How to build a modern marketing team: 15 tips for success
The speed at which marketing tools, tech and tactics are evolving is dizzying. And if your team was built for traditional marketing approaches, evolving with them is challenging. Over the last several years, we’ve seen this first-hand—in client organizations of every shape and size. If you’re going through these team building (or re-building) efforts, you’ll have to hire for skills that didn’t exist a few years ago, merge the old with the new, and decide what to handle in house and what to outsource. The good news? Nearly all have come out the other end stronger and more successful.
We’ve got 15 tips to help you nail it:
Know what success looks like.
Start by asking WHY—why does this team exist? Then define what success looks like for the team. Lay it out and clearly define it so all team members understand and are working together towards success. The details behind the “why” will also start to inform what the team looks like (In-house? Outsourced partners? Hybrid?). In this step, measurable goals are key (see tip #7 for more on that).
Identify the challenges to building your “perfect” team.
Based on the “why,” what does your ideal team look like from a skills/bandwidth perspective? What are the challenges you face in building that ideal team? For example, your company’s geography may limit your access to in-house talent; or perhaps you need access to a certain skill, but only on a part-time basis. Identifying these issues is the first step to solving them.
You can’t always get what you want. But what do you need? Prioritization is key when it comes to building, supplementing or rebuilding your marketing team. Budget, internal processes and other realities may force you to start slow—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you take a phased approach in terms of hiring, moving team members around or bringing in new partners, you’ll be better positioned to pinpoint what’s working and what’s not—and make adjustments to your strategy as time goes on.
Gain consensus and collaborate internally.
We’ve seen it happen: Larger organizations with multiple marketing teams or complicated hierarchies sometimes miss out on efficiencies that can be gained by teaming up to tackle a shared staffing/resource need. Sharing information and collaborating upfront might mean that you can share the cost or responsibility of filling that gap. It also allows you to get more bang for your buck from outside partners.
Get creative with budgets.
In line with tip #4, think outside of your team/budget when it comes to certain needs or projects. A new website for example, might be better classified as a capital expense—so you won’t have to sacrifice team members, partners and resources because of limited marketing budget. Work closely with other teams to identify projects that might merit budget coverage from another department. As mentioned in tip #2, outsourcing can help you find wiggle room in your budget; using an integrated agency, for example, gives you access to a wider cross-section of talent without the cost associated with a full-time salary.
Dive deep into technical skills and considerations.
Technology is crucial to modern marketing programs, but finding the talent that can maximize its potential is challenging. When considering things like digital media management, marketing automation, web development and other highly specialized (and often expensive) skills, assess all of your options thoroughly. Even if you’d like to keep these disciplines in-house, it pays to chat with potential partners. Ask a prospective partner to take you and your team through live campaigns/demos of relevant tools—getting under the hood, so to speak. This will give you a better understanding of how outside help might supplement—or be redundant—to your in-house talents. Bonus: Even if you decide to keep these disciplines in house, you’ll have a benchmark for the skills/experience required.
Think about measurement.
Before making team-building decisions, think five steps ahead to how you’ll measure their success. For example, if you decide to bring an agency in to handle complex digital programs—will they be expected to exceed benchmark performance of current programs? Or should they set a new benchmark and gradually improve upon that over time? If you’re hiring, what are the employee’s 30-, 60- and 90-day goals that ladder up to your objectives for that role/discipline? The more specific and measurable, the better.
Most of our tips up to this point have been about logic. But we can’t overstate the importance of chemistry. Building a great, high-performing team is as much about heart as it is head. Does the thought of being stuck at an airport during a flight delay with your team members and/or partners terrify you? If so, the fit isn’t there.
Hire smart people that line up with your core values.
In line with tip #8, building teams with chemistry is a little easier if you define—and hire around—your company and team’s core values. Ours, for example, are Passion, Accountability, Creative Insight and Team-Focus. And we hire and evaluate employees based upon those values. It’s easier to get everyone aligned when the core values are clearly defined and lived out by the organization.
Make sure everyone is on the same page.
During the process of building/rebuilding your team, it’s crucial to reinforce what success looks like each time you meet. Even if it seems like overkill, constantly realigning your team on goals, expectations and roles and responsibilities will help everyone move together towards success.
Push for partnership and collaboration.
Silos are an efficiency killer—and can be detrimental to success. That’s why it’s crucial to bring your employees and partners together (ideally in person) during key project milestones and discussions. Even if an employee or partner isn’t as involved in a particular project, they may bring fresh ideas and insights to the table. There’s also a chance that giving them visibility to a seemingly unrelated project might actually change the course of something they’re working on.
Creativity and ideas can come from anyone in any role. Encourage collaboration, and communicate to team members that they can make decisions and improvements for your organization if they line up with your core values. Partners and employees that feel empowered are typically more invested in generating positive outcomes—and more flexible to ongoing evolution.
Everyone’s a hero.
Recognize the contributions of all team members to keep everyone motivated and fulfilled. Identify ways to formalize this recognition (spot bonuses, peer-to-peer recognition, etc.).
Guardrails with flexibility.
The most successful teams operate without strict boundaries. Set the guardrails for expectations and timelines, but allow freedom and flexibility to maximize creativity and progress.
Building successful teams is challenging, but it should also be extremely exciting, and (dare we say) fun! Don’t forget to step back, breathe and pat yourself on the back for your team-building progress.