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 Marketings Bark. The podcast at delivers insight from marketers and entrepreneurs in the trenches in twenty five minutes or less. In the BB SASS marketing world there's a lot of talk about slick strategic plans and an army of marketers to turn plans into action, but many companies have small marketing teams. In fact, some companies have one person marketing teams featuring people who need to do it all. What's life 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, director digital 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 at bubble 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 from like Marketing Cloud Tableau data, Rama, sales and service, just to name a few. But to your point of that question of like, what does a one person marketing team do? What are they responsible for? And I would say more off to the not it could easily bed as you might feel overwhelmed, you might feel it at being a bit daunting at times, especially if you're not prepped to position yourself for success. But the daunting and overwhelming feeling could be very large, especially if you're new to the organization or if that role is also new to the organization. What you'll probably experience is everybody is going 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're probably 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 they want to see on social or in marketing Clateraus, on the website. And of course, one thing that sometimes get often forgotten is we are I'm always faced with that like okay, how do we optimize the user experience? How do we optimize customer experience? So that is probably what will happen if you're joined an organization and there is either a small team or just a one person team, what somebody might like myself has experience in the past. So I've been in the situation where I have come in as the marketing person on a consulting basis. And you're right, the sales guy has something that for to do be done. The CEO has their priorities, the head of sales has their priorities. How do you coordinate all those different ass to make sure that you'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 structure so 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. But to start we have to be strategic. So that would be my number one recommendation. Be Strategic and don't just because of the excitement of all the different business units that there is somebody in that role now, don't just jump into execution, because that will only set you up for potential failure and also divert you from what your end goal is that you're trying to achieve. So one of the things I always say is take the time to really truly understand the business strategy and ensure that you, as the marketer, has have alignment and that you truly understand you know you're that you're spending the time to ask a lot of questions and, more specifically, I find if you're especially if you're new to an organization, spend the time to ask the tough questions that probably a lot of people aren't asking anymore because that you know, like when when I 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 what is that that goal, or you often hear it a marketer say like what's that North Star that we're trying to work towards and what are we trying to achieve? Right, right, and at the end of the day, I always say don't hold back. You probably, I think both of us say this quite a bit, mark if if you're thinking it, somebody else in the room, in the company is probably also thinking about it too, but the question hasn't been publicly stated and more times than one everybody's running a mile a minute, so they haven't had that opportunity to take the pause like you do when you first join, to spend the time to ask the questions and educate. Yeah, and I think, and to that point, about the obvious question. As a marketer, you know, when I say take a step back, I would say take a step back and look at the market research because you know, understand your audience, because maybe maybe there was another previous individual in that row before, years before, and normally what and what naturally happens is that people give you all the old decks, the all the old strategies, all the old presentation. They go here, you go right, you're off to a great start, but time has passed, the environment has change and I always say start again. Take a look at the market research or the current current state. What does it look like? WHO's your audience? And really just stay focused, because you're one person department, so you 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 and draft. You know, what does your marketing strate you look like? But not only just a strategy. How you know what are the measurables that are 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 marketer in a one department, really focus at looking for opportunities to automate the mundane tasks in your marketing department. Huge opportunity because once you free up those, you know, those administration tasks, or look at creating email marketing that you can set up journeys or automations. Great Ray for you to get a journey going 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, you know what the priorities are. So you're all excited to get started, but you're only one person. So the question is, how do you actually get marketing done? How much do you take upon doing yourself, because you've got to be, you know, Jack of all trades. You know five to Al 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 be very honest about that one. Sometimes I've had to just roll up my sleeves and I really had to get in there to start doing the building. Some people may see that being as painful, but especially when you know it's a new maybe it's a new department for that organization, you actually have to start building up the case to get budget. I've started our organization where there were no marketing budget. So how could I even begin to look for contractors if I don't even have the budget to fund it? So normally what I like to do is, you know, roll up my sleeve, focus on that one or two areas that I know my audiences in and really start doing testing and making sure that any testing or any channels or tactics I'm working in on my campaigns that I'm plan having a predict like I'm actually predicting what my forecasts are and also making sure that I'm tracking my results, because at the end of the day, any efforts that I bring in I want to be able to prove what my return on my investments are, because once I start proving that any work that I'm doing is now letting a return, I could take that data and the results to start building out and formulating oh we need to essentially start to be able to scale. I now have the data to prove if we begin to blow it up a little bit more or do do do more with budget? If we had budget, I will be able to scale and be able to have growth revenue because I'm bringing in additional contractors or consultants to help me be able to execute at a faster paced. I think that makes complete sense. But one of the challenges for a lot of marketers who are marketing leaders they see themselves as strategic leaders, as people who will guide the organization through. So they've likely done...

