Notes From A Frustrated Strategic Marketer


When the team at SRH asked me to write a guest post for the Dispatch on aligning sales and marketing, I immediately thought about ways to share some hard lessons from my 25+ years working on both sides of that relationship.

I spent the first half of my career as your typical “frustrated strategic marketer” who raged against the lack of strategic care displayed by my colleagues in executive leadership and sales. There were so many questions with disappointing answers for my marketing-centric brain: “Why are the execs so impulsive?” “Why do they keep messing with our carefully developed plans?” “Do they know how hard it is to execute multiple concurrent multichannel campaigns?” “Why does sales keep freelancing instead of delivering the messages we developed?”

In reflection, I had two massive epiphanies about the way I looked at this key set of interaction points: 1) learning about the concept of effectual thinking and 2) embracing scrum agile across an entire business.

My foray into effectual thinking came about thanks to award-winning marketing professor Dr. Saras Sarasvathy. She studied successful entrepreneurs and found that while their strategic process was very different from the “casual thinking” we all use as strategic marketers, it was no less effective or less intense. I highly recommend all marketers check out her work, I suspect you’ll gain a greater appreciation for your execs, stakeholders and salespeople. Effectual thinking is something we should include in our marketing planning and it’s something I use frequently when I put on my sales or executive leadership hat.

And, as we moved Penta Technologies into a full scrum agile business, I’ve learned that syncing the pace of iteration and learning across an entire business can be an extremely powerful transformational force. Salespeople and execs run on short timescales, while marketing likes to be more planful and methodical. Getting sales to think more long-term (a 2-week agile sprint can feel like ages to salesperson), while getting marketing to think in shorter timescales (ex: start running experiments that fit into a 2-week sprint and see what happens to your innovation rate) has had a profound effect as we get these two groups to work more collaboratively.

To get in touch with Bill Wagner, feel free to reach out here.