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Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.
Stacy Jones (00:14):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, and I’m so happy to be here with you all today. I want to give a very warm welcome to Amanda Rabideau. Amanda is the founder and CEO of Arch Collective, a company that takes up on a unique approach to handling the marketing strategy and execution for B2B tech startups. She has a passion for leveraging marketing strategy and sales to help businesses grow. And with 15 years of experience, she’s worked for large enterprises and startups, such as Microsoft, CoreLogic, Cloudstaff, and New Relic.
Stacy Jones (00:47):
She’s an expert in helping entrepreneurs expand their business and take it to the next level. Today, Amanda and I are going to be chatting about ways that business leaders can grow their companies faster through fractional CMOs and other freelancers, and how these individuals and your approach to working with them and leveraging them, can really help you hit your marketing goals even faster. We’re going to learn what works from Amanda’s perspective, what should be avoided and how some businesses just miss the mark with this. Amanda, welcome. So happy to have you here today.
Amanda Rabideau (01:19):
Thank you so much for having me.
Stacy Jones (01:21):
So before we dive into, first of all, that word, fractional, people are like, what the hell is fractional? How can we get everyone to understand better, what got you to here today? You are a marketing expert. You have tremendous experience. You’ve worked at name brand companies along the way that even just further establish your expertise. But what’s your story of getting to here today?
Amanda Rabideau (01:46):
Sure. Well, I’ll start at the end of my last full-time position for another employer. And I had been there for five years, was looking for my next opportunity, and being in San Francisco to look into the startup space is not uncommon. I actually started my career at a startup, an orthodontic startup, and loved that time and loved the impact that I made, so I was looking for CMO roles at other startups. And at one point I was interviewing with four different companies at the same time. They were all B2B tech. They were post series A funded.
Amanda Rabideau (02:22):
And as I was meeting with them, each of them had, what basically seemed like, the same exact problems. Just nuances from their industry, or peculiarities of the business. And so I thought, it’s too bad I can’t help all of them at the same time. I’d be super efficient. It’d be a great paycheck. Right? And so then I thought, well, why not? And as I started to look into this type of business, I realized, wow, there’s fractional CFOs, those were more commonly known in the venture space, but not as many CMOs. And so I went down this path and have been doing it ever since.
Stacy Jones (02:59):
And so when you say a CMO for an organization that brings up a lot of like, what is a CMO? What do they do? Oh, she’s sitting there and creating social media posts, which is not exactly what a CMOs typically doing. Can you share what the roles are usually with a CMO at most larger businesses?
Amanda Rabideau (03:20):
And it’s a great question that doesn’t, of course, have a very straightforward answer. Because depending on the business, the role that the CMO takes on could vary quite a bit. At some large organizations, the marketing organization actually has a P&L, or their own business line where they’re responsible for driving revenue. Now that isn’t necessarily the case at every single company, but you do see that at startups as well if you’ve got an offering where everything is done digitally, and there isn’t a sales person involved, why shouldn’t marketing own that revenue and the responsibility of driving that in? But to sum it up, what a CMO would do, it’s really responsible for the outward facing experience that an organization puts out there. So the brand story, the visuals of it, the messaging for it, how the company is perceived and engages with media in the marketplace.
Amanda Rabideau (04:19):
And there’s so many different aspects of the business that touch on it in some part, the marketing responsibility. And as the CMO, the way I look at my role is to make sure that that is a connected story that’s consistent across all the different channels, across every employee and across everything that people see. So that way, when they see or hear brand ABC, the way it looks, sounds and feels in one place is the same as another. So it’s consistent and they really can understand what that company does.
Stacy Jones (04:51):
And when you’re approaching this as a fractional CMO, the first thing brands might be like, oh, I want to hire someone in there just about my brand. What is the benefit to a company in looking at working with someone where it’s a part time? I mean, that’s really what we’re talking about with fractionals. It’s carving out of that whole circle. You’re getting a percentage of that individual’s time to focus on your company. How do you combat that, or defend that, or support that in showing the true benefits that that enterprise can achieve?
