybody's running a milea minute, so they haven't had that opportunity to take the pause like youdo when you first join, to spend the time to ask the questions andeducate. Yeah, and I think, and to that point, about theobvious question. As a marketer, you know, when I say take astep back, I would say take a step back and look at the marketresearch because you know, understand your audience, because maybe maybe there was another previousindividual in that row before, years before, and normally what and whatnaturally happens is that people give you all the old decks, the all theold strategies, all the old presentation. They go here, you go right, you're off to a great start, but time has passed, the environmenthas change and I always say start again. Take a look at the market researchor the current current state. What does it look like? WHO's youraudience? And really just stay focused, because you're one person department, soyou can't you can't dabble in every single area. So then, you know, look at your look at your competitors, and start formulating and putting together anddraft. You know, what does your marketing strate you look like?But not only just a strategy. How you know what are the measurables thatare going to align to the business strategies... get you to to secede.And then, if I had a second piece of a vice as a marketerin a one department, really focus at looking for opportunities to automate the mundanetasks in your marketing department. Huge opportunity because once you free up those,you know, those administration tasks, or look at creating email marketing that youcan set up journeys or automations. Great Ray for you to get a journeygoing so that frees up your time to focus on other areas as well.You've got the North Star determined, or you focus on the North Star.You've got your strategy in place, you've talked to the key stakeholders, youknow what the priorities are. So you're all excited to get started, butyou're only one person. So the question is, how do you actually getmarketing done? How much do you take upon doing yourself, because you've gotto be, you know, Jack of all trades. You know five toAl Player, and how much do you allocate to freelancers and contractors and consultants, third parties who can help you with tactical execution? Yeah, I'll bevery honest about that one. Sometimes I've had to just roll up my sleevesand I really had to get in there to start doing the building. Somepeople may see that being as painful, but especially when you know it's anew maybe it's a new department for that organization, you actually have to startbuilding up the case to get budget. I've started our organization where there wereno marketing budget. So how could I even begin to look for contractors ifI don't even have the budget to fund it? So normally what I liketo do is, you know, roll up my sleeve, focus on thatone or two areas that I know my audiences in and really start doing testingand making sure that any testing or any channels or tactics I'm working in onmy campaigns that I'm plan having a predict like I'm actually predicting what my forecastsare and also making sure that I'm tracking my results, because at the endof the day, any efforts that I bring in I want to be ableto prove what my return on my investments are, because once I start provingthat any work that I'm doing is now letting a return, I could takethat data and the results to start building out and formulating oh we need toessentially start to be able to scale. I now have the data to proveif we begin to blow it up a little bit more or do do domore with budget? If we had budget, I will be able to scale andbe able to have growth revenue because I'm bringing in additional contractors or consultantsto help me be able to execute at a faster paced. I think thatmakes complete sense. But one of the challenges for a lot of marketers whoare marketing leaders they see themselves as strategic leaders, as people who will guidethe organization through. So they've likely done...

...a lot of the groundwork, they'vebeen in the trenches, they've doing a lot of tactile execution and the dangerfor our marketing leader is that they want to do that anymore, is thatthey want to be the strategic leader from above who tells the minions what todo. And I think you're make a good point. Sometimes you have todo both. Sometimes you have to do strategy and you have to actually getget the work done, and I think it's a hard pill for a lotof senior marketers to to accept. I guess one of the questions I wouldhave is once you once you've actually proven your case and your start to hirepeople, it's all about how do you manage people who are inside the organization, who are as vested as you are, who aren't drinking the Kol Aid?How do you make sure that they're focused on your work as opposed toother clients as well? Yeah, that's a that's a really good question.I think it actually not even I think I know. It has to startfrom the foundation, and what I mean by that is what are your corevalues? What is your core value to you a as the leader, andwhat's the core value to your organization? Right, and you know it.I'll use bubble boxes as an example. We have six core values that westand by and I would say these core values they're in our DNA, it'sit's in us and it's all focused around. One of them is about, youknow, being one team. We're strongly, we work and we arestronger together. We're all about being Pashi. But what we do we got wealways go above and beyond and making sure that we're able to execute onour initiatives and our projects, you know. At the third one that we haveis we have we are humble and confident individuals and we're all about makingsure that we have the gratudes through the right attitude, you know. Andthen the fourth one that we have is we own it. We always havethis mentality of we got it, so we're going to commit to something.We always see it through. It's all about also our energy is so welove being positive. We always have this drive and never giving up. Andthe last one is all about doing the right thing, so making sure thatyou're delivering on our promise. So, of course, when I'm working withfreelancers or consulting partners to help me on my initiatives, I'm looking at havinghaving the conversation to go, does this partner or client do their core valuesa line up with with mine and bubble box, because if there is thatsynergy and though the drive to deliver on those values and we know that there'sgoing to be a successful relationship. What kind of support do you get fromyour or management team when you're one person marketing team in terms of not onlystrategic direction but tactical support. So one of the things that I have foundin my experience is that the CEO will say, yes, I'm all aboutmarketing, I want to make marketing happen. And when you look to them tocollaborate and engage and give you feedback and ideas, they say to youor I I'm too busy for that, I'm too busy driving product in sales, and so you're left to your own devices. What do you need todo to make sure that you get buy in and there as vested in marketingas you are? That's a really good...

