Moving from startup to scale up with Emma Jessica Knox, VP Marketing at HERO

B2B marketing podcast

B2B marketers can fuel the growth of their startups by implementing scalable processes, getting buy-in from the C-suite, hiring the right team and using the right tools. 

On this episode of the FINITE Podcast, we talk to Emma Jessica Knox, VP Marketing at HERO and experienced B2B marketing leader with a background in growth at HubSpot, Edited and more. 

Emma gave us her insights and observations into what works and what doesn't when it comes to growing a startup and empowering a team. 

This episode covers: 

Listen to the full episode here:

 

And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here

Full Transcript

Alex (00:06):

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the FINITE podcast. Today, we're discussing a topic I'm sure many of you will be interested in, and that is moving from startup to scale up. We'll be joined by Emma Knox, who is VP of marketing at HERO, a platform that provides online shoppers with a human touch. 

Emma has plenty of experience in B2B tech marketing, having worked agency side at The Octopus Group. Having spent some time at HubSpot, as well as lots of experience helping startups to become scale-ups. We'll be diving into team structures, skills, operations, processes and more, as we explore the startup to scale up journey,

 

FINITE (00:43):

The FINITE community and podcast are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.

 

Alex (01:05):

Hey Emma, thanks for joining me today.

 

Emma (01:07):

Hi, thank you so much for having me, I can't wait.

 

Alex (01:10):

Looking forward to talking. You have an enviable CV of B2B tech experience, which we're going to be diving into. And lots of, the episode topic really is focusing on that startup to scale-up journey, which I think a lot of your experience is super relevant to. 

So we're going to start with just letting you introduce yourself. You can tell us a bit about your journey to where you've arrived now and some of your background and experience and a bit about your current role.

About Emma’s background in B2B tech marketing

Emma (01:34):

Sure. I'm a B2B marketing growth leader and what I do at its simplest form has helped companies grow and scale through a combination of actual driving growth in terms of metrics, but also helping them elevate their brand positioning and their brand storytelling and their narrative design as I like to call it. 

I've worked my whole career in tech. I started actually in the agency world, so it was the Octopus Group for a couple of years, working across clients, customers such as Orange and Colt and Cisco from everything to analyst relations to press to content and social. So it's kind of like a mini grad program. 

I then went in-house and I've worked across a range of, I feel very lucky actually to have worked with some of these London-based startups, especially EDITED, and now I'm at HERO, the virtual shopping platform. Prior to my role at EDITED, I did just under a three-year stint. I moved to Dublin and I helped HubSpot scale their EMEA marketing program.

 

Alex (02:32):

Cool, awesome. So some good experiences and tell us a bit about the current role and team and how everything works at HERO.

 

Emma (02:39):

Yeah, sure. So HERO is the virtual shopping platform. We help brands add the human touch to their online store experience. We allow them to connect to their customers when they're raising their site in a way that they would in their online stores. And I think we realised that shoppers didn't have the same confidence to buy online as we do when they're browsing stores. 

So that's why HERO was launched in early 2017 to solve this problem. You know, we saw first hand the explosion of mobile commerce, but recognised that it was too impersonal, it didn't reflect shopping in store. And the people when they're shopping online, they can't see products up close or ask an associate for expert help, which is why we launched our virtual shopping platform to connect them directly with those in-store associates. 

So I'm currently the VP of marketing. I run that team of eight. This is full funnel. It's focused on everything from creative to brand, to design, to demand generation and growth, product. Marketing's really full funnel. And I work very, very closely with our two senior leaders, which is Adam Levene, who's our founder, and very focused on the product and the brand side, and then Alistair Crane, who's our CEO and wealth of experience from both of them and Alistair is particularly focused on the commercial side.

 

Alex (03:49):

Awesome. Cool. And we're going to be talking all about this startup to scale up journey, which I think when we spoke before, this was your sweet spot, is that fair to say?

 

Emma (03:59):

It's what I'm really passionate about actually. Cause I think there's so many great ideas out there in the world and I love great ideas. I love working with creative people and people that have these genius moments and I think that's what's really changed. 

The world when you look at some of these really industry and behavioral disrupting technologies like Uber, like Google, even Klarna in terms of how you shop and HERO as well and how you can interact with people in an online store. But it's how do you take that wonderful idea, that wonderful spark and how do you actually scale that? 