Amanda Rabideau (05:24):
Yep. And I would imagine that every organization, even those that hire me ideally, would be able to have someone giving all their time, energy, and attention. But right now in the marketplace there’s two factors that make that a bit more challenging than it has been. And one is that simply hiring full-time people, it’s a very competitive market. What the stats are day to day may change. But I think it’s something like 40% of employees have turned over across the US. And so to be able to find the talent and retain that, is challenging in today’s marketplace. And I know the startup space more specifically, and in fact, there’s a Wall Street Journal that came out about a month ago and it talked about how in the same time period from 2020 to 2021, basically there’s $56 billion with investment from VCs in that same time period last year. 112 billion, or around there, 112, 113 billion this year.
Amanda Rabideau (06:22):
And so all of those startups that got that funding, who are they going to hire? And often they can’t compete with salaries, right? Because they don’t, they may have gotten funding, but they don’t necessarily have a ton of money, or they want to use that money for other projects. So it’s a really great solution, especially for startups. Or for companies that want that strategy and the direction, but might not be able to afford a full-time employee, or find a full-time employee.
Stacy Jones (06:49):
And especially with startups where usually you have the founder and the core team who are experts at how to make the widget work, especially in the tech world. But they’re not necessarily so adept at how to actually sell the widget. How to actually get people to understand that need for it. Which is where someone like you comes in to actually paint that picture and help them connect the dots to bring it to life.
Amanda Rabideau (07:15):
Yeah. And the way I look at it too is even if that CEO, or someone on the management team, the executive management team, has had marketing experience, being a CEO of my company too, I know you don’t necessarily have the time to do everything. And so we always say, let the experts do what the experts know best. And so with marketing, like I said, if the CEO knows marketing, he may, or she may not have the same level of experience that we do, nor do they have the time capacity to do it. So why not give it to someone who can take that story, take that product and really launch it and get it into the marketplace in a more efficient and cost-effective way?
Stacy Jones (07:56):
What are some of the misconceptions people might have along the way when they’re hiring someone who is fractional, or as we said in the intro freelance? What are some of the things that people just kind of off the bat, maybe don’t set themselves up for the right success?
Amanda Rabideau (08:15):
I think some of it is just that it’s, that there isn’t necessarily a learning curve or an onboarding process. A couple of companies that go, I worked at a marketing consulting firm, and so I, in that experience, had to very quickly learn lots of different businesses. And so I feel comfortable getting up that learning curve, but I think that’s something that’s often downplayed that, yes, even though I’m fractional and I do this, there still can be a bit of a learning curve to understand the nuances of the business, or the product or the marketplace. Myself, and I’m sure a lot of fractional CMOs, they do specialize in certain industries so that that learning curve can be minimized. But still, every, every company is a little bit different. The other thing I would say is that we’re just doing it for the money and we don’t necessarily care about it.
Amanda Rabideau (09:08):
And in fact, a good friend of mine, Anita Tellsiani, she, when we were having a conversation, we talked about, as both of us are product marketers by trade, and we talked about how you got to fall in love with the thing that you’re marketing. And I think that, that’s something that people don’t think about is that I do end up falling in love with these products. And, I do get really attached to the teams. And I recently had a conversation with head of HR at one of my clients, because I’m rolling off of it, and we brought in a new CMO and it’s sometimes harder than you expect. I’ve been working with this company for a year and a half. I’ve done a lot to grow the business, but it’s time for me to move on. And I brought in a full-time CMO because that’s where the company’s at and so I know they’re in good hands. But I think that’d be the other thing is just like how you can get attached to these companies too.
Stacy Jones (09:59):
And is there a way to set yourself up for success that’s right? I know you just said that there’s not always an onboarding process. There’s not always like, here is our manual on what makes us tick. How do you approach that? How do you work with that C level suite to boil down and get the materials that you really need to be able to start working with them?
Amanda Rabideau (10:26):
Well, there’s a couple of things that I do, and one is I always start by creating a marketing plan. And that allows me, and I have a process that I use for it, it’s the same process. And so it gives me the chance to really dive deep into the company, do an audit, do voice of client interviews, get to know the executive team as well. And then beyond that, once that marketing plan is approved and I’m starting to execute it, then there’s a couple other things I do. One, which is you got to build trust. So if you say you’re going to do something, you got to do it. Because no one is better to blame than the part-time worker, right? So you’ve got to really be like doubly on top of it, I think. Or at least that’s the way I look at it because I want them to know, hey, I am part of the team, you can trust me. I’m going to get things done and I’m going to help your business.
