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Leading an Army of 120 Marketing Warriors

Toma is not your regular CMO. Leading a product that has millions of users worldwide, she still manages to know what every single one of her team members is doing next weekend.  Apparently, performance marketing and the happiness of your team correlate big time. So we asked her what it’s like to be the leader of 120 marketing pros.

 

Coming back to the beginning of your career in marketing, where did it all start?

Ever since I was a kid, I remember that every time we were watching a movie and the commercials were on, all family members would leave the couch to get a cup of tea or snacks. Meanwhile, I would always stay in front of the TV and watch the commercials. I was mesmerized by the advertising world – you can create a whole new reality with barely any limits! Design was also something that excited me since the very early days. Was it clothing or interior, I had a curiosity for a well-crafted design.

Even though I’ve always had this artistic side of me, I had a thing for numbers too. I discovered an interest in maths and computer science, so I graduated from programming. For a while, I was a proper geek, but one thing led to another and I ended up working in the best field for me – Digital Advertising. It’s both creative and geeky enough allowing me to work with the digital designers, front-enders, and developers.

My career path was not coincidental. I had a clear vision of what I want to do and how to get there. Beginning from the very first Google search ads in Lithuania, moving on to working with pioneers of digital marketing in the Baltics (for example, Cubegroup, Adnet, Impartner). I tried on many roles before I finally became a CMO. Working as a PPC Manager, Project Manager (with both local and global markets) eventually led me to where I am now.

 

CMO. In every company that means a different range of responsibilities. What does being a CMO mean in your job?

Even the greatest things start with something small. In the beginning, our marketing team started off with just a few people and several positions.  At this point, our marketing team has grown to 120 people and 16 different departments: PR, Affiliate, PAID, Influencer, Offline, Content, Communications, SEO, Retention, Webutation, Design, Mobile, B2B, Data Analytics, Creative, CRO.

In the beginning, we were very adventurous. Trying out every marketing trick in the world, failing, then trying again. But this led us to having a team of people that know every bit of our business.

By constantly tracking the results and succeeding in the specific areas, we’ve discovered what works for us. Our marketing strategy is not art or fantasy. Both the whole company and marketing department have certain goals, yearly and quarterly KPIs. From the very beginning, we focused ONLY on performance marketing. As we like to say, for every dollar that we invest we have to get a dollar fifteen back.

So to answer this question, my job has certain business-oriented sides: how do we manage things, where are we going, what positions do we need. But at the very end, my goal is to achieve great annual results with a happy team. One cannot go without another. That is my ultimate goal of being a CMO.

 

It seems like our products focus on Performance-based marketing. How did it become so?

Very much so. It’s great and not that easy at the same time. If you asked me, why we went that road, I could tell that the main focus was on not wasting money and sticking to the budget. We were a small company with limited resources. Of course, we’ve all seen such moguls as “Procter & Gamble” spending loads of money just on “brand awareness”. From our point of view, we had to make our spendings as efficient as possible.

I think it’s always wiser to rely on numbers and results. You have to be able to calculate your CPA for one customer, determine which media channels are working for your product, and find partners to maximize your LTV, ROI, and other metrics. Obviously, there’s no such thing as finding one golden ticket for all businesses. Try, fail and try again.

 

What are the 3 things in the marketing world to follow in 2019 according to Toma?

If I had to name three:

  • Affiliate marketing;
  • Influencer marketing;
  • Paid marketing.

These three are the ones working specifically in our product category at this time. As I mentioned, we’re very performance-based, so these marketing channels help us reach the results in the fast-growing environment. But it has to be said that without the contributions and work of all 16 departments, it would be impossible to reach our goals. Team effort! Finally, in marketing or not, tracking results as often as possible is extremely important. If something doesn’t work, drop it and try something else.

 

Let’s talk about leadership. What is your approach?

I have 10 tips for myself that I try to follow:

 

  • PEOPLE. Sounds like a cliche, but that is the most important part in any business. Only efficient teamwork leads to good (or even great) results. I care about people not only on the professional level but personal too. There has to be a balance between the results that have to be achieved, and the personal happiness of the team member. As I like to say sometimes, you have to like at least 55% of your daily tasks.
  • KNOW-HOW. Sharing your know-how is essential. You shouldn’t be afraid to share your know-how. Quite the opposite. Sharing your knowledge with the team is what helps both you and the team to go further.
  • CHALLENGES, not PROBLEMS. Every time I face a problem, I put all my effort to think about it as a challenge. Challenges motivate you and once you stop seeing them as problems, you have no negative associations with any bump on the road.
  • PRIORITIES. There’s no such thing as “I didn’t have time to do this”. It’s usually just a poor choice of prioritizing.
  • THINK 5 STEPS AHEAD. Why 5? From my experience, 3 steps are simply not enough.
  • ACCEPT CHALLENGES. Don’t be afraid of what life (or work) throws at you. I constantly look for challenges both in personal and professional life. It’s not always that easy, but it’s always inspiring.
  • TAKE RISKS. Sometimes you have to go ALL IN. Sometimes you might fail. But you have to try and be ready to accept the responsibility.
  • LISTEN CAREFULLY. Less talking, more listening. You have to “read the room”. Whether these are things said out loud or whispered behind the curtains. For example, a demotivated team member can nail it at another department. Just because you were carefully listening and making notes.
  • TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. For your team, for your own calls. It’s okay to fail. But OWN IT when you do.
  • BE CREATIVE. Let it be work or personal life, making a creative call can go a long way. At least just for one moment, have a look what’s outside the box.

 

Managing 10 people vs 120 people. What has changed?

That is a good question. Sometimes it’s really fun to remember the beginning of it all. Very few people, loads of willingness to conquer the world. Right now, there are more than 120 marketing peeps here at Tesonet, but conquering the world part hasn’t changed a bit. I can honestly tell you, having so many different professionals under one roof working together side by side is a great joy.

The only thing that’s a bit tricky, remembering names is slightly more difficult now. But I’m trying 🙂

On a serious note, you have to be able to accept that delegating tasks and responsibilities is key. At some point, you’re not able to spend enough dedicated time with each team member, so you have to trust the team leads. Also, you have to put the effort into tracking the results of many many departments and make sure they’re aligned with the goals of the whole company. Being a good leader means letting your people do what they do best. I know, sometimes it’s hard to resist to micromanaging, but trust me on this one. 

We have massive plans. Our ambitions are high. For those particular reasons, we don’t pretend we know everything. We learn every day, meet professionals from all around the world just to get better each minute.