Marketing, in its essence, is wasteful. Teams invest time and money on activities to make revenue or achieve other traction-related goals. So to fix the wasteful nature of marketing, all we should do is measure the effects of our campaigns, right?
The roughly $3 billion marketing analytics industry would agree: just measure the results and adapt.
But is that where all the waste lies?
After seven years in marketing, I’m convinced it’s not the whole picture. A lot of marketing waste lies in how marketing teams are structured.
Every non-marketer startup founder knows how hard it is to hire a great first marketing hire. How do you evaluate them? How do you know what they are suggesting or doing is correct? When the time comes to scale, who do you hire next?
I’m sure most marketers working in bigger teams can relate: there always seems to be someone on the team who does God knows what yet takes home a nice salary. Even worse, some markets have felt this way about themselves, and they might be right!
That’s where the waste lies – it’s not in just the campaign budgets – many B2B SaaS teams don’t even invest in paid traffic! So what’s the solution to this side of marketing waste, and how do we go about fixing it?
What would be the ideal marketing management framework?
To solve the “team structure” waste in marketing, let’s first understand the requirements. We need a framework that will give everyone on the team an insight into why and what is being done.
This framework should also have ways to experiment with different tactics and learn what works and does not work. It needs to have team alignment and discussions around these learnings and very clear action items from what’s learned.
Ideally, it’s scalable and can sustain a team of 3 marketers or a 100. So it must grow with the company, and what if it could even tell teams who to hire next?
Practically, this framework should be something that established companies can “buy into” slowly over time, but newer companies can adapt right away and run their marketing with.
The Zumvie marketing framework
So here it is. Seven years in marketing, working on B2C and B2B products, leading teams, and being a part of teams. This framework is how I suggest marketing teams organize themselves.
The beauty of this framework is that it will address almost all of the requirements we discussed under the previous title: it tells you what to do next what to stop doing, and it aligns everyone in the team around these conclusions.
1. A scrum board.
Scrum and agile are very popular with software development. There’s an obvious reason: developers cost money (a lot of it), so they need to organize well not to waste anything. So while not 100% of the marketing budget goes into team members’ salaries, a significant portion does.
We will be taking this element from software engineers: you will need to set up a scrum board. You can do this on most project management tools: from Jira and Trello to Asana and Clickup.
By default, your board’s columns will look something like this:
But over time, you will adapt it and add columns that make sense for your team. This is what mine looks like:
2. Adding tasks to the backlog.
Before tasks are moved to the “to do” column, they go into the “backlog”. The backlog is where tasks sit on before they are assigned to anyone or before it’s decided that work on the given task should begin.
Every time there is a new task, it goes into the backlog, and you can let it sit there for as long as it needs to.
3. Different types of tasks.
Every single task in your backlog will fall under one of these categories:
- Concrete growth channel.
- Growth channel support.
In most project management tools, you should be able to assign a tag or a color to indicate the category of the given task. For example, in Jira, I’m using the “epic” tags.
Be sure that each task in your backlog gets put into one of the categories. Let’s zoom in on these 3 categories:
- Experiments: anyone in the team can drop ideas on the backlog, and everyone in the team should be encouraged to put in as many experiment ideas as possible. You can clean up and delete duplicate ideas regularly.
- Concrete growth channel: these are no longer ideas but proven ways for your company to grow. They are proven in that they began as experiments and were proven to work or are generally accepted and known to work.
- Growth channel support: these are tasks designed to automate marketing and marketing reporting and generally support the other two categories. They are not limited to technical tasks, but they tend to be technical tasks.
4. Two-week sprints.
Sprint might sound foreign to many marketing folks, but they are the key to this framework and perhaps generally the missing bit in organizing marketing teams.
Every two weeks, you will take items out of the “backlog” and put them into the sprint to replace completed tasks. It’s okay if a task keeps sitting in the backlog for a long time.
Adding a task to the sprint or leaving it on the backlog will be a decision by the team lead or the whole team. You can use tools to vote on what tasks people think are the most important.
Deciding together as a team and letting the team lead do the sprint planning has pros and cons. That’s a story for a different article, though, and here’s your chance to keep in touch:
Now that we have your email, we can continue with the framework 🙂
5. Getting to concrete growth channel tasks.
As you or your team plans the sprint, you will see all the possible tasks you could be working on. The framework becomes very useful if we consider the three task categories.
If you know that there are certain things you can be doing to increase growth and they will work: you do them. These are the concrete growth channel tasks. But what do you do if you don’t have too many concrete growth channel tasks?
You add in a bunch of experiments from the backlog to the sprint. Hopefully, you will turn some of these experiments into concrete things someone on the team can do over and over again.