How do you operationalise that? How do you turn that little flame into something that can be a huge company and a huge community that interacts with thousands, millions of people around the world. That's what I'm really passionate about.

What’s the tipping point between a startup and scale up?

Alex (04:43):

Awesome. Should we be boring and get some definitions out of the way first? So when we talk about startup and scale up, and I guess maybe it's important to frame that from your perspective, at least for this conversation. Because I think in the US as well, the word startup is more than ever like thousands of people, employees, and companies are still described as startups. 

Startup for me is not necessarily pre product market fit, but smaller. And maybe at that tipping point. So how do you define the difference between the two?

 

Emma (05:12):

I actually think it depends on the company. I think it was really hard to give one definition because headcount isn't necessarily tied to revenue growth and revenue growth generally ties to product market fit, but not always. Because you're still defining that. 

I think there's technically a term that is over 10 people is meant to be a scale-up. I think that's going to be a little early. A startup to me is people in one room working together on an idea. When things get more operationally complex, and you need to add that complexity and just deal with that cognitive load, you can't just turn around and say, hey John, or hey Sarah, can you get this done for me. When you have to add in layers and process, that sort of becomes a scale-up to me.

 

Alex (05:54):

Makes sense. And so the first question was really around when a startup should start scaling up. And I guess I did an episode with Rand Fishkin, who's kind of famous in the SEO world, talking about product market fit and why he thinks that's such a broken concept. And this idea that you're either pre-product and then suddenly you're post product market fit and it's black or white and it's one of the other. And he has a much more kind of holistic view on it. 

I guess I'm just referring to that because I guess the product market fit thing is such a typical tipping point of when people might say that you're able to scale. Where do you see that tipping point being?

 

Emma (06:30):

I think I agree with Rand. I think product market fit is very interesting because we live in a world that's so fast paced. Product market fit changes so quickly and what your product does and how it helps people changes so quickly. And the companies that are truly successful are the ones that can be agile and can move with the world, with the industry and with their customers and their community. 

So in terms of when you should start scaling, you should start scaling when you need to, when you have that demand coming in, when you have that extra. I think one of the things that really drove the scale at HERO totally transparently, it's been around since 2017 seeing really good progress, but naturally with COVID, that was a huge accelerant. 

And actually I joined the company around four months ago, but just from working with Adam and with Al, one of the main issues they had is they've closed so many customers that they couldn't launch them in time. So it was becoming like six to eight weeks to work with them and do the integration and we've streamed all that now and we can do self launch and we're working on that very closely. 

But that was the main signal it's like, we need to operationalise this because we have so much demand, but we just don't have the infrastructure to actually get this to market and drive this revenue.

Where should marketing sit within leadership to drive growth? 

Alex (07:41):

Good challenges. You've mentioned the two co-founders a couple of times now and that kind of leadership perspective on enabling growth. And obviously they've been investing in bringing the right people, such as yourself to support that. Where do you see marketing sitting in that leadership role to drive growth? 

Because I think from all the marketers I speak to, the one factor that always stands out is this view on growth and investing in marketing really starts at the top. And no matter how great the marketer is, if you're not in an environment where you've got C suite, which is all in and fully understanding, supportive of marketing, you're going to have a tricky time.

 

Emma (08:20):

A hundred percent. And you know, I think marketing actually has the lowest tenure of any people, CMO has the least tenure of any C-suite. And I think that is true because I think that if you're not connected with the founder or the CEO and you don't share the same vision, and there's not a lot of transparency about what you're trying to achieve. 

Because marketing at its core is pretty simple. How do I create a product that people want to use? How do I create a product that people talk about and want to share with their friends? How do I create content that people want to find and helps them solve their problems? 

But that's very subjective and everyone has very strong opinions naturally. So I think it's basically when you get to a senior level, you actually have to focus on the product, but you really have to focus on the people it's like, do I like this person? Would I go for a drink with this person? Would I hang out with this person? Am I okay if this person calls me four times a day? Cause they will, and they should. And if they're not, that's a bad sign because you should be having that rapport, that back and forth. 

And I think that's really what I've done in my career. I've tried to find people that I'm like, I want to work for this person, I believe in them as a leader, I get their vision, I like them, I respect them. And I think once you have that, it's really critical. I do think that marketing has to come from the top. I think that a great marketer can operationalise. They can help define that narrative design, but if the vision and the storytelling of that vision and passion isn't there, that's very hard to tease out. 