Amanda Rabideau (11:15):
And the second piece is to join in on the executive leadership meetings. And so I’ve had clients where I haven’t been a part of the executive leadership calls and I’ve had clients where I have been, and it’s a complete different game when I know, and I can hear, okay, these are the other challenges. These are the other things going on with the business. The more you treat your fractional CXO as part of the executive team, the better results you’re going to get.
Stacy Jones (11:42):
And so really you are able to pull back the blanket and understand what is broken in this cog of a machine that you’re working for, that you actually might be able help lend a hand to, because so much touches marketing.
Amanda Rabideau (11:56):
Yeah. And the other thing is, in fact, I was just having this conversation before we hopped on this podcast, that because I work with lots of different clients they’re not necessarily competitors, but I can take what I learned from one and apply it to the other. And so in these calls with the executive leaders, sometimes they bring up things and it’s not exactly the same thing, but I’m like, oh, this other company tried this approach, or we tried that. And so there, I can be a resource more than even, probably I expected to be just by nature of what I do. And cross-pollinating across industries and companies.
Stacy Jones (12:32):
Well, because everything that you’re working on is live now, it’s not, oh, I happened to work at this company five years ago and this is what we did then and how we approached it. It’s more so, yeah, the marketplace today, this is how we’re moving it and participate.
Amanda Rabideau (12:45):
And there’s so many tools out there, especially in marketing. I wouldn’t even say a day goes by. I feel like an hour goes by that I’m not getting some software, or some sort of promotion marketed towards me because I’ve got CEO and I’ve got CMO on my LinkedIn, and they can find me on the website and so on. And it’s like, how do you start to decipher what’s good and what’s not?
Amanda Rabideau (13:08):
And so one, through my collective, because I work with all these fabulous people. Different folks have different preferences so I learn a ton about different tools from their preferences. And then getting to see them implement it at a client, and then see the results, I’m then beginning to say, “Oh, wow that works really well. Or, that doesn’t, or that was a expense we didn’t need.” And so it’s just interesting to see the different tools out there, and how we can be more efficient with those to.
Stacy Jones (13:34):
And when it comes down to freelancers, right? It’s like, I know, as a business owner as well, it’s like, you’re always like, get this twitch in your eye. You’re like, oh, and you’ve touched on this. You’re like, freelancers not really part of my team. Freelancers just coming in, they’re dabbing out. They’re not committed to me. And you addressed this earlier and said that you have passion, obviously, and you really buy in. But besides the executive leadership teams, what do you do, and what could others do, and what should business owners expect of how you’re trying to embed into the culture of the company in learning that too?
Amanda Rabideau (14:09):
Yeah. I love that question. And it’s something that I thought a lot about because one, it’s important for me because I want to enjoy what I do, as much as it’s important for my client to make sure that I’m the right fit. So I actually have a process that I use before I bring on any client. And it’s a three-step process where we have these different meetings. We go through these different stages, because I do really want to get to know them.
Amanda Rabideau (14:37):
I want to get to know the business as much as I can. You’ll never learn the same amount as once you get into the client and start building on that relationship. But I try and learn as much as I can because I want it to be a great fit. So if I was an owner of a startup and looking to bring in a fractional CXO, I’d want to see, how much time do they spend with me? You know? Because I invest a lot of time upfront and obviously not every, not every client I say yes to, and they may not say yes to me as well. But I look at that as a positive because it needs to be a good fit for both of us in order to make it work. Just like it would be if you were hiring a full-time CMO.
Stacy Jones (15:20):
And so what are other mistakes that typically you’re seeing happen? Not for you, but that business owners are like, “Okay, here’s my fractional CXO.” What are they doing that’s wrong that they could be approaching this a little better?
