From enterprise to startup and everywhere in between
During the first two decades of my career, I ran acquisition and direct marketing programs for midsize and enterprise companies like AOL, Capital One and others. For nearly the past five years, though, I have used that experience at scale to help younger companies grow. Consulting on a fractional basis, I have had the opportunity to work with some really great organizations for a good chunk of time each (3+ years) and dig into their business on the customer acquisition side. Budget was sometimes an issue, so I had to impart a scrappy mentality to the notion of data-driven marketing, and especially martech selection & implementation. Learning about technology was very formative for me in this time period.
During that time, I often remembered a quote from Charlie Brown: “the more I learn, the more I learn how much I have to learn.” This is relevant to me for two reasons...first, while leading consumer marketing at a performance-based company I was a little “insulated” from many of the technological advances that were happening in the market. If it weren’t for doing a bunch of gig-work during this more recent time, I may never have closed the gap that had started to form in my knowledge of data and automation focused software tooling.
Second, I was reminded that as technology evolves, it becomes both simpler and more complex. It becomes simpler (and cheaper) to implement, and “snap” together within the context of a company’s infrastructure. It becomes more complex because it’s becoming an arms race to figure out the best way to address any given market using an ever-growing array of possible techniques, data, systems, processes, etc.—the number of options has never been more overwhelming It is also more complex from the perspective that one has to have command of their own business operations; so in some cases, using advanced technology requires the difficult work of modernizing processes.
As we’ve written before, it’s never been easier to put together a marketing technology stack that technically functions but it’s a totally different thing to put it to proper use to drive real results.When you do, though, it can catapult a company into a leadership position in their space, something I’ve seen first-hand.
During this “data driven growth graduate school” period I also assisted in the formation of two pre-startups and got to coach & mentor in the QC Fintech accelerator program. I am very glad I did this as it was also an intense learning experience, especially when it comes to understanding how and when to scale relative to product-market fit. One of my biggest takeaways is that the team is utterly critical. It also starkly illustrated that building a business is hard, particularly if one doesn’t have years of experience in a particular vertical.
When I step back and think about the quarter century I’ve spent in data-driven acquisition and technology, I feel lucky to have seen and worked in the entire spectrum, from enterprise all the way down to early-stage startups.
Dad was right
At the end of last year I was reflecting on all of these experiences, and I had a revelation was that my dad was right all along:I really did enjoy what I was good at—particularly if that meant helping companies become top data-driven digital marketing entities. I didn’t mind working myself out of a gig as long as the client was ready to take the baton, and were in a much better position doing so.
Enter Yield Group
I wasn’t necessarily looking for a full-time role anywhere, but when a friend (twice) sent me info about Yield Group, I knew I needed to check them out. My attraction to Yield was initially because they appeared to do what I was doing; but “on steroids”. Meaning, they utilized similar processes and principles, but they went into more depth across many aspects. They also appeared to be founded on the notion of incredible dedication to outstanding strategy and execution. As I explored further, another key tenet at Yield seemed to be the concept of servant leadership and continual learning for team members at all levels. Like me, you have probably heard a lot of companies talk a good game about growing their people, so I dug into that with skepticism...turns out they are the real deal.
Yield functions at the intersection of marketing agency, management consulting and IT implementation. What astounds me every day is the collection of expertise that is assembled here, as well as the level of execution.
They’ve responded to a pattern we’ve all seen on two fronts.
While there are some fantastic digital marketing agencies, expertise and efficiency are not always delivered consistently to clients. If a client is on the smaller side, they may be assigned a junior marketing manager who not only learns on a company’s dime, also spends it inefficiently to generate learnings & revenue for the client.
Marketing technology fails and false starts are the other major trend. Companies are being sold a technology solution that they are frankly not ready for. The promise that technology will solve an ill-formed strategy is all too common; and doomed from the get go. Companies are feeling the “burn” from this, and are now gun shy to make additional martech commitments without having a well seasoned “fishing guide”.
Solving problems and providing true help with Yield
After many conversations and some actual work together, I jumped at the opportunity to join the Yield crew.
Why Yield? Quite simply, they are in the game of helping companies figure things out from a data, digital marketing, marketing operations, martec and sales-enablement perspective - ideally just when those companies need it...and often help them with the realization that they indeed need it. It’s the adventure of continually figuring out how to create better outcomes for clients, and doing so with efficiency.
It also turns out that I’m pretty darn good at those things and, just like dad told me, I absolutely love the work.