Your goal is to be good at experimenting and coming up with ideas. If you succeed, you will eventually have too many “proven” tasks you could be doing. If that becomes the case, this framework has you covered.
6. Sustaining and hiring for concrete growth tasks.
After every sprint, you will be evaluating how each of the experiment tasks went and if you can turn them into concrete tasks. You don’t have to conclude on experiment tasks right away; they can be played around with for multiple sprints if needed.
After every sprint, you will also look at the concrete growth channel tasks and see how many more sprints you can sustain them.
Some concrete growth channel tasks (such as paid ads) might be sustained for months, if not years, into the future. Others, such as temporary growth hacks or one-time tasks (e.g., submitting your SaaS app to G2 type of directories), might have work to do for just a few months.
Overall, with the concrete growth channel tasks, you want to have a discussion and team alignment on two things: how long you can sustain them and if you can improve them in any way.
Any improvements, such as automating things or better reporting, will be made into “Growth channel support” tasks.
If it’s clear a task can be done months into the future, that’s great! You have two options: put someone from the team on the given task or hire someone new into the team to work on the tasks.
You should decide between the two options based on:
- The number of other concrete growth tasks.
- The number of experiment tasks in your backlog.
- Overall workflow and how full your sprints are.
- Skills within your core team.
If you choose to hire, you’ll know who to hire exactly, their exact duties, and perhaps even their KPIs. Depending on how long the task can be sustained, you will know if to do this in-house or hire an agency.
You won’t always be hiring for the concrete growth channel task per se; it can also be for another type of task. For example, if you have loads of established tasks that people on your team are doing, you can hire a growth hacker just to come up with new experiments and test them out.
In general, when it comes to using this framework and hiring, looking at your backlog and the sprint items will naturally help you understand if to hire generalists or specialists and when is the best time to do so.
7. Everything runs around the sprints.
The sprints might seem redundant if you have a lot of established concrete growth channel tasks. But they play an essential role in giving your team a “cycle” of work. People can put their heads down and just do the work at certain times, but review the work and discuss it at other times.
You can even consider putting a day in between each sprint for the team to catch up, review everything and discuss what needs to be addressed.
The sprint planning bit forces the team to think hard about how long each growth channel task can be sustained, who’s doing what, and if anyone new needs to be added to the team. The implication of a team members’ time off can also be planned for much better.
Lastly, your team may be full of growth ideas. This framework, the backlog, and the sprints help you encourage people to suggest these ideas and actually look at them and consider them.
You can be adding a lot of stuff around the sprints. Just look up a list of scrum ceremonies to build a genuinely transparent, accountable, asynchronous, and self-sustaining marketing culture.
Putting it all together: few examples
Let’s look at a few examples to give some practical context to this framework.
A B2B SaaS app doing Google PPC ads might have arrived at it by first assigning someone on it as an experiment task. The goal might have been to run a test campaign to see the costs per click, the available keywords, and estimate conversion rates, to determine if a return will be possible given loads of optimization.
A few sprints in, it’s concluded the company can grow using PPC, and nothing indicates that this will stop anytime soon. A “concrete growth channel” task named “Manage and run Google PPC ads” is made and added to each sprint by default.
You could make the following “Growth channel support” tasks:
- Hiring a PPC specialist.
- Finding suitable software to run the process.
- Assisting the PPC specialist in creating the landing pages.
Sometimes, tasks like PPC ads would not pass the experimentation stage, yet future team members might suggest them. So the ticket inside whatever project management tool you are using should have the details of why the task failed. Future team members can go to the closed task, read about it, and perhaps suggest it again if some of the dynamics have changed.
Let’s look at another example. I recently used this framework for a product targeted at software engineers. We added an experimental task to distribute a few of our articles across 10 Slack groups for engineers. We saw more than 100 visitors for each piece, coming from our direct target audience.
After a bit of research and analysis, it was clear there are more than 100 of these types of Slack groups. We published articles regularly and could be distributing each of the articles on the groups, expecting 100’s highly targeted visitors to each new article.
We made it into a “concrete growth channel” task, mapped out 100+ of these Slack groups, and since it’s quite a lot of admin work to post in all of them, a “Growth channel support” task to hire someone to focus on this one task was made.
This framework is a start
You could be doing many more things with this framework, from splitting the team into smaller teams with their own sprints and Scrum boards to incorporating OKRs and other types of metrics in there.
What’s clear is that this will be much more efficient than what many companies do now:
- Doing one thing that worked in the past forever.
- Hiring without a clear idea of what the person will do.
- Struggling to come up with new growth ideas.
- Having no idea on what kind of KPIs to assign to people.
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