Amanda Rabideau (15:36):
Yeah, well I’m lucky because I’ve had amazing clients, and I’ve had some clients that haven’t worked out as well. So I’m going to draw on the experience [crosstalk 00:15:44] from the ones that didn’t work out so well. Which to that point, like there’s so many lessons to be learned, right? One, which is the, there’s a reason I take on post series A clients because there’s a level of understanding of their business, and their target market, and where there’s product market fit. And so something that that can happen is that a leader can bring in a CMO and expect them to be able to define what exactly the product is. What is the brand, all of these different things. And yes, that is a marketer’s job to some extent. But if that leader doesn’t know what they are either, what that company is or who they want to grow up to be, or whatever the case may be, then it makes it very hard to, for a marketer, to help them tell that story in a compelling way.
Amanda Rabideau (16:35):
And I’ll give you a small example. In marketing there’s these product one-pagers, you probably have downloaded them from a website, or I don’t know, seen them somewhere. And I was working on one of these for a client at the time. And we did, I think I had 17 or 16 different revisions for this one-pager, and they were getting frustrated and so were we, and I always joke. I’m like, if we can do 16 versions of the same story, I don’t know, that feels pretty solid. We’re getting creative here. There’s how many words in this thesaurus that you can use for like, build. Joking aside. And I was like, “Well, what is it that you want to say?” And the response was, “Well, that’s your job in marketing?” And I think that that’s a misunderstanding of marketing.
Amanda Rabideau (17:20):
If you don’t know the problem you solve, if you don’t know what makes your product different, I can find ways to tell that in a compelling, exciting, and interesting convincing way, but if none of that exists, then it makes it really challenging. So expecting that you can just throw shit at a marketer and they can make it shine like gold, some of us can on it, and sometimes there are those instances. But usually you need something solid there, or at least the person that the client needs to understand what’s solid there so I can go out there and really make it compelling.
Stacy Jones (17:52):
And as your job, as that fractional CMO, to put the team in place underneath you to actually do the true activations and the processing of everything? Or are you entering in where, again, people are eyeballing you going, social media creation, you got me now? You may think you’re going after series, you’re going after investments are there, you’re going after someone has created supposedly a solid enough business plan, and they’ve managed to sell it into other people and get immense amounts of dollars to this. But where is this that the lines are crossed, or where is it that you actually can come in and help them form that marketing department?
Amanda Rabideau (18:41):
The answer is yes to all of that. So typically when I come in, there’s either no marketing team or there’s maybe one junior level marketer. And although I’ve had a client, in fact, I’m working on a client right now that has four people on their marketing team. So that’s a bit unusual, but also super fun because they’re a really great team.
Amanda Rabideau (19:02):
But typically what I would do, and this is why I even have the collective, is that a startup whose got post series A funding, there’s probably a ton of investment that needs to go into building out more of their product roadmap, or adding features that their existing clients want. And so they’re not necessarily earmarking all those dollars for the marketing budget. And a funny anecdote is that, I think I always ask, “Oh, well, what’s your marketing budget?” Just to get a sense of where they’re at, it’s not like that determines if I say yes or no to a client.
Stacy Jones (19:36):
People actually have marketing budgets? You’re going to tell me that people are like, “I have a hundred thousand dollars earmarked for my marketing budget.” I going to be shocked if you say yes.
Amanda Rabideau (19:46):
They do not. No, no. Everyone’s like, “Well, I haven’t really thought about it. Can you tell us?”
Stacy Jones (19:49):
Just tell me what I need to spend and then we’ll figure out the budgets.
Amanda Rabideau (19:52):
Stacy Jones (19:52):
It’s like a kid going to a parent asking for allowance. It’s just so silliness.
Amanda Rabideau (19:58):
Yeah. Well you get it then?
Stacy Jones (19:59):
Amanda Rabideau (20:00):
I don’t know. I think every time, even though I expect the answer, it is still amusing to me that it’s like, oh, I haven’t really thought about it, what should it be? And so part of what I do is I come in and I do give them a budget and say, “Okay, as part of my marketing plan, this is what I would recommend, including a tech stack, including the head count and things like that.” But the reason that I bring in this collective, or that’s even part of what I do, is that for a CMO to be creating a social media post, that’s one fucking expensive post, excuse my language.
Stacy Jones (20:34):
Yes it is.
