13 min read

The Scrappy Solo Tech Marketer

Executive buy-in, fractional investor support, agency partnerships and intern talent help a solo tech marketer succeed.


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Diana Van Dusen, Marketing Manager at Azumo, has worked in both enterprise companies as part of a large marketing team and served as a marketing department of one. She enjoys the fast-paced, streamlined decision-making of smaller companies and is very resourceful at securing help to accomplish big marketing goals.

Azumo recently underwent a full re-brand, from their name and visual identity to their messaging and website. To pull this off, Diana relied heavily on help from an experienced marketing pro engaged by the investment group that has a stake in Azumo. Diana also engages agency support and interns with a talent for design and writing -- areas that complement Diana's skills as a holistic marketing strategist.  

Diana has worked at both software and hardware companies, and the most remarkable difference she noted was in the length of the buying cycle. A SAAS product might be an eight-week decision whereas the cycle for Azumo's front-lit displays can be as long as 18 months, if not more. This difference translates to varied marketing strategies and, in the case of longer sales cycles, less insight into marketing attribution to the sale. 

Diana recommends that other solo tech marketers look to industry blogs, social networking, peer feedback, and trusty Google when learning and growing as a professional. 

Resources

Transcript:

Being a marketer of one can be a pretty lonely place at a company. And that's probably why any time TREW Marketing creates a blog post or has an interview on this podcast with a solo marketer, they tend to be quite popular. So I've decided to continue that trend with today's guest. She works for an electronics company that makes front end displays that design engineers can put into products and describes what it's like a day in the life of a marketing department of one. How she survives and thrives and provides her advice on survival skills. For those of you out there in similar shoes, let's do this.

Welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered. Your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here is your host, Wendy Covey.

Hi and welcome to Content Marketing Engineered. On each episode, I'll break down an industry trend, challenge or best practice in reaching technical audiences. You'll meet colleagues, friends, and clients of mine who will stop by to share their stories, and I hope that you leave each episode feeling inspired and ready to take action. Before we jump in, I'd like to give a brief shout out to my agency, True Marketing. True is a full service agency located in beautiful Austin, Texas, serving highly technical company. For more information, visit trueemarketing.com. And now on with our podcast.

Hey everyone, and welcome to another episode of Content Marketing Engineered. I'm here today with Diana Van Dusen and she's the marketing manager at Izumo. Welcome to the show, Diana.

Thank you. Thank you for having me and bringing me on.

You bet. We're going to have a good talk today. I want to get in your shoes, so to speak. My shoe size is probably bigger than your size, but literally not figuratively, and just learn about a day in the life of your world and hear a little bit about your career progression and how you got to be where you are. So I think this will be just a great discussion for people who are looking to progress their careers in marketing and just want to hear what it's like both working at a software company and a hardware company. Because you've done a little bit of both, right?

Yes. They're two different animals for sure. And working alongside a software engineer is a lot different than working alongside an electrical engineer or mechanical engineer for that matter. So at Azuma, I have a couple of interns that started recently, but I've been a marketing team of one, so that's been a different challenge with limited resources, whereas previous and software there was a broader team. So if I needed something created, I walked over to someone's desk and said, hey, can you help me work on this? Whereas now I have to work on that. So there's been some resources here, and there many of us that are marketing team of one, which as the technical marketer, most companies, people listening are probably all many of them are teams of one. We may have some third party resources that we can utilize, but it makes it a little more challenging.

Which do you like better?

You know, there's definitely pros and cons to both. I like the autonomy of being not necessarily if I was a team of four or five, but being in a smaller company versus a larger company. Not necessarily in terms of people, but more startup versus a large corporate enterprise. The enterprise might have more resources, but there's also a lot more that goes into getting resources when you're a smaller team, especially reporting to the CEO, if there's something I want to do that costs budget, I can send him a text message or walk into his office and say, hey, I want to do this. What do you think? Versus having many stacks and red tape in a larger enterprise environment?

Yeah, I bet you having that direct line means that you're more connected to the business and understand in more detail where the business is headed and why. Because you have that direct relationship.

Yeah. I think also working for a company where there's a lot of transparency, which some larger enterprise organizations may not have, kind of gives that transparency to the whole company, not just me having that direct CEO line. I've been fortunate in my career. My previous role was also within software, and I reported to the CEO and even before that, working for a larger enterprise organization. I happen to be in the same I was at our headquarters, and where I sat wasn't too far from where the CEO sat, and I started with him in a start up, and then we got acquired by a larger company. So I got to know him more as a person. So it was very comfortable to ask him questions or grabbing a cup of coffee in the kitchen to say, hi, how are you doing? That was really interesting last month about this or that and get some further insights. So I've been fortunate in that aspect.