You can refine it and you can make it even better and you can take it to another level, but you need to have that, what I like to call the golden thread. Which was that single idea. And you know Adam Levine, who's our founder, always talks about how he had the idea for HERO when he was on hold at this bookstore. I think it was in Brazil at the time and he was trying to find out if this works and how they could get in contact. 

And he noticed in Brazil they're like, just WhatsApp me, call me. And he's like, why do other stores not do this? Why do American stores not do this? Why is it not conversational commerce? Why is it so that you have to go into store or you have to go online and you can't speak to anyone. And if you do speak to someone it's customer service, where is that replication of that wonderful person? 

When you go into support or you go into one of those other stores and like, hi how can I help you? And that's what he wanted to create. So as a marketer, it's a dream because that is such a wonderful thing to talk about because it's sort of taken so real, but I think if you don't have that, it gets very, very tricky.

How to get buy in from the C-suite for marketing led growth

Alex (10:46):

Yeah. I guess I always felt like this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation of which one comes first, but do you think marketing can start to play that role for creating some of that change by doing a great job? Or does it have to start with the C-suite wanting to? 

Because I think a lot of CEOs think marketing is advertising based, so they don't really understand what marketing is full stop. And I think it's less common in the tech space, because I think people are just a bit more savvy and data-driven, but in other industries in B2B it's pretty tricky.

 

Emma (11:18):

Exactly. I think it really depends. I think that you need to have that spark of an idea. And I think if you don't have that spark, you don't have that passion then, I think people can tell when something isn't authentic. And I think if you think about great brands, when you raise money, when it's an authentic origin story, that's why advertorial magazines, that's so important. 

That emotive feeling because marketing, you are creating a feeling, an emotion in someone. And I think the mistake a lot of people make in B2B, which I'm sure you've covered a lot in this podcast, is people thought when you went into professional seats that you drop all your human emotions. And you couldn't market to people as people, which of course you can and you should. 

And that's why B2B marketing is why I work and it has become so interesting and so innovative recently. But yet you can't fake the spark, but what you can do is elevate it and you can solidify it and, I like to call it and what one of my old colleagues at HubSpot Marcus Andrews talks about so eloquently is narrative design. Which is a concept that originally came from video games and fantasy world building. 

So, who's the villain we are trying to take down? Who is the hero and the protagonist and how are we overcoming this? And I think you can tease that out of a CEO and that's really what a marketing leader's job is.

 

Alex (12:36):

Cool. That's a nice way of looking at it. I hadn't considered that, but I need to look into that. Was it called narrative design?

 

Emma (12:41):

Narrative design, yeah. It's really good, it's basically like world-building.

How should teams work together cross functionally to scale up? 

Alex (12:46):

Interesting. And so you've obviously seen growth. I mean, HubSpot obviously is pretty well known in the B2B tech space. You have to have been living under a rock to not come across HubSpot in some way, if you're in the B2B marketing world. So you've seen growth from a number of different perspectives and different sizes and scales of company. 

How have you seen teams working together cross-functionally? And I guess there's a point at which maybe the growth has started to happen, but it's sometimes founder led, sometimes sales led and marketing doesn't even exist yet, marketing may be new to the table in that initial kind of scale-up phase and having to work quite closely with other teams?

 

Emma (13:25):

A hundred percent. I think cross-functional, as you've said, is absolutely key. I'm a big fan of having a centralised marketing function, but then having a pod structure growth where you say, okay, you're what the sales is on. For example, ABM, which is one of our main focuses at HERO, because we work with some larger accounts, or growth for self-serve and, freemium or trial for users and for downstream versus upstream. 

So I think that's really critical. I think that it's about one, as you said, educating people about what marketing can do. And also marketing is such a vague term because there are people that are operators in marketing, there are people that are builders and there're people that are creators. 

So operators are the ones that formalise the process and operationalise at scale. Builders are of course ones that build channels and they would probably be directly within the growth team. They'd be like building SEO or building and paid acquisition to drive new users or free users. 

And then there are creatives who actually create things that people care about. And I genuinely feel like all of those roles operators, people tend to overlook because it's the non exciting part of marketing. And I would say marketing is actually the boring bits that people don't care about. 

Apart from that storytelling, that brand, if you don't get boring bits right, if you don't get the operationalise done, you're never going to work, you're never going to succeed because I honestly don't know if there's any new marketing tactics we can come up with. There'll be new channels, but we'll use the same tactics on them, but it's how you operationalise those tactics. 

