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Field Notes #072: Prove It! Driving Buy-in for Ambitious Programs

Field Notes #072 Proving and Scaling - A Framework for Implementing Ambitious Marketing Programs

You’re a marketer with big ideas. That’s good. It’s better than being a marketer with small ideas or no ideas. 

But big ideas, new ones especially, are hard to push through an organization, especially an established enterprise with process, swim lanes, and earnings calls. 

More than ever, you have to answer the call: prove it. 

From working in-house at HubSpot and Workato to driving growth for tiny startups and enterprises like SAP and Adobe, here’s the framework I follow for getting launching and scaling ambitious programs.

Prove the Potential

What does extraordinary success look like? 

If everything goes right – if we hit every green light – what’s the maximum outcome? What’s the minimum outcome? Can you model this

Here’s where it helps if you can identify others who have done similar things, particularly if they are competitors. Executives love (and hate) seeing charts where their competitors are winning. 

It also helps to speak the language of your audience.

If, for instance, you’re at a company that has not invested in organic or SEO, but is heavily invested in paid acquisition, you can use metrics like “earned media value.” Instead of talking about brand, community, storytelling, you can say “if we invest X, we could achieve Y, which would cost us Z to attain if we paid for the ad space.”

If the promise isn’t there, it’s hard to even get a pilot off the ground.

Prove the Pilot 

A big promise usually entails big investment, so start small and prove out a smaller fractal of your larger program.

This lowers the barrier to entry. 

Think of BJ Fogg’s behavior model, where you have motivation and ability:


Proving the promise aims to increase motivation, but there will still be skepticism. It will be easier to implement if you don’t need to procure extra budget, headcount, resources, or risk. 

So think in terms of “minimum viable tests.” 

These tests should approximate the value, at least with leading indicators, or the bigger program that you’ll eventually invest in. They’re meant to test drive the viability of an idea. 

For example, we worked with a Fortune 500 company that was barely publishing any content. We modeled out scenarios that would put them at the top quadrant of leadership status in organic, which would require dozens and dozens of pages published per month. 

But what’s the viability of getting that through, going from zero to 100? 

Instead, we pitched a pilot that would bring them from zero to 1, with the promise that the pilot could easily be scaled if we see the agreed upon indicators (as well as our ability to execute).

Prove You’re Capable of Executing

For the in-house employees, you may think that because you were hired, you have the trust of your team.

You sort of do, but you still need to build trust for big ideas. 

Before pitching your boss on something novel, outside of what you were hired for, make sure you throw them red meat first. Do your job, excel at it, and prove you’re someone capable of getting shit done.

Then, when it comes to the novel idea you’re pitching, prove you can do it on a small scale (with a pilot) or that you’ve done it elsewhere. If you haven’t done it elsewhere, make sure you have references or resources you can bring in that will bolster your credibility. 

When I implemented the Surround Sound SEO strategy at HubSpot, I wrote the first few articles myself. I partnered with a few other companies to get us on their lists. I used data to indicate that there was a big idea here. And then I wrote a Wiki about the early results, which got me budget and buy-in to scale the program. 

Prove the Progress

Any long term program with ambitious goals will take time to come to fruition.


You’ll get that question.

Sometimes, earlier in your career, you hear a question like that and get defensive. You take it literally. 

In most cases, what your boss wants to hear is not “why aren’t we at the finish line already?” but instead “are there indications that we are making progress.” 

This is why measurement is important, especially leading indicators. 

In SEO, you’re obviously not going to achieve maximum results in the first few months, even if you’re publishing at an insane velocity. 

But you can measure early signs of progress like pages indexed, keyword rankings and movements, and search impressions. The story here is we’re going the right direction, and with time and some more intensity, we’ll start to see results that speak for themselves. 

But results rarely speak for themselves in the early days of a program. So you have to learn how to speak for them. This is an ongoing process. 

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Alex Birkett

Alex is a co-founder of Omniscient Digital. He loves experimentation, building things, and adventurous sports (scuba diving, skiing, and jiu jitsu primarily). He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit.