7 ways to run your marketing department like a software startup

Koala co-founder and marketing leader, Dany Milham, shares how he's tapping growth hacking techniques and Agile methodologies to keep the mattress online retailer on a steep growth curve


Unite product with marketing

Equally important is removing any disconnect between product and marketing. “If the marketing is again the voice of the customer, they should be intertwined with products,” Milham says.

“If you look at most agile businesses, the products normally come from the marketing side because they’re so in tune with what people want. Whereas if you’re in a business where product makes products without going through marketing, you’re not staying true to your customers and you’re probably going to be looking to build a relationship with a new customer all over again.”

Analytics gets fed back into the insights team and product team, creating a closed feedback loop.

“You’re constantly learning about pain points, putting it through an innovation principle, feeding that back into marketing and product coming inbetween innovation and the innovation requirements,” Milham says.

Having a 120-day trial also supplies teams with a constant stream of feedback on product. “When we get a return, we send a full survey, asking them why, talk about the foam, and it goes straight back into the product and marketing teams,” Milham says. “If it’s something to do with our website, or delivery, it’s marketing responsibility to make that better.

“This also makes sure everyone in the business is working towards one goal.”  

Adopt OKRs

Rather than use KPIs, Koala has introduced Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as a quarterly filter for getting teams aligned across the organisation.

“OKRs are great at getting everyone on the same piece of paper, focusing on the same goals,” Milham says, adding that the company will set five OKRs, such as revenue, profitability, employee or customer satisfaction. “Everyone can see OKRs.

“Once they’re set, it goes department level, then to a team level. We sit down and talk about if we can reach them. For example, we have so many events coming up, but someone who manages our events has a filter that says for the next quarter, my goal is to target inner city mothers. Once we set up for the quarter, it allows people to judge based on will it affect their OKRs.”

With OKRs too, you can never fail, Milham claims. This is also because the company runs based on small team collaboration.

“We run 3-4 people teams, decentralised to a point where it’s the team fails, not an individual,” he says.  

Small teams are great because everyone is working to a central goal and they’re empowered to achieve it. Teams also change depending on the goal.

“Each team has a designer, developer if they need one and they can work on their own so they’re their own mini company with their own metrics,” Milham says. “It creates smaller groups but also more cooperation and transparency for that team to work towards a goal. And we have weekly reviews, so at the end of each sprint, we have burn down charts where we see where the effort was done and not done.”

Prioritise on ICE

Prioritisation of tasks is then undertaken using the growth hacking ‘ICE’ methodology – impact, confidence, ease.

For instance, if there’s a trade show the team is thinking about participating in, questions the group will ask are firstly, what is the impact going to be? Will the brand reach its target audience, or generate sales, or more increased awareness, and where does it sit in the funnel? This is given a score out of 10. Similarly, in terms of confidence, questions might include whether the activity can be executed and meet bang for buck. Thirdly, ease of execution is also considered.

Scores and then views in aggregate across items and the business prioritises those with the higher overall scores.

“With a limited amount of time and resources, you want something that has the biggest impact,” Milham says.  

“Being a fast-growth startup, everyone has amazing ideas. But this gives us a sheet where everyone can see what the top five will be. If there’s conflict in the room, it’s a really good tool for decision making: We just run it through the ICE method.”  

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