Nice.

Now, out of Zumo, you've seen a lot of pretty unique things. So one is you're working with investors, and not everybody has that. And another one is you saw the company through a rebrand and renaming. So tell me a little bit about how that progressed and what your role was.

Sure. So renaming rebranding, I dubbed it like our Reevesing Project because we were redoing everything, not just refreshing the logo and updating branding, but changing the name. I think there were some corporate decisions of going from an LLC to a C Corp, so it made sense to kind of do them all at the same time. Luckily, I had one of our investors has some marketing resources, mainly this one woman who was an extension of the team that had gone through this with other companies. So her guidance was unparalleled. I tell her all the time if she didn't help us with that. I definitely would have pulled my hair out a little bit. So I don't know if that helped to answer your question, but it's a big undertaking. But when everything's broken down into smaller steps, okay, we're here, we need to be there. And I like to backtrack from where I want to be to where I am. That tends to make things a little bit more digestible.

I got you. So, thinking about this dynamic, you have company leadership that you work with. You have some outside investors that obviously are keenly interested enough so that they lent you some resources. So I find that interesting. So how do you ensure you have their buy in on your marketing plans? Or do you have a certain marketing dashboard that you're presenting back or what's your accountability looks like?

Yes, I think that our investment team definitely sees value in marketing. Many of them have had marketing backgrounds or business backgrounds. It's more the engineer that doesn't always do the value in marketing, as I'm sure you're familiar with. So even when I started, just hearing from my boss that the other co founders of the company heard more third party testimonials, so other people in the industry that are like, hey, I saw this blog piece, hey, I saw this ad out, I got this email, and this was really interesting. Telling him that really kind of got his tie in. So being small and historically, having had a large marketing budget, I don't have a big dashboard to say we spent this much in ads and this was the ROI on it. And being in a technical company, I'm sure you're familiar with the sales cycle. Isn't a six to eight weeks fast lead time? If anything, six to eight weeks is long for software. Our sales cycle could be twelve to 18 months, sometimes 24, 36 months.

Yeah, attribution is very difficult with that long sale cycle, for sure.

Yeah, absolutely. So hearing that from my boss that he's like, yeah, so and so told me they saw these things and they're really starting to see the value of it. Yeah. So I think just having an increase, even just having more blog posts and content and posting on social, especially on LinkedIn, and we use Twitter a lot too. Just being out there in the world, people start noticing and start getting feedback back to the investors and to G suite. And that tends to funnel down a little bit because they also know, to your point, the sales cycle is so long, it's hard to say these marketing activities really helped move the needle.

Yeah.

You know what I find interesting too, is sometimes leadership is skeptical of the data being served up by marketing anyway. So this anecdotal evidence of I see this activity, people are saying positive things sometimes speaks more volumes than this dashboard that they may not be bought into.

Absolutely agreed.

So when you first started at azuma.

How did you ramp up?

How did you learn about the products and your target personas? What steps did you go through to do that?

There was something already in the works. When I had started that, I just read as much as I could. I actually went to some of the engineers and asked them questions. Try to also kind of learn what their language is because being a marketer and I have a degree in sociology and have worked in marketing for so long that engineering is very foreign to me. So asking them as many questions as I can. We had an application engineer that did a lot of product training with me, and our sales director had been with the company for probably, I don't know, maybe 1015 years now. So hearing from them was really helpful. Some of our products actually I went to the area of where all the bills were happening and actually got to build a few things. I'm like, I might break it, but at least I can see what it's like. I didn't break anything, so that's a plus. But just kind of getting my hands in and being like, oh, we built this. Let me build a reflective display. Let me build one. I want to see what it's like. So having a hand in that has been really helpful.

A little part of my role is falls in some production and operational activities. So even as little as I had in that, just having that exposure, a few things when my boss would be on pitch calls or he would get a journalist I wanted to interview for an article, I listened in, or even sales presentations, I listened in as much as I could. And then Google I Googled different marketing for engineers and that's actually how I found out about Tree was I literally Googled marketing to engineers and Tree's website popped up and all of your content was invaluable.

Yes.

Good.

It was. She didn't pay me to say that. It's absolutely true. That's how I met Wendy in the first place. For technical marketers, there's not a lot of resources out there.