...question. With bubble box, likeI the management team is truly unique. We actually as a team. Wededicate a specific time during the week and our model is you cannot decline it, you cannot you you have to make every effort to show up to this, this weekly meeting, and this is where we are giving our status updatesof how we're trending towards or Kepis and measurables. But it also gives usthe opportunity for us to identify issues and have a conversation around. Well,what is that issue? Where's the root problem coming from, and be opento having conversation. So we purposely set time aside every week to be ableto touch on this. And this is where, as a marketer, Iraised my hand to go maybe I've come across this roll block in some ofmy processes and I and how could I and I seek support. So Igo this is my issue, this is what I'm coming across, open toideas and solutions and at the end of the day, we also make surethat the that we're all focused on the right priorities right. So I needto ensure that when I come to the table and have a conversation, mypoint is all about my issue right now will have a risk or impact forus to get to our our overall business outcomes. And I find that whenyou position the priority to the goal that you're all working towards, everybody iswilling, and this is what I love about my my leadership team that Iget to work with the bubble box. We all come together to ideate andgo how do we make sure that we help my team member get to successwhich at the get at the same time comes to the success of the businessas well. Yeah, that sounds like a really good approach in fact thatyou look at marketing as a partnership as opposed to you're the marketing department,you make it happen. One of the things that I'm interested in is forpeople who are running solo, what's your advice in terms of how to structureoperations? And I think that's a funny term, because when you're the onlyperson, you're the operation right. So so, what are the pillars forsuccess and and, as important, what are the mistakes that they need toavoid if they're going to run efficiently, if they're not going to be working, you know, seven hundred and twenty four and tearing their hair out atthe end of the day. My biggest recommendation, advice don't become the yesperson. Get comfortable saying no right, and you have to get comfortable onasking anybody who's throwing a request at you. You know why rate? Is itbecause it's strategic and just going to help to to help you grow andget to where your goals are? Or is it because it is that thatyou know, what's that saying? The Shiny Objects Syndrome or the FOMO right, the fear of missing out? Is that why people are coming to putin the request. So, at the end of day, it's getting cometo say no, always asking the question to why? Why is it beingrequired? How is it getting us to the key goal? And at thesame time, my my biggest thing, which my biggest lesson to learning lessthan learned through the years, was don't... a yes person. It's hardto say no, to be honest with you, because we are precondition Ithink maybe I don't know whether marketers are preconditioned specifically, but we're precondition tosay yes, yes, I can get that done, yes, that projectbecause not a problem. Yes, I can create that content. And itgets us in trouble sometimes because we overextend ourselves and we're we do things thataren't a priority or aren't directly related to the North Star. Yeah, andit actually prevents you from getting there quicker. Right. So it just becomes thatroad block when we get into the habit of saying yes. The otherthing I want to ask you is what's your own strategy when it comes tomarketing? You've established a very solid presence on linkedin. You do some greatvideos. Like me, you've really sort of embraced Linkedin as the place whereyou go for networking and do establish your personal brand and to drive leads forbubble box. Talk a little bit about your approach to your own marketing,including Linkedin. What are you doing and how do you do it? Iuse Linkedin, you know. I think there's many of us during the pandemicwhere we turn to Linkedin as a way to connect and build relationships. Ithink that was tremendously being missed by a lot of people during the pandemic,but I found linkedin was a great place just to share ideas and my mywhole thought around Linkedin is it's all about sharing experiences and sharing knowledge. Youknow, we're all experts and if we're not competing with each other, thenwhat is there? Too High Right, and a lot of it I foundwith Linkedin is all about driving meaningful conversation. So, just because I may haveexperience and outcome doing whatever marketing strate your customer experience strategy, I'm alwayscurious to also, you know, share what I experience, but I alsowant to see and hear what did other people experience, because it could vary, it could be it could vary from country to country, it could varyvite by industry and a lot of it I found was it drove really engagingconversation with people that I didn't have access to, like you and I mark. We had never met before Linkedin and now I'm very comfortable just tapping youand I actually now I do a little plug for you, like the totwo marketers in a Malory on Wednesdays at on clubhouse. Great Opportunity for mejust to come and go hey, I've come across this challenge. This ishow I think I should approach it. What about you guys? Based offyour experience, how would you navigate it? And I just find that that opensup the lens of opportunity and a new way of thinking that traditionally wasn'ttaken advantage of. We're both based in Toronto, that we've never met eachother, although I think we have a relationship now, which is pretty amazing, given the fact that so much happens virtually digitally and that my network globallyhas expanded in the and the nature of the relationships are dynamic and interesting andengaging and really it is really wonderful. And segueing into clubhouse, because Idid want to ask you about that, but I'm curious about your take onpost and specifically, I'm hearing a lot...

