Let's face it: growing a company is as big a struggle as ever. The rules have changed, and will continue to change. What used to be effective, even just 5-10 years ago, no longer works. There’s an oversupply of vendors in most markets and customers have changed the way they buy.
For inbound marketers, we’re ahead of the trend in many ways. We embrace the fact that advertising as the sole means of growth is no longer a viable option. We realize that marketing today is about earning attention and trust more than ever. It’s about building a relationship with your customer before, during, and after the sale.
However, a lot of reliable and consistent brands have been shocked to see the rapid encroachment from smaller competitors via excellent marketing. Marketing teams that can earn the attention and trust of target customers are winning market share.
If your marketing team is winning, life is good. If not, you're rushing to adapt, realizing the strategic, creative, and technical gaps on your marketing team are a huge limiting factor to company growth. While your competitors watch and wonder in ahh-mazement, you can propel your company forward by building a high performance marketing team, slanting what looks like a level playing field into your favor.
How to Build a High Performance Marketing Team
Building the ideal marketing team is a process that involves two phases.
Phase 1: Evaluate & improve your existing team (steps 1-4 below).
Phase 2: Grow your team by filling your gaps (steps 5-9 below).
With that goal in mind, here is our 9 step process for building a high performance marketing team:
1) Remember Rome
It wasn't built in a day. Like anything significant, the ideal marketing team starts with a solid foundation. With the right foundation and plenty of grit, you can build (or even re-build) anything.
The strong foundation of modern marketing is building towards a team culture with, integrity, character, creativity, love, and loyalty. If your team loves the company they work with, and love serving the customers before, during and after the sale, you have a great foundation to build on. If that culture is not yet in place, focus on instilling the right company-wide mindset that fills these cracks in your foundation and positions your team for sustainable success.
The second set of elements that enable you to build anything is a team with grit. Grit is a combination of ambition, perseverance, resilience, flow and commitment.
Establishing this culture provides the vision for where your brand is going and it attracts the “A players” you want on your marketing team.
If you're confidently able to proceed past step one, pat yourself on the back. It's all downhill from here!
2) Rate Individual Team Members
A simple strengths and weaknesses assessment enables you to establish your starting position for developing each member already on your team. It's an exercise in honesty and humility (you'll rate yourself), and it only takes just a few minutes.
Assess each team member's marketing strength, level of expertise, and passion/commitment to the company. Then, objectively rate the priority (or level of importance) of their expertise and their contribution to bottom line objectives (ROI) to date.
Here’s an a simple assessment tool to help you, Evaluate Your Marketing Team. Within a few minutes one can identify who needs recognized, who needs coached, and who might not make the cut for the team you’re trying to build. Sometimes moving to the next level will not include bringing along everyone who is with you today. Other times you need only lay out clear expectations. All that some marketers need to be great is for it to be expected of them.
3) Rate Your Marketing
With the motto of "what gets measured gets improved", you can grow your marketing team and their results by knowing your strengths and areas for improvement. After all, good marketing teams become great through a process of continuous improvement.
After discovering your marketing score, decide how you'll feed your team's improvement. There's a time and place for books, training events, coaching, and strength-building projects/exercises.
4) Document Your Goals
Goal setting is important for every marketing team because it provides structure to all your activities. A clear destination brings focus to the team and a clear objective inspires people to do what it takes to achieve the goal. If you haven’t established clear, measurable goals for your team, complete this Goal Setting Guide. It takes only a few minutes.
It's also important to share the reason(s) WHY the goal is what it is. The answer should not be "this is what I think we can do." Get specific on what will happen if the goal is hit:
What changes in the company?
Whose lives are affected and how?
How does hitting this goal set up a better future for the company?
Also, clearly communicate what happens if you fail to reach these goals. Are jobs lost? Are budgets cut? Are plans canceled? Provide your team a clear goal that has purpose and you'll find your team will push harder to achieve that goal.
5) Transform Blockers Into Projects
The reason it's important to document smart goals is so you can then reverse engineer it and set progress milestones on the path to accomplishing that goal. You can unleash your team, allowing them to achieve each milestone, one at a time.
Each milestone is also an obstacle (blocker) that if not overcome, will impede your ability to hit your goal. A blocker can be almost anything. It could be revamping your website, or creating a clear and compelling value proposition for your company. It could be improving your conversion rate, or it could be creating higher quality content for your blog.
Once your blockers are identified, prioritize them. Then ask yourself, "which obstacles do we have a team member who can expertly remove this blockage?" These become prioritized projects for your current team; who will be radically more productive once you have them focused on removing blockers.
6) Identify Gaps
Gaps are when your marketing team doesn't have the right skill set or level of expertise to clear a blocker on your path. This means you need to grow your marketing team or you won't be able to resolve key blockers, and therefore, you won't hit your goal.
Yes, this is the "oh crap" moment!
Most companies realize that at least some of their blockers are linked to gaps in their marketing team. Suddenly it's clear why you're stuck at the level you're at. Your talent gaps, whether strategic, creative, or technical, have lead to performance gaps. And performance gaps act as ceilings on your results. Solve your gaps and you'll unlock new levels of success.
What’s most important is that each new marketing hire fills a high priority gap.
7) Stay Realistic
This is where some companies balk a little. "Hey I've got 5 gaps, but I can't possibly hire 5 people right now." Yes, the challenge of every small business, right?
If you had unlimited resources, you could create the ideal team in no time, and the cost of the team would be unimportant. However back in this place I like to call reality, you need to create a plan for how you'll fill gaps while also minimizing waste, maximizing budget, and positioning your team to scale.
To minimize waste, hiring people who can wear multiple hats will help. Alot of waste comes either through too many meetings or too many distractions. To address distractions you can ask each team member to install Rescue Time, a free app that helps employees see where they’re spending productive and distracting time.
To maximize budget and prepare your company to scale, make sure you hire the right talent in the right position. Not every team member needs to be a FTE. Part time, spare time, contractors, and agencies can often provide a more flexible and scalable solution than a full time employee. Sometimes you need two full time designers for a quarter or two, then only part time maintenance. It’s becoming increasingly common that marketing departments leave 20%-35% of their personnel budget unallocated for contractors and agencies.
8) Solve for the gap, not the Project
Revolving doors of hiring and firing employees, contractors and agencies creates problems. You'll have the waste of always looking for new talent, delays due to constantly trying to bring new people up to speed, and you'll never feel fully equipped if you’re always recruiting.
Instead of hiring contractors and agencies for a one time job, keep your most talented outside talent close by setting up a subscription relationship. This keeps them involved, but at the same time it gives you the flexibility to ramp up or scale back as your needs dictate. At Lean Labs, we call this a "Velocity Subscription" and it's covered in our ebook "Price Wars."
Tip: Don't hire contractors and agencies for what they can do. Hire them for what they do best. [TWEET THIS] Most agencies can do a wide variety of things, but are only MADE to do a few things really well. Hire for what they do best and you'll realize a far greater return on your investment.
9) Start the Journey
Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, and building a high performance marketing team is a process.
There's no such thing as perfection when people are involved. Course corrections are necessary in the pursuit of your all star team. However, you'll never have a high performance marketing team if you don't eliminate the biggest barrier to progress: procrastination.
Not everyone who starts with you will make it to the finish. Realizing that priorities and needs change in team members as well as the company helps rationalize what will inevitably be tough decisions ahead.
Team building has always been a passion of mine. I knew I could not build the company I envisioned unless I had a system of recruiting people smarter than me to act as force multipliers in my company. I hope this system produces the results for you as it has for me.
Originally published Jan 6, 2015 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017