- Entrepreneurial behavior and quick responsiveness to customers are more challenging as organizations grow
- Many small companies don’t have the talent or resources to optimize organizational design or go-to-market models
- Small companies need to remain agile and do more with less to survive
In a recent post, my colleague Alan Gonsenhauser wrote about what CMOs at large enterprises can learn from marketing leaders at emerging firms. In this post, I will take the opposite view, focusing on what CMOs at emerging companies can learn from their counterparts at large enterprises.
At first, it may seem counterintuitive for these leaders to converse since emerging companies are primarily focused on rapid growth, innovation and staying agile – three characteristics often perceived as missing from large enterprises.
Yet truly successful large enterprises do continue to innovate, experience healthy growth and even exhibit elements of agility. In addition, as emerging companies begin to grow (their primary goal), questions regarding predictability, repeatability, scale and organizational structure become more urgent.
Having worked as a marketing leader for both large enterprises and emerging firms, I recommend that emerging-firm CMOs focus on four key areas when conversing with large-enterprise CMOs:
- Growth inflection points. Healthy established enterprises can provide a good deal of insight regarding how to drive consistent, repeatable and profitable revenue growth, having done so through multiple growth phases. Of particular interest are the experiences of marketing leaders who have made it through the transformation from a startup to a well-established company. Their insights regarding the changes required in strategy, organizational structure, required skills and even the definition of how growth is measured can be very useful for an emerging company marketing leader. For example, much of the focus of an emerging company is on acquiring new customers, and many lack experience of large established firms in retaining and growing their relationships with existing clients in order to scale and grow their businesses.
- Strategy. Although goals change more rapidly for emerging companies, understanding what the enablers are to develop the right strategic vision and exploit opportunities is critical. For example, understanding both how and when to shift from ad hoc planning to a more formal approach without losing agility represents key insight that CMOs who have gone through this transition can share.
- Resource allocation. Ironically, one of the biggest challenges for emerging companies that experience rapid growth is prioritizing where to invest their additional marketing budget to most effectively drive growth and scalability. Their very success can be an obstacle if there is no plan in place that includes a measurement framework that enables capacity planning to determine where and when to add or complement existing resources, as well as growth scenarios based on changing goals that enable the definition of optimal organizational structures as the company scales. Marketing leaders that have experienced multiple stages of growth can provide useful insight about what the key questions to consider when allocating marketing resources to drive the next stage of growth.
- Innovation. Perhaps the biggest challenge emerging companies face as they grow is finding the means to maintain innovation. One way that large enterprise CMOs can help is by sharing their processes for gathering and utilizing customer insight and knowledge of the marketplace to better understand the needs of potential buyers and existing customers in order to spur innovative solutions.
Ultimately, the goal of emerging firms is to eventually become established enterprises, albeit while maintaining as much of their innovation and agility as possible. An invaluable way to support this evolution is by having an open dialogue with marketing leaders who have lived through the various transformations required to become a healthy established enterprise. In addition to learning what worked, it’s also useful to hear about initiatives that failed to achieve their objectives and what adjustments were made to enable subsequent progress.