Amanda Rabideau (20:35):
And so you’re like, why wouldn’t I bring in a social media expert who perhaps has less experience, or is willing to do it for a different price point than I am, and these startups then can get me and that person for a lot less money? And so that’s the whole premise of what I do. It’s, how can I help these businesses grow, but be really cost-effective and cost efficient to do it so they get strategy, they get that executive perspective, and they’re not just throwing things against a wall and seeing what sticks? They’re getting that strategy, but then they’re getting folks that can execute it at a much better price point than I would be able to.
Stacy Jones (21:13):
Yeah. And you’re then not at one in the morning sitting there trying to create those social posts. And instead you’re here at one in the morning maybe eyeballing someone else’s social posts and making suggestions.
Amanda Rabideau (21:24):
Exactly. Exactly. Now, to say that, there’s definitely been times where enough’s been going on and I’ve got to roll up my sleeves and do some of that execution. And I think that’s something, that at least for me, is so fun because I feel like I’m not getting rusty at some of the things I used to do. So I think that’s part of the energy around a startup environment is that, even though I, yes, I have to do this strategy, I can still get in there and create some messaging or some social posts too.
Stacy Jones (21:51):
Well, Amanda, for our listeners right now who are like, fractional CMOs, maybe I should talk with this woman. Given a little bit more, how can they learn more about you? Where should we send them to find out about you?
Amanda Rabideau (22:05):
Sure. Well, I can send them a couple of places. So obviously, I have a website it’s arch-collective.com. And there’s tons of information there. Also, I have a quarterly newsletter that I send out and that’s full of lots of great information and tips and tricks and things that are going on that I’ve learned from the different tech startups I work with. And then I actually, on Instagram, every once in a while, I try and do it once or twice a month, I bring on another marketing expert and we do a live. We go live on Instagram and dive deep into those topics. Whether it’s digital marketing or messaging or branding. And we always have a good time too, because that’s part of my MO, life’s too short to not enjoy yourself. So any one of those. Yeah, those would all be great places to learn more.
Stacy Jones (22:54):
And they also can find you in our show notes. So that they’ll be a home in case there’s anything that spelling wise, or that you all have questions about, you’ll be able to go there. And then, Amanda, what are other mistakes that people make? Either with fractional CMOs, or just freelancers in general? Because if you’re coming to the team as a fractional CMO, my assumption is, is sometimes you’re bringing in other freelancers to work with you as well to really create that team.
Amanda Rabideau (23:18):
Yeah. The one that’s probably not uncommonly spoken about is just the scope creep, if you will. And so it’s something that I see as part of my responsibility for the freelancers that do work for Arch Collective, and therefore for my clients, is to make sure that whatever it is that I’ve asked them to do, that we are sticking to that particular scope of work. Because I respect that they’re running businesses, right? They probably have other clients. And if they’re great, I want to make sure they keep working with me and working with my clients. So that’s something to keep an eye out for, is just making sure that you’re not letting that scope creep get there. And then the, I guess the final piece, is just to be open and embrace these freelancers, and your fractional CMO especially.
Amanda Rabideau (24:08):
Because to your point, it might be like, oh, I don’t know. Do they really care? And either I have great luck, or I do a really great job vetting the folks that do work there, but they get just as excited when, my freelancers get just as excited, when they see a campaign has gone well, or the client loves the website, or whatever the case may be. They’re just as thrilled as if they were a full-time employee or not. So I think that so many folks became freelancers because they wanted autonomy over their clients. They wanted autonomy over their schedule. It’s not because they were looking for like the easy route. If anything, it’s the least easy route to go out and do it on your own. So these are very motivated, capable individuals, that are working on these different companies in the different projects. So embrace them for what they are. And you never know, maybe they can do more than you expected.
Stacy Jones (25:01):
And going back to that culture question again, that I touched on earlier. How do you make sure that these freelancers are embedded in the company culture, that they’re seeing their full-time coworkers, that they’re experiencing what the company’s about? And I can speak from the experience of hiring freelancers. And it’s really easy to give them a job and off they go, and then you can, as you said, scope creep. It’s really easy to give them way too much to do with your feedback because you’re like, woohoo and go on there. But it’s also very easy to lose sight of them. And so that they don’t feel like they’re an integral part of your organization, and your team doesn’t feel it and they don’t feel it too. And how have you approached that to make sure that everyone’s kind of more enfolded together?
