Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: Friday Dilemma - Champagne Taste, Beer Budget

Friday Dilemma - Champagne Taste, Beer Budget

I have to admit this is my favorite Friday Dilemma that I've come up with yet. I see a variation of this story over and over again on the marketing forums. I know I've personally faced a variation of this dilemma at least a couple times in my own career. Each time, I've handled things a little differently, but I'm never sure I handled it the best way I could.

I want to find out what you would do, so please respond.

Champagne Taste, Beer Budget

You’ve spent more than a decade working in the marketing department of a very well-known company with a reputation for outstanding marketing. Sure, they make mistakes, but for the most part you’ve learned a lot about how marketing should be done. Having worked in several different areas, you also have a well-rounded background in many aspects of marketing. It is the best start to a marketing career that you could possibly imagine.

Your one frustration is that you don’t seem to be able to move up within the organization. One day, opportunity knocks within a small start-up company looking to lead their marketing effort. You know that the company is strapped for cash as they are just getting the business off the ground. You’re even willing to take a pay cut and work longer hours just to be part of the management team. You’ll have a VP title and report directly to the CEO who is also one of the founders.

After you start in your new organization you begin to realize that the founders are engineers at heart. They really don’t have much experience with marketing, or much respect for the breadth and depth of the marketing function. However, they’ve also worked for large well-run organizations. In short, they understand what marketing can do, they just have no idea of the work it takes to get it done. They want all those glossy brochures, a snazzy logo, a top notch website, placement of your story in the best business publications, and more….they just don’t want to pay for it.

As you sit in your office contemplating your budget (which is about a tenth of what you need) and your staff of two hard-working marketers – fresh out of college, you wonder of you made the right choice.

What are your options? Should you look for a new position somewhere else? The job market isn’t looking too good right now. Should you try to get your old job back? You left on great terms with your former employer, but they aren’t hiring. Plus, you didn’t like your lack of advancement opportunities. Should you try to educate the CEO on what it takes to market a product in your industry? Should you just try to weather the storm and do your best?

What would you do?


P.S. You can still respond to my last two "Friday Dilemmas" if you're feeling like handing out a little career advice to the marketing world. As I mentioned in Wednesday's post, commenting on blogs is a great way to showcase your expertise!
Should You Say Something?
Where Do Your Loyalties Lie?

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  1. This is a fun one. I'm going to assume that near-term your best play is to stay at the small company. I would engage the CEO in frequent, serious expectation-setting and priority-setting sessions...which should have been done as part of the interviewing process, but should be done periodically anyway.

  2. That's a great point! I think a lot of people who find themselves in an executive position for the first time in their careers don't actually see themselves as execs. Even though the marketer in this example is working for a small company and managing a small staff, they were hired with an executive level title. They need to act the part until it becomes second nature.

    All the best!


  3. Anonymous07:54

    Hi Melissa,
    In situations like this, a healthy does of pragmatism is the best cure. First step should be a realistic review of the financial condition of the firm your with. Is there sufficient free capital in place to even fund an adequate mktg budget? Chances are slim that firms in today's economy are going to borrow their way into a budget.

    From there, a serious effort at a structured investment model approach to your marketing plans should be prepared and discussed with the rest of the management team. YOur asking to utilize precious funds that could be earmarked for many needs, can you demonstrate a return on that investment great enough to place your needs for this spend at a higher level of priority than other mission critical options on the roadmap?

    Last is an unclouded view of the team you are working with. If you have done 1 & 2 above and you feel you have made a sound case that still is not resonating with your colleages, it may be that they are just not at a business maturity level to make a decision your asking them to make.

    If you wind up here (and bringing in more seasoned mgmt isn't a viable alternative) then a new job may be the best answer of all.

    Your friend from the trenches,


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