11 Vital Signs of a Healthy Marketing System

25 March 2024

Marketing often feels like a black box, so when growth isn’t meeting expectations, it can be hard to know what to change. Evaluate the 11 components of a healthy marketing system to figure out where to focus and check for common syndromes that could be afflicting your marketing organization.

RevelOne’s Spotlight Series regularly features insights from top experts in our Interim Expert Network. We cover a broad range of topics at the intersection of marketing, growth, and talent. If you’re interested in exploring these topics further and engaging with one of our 200+ executive or mid-level experts, please contact our team at

Written by Libby Weissman
This article was originally published on Libby’s Substack.   

When growth isn’t meeting expectations, where do you focus time and energy to fix the problem?

If you’re working in a marketing-led business, you might be asking yourself questions like:

1. Is my content resonating with the audience?
2. Am I marketing in the right channels?
3. Do I have the right tech stack?
4. Is the product positioned wrong?
5. Is the product itself good enough?

Marketing can so often feel like a black box, and as a former General Manager turned Marketing leader who’s worked with 15+ startups, I see three reasons why.

1. Marketing is a delicate system. Product, content, brand, and growth marketing elements must work together. If one part of the system is working well, but another isn’t, the whole system falls apart.

2. Most marketers aren’t system thinkers. Most marketing leaders come up through one marketing discipline—SEO, content marketing, paid social media, product marketing, brand strategy, etc.—and struggle to shake the bias of that discipline as they advance in their careers.

3. Marketers and stakeholders speak different languages. Sales, finance, and often CEOs all speak the language of the P&L—revenue, sales, acquisition, and profits. Many marketers speak the language of campaigns, creative briefs, impressions, and clicks. Successful marketing leaders translate between these two languages, but when that’s missing, it leads to a lot of misunderstanding on both sides.

Investigating the Black Box

I’ve seen marketing leaders and founders struggle to properly allocate marketing budgets and resources to drive repeatable, profitable growth. It often feels like a game of Whac-A-Mole — as soon as one thing is fixed, you realize something else is broken.

It’s tempting to start fixing the most urgent or obvious problem, but when it comes to the black box of marketing, the only thing I’ve seen work is applying a systems-thinking approach to diagnosing the root cause (or causes).

This article introduces the 11 components of a healthy marketing system. I’ll dive deep into each component, outlining how it impacts the overall marketing system and sharing specific questions to help you properly diagnose its performance in your organization.

Before we get into it:

1. Do all of these steps apply to every marketing team? This framework is relevant for scaling, post-product market fit companies using marketing as their primary growth motion and spending at least ~$2M annually on marketing (including headcount and budget).

2. Where should I start if I’m early in setting up my marketing-led growth engine? You need a much lighter-weight version of this system that still includes elements from all three pillars. I’ll publish a post that goes into more detail about applying systems thinking to early-stage startup marketing soon!

Checking Marketing’s Vitals

The 11 components are divided into strategy and execution across the four major marketing disciplines: brand, product, content, and growth. Let’s start with the basics:

Here’s how the 11 components shake out:

11 Components

  1. 💖 Brand strategy: Do you have a clearly defined purpose (why your brand exists) and values (principles to guide your brand’s behavior/decision-making) that help your audience understand what you stand for?
  2. 🎯 Positioning: Is your product creating differentiated value for a clearly defined target audience?
  3. 💬 Messaging: What are the reasons (and the evidence) customers should try your product? 
  4. 🏛 Pillars: Does all of your content connect back to a few core themes?
  5. 📆 Calendar: Do you have a regular cadence of content tied to moments in your customer’s life and your product’s roadmap?
  6. 📣 Distribution Advantages: Are you activated in channels that fit your customer, product, and business model? 
  7. 📊 Growth Model: Do you have clear goals for channel tactics that connect to your broader business goals?
  8. 📄 Briefs: Do you have a process for converting content ideas into creative deliverables (copy, visual)? 
  9. 🎥 Production: Is your content varied & high-quality?
  10. 🩺 Channel health: Are your channels following best practices (optimization, creative, measurement)?
  11. 🏃‍♀️ Operating cadence: Do you have robust rituals to track performance to goals, collect learnings, and adapt?

Diagnosing Common Syndromes

So, what do startups get wrong? Across the organizations I’ve worked with, I see a few typical profiles:

Silver Bullet Syndrome: These startups have seen short bursts of success from various tactics and are relentlessly pursuing “the next big idea” but have no repeatable and predictable growth engine. They tend to be underdeveloped across all the fundamentals, with the most significant weaknesses in execution (📄, 🎥, 🩺, 🏃‍♀️). Their founders tend to be unstructured thinkers who love to host a brainstorm.

Silver Bullet Syndrome

Measurement Syndrome: These startups have a rigorous approach to measuring growth and are constantly experimenting but aren’t consistently converting prospects. They have strengths in growth marketing strategy and execution (📣, 📊, 🩺, 🏃‍♀️) but come up short in content marketing strategy (🏛, 📆) and brand marketing (💖). Their founders tend to be left-brained operators who are skeptical of the creative parts of marketing and do their best thinking in SQL.

Measurement Syndrome

Perfectionist Syndrome: These startups deeply understand their customer and have flawless strategy docs to prove it—but struggle to convert that strategy into a growth engine. They have strengths in strategy across many dimensions (🎯, 🏛, 📣, 💬, 📆, 📊) but need to improve in executing content and growth (8, 9, 10, 11). Their founders tend to be ex-consultants (Matt Lerner calls these founders “overthinkers” in his new book) who thrive during an annual planning meeting.

Perfectionist Syndrome

Beautiful Things Syndrome: These startups churn out high-quality, entertaining, and beautiful content. They have strengths in content marketing strategy (🏛, 📆) and execution (📄, 🎥) as well as brand strategy (💖) but weaknesses in growth marketing (📣, 📊, 🩺, 🏃‍♀️). Their founders tend to come from large brands with > 90% brand awareness (where the focus was on catchy campaigns rather than building distribution) and light up most in a creative review.

Beautiful Things Syndrome

Closing Thoughts

Like any complicated system, if a diagnosis is rushed, it’s easy to focus on fixing the wrong thing.

I know the exhausting feeling of sprinting at a problem, only to fix it and find the system no better off. This is why so many marketing leaders end up burned out or fired, and their counterparts are left feeling even more confused about what marketing is and how to get it to work.

Subscribe if you want to dive deeper with me into each component:


About the Author
Libby Weissman is a growth advisor who helps startups implement & improve their marketing-led growth engines. Libby brings together lessons from her early-stage experience as VP of Marketing at Realm, scaling experience as Head of Marketing at Caviar (acquired by DoorDash), and advising experience across dozens of startups. To dive deeper into the elements of a high-performing marketing system, follow her Substack.

About RevelOne
RevelOne is a leading go-to-market advisory and recruiting firm. We help hundreds of VC/PE-backed companies each year leverage the right resources to achieve more profitable growth. We do 250+ retained searches a year in Marketing and Sales roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech. In addition to our Search Practice, our Interim Expert Network includes 200+ vetted expert contractors – executive-level leaders and head-of/director-level functional experts – available for interim or fractional engagements. For help in any of these areas, contact us.

Want to stay up-to-date?

Join our mailing list to receive our latest insights, tools, and articles.

We'll need a valid email address.

Thank you for subscribing. Want to learn more about RevelOne?

Download RevelOne Overview

Spotlight Series

We regularly bring you insights and articles from leading experts within our Interim Expert Network, covering a range of topics at the intersection of marketing, growth, and talent.