Modern Marketing

Small team? Think Big! 5 Strategies for Small Businesses


Let’s say you’re a marketing manager, overseeing a small team of over-worked marketers. You’re putting in long hours to make the best of what you have, but you have few resources, a huge deliverables workload, and ambitious growth targets. You also have huge competitors out there who have more people, more money, and whose marketing seems to be everywhere. How do you compete?

Here’s the good news: smaller marketing teams tend to have 3 real advantages you can leverage immediately. They are:

  1. AGILITY: Smaller organizations mean fewer approval processes, which enables you to plan, execute, and deliver campaigns quickly in response to market opportunities.
  2. PEOPLE: By necessity, smaller teams tend to employ multi-skilled, versatile people who are accustomed to rapid change and learning new skills on the fly (also known as an “all hands on deck” mentality).
  3. INNOVATION: Big budgets can stifle creativity. If you can do everything, what’s the advantage in coming up with the best thing? If you can only afford a few campaigns, you think smarter.

Look around you – is your team taking advantage of its size? Here are 5 key strategies to leverage these strengths, leveling the playing field between you and your behemoth competition.

1.  Invest in What You’ve Got

If you can’t afford to hire new people, you need to maximise the talent you have. Targeted investments in staff training, or in expert consultants (who can inject new, short-term ideas and skills into your campaign process) can make all the difference. Expect a lot from your team, but show them that you’re invested in their success. Your hardworking, multi-skilled team will move mountains if they know management is behind them.

2.  Use the Right Tools

Used correctly and by skilled staff (see point 1!), marketing automation platforms can be a great leveler. By using cutting-edge solutions and processes, small teams can achieve provable revenue results and targeted market reach comparable to larger operations.

How can you do this?

  • Focus your system’s strategy on the high-value tasks that you can automate.
  • Re-use digital content in innovative ways across multiple channels.
  • Engage your customers in conversations, rather than simply spraying the market indiscriminately with your message.
  • Be disciplined in your usage – your systems should manage your entire lead lifecycle, allowing you to track every lead.

3.  Measure, Measure, and Measure (but not too much!)

As a small team, it’s all too easy to stumble from one project to the next, never taking the time to evaluate success or failure. But it’s often even more important for small teams to evaluate results than larger teams, because you don’t have a minute or a cent to waste.

Once you’ve got tools and the skills to use them, you can rely on your customer engagement data for insights that drive the decision-making process. Experience and intuition cannot be replaced, but far better to look to your marketing metrics for guidance first, and then use your intuition to decide where your precious marketing resources will be invested.

That said, all teams should beware “paralysis by analysis”. You cannot afford to slow down. Your agility and ability to move with the market is your strength. Don’t hamstring yourself by wrapping your decision-making process up in knots while you analyse data you don’t need. Pre-determine the key indicators you’ll need to reliably capture, including revenue, customer behavior, and market indicators.

4.  Align Sales and Marketing KPIs

Don’t just talk about alignment between sales and marketing – make it happen! Consider merging your teams to focus on a single thing – revenue. At the very least, run cross-functional meetings that focus on this core KPI, ensuring communication and accountability. With smaller teams, it’s that much easier to gather and reconnect regularly. Your ability to act as a single cohesive force can give you an edge.

There’s only one way that the sales team will ever recognise marketing as true partners – marketing needs to have skin in the game and start speaking the same language. That tradeshow you’re sponsoring needs to be about revenue. So does that website, press release and ad campaign. If it isn’t, why not?

5.  Stop Doing What Isn’t Working

This might be controversial at your planning meetings, but you must stop doing things that don’t work. There can be lots of reasons why something fails, but if the data shows no revenue gains, you have to consider reallocating those resources. Every competitor in your industry might be at that tradeshow or buying up the high-traffic keywords, but unless you can show ROI after a defined period, you should at least question that activity’s value.

Challenge the status quo of marketing in your industry. Question everything! Small teams can’t do it all. When you waste your money and time on marketing with no revenue impact, you’ll lose out to organizations with more money to burn.

In closing, this advice might be tailored toward small businesses, but it applies to all companies, regardless of size – be agile, be disciplined, and get optimized.

If you’re part of a small business, how do you use your small size as a strength? If you’re part of a larger organization, how do you stay agile and innovative? Let us know in the comments below.