By Craig Conard
How do you build a strong marketing team? The key to developing better individual marketers is to expose them to various sub-disciplines that strengthen their overall knowledge and create an understanding of the process dynamics. In essence, cross-training provides a 360-degree view of the marketing world.
Successful marketing departments are comprised of staff members with cross-discipline backgrounds. It’s important, especially in a start-up, for people to wear several hats. For example, you might find a copywriter-turned-account manager, an account manager-turned-database marketing expert, or a customer service manager-turned-marketing operations manager. More clients than you might think expect this cross-discipline expertise when working with an agency.
In fact, it is impossible to build a strong marketing organization or department without some cross discipline training. Excellent marketing efforts aren’t developed by people working in silos of expertise. A department of superstars who work together as a team communicate well and recognize the strengths, limitations, and needs of their teammates. So it is with marketing. The best results are going to come from a team that is synchronized and connected. And this applies to organizations of any size, corporate or agency.
Looking from the outside in, I have witnessed many marketing organizations that experience internal us-against-them mentalities. Writers become pitted against marketing managers, or designers are at odds with interactive programmers. It may be PR people versus program managers. Throw in technical writers conflicting with product managers, and you have potential for major dysfunction. And if we think clients don’t pick up on these tensions, we are kidding ourselves.
For the most part, all of these people want to do a good job. They are guided by what they feel is right, and are willing to fight for it. And most of the time, their struggle takes place without insight into the challenges, limitations and landscape in which their counterparts are working.
To be good marketers, people must be able to walk a mile in their coworkers’ shoes. This means developing empathy for customers’ and prospects’ situations, as well as empathy for the members of their own team.
In that spirit, try putting young creative talent in client service roles as an entry point to your company. Living the life of account services is a reality check for the true business that marketers are in…the business of solving client proble
When these new team members transition to their jobs as copywriters or designers, they have a better understanding of project direction and client criteria. They’ll ask probing questions to understand the underpinnings of the directions they are receiving. In the process, the marketing organization is building stronger relationships between account services and creative services.
When building their team, marketing directors must foster this dynamic by partnering account people with creative team members to develop or refine processes—without oversight or involvement of upper management. The teams will examine what’s working or not working, identify needs such as time and input requirements, and discuss what each role must have to succeed. They not only work to understand each other’s functions more thoroughly, but they also take ownership of the process, creating a better work environment. This environment of role awareness leads to better collaboration of the teams and a better end product for clients. Rather than feeling guided to a particular outcome, the team is allowed to thoroughly work through the process issue.
And it doesn’t stop there. Other areas of the business also benefit from cross-training. Account people who understand web design, HTML, and database marketing are much more valuable in helping clients navigate through complex technical aspects of projects. The more they know, the more proactive they can be in problem-solving or setting strategy. This reduces the time spent going back to the programmers or technical team to get simple client questions answered. It also builds the clients’ confidence in the account person servicing their program or project.
More and more, there’s a trend of a natural confluence of the disciplines of web design and programming. Web design has transcended from pretty graphics and easy navigation to a world of data management, portability across mobile devices, and integration of applications to enhance functionality. True, the new web team could be programmer-heavy, but it’s incumbent upon both designer and programmer to understand the possibilities as well as the limiting factors of the other’s discipline.
Building a world-class marketing organization starts with talented people, but culminates in cross-training to understand the goals, journey and end game—with vision that extends well beyond their own laptop.
Craig Conard is president of Sudden Impact Marketing.