...a lot of the groundwork, they've been in the trenches, they've doing a lot of tactile execution and the danger for our marketing leader is that they want to do that anymore, is that they want to be the strategic leader from above who tells the minions what to do. And I think you're make a good point. Sometimes you have to do both. Sometimes you have to do strategy and you have to actually get get the work done, and I think it's a hard pill for a lot of senior marketers to to accept. I guess one of the questions I would have is once you once you've actually proven your case and your start to hire people, 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 to other 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 start from the foundation, and what I mean by that is what are your core values? What is your core value to you a as the leader, and what'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 we stand by and I would say these core values they're in our DNA, it's it's in us and it's all focused around. One of them is about, you know, being one team. We're strongly, we work and we are stronger together. We're all about being Pashi. But what we do we got we always go above and beyond and making sure that we're able to execute on our initiatives and our projects, you know. At the third one that we have is we have we are humble and confident individuals and we're all about making sure that we have the gratudes through the right attitude, you know. And then the fourth one that we have is we own it. We always have this 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 we love being positive. We always have this drive and never giving up. And the last one is all about doing the right thing, so making sure that you're delivering on our promise. So, of course, when I'm working with freelancers or consulting partners to help me on my initiatives, I'm looking at having having the conversation to go, does this partner or client do their core values a line up with with mine and bubble box, because if there is that synergy and though the drive to deliver on those values and we know that there's going to be a successful relationship. What kind of support do you get from your or management team when you're one person marketing team in terms of not only strategic direction but tactical support. So one of the things that I have found in my experience is that the CEO will say, yes, I'm all about marketing, I want to make marketing happen. And when you look to them to collaborate and engage and give you feedback and ideas, they say to you or 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 to do to make sure that you get buy in and there as vested in marketing as you are? That's a really good...

...question. With bubble box, like I the management team is truly unique. We actually as a team. We dedicate 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 updates of how we're trending towards or Kepis and measurables. But it also gives us the 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 open to having conversation. So we purposely set time aside every week to be able to touch on this. And this is where, as a marketer, I raised my hand to go maybe I've come across this roll block in some of my processes and I and how could I and I seek support. So I go this is my issue, this is what I'm coming across, open to ideas and solutions and at the end of the day, we also make sure that the that we're all focused on the right priorities right. So I need to ensure that when I come to the table and have a conversation, my point is all about my issue right now will have a risk or impact for us to get to our our overall business outcomes. And I find that when you position the priority to the goal that you're all working towards, everybody is willing, and this is what I love about my my leadership team that I get to work with the bubble box. We all come together to ideate and go how do we make sure that we help my team member get to success which at the get at the same time comes to the success of the business as well. Yeah, that sounds like a really good approach in fact that you 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 for people who are running solo, what's your advice in terms of how to structure operations? And I think that's a funny term, because when you're the only person, you're the operation right. So so, what are the pillars for success and and, as important, what are the mistakes that they need to avoid 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 at the end of the day. My biggest recommendation, advice don't become the yes person. Get comfortable saying no right, and you have to get comfortable on asking anybody who's throwing a request at you. You know why rate? Is it because it's strategic and just going to help to to help you grow and get to where your goals are? Or is it because it is that that you 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 put in the request. So, at the end of day, it's getting come to say no, always asking the question to why? Why is it being required? How is it getting us to the key goal? And at the same time, my my biggest thing, which my biggest lesson to learning less than learned through the years, was don't... a yes person. It's hard to say no, to be honest with you, because we are precondition I think maybe I don't know whether marketers are preconditioned specifically, but we're precondition to say yes, yes, I can get that done, yes, that project because not a problem. Yes, I can create that content. And it gets us in trouble sometimes because we overextend ourselves and we're we do things that aren't a priority or aren't directly related to the North Star. Yeah, and it actually prevents you from getting there quicker. Right. So it just becomes that road block when we get into the habit of saying yes. The other thing I want to ask you is what's your own strategy when it comes to marketing? You've established a very solid presence on linkedin. You do some great videos. Like me, you've really sort of embraced Linkedin as the place where you go for networking and do establish your personal brand and to drive leads for bubble box. Talk a little bit about your approach to your own marketing, including Linkedin. What are you doing and how do you do it? I use Linkedin, you know. I think there's many of us during the pandemic where we turn to Linkedin as a way to connect and build relationships. I think 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 my whole thought around Linkedin is it's all about sharing experiences and sharing knowledge. You know, we're all experts and if we're not competing with each other, then what is there? Too High Right, and a lot of it I found with Linkedin is all about driving meaningful conversation. So, just because I may have experience and outcome doing whatever marketing strate your customer experience strategy, I'm always curious to also, you know, share what I experience, but I also want 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 vary vite by industry and a lot of it I found was it drove really engaging conversation 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 you and I actually now I do a little plug for you, like the to two marketers in a Malory on Wednesdays at on clubhouse. Great Opportunity for me just to come and go hey, I've come across this challenge. This is how I think I should approach it. What about you guys? Based off your experience, how would you navigate it? And I just find that that opens up the lens of opportunity and a new way of thinking that traditionally wasn't taken advantage of. We're both based in Toronto, that we've never met each other, 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 globally has expanded in the and the nature of the relationships are dynamic and interesting and engaging and really it is really wonderful. And segueing into clubhouse, because I did want to ask you about that, but I'm curious about your take on post and specifically, I'm hearing a lot...