So operators are so critical and they bring the framework and they bring people together. And then there's the builders and a good builder can 10x your company. A bad builder has a negative impact. But if you give someone the right tools and you let them run and you let them experiment, they can achieve so much. And then the creator is, they're worth their weight in gold because of that innate ability to make people care and to create content that... 

Because people don't want more content, they want things that help them. They want things to educate them and they want to have a sense of community. And I think that's what we're really building at HERO. We have our content community org run by our director of content, Natalie. 

Natalie Rizk is wonderful and comes from a content and PR background. And she's building an incredible team of creators around her, that will fuel the growth team, that will fuel the operators. Because if we didn't have that layer, no one would pay attention to us.

Who should the first marketing hire be? 

Alex (15:43):

When you arrived at HERO in this current role, I assume marketing was already happening to some extent and there was a marketing team. So it wasn't from scratch. But have you had any perspectives on that early stage, building out the marketing team almost from scratch and I think that question of like, who the first hire should be is always such a nuanced one. And obviously it's very specific to every different company, but I didn't know whether you've spotted any trends?

 

Emma (16:11):

So I haven't, you're totally right here. Or there was a preexisting marketing team, a wonderful team, and I feel so lucky and privileged to be working with these wonderful people and excited to scale with them. And Adam Levine, my founder, is very marketing focused, so they're doing a great job. But I have gone in at Yieldify as the first marketer to really start off from scratch. 

I personally, at the time I focused on content. I think that is really critical, getting our message out there, getting our brand narrative or narrative design out there. But I say looking back, I think the mistake a lot of startups make is, scale-ups you can start doing this, but with startups they say, I want someone who's really good at this and name something really specialist. 

If you're a startup, you need a generalist. You need a bunch of good generalists that can work together well, that can be put on different projects, that you can move around that are hungry, that have different skills. They can do a bit of content, they could jump into social, they could jump into demand gen and they can work with sales, they can help you run an event. 

I think when I was at Yieldify, when I was head of marketing, they were still up a tree hanging fairy lights and lumping thing boxes and you roll your sleeves up and you go with it. I think that that's a mistake a lot of people make because your goals are going to change. Your priorities are going to change and you can read a blog and you can say, I need a product marketer and I need a content marketer. 

And I imagine that you don't have enough to completely differentiate. And everyone's just going to end up working on things together. So it's about finding people that are hungry that have good general skill sets, have a good, strong writing background or have the capability to run things and are just ambitious in that way. But also people that just gel and work together well.

And once you do that, then you can actually really start operationalizing once you get into a scale-up mode and you can start defining, you're going to focus on X and you're going to focus on this and start to differentiate those roles and channel goals a bit more specifically.

When to rethink the marketing team structure as a scale up 

Alex (18:06):

So do you think there's a risk that once you've got a marketing team that is more general and supports you in those early stages, that you outgrow that team and you need to move to a more specialist model and there's not necessarily a role still for those types of roles. 

Cause I think you're completely right in needing that more general hungry growth driven, but generalist skill set. And hopefully those roles can grow into more managerial roles, but is there a tough point maybe where you have to say, actually we've got to a certain stage where we need a bit of a rethink of marketing team structure.

 

Emma (18:37):

I think it would be very unusual to have a complete annihilation of a marketing team at one point. I've never really been in a situation where they've done that or when that's been warranted. And I think if that is the case, that's like a wider, deeper issue. You'd need to look into why that happened. And maybe it wasn't the right people to begin with. 

But I think that, as you said, for the right people that can grow. What you've said is really critical because I think a lot of what startups and scale-ups struggle with is mindset. So when companies are growing, founders and CEOs can focus on numbers, headcount, users, number of customers, but what they don't focus on mindset. 

And the biggest difference is going to start up and scale up is mindset startup. As I turn to the next person and I say, can you do this, scale up this, we need to get this done. It's not a really complicated process, but it's a small process and we need to let this person know we need to CC in that person. And then when you fill out this form and then we'll get it done in a week.

And that sounds like a lot of cognitive load and complexity, but there is going to be some complexity to be done, otherwise people are running in the wrong directions, you're not making the right decisions. You're focusing on way too much. There's no proper scope of authority. 