Amanda Rabideau (25:51):
Well, there’s a couple things that I do. And one, I always do weekly check-ins with whatever freelancers I’m working with. So I schedule that time. It’s what I did with my employees and my team members when I was a full-time worker. And I do the same. In fact, a lot of what I do is similar to what I would have done at a full-time job. So one, weekly check-in, so you don’t lose sight of them. So they don’t go off and then you’re like, “Wait, where is it going? Why don’t I know what’s happening?” And that’s where the over-communication is super helpful. And I learned this. And in fact, the client that I had mentioned earlier where things weren’t going well on the one pager, well, I learned a lot about how I could’ve communicated better, and set us both up for success on some of these things.
Amanda Rabideau (26:37):
So I learn along the way, and then wherever things have gone wrong, I do my best to apply those learnings to future clients. There was a third one that I wanted to mention too, because anyway, we’ll have to come back to it because it’s escaped me. But there’s, with freelancers, it’s like, I think, oh, I know I was going to say. Is that when they do work on a project for my client, I always say like, I don’t like to keep them hidden away in the closet. If they’ve done a good job and they produce something, let them present it. And let the client know, hey, look, I’m going to bring in Susie or Johnny or whomever, and I want them to share what they did because they did a really great job. Because I mean, even though they’re freelancers, somehow in our minds, it’s like they’re not humans or something. Where it’s like, we just give them something, no feedback, no input, no kudos, and then expect the world back.
Amanda Rabideau (27:32):
And so I do try and give them feedback. I do try and bring them in so that they get to take some of the glory of the great work that they did. What I will say is, I don’t necessarily do that day one. I kind of, I guess I would say, try to protect them a bit. So if there’s feedback, it comes to me and then I can communicate it back at the beginning. And then if it’s a long-term client and that particular freelancer has been working on multiple projects, then I want them to build their own relationship. But I see as part of my role, because of what I do, is to make sure that if there’s like the client’s really upset, take it out on me and I’ll share that feedback with the freelancer. Don’t take out whatever feedback on them. That’s at least how I approach it.
Stacy Jones (28:12):
That’s a good way to approach because it’s very easy to lose sight. And then as soon as you lose sight, they’re off and they’re gone and no one’s happy.
Amanda Rabideau (28:21):
No. Yeah. And usually with freelancers, they’re, you look at it like, oh, I’m paying you this premium to do something. And it’s like, well, yes, but you also don’t have the resources. They don’t know all the details of your business, so this might be another best practice, is that take a little bit of time to give context. Because the project isn’t usually the one piece of paper scope that it is, there’s all this other information. What is it? The glacier, right? Where the project may look like just above the surface, but there’s all this other stuff beneath. And if they’re not there, or they haven’t been at that company for a while, they may not know all that. So I try and give a ton of context and as much background, and probably more than they need, but I like them to have that information so that then they’ve got some of the nuances to go off and hopefully do a great job.
Stacy Jones (29:08):
And that’s the same thing, full circle, of why it’s important for you to join the leadership meetings, versus being just off to your side, because you’re not going to be able to be as impactful to the conversation.
Amanda Rabideau (29:20):
A hundred percent.
Stacy Jones (29:22):
Well, thank you so much, Amanda, for joining us today. Really appreciate your insights. I think that for our listeners who are like, what is this fractional stuff, they have a better idea. And the power and the benefit of it. And I know fractional CMOs exists for companies other than just series A. So if you’re listening and you have another need, there’s someone who’s going to be out there who’s going to be able to come on and join your team, which is a great option versus trying to find someone who is, as dialed in as Amanda might be, to solely work for you. So thank you, Amanda, again.
Amanda Rabideau (29:58):
Thank you so much for having me. This was great.
Stacy Jones (30:01):
And then for all of our listeners, thank you for tuning in today for another episode of Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I look forward to chatting with you next week. And until then, if you have any questions on product placement or submitting endorsements or influencer marketing, all those types of marketing things that my agency at Hollywood Branded does, make sure you check out our website. But more so, good to learn.hollywood branded.com, where we have some free courses that you can download, and classes that you can take. And have a great one.
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