You're leading into my next question. So well, I was going to say is as a marketing department of one, how do you keep up with the latest trends and just stay on top of your marketing education so that you can put together a cohesive marketing strategy? I'm sure it's not easy because you don't have peers to brainstorm with and bounce ideas off of.

I joined different marketing groups on LinkedIn. There's even some on Facebook. I have some other friends that work in marketing, and some of them work for large agencies and our B to C marketers, but still we'll ask them questions. I actually took a marketing certificate program, so having that, my degree is not in marketing. Wanted to learn just a little bit more on that. And there was a lot of it was in the BTC class, there was a lot of BTC strategies that they brought in that I found interesting. And then just following blogs of different content marketers, I get through emails often. There's a few others in the technical marketing space that I follow. And then just looking on LinkedIn or posting like, hey, I'm trying to do this. What are your thoughts? And kind of using those groups as just as a thought leader when I don't have a whole team to sit and brainstorm with. Great.

I can tell you're a very resourceful person. You get out there, you figure out, you find it google.

I Google a lot. And then that leads down the rabbit hole to different articles and different content pieces that I can utilize.

Yeah.

So you mentioned interns earlier. You have two interns right now. Is this something you've done often? Have interns coming in and working with you? Or is that more of a summer thing? What does it look like?

It's a summer thing. We have these two this summer and they're probably 70, 80% marketing, 20% sales. Not so much in cold calling, business development sales, but really in the sales enablement, which is huge as a marketer. I'm not just a digital marketer, not just a content marketer. I wear all the hats in sales enablement in a large organization, they might have someone on the marketing team that only creates content and does sales enablement. And that's where one aspect is one person. There's only so many hours in a day and I'm only one person, so I can only do so much. So having them be able to work on some more content and even pitch decks and things for sales has been really helpful. We also had another intern last summer also. So it's been just a summer. But it's been great having people come in. They have strength where I have weaknesses. And I love being creative. But I'm not a graphic designer. So having someone that has a lot more of a graphic design eye and then another intern that's a little stronger in writing than I am has been really helpful.

Oh, that's a nice formula.

Yeah, that was my design. Don't go back to school in the fall.

I need you to stay on.

Yes, that would be great. Yeah, well, degree is important. More important to finish the degree first. Yes, for sure.

What parting advice do you have for others out there that are either just starting off in their marketing careers or maybe they're the one person marketing department. Just like you have a few bits of advice that you've learned over your.

Career for someone new that's starting, especially if they're not exactly sure what aspect of marketing they want to go into. I think that's where some informational interviews might be really helpful. I have a friend who's pivoting from teaching and wants to get into marketing, and she's been finding people on LinkedIn that have different job titles and kind of asking them for a ten minute conversation. Working in an organization that either has a large team where you can learn a little bit from each or even a small team where you're doing it all will kind of help guide you. Do I want to be more on the digital side? Do I want to create content?

Do.

I like writing better. But coming into as a marketing team of one, especially in a technical marketing role, just looking online for as many resources to help you, blog, finding webinars, finding those LinkedIn groups where there's others that are like you, have similar roles that may have been doing it longer, that you can ask guidance and questions too.

You said something earlier that really stuck with me and said, I'm only one person, I only have so much time. And so it seems to me like setting boundaries and pushing back on the organization sometimes, I'm sure is required so that it's not just becoming an 80 hours and a 90 hours job, right?

Some weeks it might be if you're going to a big conference and there might be a lot of activities before the conference that you have to attend to, but it's not going to be like that every week. So, I mean, I keep my calendar up to date if I have to do a pick up or drop off for my daughter or if I tell someone I'll get to it at this time or when sales are, can you have this done by Thursday? I always want to say yes to everything. So I've been learning the last several months of I can't by Thursday, but I can buy this day, and if they're like, Well, I need it by Thursday. Someone asked me for something by Thursday about like, I have a PTO day tomorrow, I can give you ten minutes, and sometimes giving a little bit can buy your time.

Yeah, very good.

Well, Diana, thank you so much for sharing. Just what it's like being in your shoes, like I said, and great advice for other marketers out there. Working at technical companies, it often can be a struggle managing expectations organizationally and ramping up. So I think you gave some great advice today. Really appreciate that.

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Thanks for joining me today on Content Marketing Engineers. For show notes, including links to resources, visit truemarketing. Compodcast. While there, you can subscribe to our blog and our newsletter and order a copy of my book, Content Marketing Engineers. Also, I would love your reviews on this podcast, so please, when you get a chance, subscribe and leave me a review on your favorite podcast subscription platform form. Thanks and have a great day. Bye.