Learning How To Be Big

Last week I worked with a content marketing team that’s killing it. In two years, they’ve doubled their content production, doubled the number of active leads they’re helping to generate, and hired six more people to produce content.

But this year, growth has flattened. They feel like the quality of their content has declined and like they’re losing traction as they feed the business’s demand for content.

They wanted to know if they’d grown too big.

I think the real question is whether they’d let themselves “get big” at all.

You see, this team has created content for marketing programs since Day One. But they’d never thought about content as a strategic function in their business.

When I suggested creating a governance plan and a standard process for their content projects, they grumbled and mumbled. They wanted to solve their perceived slump by jumping into the better kinds of content they’d create. So I said, “Okay, let’s talk about those first.”

We stepped up to the whiteboard and mapped out four new initiatives: a digital magazine, two blogs, and a customer community. We identified success metrics and timelines.

Then, I started asking questions:

  • What “rocks”  (technical challenges, uncooperative people, budget constraints, etc.) could impede success?
  • What showstopper ideas – critical aspects the initiative – will have to be tested before we can scale the effort?
  • What new resources will we need to create content for all four initiatives?
  • How will the SEO strategy, the audience development strategy, and lead management align across the four platforms?

The top answers to those questions were “I don’t know” and “We’re going to need people to own that.”

That was my moment. I asked, “Now can we talk about how to manage content as a strategic function of your growing business?”

See, “big” means you can afford things. Big means you’re ahead of the game and can take risks. Big also means you use words like “process,” “ownership,” “governance,” and “standards.” It means you have meetings that focus not on the content itself but on how your content teams work together.

Usually, we struggle with being big because we never learned how to be big. No one ever asked us, “How will you scale you?”

Getting big changes the nature of our work.

It may remove you from doing work that you love today, while introducing you to work that is a brand new adventure. It may force you to give up the collaborative (but now too slow) flatness of your team’s decision making and move to a command-and-control (but more efficient and effective) process. 

The challenge is that your desire to hold onto your current work, the flatness of your team, or your familiar workload can actually keep your company from ever getting big.

So get ready for bigness. Don’t fear it, and don’t avoid it. Businesses that deny their bigness end up retrofitting their infrastructure, processes, and strategy. It isn’t pretty.

As you grow, do the work. Learn how to be big so that you can minimize the pain in “growing pains” and keep the dream in “dream big.”

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.