I think Larry Page, at one point in when Google got 400 people, he was like I hate this, I want to go back to the old days. And he fired loads of managers. And then you realise he had like one executive with a hundred engineers reporting into them and they were like, that's not work. 

So it was about figuring out that complex state. But look, I think back to your direct question, I think people as they grow and engage in their career, they can grow into specialists. They can say, look, this is what I'm really passionate about. And they can move into that role, or there's a possibility to stay a bit more generalist, but become a manager and move out of the IC or the individual contributor track. 

We don't have jobs for lengths anymore. Personally, every three, not three years on the dot but you know, that's been a thing. And I think that's because, I genuinely love to find new challenges and like what happened with HERO is I got approached by them and I was like, I absolutely loved Editor, but this was such an interesting opportunity that can turn down. 

And HubSpot was like a dream job that I was like, I will work at HubSpot one day and it was fantastic, but we don't have jobs for life. And I think the best thing you can do is give people incredible training, give people skill sets that they can utilise in later careers and make it a positive work environment. 

Always leave people better than when you found them, but it's going to change and it's going to progress. And I don't think you can build a team with the okay, if we hire someone, it needs to be the best for now because that's just not how companies scale anymore unfortunately.

Moving from doing to managing to leading

Alex (21:17):

Yeah. I think that focus on people and development is such a key one and learning and investing. And I think there's a boardroom conversation, where the CFO says to the CEO, what if we pay for this training for our people and they leave and he says, well what if we don't pay for it and they stay? It's part of the investment you need to make. 

As the team grows I think a big part of the challenge for people that are in that marketing career, maybe at that head of marketing or senior generalist marketing manager, growing with a team underneath them, business is taking off, business is scaling up and you're constantly thinking about who you need to hire next, but also letting go of your own current responsibilities. 

And maybe this is a mindset thing as well, to your point it can be a real challenge. I think for people to go from doing the doing, to managing the doing to some extent, and that do our individual contributors, you called it, go into manager into leader or two or three quite big steps. How have you found that yourself?

 

Emma (22:24):

I think what you said, there is a big difference between a manager and a leader, and I think that's what you need to learn as you get into your career. And I think marketers are busy people, we always have things to do. There's always different channels or things. And busyness is addictive, it actually creates a chemical reaction in your brain because you feel productive and that's why sometimes marketers and everyone can avoid big projects and do things because you can tick it off your to-do list. And it's wonderful. 

So there's a couple of things here. If you find yourself as a senior manager or you're a marketing manager or a head of marketing and you want to progress into that real leadership role and that real exec role, every time you want to be busy and you want to push, think about why. 

If you want to get into the weeds and focus on that because that can be an addictive feeling like I am useful, I know all this, I'm the person that knows where the bodies are buried. That might be something you decide you need to work on. There's two possibilities, either you haven't hired the right team and you don't trust your team because they're not better at their thing, they're working on the new and they should always be better. 

I always say to my team, you are the experts, if I ever overrule you, it will be because it is absolutely business critical and I have no other option and I will always give you context as to why I had to do that. But I will make that decision because ultimately it falls on me and I'm accountable for it. So I need to make the best decision for HERO or for the company. 

So either it's not the right team and you're actually like, I don't trust this person. And I don't think they're making good decisions and I need to jump in and then you do need to have those hard developmental conversations. And I'm a big fan of radical candor. That was what we did a lot as training at HubSpot with management and leaders.

 I think feedback is never easy. I'm a big fan of feedback, but I also don't like it in the moment. But it is the most beneficial thing you can ever have for your career. So have those difficult conversations with your team as early as possible. But if it's not that, it might be a you thing, it might be that your perception of self and worth and value is tied up in being busy, is tied up with being there, that you think that you can do this better when you actually can try and get other people's opinion, try and be objective. 

If you're constantly rewriting someone's work be like, why am I reworking this work? Have I given them specific feedback on what I'm looking forward to or do I just feel the need to rewrite this because it feeds my own sense of self-worth? 

And I think marketers can be a bit like that. We're the saviours, we're going to come in and fix everything. And sometimes it's good to step back. And also if you don't, your team is never going to develop, they're not going to become the rock stars you need them to be, because you're cutting them off at the knees. You're not giving them the confidence and they'll second guess themselves, if you're always second guessing them too.

Should you bring in juniors and graduates to scale up? 

