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How to derail your marketing team.

Marketing teams come in many flavors

As diverse as the structures and compositions of marketing teams may be, they can all be derailed and made less effective if their organization fails to support them properly. Here are four common reasons marketing teams become ineffective or can disappoint their leadership. Leaders, take note and steer your teams toward peak efficiency.

Conflicting priorities within the organization

Conflicting priorities and a lack of alignment within an organization is a key reason marketing teams often lose effectiveness. When the marketing team experiences a demand for their services from multiple groups, they can lose focus on the big picture. For instance, the head of sales may need enablement material to close more deals, the event team may need help preparing for an upcoming trade show, the product management group may need support to launch a new product and the CEO might need a creative sizzle video for an upcoming analyst brief. All at once. With limited resources, marketing teams in this situation may end up in an endless game of whack-a-mole. They lose sight of the big picture and become less focused and strategic. They become derailed and turn into order takers with short-term priorities. Leaders can prevent this through proactive planning and, when workloads are extended too far, by stepping in to set priorities and find alternatives to handle the influx of work.

Lack of sharing among silos

Marketing teams can become less effective when there is a lack of openness within the organization. When data, research, intelligence or insights are not shared or made available across the marketing team, they can’t do their best work. Often, these materials originate within another siloed part of the organization and are kept there without being communicated or distributed. Or, they are distributed and go unnoticed. Good marketing takes all company intelligence into account and is enriched by it. So, the more insights marketers can get their hands on, the better their product output will be. A worst-case scenario occurs when a marketing team works hard to solve a problem, then later discovers that their efforts would have been enhanced if they had received company intel sooner rather than after they had finished a project. Leaders can help with this by watching across the organization to be aware of research and data that the marketers should take into account, and help gather and make it available to them early in their projects to guide their strategies as the work begins.

Insufficient brand foundation

Great marketing is built on the foundation of a strong brand. It’s essential to have clearly defined messages, customer research, customer personas and brand guidelines in place to guide the efforts of a marketing team. For young companies or those in transition, branding can be an overlooked priority. In this situation, marketing teams must tackle each new project as a building block toward brand creation. For more mature companies, the rigor of following the brand may have gotten lost in the desire of team members to be more creative. All too often, the same folks responsible for maximizing the value of the brand standards tire of them and stray off course because of their desire to do something new. When each marketing tactic becomes a separate brand exploration (whatever the reason), the marketing will not hold together as a strong body of work, and the team will appear to be weak and inconsistent. Leaders must ensure that the company has the strong brand foundation it needs and insist that everyone in the company embraces the vision. A strong brand can rise all boats.

Skills not aligned to the tasks

Marketing has become so complex and specialized that a single individual cannot possess all the skills required to execute the various types of work required to execute a marketing plan. When a marketing team is expected to create an annual strategic plan and then execute it, a minimum of seven individuals are required to cover all the skills needed to competently manage the types of work. Strategy, social media, coding, design, copywriting, media buying, measurement, marketing automation and video creation are just some of the skill sets required to carry out a typical marketing plan. Yet many organizations don’t staff for this. This may be because of financial requirements and constrained budgets. Or it may be that management simply doesn’t have an understanding of the level of specialization required in today’s marketing ecosystem. Whatever the case, leaders must align expectations of their marketing output with their staffing investment. When expectations are too high in relation to the level of staffing and skills required to do excellent work, the team will not be able to perform. In some cases, it may be better to outsource to an agency or branding consultant who has the specialized skills needed to help complete a project.

A high-performing marketing team must be supported by the organization to be successful. High standards and expectations for excellence will set the bar for performance. But if the team doesn’t have proper alignment within the organization, access to all the data and intelligence, a strong brand foundation to build upon and the skills to do the job, they will, unfortunately, be derailed no matter how gifted and motivated they are.

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