5 Ways to Make Your Marketing Grow This Year

CMO Spotlight: Elissa Fink,Tableau Software

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Elissa Fink
Elissa Fink Credit: Tableau Software

Here's the trouble with New Year's resolutions: we treat them as all-or-nothing challenges. Work out every day, or fail. Listen to an informative podcast every day, or fail. With such a steep path to success, it's no wonder so many of us tire of our resolutions by mid-January!

Fortunately, we in marketing have learned to approach improvement a little differently, focusing instead on making incremental changes meant to last. Someone familiar with this kind of effective growth strategy is Elissa Fink of Tableau Software. After starting in ad sales at the Wall Street Journal, she joined Tableau around Employee 40. One IPO and 3,000 hires later, Fink now oversees the marketing department at Tableau as chief marketing officer.

Having been with the company for over a decade gives Fink a unique perspective on its transformation. "You get to see this evolution in what you are trying to accomplish and to see how things that you seeded months or even years ago are blossoming," she says. Part of her accomplishments include accolades from The CMO Club, which last year awarded Fink with a Leadership Award for "demonstrated leadership in building, leading and motivating a high performing marketing organization."

Without further ado, here are Fink's five insights about creating lasting growth in any organization.

1. Growth means change. Don't fear it!

Tableau's mission is to help people see and understand data with easy and friendly analytics. Indeed, many marketers are familiar with the software. "The thing that has evolved is that we've become a company that can serve that up at scale," Fink says. "We started out as a tool that individuals often bought. It was almost like a consumer product. That's how we disrupted the market."

This evolution means that change has always been afoot for Fink. She advises not to fear the unexpected, but to embrace it. "I look at change as a fact of life," she says. "That we always need fresh ideas, and don't ever get comfortable with the way we've always done things." The only thing to fear, she says, is a stale operation. "If we're not changing, then something's not quite right," she quips.

2. Put yourself on mute

When it comes to mining those aforementioned fresh ideas, Fink recommends that leaders put down the microphone and let less-veteran voices be heard. "As a person who's been there long time, you have to recognize that you may not be the freshest source of ideas," she says. "So, as a leader, long-term employee and agent of change, there are times that I just need to listen, keep my mouth shut and be open to the idea that something that sounded crazy three years ago might be exactly what we need now."

3. Don't hesitate

One hang-up many of us face is the notion of timing. Rather than looking for the perfect moment to implement a new idea, invest in "now." Fink recounts Tableau's first user conference nearly ten years ago. "I was a big proponent and said, 'We need to do this. We need to serve our community.' Some internal folks were worried it was too early," she said. Her team expected 100 attendees, but ended up with twice that number. Today, Tableau's annual conference draws more than 10,000.

"As an analogy of our approach to marketing, the thing that I learned is to just get started," Fink says. "If you have a great idea, you don't have to start out with everything solved or every part of it all the way to bright. You're better off getting into the market, trying it, experimenting, piloting, learning, trying again, piloting again and just keep upgrading it."

4. Know your lessons

"Learning" is another operative word. After each consecutive conference, Fink and her team would reassess their strategy and execution to improve, year over year. "As a marketer, you've got to have a learning mindset. No matter what your scale, being a learner is the way to approach marketing because the world is changing. The world changes fast, and markets change fast, so be a lifelong learner, because that's going to serve you well."

5. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically

Finally, it's important to pursue growth with a glass-half-full mindset. "I realized over the years that enthusiasm goes a long way towards getting things done because it produces energy" and propels teams and initiatives forward, Fink says, speaking from experience. "We all are trying to achieve results for our companies and for our customers," she adds. "You need smart analytics, good business judgment, thoughtful strategy, but once you are ready to go, go at it with energy and enthusiasm. Use your resources to one hundred percent of their effectiveness."

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