Alex (25:02):

Many great points there. But I think that is probably the most common startup/scale up marketing team issue that I see, is just bringing in a load of really inexperienced marketers and very junior roles. They're not really replacing anybody and actually are increasing the workload of the people managing them rather than decreasing. 

It's such an easy trap to fall into. I think actually in some businesses there's a bit of a vanity metric around team size, right? I know it sounds stupid, but like you just want a big team for the sake of having a big team and you end up with five graduate marketers or interns or whatever. And actually your job is just managing a load of interns and quality drops.

 

Emma (25:42):

I tend to always hire one really strong graduate onto a team, generally. I think that the best is social because like they teach us old folks and they show us up and I think that should be the case. And also I think that it's important to do that to nurture new talent and I remember being a graduate and it's hard to get good placements in big firms and getting a startup, you can have this amazing opportunity and they're hungry and you can put them across different things and they get that experience that's so valuable. 

But I think more than one is a bit much, but I do also think hiring a young prodigy that's very strong or hiring someone with quite a lot of experience as well, I think is the benefit and then allowing them to scale their team up. And to also recognize that when we think seniority, we think management and we think leadership and I think in marketing a lot of people are like yeah, I will become a marketing manager and then I become a head of marketing and that is the route that I took. 

But there's a lot of people that I work with who are the best marketers I've ever worked with and their ICS, they're individual contributors. They can hack the Facebook algorithm, Facebook don't come after me. But they're very strong paid and builders. They're the base content writers I've worked with, they're incredible at social and they're the ones that really made the difference. We just get out of the way and help them set the strategy and deal with the founders. Love the founders, but you do have to do that, you have to be the umbrella a little bit. 

So I would also encourage people to, when they're thinking about their career, to think about what actually makes me happy. Do I want to be in a room, writing my own stuff, being really creative, looking at data, or do I want to be in meetings all day, asking people how they're doing and setting strategy. 

When you get to leadership, your job is meetings and presentations mostly. And that's wonderful because you get to work and nurture people, but you don't do the creative things as much. You're not in the weeds, you're not creating or analysing the data nearly as much. So I don't think you have to be a leader to be a manager, back to my point earlier that there's a difference between a leader and a manager.

 

Alex (27:47):

Definitely. And I think your other point is that Mr. Busy or Mrs. Busy, it can be such a toxic thing. And I've worked with a few over the years and I've seen the impact on wider teams and cultures. And there can actually be people that keep sending emails in the middle of the night to make it look like they're up late. And that kind of thing can just be such a damaging thing for everybody and worth nipping in the bud. I think when you see it happening, you've alluded a few times already to the operational process side of things. And I knew the question was coming up. 

Finding that balance between that classic startup, scale-up scrappy creative, let's try stuff and see what sticks versus building scalable processes. You may or may not have a marketing ops person or project management software, all of those kinds of things, but what's the right balance?

When to move from scrappiness to processes 

Emma (28:41):

I do think that the right balance has to be determined by the people in an individual company, because you can read a blog or you can listen to this podcast and you can hear me say something and say I'm going to go do that. But actually you need to get to know the company because every company is unique and different. Everyone has different problems. 

My general view is that processes to a point are good and operations are good because it frees up people to be creative. But there's a limit to that. I think that you should push things until they crack, but do not break. And then you should put in a process. 

I think that you don't want to move that fast and break things because you can break a lot and there's consequences to that. But you also don't want to put in process and stifle growth and stifle creativity. So it's about figuring out, let's look at the ideal case of what is the best in class academic approach to this? And let's chop it up. Let's make it leaner, more agile and make it work for us. 

And don't be precious about things. You know, McKinsey has great frameworks, HubSpot has great frameworks, Facebook does, Slack, Uber, all of these companies have done amazing things, but you are not them. And they are not you. And what will make you special is not what made them special. So learn what they did, learn it inside and out and then take it and make it better. 

You don't have to reinvent the wheel if there are just some things that are good, it's common sense. If you think something is stupid, it's possibly right that it's stupid. So feel free to move it. If it turns out you do need it for a reason that you didn't know, the best thing about being in a startup or scale-up is it's really easy to make change. So you can just change it back the following week and always be transparent with people you work with, be like, we're trying this out, it might not work. 

 

If the process doesn't work, please let us know and we will change it. And I think that transparency and that communication makes people feel really good and it makes people feel like it's in together. It's like, this actually isn't working, but you know what, I've got a great idea to solve it. And I love that.

