(6 minute read)
Let's face it: even with the advent of inbound marketing, growing a company is as big a struggle as ever. As effective as inbound marketing is, it's leveling the playing field in many interesting ways.
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 the ideal marketing team, slanting what looks like a level playing field into your favor.
With that goal in mind, here is my agency's blueprint for structuring the ideal marketing team:
It wasn't built in a day.
Like anything significant, the ideal marketing team starts with a solid foundation. With the right foundation, you can build (or even re-build) anything. With a weak foundation, you can't build anything of lasting value.
The strong foundation of modern marketing consists of: vision, integrity, character, love, and loyalty.
If you don't love your company, or your company isn't loyal to customers before itself, you need to stop thinking about growth. Instead, focus on instilling the right company-wide mindset that fills these cracks in your foundation.
If your company has character flaws or integrity issues, stop! Do not pass go on marketing. You'll be labeled a fraud and serious brand damage is imminent.
If your company lacks vision for where's it's going, don't just start wandering aimlessly.
Find your voice. Chart your path. And launch with a mission, ripe with passion and authenticity.
Tip: Start with Why
If you're confidently able to proceed past step one, pat yourself on the back. We think you've done 80% of the work already and the rest is just tactics. Tactics can be learned and are vastly easier to master than foundational beliefs. It's all downhill from here!
A simple strengths and weaknesses assessment enables you to establish your starting position. It's an exercise in honesty and humility (you'll rate yourself), and it only takes ten 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.
This assessment should be repeated annually because companies evolve, people grow, and priorities change. Don't forget to evaluate yourself along with your team. While this assessment can be rather curt in its recommendations (such as discontinuing the service of members below a certain threshold), remember that if you wouldn't hire a team member again, every day you keep them is repeating that same bad decision.
Think of it as knowing your marketing team's health exam. Knowing your strengths and areas to improve is the intelligence you need to start improving your team. With the motto of "what gets measured gets improved", rating performance enables continuous improvement; the most important component of long term success.
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. But none of this can be applied properly unless you understand your weaknesses.
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 clarity of objective inspires people to do what it takes to achieve the goal.
(Once complete, we suggest you print it, date it, sign it, frame it, and share it with your team)
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:
Also, clearly communicate what happens if you fail to reach these goals. Are jobs lost? Are budgets cut? Are plans canceled? Be clear why you're asking them to work towards a goal and you'll find your team will support you now that you've given them a good reason to do so.
Clarifying your goals and giving them purpose with a clear "why" is the first action step towards building the ideal marketing team.
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. In this process you'll identify obstacles (blockers) that will impede your ability to hit your goal. Blockers are milestones that, if not hit, will prevent you from reaching the 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 40%, or it could be creating content for your blog and resources sections four times a week.
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.
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 improve 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 will realize that at least half of their blockers are linked to gaps in their marketing team. Suddenly it's clear why you're 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.
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?
I mean 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 your gaps while also minimizing waste, maximizing budget, and positioning your team to scale.
Let's cover each for a moment:
If you have team members who are either not busy 100% of the time or not working in their area of expertise a great majority of the time, you've got waste and probably feel your budgets are too tight.
Ask your team how they spend their day, or install a tool called Rescue Time on everyone's computer and see for yourself. If your top talent is spending 1/3 of their time in email and meetings, you might have the ideal team but you won't have the ideal effectiveness.
To maximize budget you need to know the most effective way to fill your gaps. Not every problem is solved with a full time employee (FTE). A FTE will create waste when there are peaks and valleys associated with the problem they've been hired to solve. During peaks they're the bottleneck, and during valleys they're dead weight.
Sometimes companies need an FTE but hire too low on the expertise scale. Instead of having someone who can manage strategy and execution of a gap, you hire someone you need to manage, and you realize that, while your team can now build things, you still have a strategic gap of knowing what to build.
If you have this situation, you don't have to fire and re-hire, you can hire a consultant or agency to provide the strategic blueprint for what needs to be built. Often, they will also supply the process that can actually train your FTE and enable them to take over fully in the future.
One more point on budget: be sure to quantify the business value of solving a problem and make sure there is a clear ROI proposition for solving that problem. Every team member, whether FTE, contractor, consultant, or agency, should have clearly mapped objectives and budgets for high priority projects that lead to ROI for the company.
A lot of companies create really effective marketing teams, nearly ideal. But, they hire for now instead of hiring for what your company will need 1-3 years from now.
If you hire for now, you'll build bottlenecks into your team. Your new copywriter may create the content for an infographic and a slideshare a week, but if your creative team is two months backlogged, you'll find that bottlenecks derail even the most talented teams.
If you're using every dime of your budget, bottlenecks are where a lot of companies get stuck.
One smart way to minimize bottlenecks is to leave 25-33% of your marketing budget unallocated so that you can hire contractors, agencies, and coaches to help you efficiently cross the numerous chasms that might otherwise bottleneck most marketing teams.
By "calling in an expert" or "activating your reserve talent," you can fill gaps without dealing with the bottlenecks and low utilization rates that come with a static team size.
Revolving doors of hiring and firing 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 while your ideal team is not assembled and at the ready.
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.
Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, and building the ideal marketing team is a process.
There's no such thing as perfection when people are involved. You'll need to realize that course corrections are necessary in the pursuit of your all star team. However, you'll never have the ideal marketing team if you don't eliminate the biggest barrier to progress: procrastination.
When looking to find and fill your gaps, don't miss our 10 Tips for Hiring Top Marketing Talent.
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.
Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.Andrew Carnegie