...of conversations from my clients and bousingout using clubhouse as a thought leadership vehicle. A lot of them are excited about the potential. They're not exactly sure how to leverage it, but they believe that they can. There's a place for them to talk about what's important to them and to connect with likeminded people and create a community. Have you got any thoughts about that take on clubhouse and is it something that bubble box is considering? Yeah, it's definitely. It's definitely all my radar. I find that it's just a great, great area of what clubhouse offers that linkedin currently doesn't is the human interaction for me to be able to hear your voice versus zoom, where there's a lot, I would say probably the last twelve months a lot of individuals have come across zoom fatigue right and now, where you don'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 appreciated is that different individuals are joining on the topics that matter to them and if you can't find a room on the top of that matters to you. You could try to create the opportunity to find people to come to you and have a 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 that I'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 that in it's just a voice. You could hear the excitement, you could hear them flictions in the topics that really matter, which sometimes you don't get when it's just a post text, like a like a text post on Linkedin or an image post. You don't see that. So the sitement, it doesn't for me, 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 struggling with it, and then I start thinking right, there was one time, I think we came across this an Arrow where there was a challenge shop brought was brought up, and I reach back out to you to go what's your problem, because I feel where you're coming from and I would never want to experience that myself. So let's just brainstorm and idea. That would never happen on the linkedin platform on its own at that speed, I would say as well. That's what I find interesting, though, about the marriage between Linkedin and clubhouse. And it's not official yet because clubhouse doesn't link to linkedin yet, but people will have conversations on clubhouse, they'll check out their profile while they're having the conversations, they'll go back to linkedin and connect with them on Linkedin and have been and then drive another conversation, like a private conversation there, and I think it's pretty amazing the way that the two platforms are Mesh together. I don't think there's a MNA marriage. I don't think that's going to happen. I don't even think linkedin is going to launch their own audio version of clubhouse, but I do think the synergies between clubhouse and Linkedin are are really amazing for anybody wants to...

...take advantage of both platforms, which is why we have to be on both platforms to some degree. Where can people learn about you and bubble box? Yeah, so I I could be found 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 really quickly. So feel free, don't don't hesitate, don't be shy, just to a free reach out and connect with me. And if you want to learn 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 trying to bring together a group of marketers to drive an engaging conversation. We also have 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 the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes, spotify or your favorite podcast APP. For Show, notes of today's conversation and information about Nancy, visit marketing spark. Dot Col blog. If you'd like to learn more about how I help BDB SASS companies as a fractional CMO strategic advisor and coach, send an email to mark at marketing spark dotcom. I'll talk to you next time.

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