 

Alex (30:42):

I like that definition of pushing something until it cracks, but doesn't break and then put the process in. When we had a chat before we agreed to schedule the podcast, you challenged my thinking on this too, because I was always growing a team myself, always conscious of not wanting to, or feeling like implementing process was starting to get towards micro-managing or actually removing creativity. 

And you actually framed it as having that process allows people to be more creative, which I like, rather than the opposite. Cause I think in creative environments and in marketing generally, it can feel sometimes like you're, I've kind of used the definition from my team now of like, if you're a skier putting flags down the side of the ski field, just to know that you're not going to like die in an avalanche.

 

Emma (31:30):

Exactly, that's a great analogy, I love that. You don't have to think about dying, you can just think about going fast, just have guidelines. I think Netflix has done this really well with their focus on hiring the best people and not adding cognitive load or complexity beyond what they needed. Because it's a business, it's a commercial operation and it's also a bunch of humans working together interpersonally.

So for sanity, you need some process and operation, but once you have enough of that, it frees up your brain because you're not like, what happens here? Or how do we do this or who can make this decision? It frees up, especially when you put the process around scope of authority. I think that's what a lot of startups get really wrong is everything still has to go through the founder, you need to have a lot of people who have scope of authority to actually get things done and to move quickly.

 

Tools to help growth and scale 

Alex (32:21):

It's hard to have a conversation about growth without thinking a little bit about tools and tech. I think we often fall into the trap of thinking, choose the tool and then that will define our growth. It should be the other way around and tools and tech I think I feel passionately should come last, not be the lens through which we look at the world. 

But are there any tools and tech that you think have supported growth in different environments? I guess I was going to say, you're not allowed to say HubSpot.

 

Emma (32:43):

They got me really young, I was a customer for years, worked for them, I'm a customer again, and also they're just a brilliant company and sort of fantastic platform. From their sales hub to marketing, to service and they just launched operations hub, I believe, which is another great push because they recognise operations are so critical.

 

Alex (33:03):

I just said, I don't think you should choose a tool. I think you should define your strategy and your approaches and your processes and the technologies that come second. The only time I ever doubt this is when I see a business scaling up adopt HubSpot, I genuinely think that some businesses I've seen adopt HubSpot and just the way that it's set up and its features puts in place the necessary process and it is the other way around.

 

Emma (33:27):

Why I think HubSpot is so good for scaling companies is because it gives you best practice. It says this is what you should do. You can go and figure this out for six months and hire consultants and hire a Salesforce implementer or something, or it can use best practice and use an intuitive tool, an intuitive platform. So I'm a really big fan of that. 

I don't know if this is a bit left field but I love Ahrefs because I love figuring out what people are searching for. And because I'm so focused on content and I'm a writer, that I spend a lot of my time in Ahrefs being like what are people searching for? And what's the best keywords and how's the website performing? 

And I think any marketing leader should be very focused on that because sometimes you can lose sight of the content and obviously you don't want to be in the weeds and correcting content, but the content direction on what we're focused on or what are our pillar pages, are we going to build or content strategy around? 

And it also is a really good way to see the market because you can actually see Google trends. You can see what people are searching in retail even. For example, the nap dress exploded, which is something that came from Hell House. And that was to do with lockdown of course. And they launched a dress that you can Nap in and you can sleep in and you can do all this. And that exploded over six months, I think 12x or something within a week just because it became so popular. 

But that's really interesting. So I figured someone who sells to retailers and markets for retailers, I need to know that and I want to know that. So keeping on top of that trend and that search volume is also just a really good insight into human nature and I'm a bit of a psychology geek. So I love that anyway.

 

Alex (34:55):

Well, thank you so much for sharing. I think you've added a huge amount of value in just over half an hour or so, many bits of advice and hands-on practical experience and things that you've experienced yourself. Thank you for joining.

 

Emma (35:08):

No problem. Thank you so much for having me. It was great to see you again.

 

FINITE (35:13):

Thanks for listening. We're super busy at finite building the best community possible for marketers working in the B2B technology sector to connect, share, learn, and grow. Along with our podcast, we host a monthly online events, run interview series, share curated content, and have an active slack community with members from London, New York, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Stockholm Melbourne, and many more to strengthen your marketing knowledge and connect with ambitious B2B tech marketers across the globe. Head to finite.community and apply for a free membership.

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