From the C-Suite: CMOs Talk about the Art of Doing More with Less

As a marketing leader of a small brand, innovation must always be the norm and never the exception. Smaller budgets and fewer resources mean creative, out-of-the-box strategy sessions, hyper-focused customer segments, a quick to fail quick to grow mentality and team members who willingly jump in to wear many different hats.

To share how they've overcome the challenges of being a small brand in a big pond, three fearless CMOs - Jill Thomas, CMO, Innisfree Hotels; Andy Mackensen, Co-Founder & CMO, SnackNation; and Chris Moloney, CMO, TaxSlayer - led a compelling discussion during the spring CMO Club Innovation and Inspiration Summit on running a lean but impactful marketing department.

1. Remember that Social Media Levels the Playing Field 

Social media is the great connector - and the great leveler. Brands of any size have the same tools at their disposal (many of which are free) in order to develop a powerful social identity. Using the right consumer data, an authentic dialogue and a fair amount of creativity, you can reach millions of consumers without costly ad spends.

2. Get the Facts on Data 

Amongst all the talk of AR and AI, first-party data might not be on the industry’s “hot list” this year, but it’s the engine of every successful marketing campaign, large or small. Better yet, it's accessible to every marketer and you don’t have to buy it. You will, however, need to employ your creativity to get the most relevant insights from the deluge of consumer information that is now at your fingertips. Remember to weave in social media metrics to build a conclusive view of your customers, connecting the “who, why and when” of your consumers' sales journeys.

3. Act Fast 

You know that the insights you need are immediately actionable, and don’t require six months of research to produce. This is where a small team will work in your favor. Armed with a high-definition consumer snapshot from your data, your team can act fast and react even quicker. Building a lean campaign often means leveraging growth hacking to decrease upfront investment, leaving you holding the reins on each moving part. Use this in your favor and adopt Agile Marketing practices of constant iteration and testing.

4. Trust Your Gut 

Marketers have a deep understanding of the customers they are serving and can sometimes intuitively understand the key elements of past campaigns that did and didn't work. Your sales are up, but your consumers are dropping out of brand conversations on social platforms - why? Are social media influencers losing interest in your products and taking their followers with them? Chances are, you might be able to answer those questions by thinking like the consumer. Algorithms can produce incredibly sophisticated guesses, but they can’t replace your experience or the immediacy of first-hand insights.

5. Atomize Content 

Creating compelling digital content is what all brands strive for, but it can eat up resources and can be hard to attribute sales to at the end of the day. Take a page out of the start-ups' playbooks and leverage one stellar piece across multiple channels. Watch your traffic and see what's gaining traction, then pull it apart for your audience segments, customizing small parts - not entire content strategies - for each one.

No one has to tell you the limits of your marketing budget. Those limits, of course, don’t apply to your team's creativity - or your ability to find and optimize new resources. Take advantage of your company’s size to employ lean startup tactics to get the most traction out of each campaign, maximizing on your ability to be agile and react quickly.

The best thing about being the dark horse? They’ll never see you coming.