...of conversations from my clients and bousingoutusing clubhouse as a thought leadership vehicle. A lot of them are excited aboutthe potential. They're not exactly sure how to leverage it, but they believethat they can. There's a place for them to talk about what's important tothem and to connect with likeminded people and create a community. Have you gotany thoughts about that take on clubhouse and is it something that bubble box isconsidering? Yeah, it's definitely. It's definitely all my radar. I findthat it's just a great, great area of what clubhouse offers that linkedin currentlydoesn't is the human interaction for me to be able to hear your voice versuszoom, where there's a lot, I would say probably the last twelve monthsa lot of individuals have come across zoom fatigue right and now, where youdon't want to see each other's faces, we don't want to jump on zoom, going to turn on the camp but I found clubhouse. What I've appreciatedis that different individuals are joining on the topics that matter to them and ifyou can't find a room on the top of that matters to you. Youcould try to create the opportunity to find people to come to you and havea conversation, but at the same time I'm now hearing a person's voice.I'm just through conversation that we're I'ming establishing the trust, and then after thatI've gone often gone back into linkedin or other platforms and continued the conversation,which I wouldn't have gotten if I didn't get that slight human interaction that thatin it's just a voice. You could hear the excitement, you could hearthem flictions in the topics that really matter, which sometimes you don't get when it'sjust a post text, like a like a text post on Linkedin oran image post. You don't see that. So the sitement, it doesn't forme, it just cultivates an energy that I need to thrive off off, and maybe that's a marketing thing, but I just I just love it. where I'm going on, like when I hear your voice on Clubhouse,I'm like, he is excited or oh, I feel his pain because he's strugglingwith it, and then I start thinking right, there was one time, I think we came across this an Arrow where there was a challenge shopbrought was brought up, and I reach back out to you to go what'syour problem, because I feel where you're coming from and I would never wantto experience that myself. So let's just brainstorm and idea. That would neverhappen on the linkedin platform on its own at that speed, I would sayas well. That's what I find interesting, though, about the marriage between Linkedinand clubhouse. And it's not official yet because clubhouse doesn't link to linkedinyet, but people will have conversations on clubhouse, they'll check out their profilewhile they're having the conversations, they'll go back to linkedin and connect with themon Linkedin and have been and then drive another conversation, like a private conversationthere, and I think it's pretty amazing the way that the two platforms areMesh together. I don't think there's a MNA marriage. I don't think that'sgoing to happen. I don't even think linkedin is going to launch their ownaudio version of clubhouse, but I do think the synergies between clubhouse and Linkedinare are really amazing for anybody wants to...

...take advantage of both platforms, whichis why we have to be on both platforms to some degree. Where canpeople learn about you and bubble box? Yeah, so I I could befound on Linkedin. If you just look up my name, Nancy Quan,and type in bubble box, you'll probably be able to find me ver reallyquickly. So feel free, don't don't hesitate, don't be shy, justto a free reach out and connect with me. And if you want tolearn more about bubble box, we do have a linkedin page as well.So just type in bubble box and you'll see the sales source consulting partner page. Highly encourage you guys to follow us again. This is where we're tryingto bring together a group of marketers to drive an engaging conversation. We alsohave a website, so if you just type in bubble box dot cloud,you'll be able to learn more about our expertise there. Thanks, Nancy,and thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed theconversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes, spotify or your favorite podcastAPP. For Show, notes of today's conversation and information about Nancy, visitmarketing spark. Dot Col blog. If you'd like to learn more about howI help BDB SASS companies as a fractional CMO strategic advisor and coach, sendan email to mark at marketing spark dotcom. I'll talk to you next time.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (81)