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June 2, 2015

8 Mistakes CMOs Make When Structuring Their Marketing Teams

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It’s a great time to be a CMO. Marketing and sales platforms are converging to make data-driven decisions much more attainable in a shorter amount of time. Segmenting communication to the right people at the right time in the buyer's journey, from first touch to post-sale, across multiple channels is becoming more of a reality every day. 

And in a world where the customer is in charge, marketing has taken on many of the responsibilities once held by information gatekeepers in the sales department. It’s only getting better. Yet, many teams still aren’t able to thrive in this new era of marketing. Why? Because changes in technology haven’t led to changes in departmental structures. Event marketers do events. Advertising managers handle ads. Public relations folks take care of PR. Marketing technology may be changing, but marketing’s way of using it is still in the 20th century.

If you want to be a true 21st century CMO, it’s time to start re-thinking what to expect from your marketing team. Some team members may be just as excited as you are to face these new challenges head on.

Others will need the proper leadership to guide them through the dynamic shift in day-to-day marketing activities. But first, you need to understand what not to do when putting together your team. Here are a few missteps to avoid:

1) Misunderstanding Marketing’s Role

Marketing used to be the team that created the brochures and sell sheets sales reps used. It was the team that managed lead generating events, dropped those unqualified leads on sales and walked away. But that’s not a marketing team’s role anymore.

Marketing now enters the equation much earlier, delivering a variety of types of content directly to the customers before they even get to sales. And when that happened, marketing departments found themselves, almost by accident, as the team with the customer data. The intersection of content and data is where the real relationship begins, and it’s marketing’s job to work it.

2) Hiring Channel Specialists

Because marketing used to only focus on a few specific channels, even through the early 21st century with PPC and email marketing, tactical specialists became the norm.

Today, you don’t need an email marketing manager or an advertising manager. Instead you need a content person who can write for multiple channels, a demand generation person who can get the content in front of buyers and an operations person who can connect it all up in your marketing system.

Existing channels change rapidly and new channels appear regularly, so expecting a person to specialize without aggressively protecting their area of expertise when it starts to shift away from them will only hold marketing back.

3) ...or Jacks of All Trades

At the same time, there are skill sets that need represented on every marketing team. If you expect your marketing operations person to also be the content creator, graphic designer and demand generation manager, your plan won’t go well either.

At best, you’ll never penetrate the marketing like you could. At worst, you’ll burn the team member out making them unproductive. If you can only get one team member, make them the person who focuses on the brand (more on that later) and works with the right outsourced talent to get results.

4) Thinking Like a Marketing Department

Marketing’s central role in the old way of doing business was to produce or manage flashy, company-focused creative. In today’s world, marketing departments need to be more like media companies.

What does that mean? Most of your content isn’t about your company anymore. It’s about producing solution-oriented content that helps potential buyers and existing customers do their job better.

5) Not Prioritizing Brand

At the same time, your brand, which is now more defined by your content, still needs cultivated. Team members in demand generation, content marketing and operations can get caught up in the day-to-day production of content and technology.

They need the help of a strategist who has the long-term brand in mind. This is your “what’s next” person, who can keep your company ahead of the competition, not just ahead of marketing trends.

6) Under-valuing Agility

Back when marketing was only focusing on creative media, tradeshow booths or even email marketing, time was on your side. Now, there are a number of moving pieces constantly active within your sphere. Marketing agility should be a top concern when looking for team members.

Can your team shift priorities to hit metrics? Can your team abandon what’s not working and focus quickly on what does based on data? Are the team members willing to change? These questions should shape expectations for your team and for you as the marketing leader.

7) Letting Sales do the Selling

Now that much of the buyer’s journey is in the hands of marketing and almost all of the lifecycle information is integrated with your marketing system, just leaving sales to sell on its own doesn’t make much sense.

When structuring your team, you have to go beyond sales alignment and start existing in the world where the sales, marketing and service teams live on one communication spectrum. Making open connections for your team members to other areas of the business enables you to respond more quickly to buyer and customer needs.

8) Not Leading the Charge

Change isn’t easy, but it’s a constant, more so today than ever before. Become the biggest proponent of this new structure within the C-Suite, across teams and to your individual team members.

Even if the metrics are good now, don’t wait for change to catch up with you. It’s time to transform your team into a modern marketing department—and only you can lead the charge.

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