frameworkThe marketing landscape has undergone a powerful transformation — one that puts consumers in charge of the messaging and content that they’re receiving. The CMO’s role has never been more exciting, as they are responsible for guiding their organizations through brand new customer engagement opportunities.

Sitting at the intersection of social, content, digital analytics, and PPC, top CMOs know that their companies’ marketing engines are only as strong as the people behind the scenes. Your organization needs the right balance of left-meets-right-brained skills — number crunchers, artists, and customer development masterminds.

The challenge that CMOs face, however, is that they’re running lean with small teams and stringent budgets. When it comes to building a world-class team, they need to get creative.

Here are five tips to help you build that type of team. As you’re reading this post, remember — the most powerful enterprise marketing strategies will often take years of dedicated investment and resource allocation to take off. Patience and persistence are essential to making this happen.

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Step 1: Align Goals Across Teams to Unify Operations

It’s easy for marketers to chase multiple campaign ideas and directions. There are so many opportunities out there for testing and learning — which is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, the wealth of available marketing options present boundless opportunities for creativity. If you’re not careful, however, you’ll find yourself in an endless testing and brainstorming cycle — instead of making a revenue impact, you’ll waste time running on a never-ending hamster wheel.

CMOs must be disciplined about choosing — and reinforcing — team-wide goals. These metrics must be cross-functional to support product launches, sales pushes, and core revenue initiatives. Instead of chasing 100 campaigns, align your team around one high-impact growth goal.

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It’s especially crucial for CMOs to team up with their organization’s business development and customer support arms, too. These client-facing leaders provide a direct lens into the market — into key customer pain points and needs.

Alicianne Rand, VP of Marketing at NewsCred, explains how these teams can work better together:

“The only way for marketing and sales to build better alignment is for the two teams to work towards one goal: revenue. Both teams need to have a clear understanding of the funnel and how every lever impacts another. That means consistent (daily and weekly) communication, transparency, and collaboration. Demand generation leaders and sales directors should be tied at the hip, with overlap in accountability for driving meetings and opportunities.”

Sales leaders are distribution engines for your content marketing materials, too — including blog posts, videos, webinars, and whitepapers. In tandem, marketing and sales and powerful forces for reaching new audiences and encouraging repeat revenue from existing customer bases. 

“The lines are blurring between what Sales and Marketing need to do together,” says Greg Alexander, CEO at Sales Benchmark Index. “Now is a great time to take a step back and look at how the two departments complement one another.”

Alignment between Marketing and Sales begins with effective communication. CMOs can bridge operations between Marketing and Sales by incorporating the following plan, as outlined by HubSpot’s CMO Mike Volpe: 

  1. Encourage weekly meetings between Marketing and Sales.
  2. Build relationships between multiple layers of each team.
  3. Mix marketing and sales desks together.
  4. Build many types of feedback loops including rating leads on CRMs and periodic surveys on lead quality.
  5. Agree on terminology so that you’re not using confusing jargon.
  6. Rely on conversion and demographic data to communicate effectively.

Step 2: Cultivate Balanced Skillsets

The “growth hacker” or “full-stack marketer” is every CMO’s dream. The challenge with finding this person, however, is that he or she is a unicorn – everybody has their fair share of strengths and weaknesses. 

Anita Newton, VP of Marketing at Adknowledge, argues that:

“The biggest challenge we now face is not what to do but figuring out how to make it happen. How do we hire people with the skills needed to be a brand marketer, a data scientist, a storyteller, or growth hacker — or all four for that matter? How do we preserve the culture that made our companies great in the first place while deftly forging ahead with new products and ideas that have the potential to threaten our existing business and possibly make us incredibly uncomfortable?”

Instead of looking for one person that’s a data scientist/programmer/designer/content writer extraordinaire, it’s important to fill these needs in bits and pieces.

First, make a list of your marketing team’s existing — and potential — growth opportunities. Next, determine the skillsets that are most critical to accomplishing these goals. You’ll likely need a strong project manager, someone who rocks with spreadsheets and numbers, a visual content pro, an enthusiastic programmer, a business development engine, a researcher, and a writer. Connect the dots between these skills by hiring multiple people who together, create the foundations of the “ultimate” marketing team instead of trying to find one person with all of these skill sets. 

This blended hiring approach will force you to build an inter-connected, collaborative team. At the same time, you’ll boost efficiencies by hiring team members who can execute initiatives quickly with minimal direction. 

Step 3: Encourage Risk-Taking and Experimentation

The marketing landscape moves at lightning speed. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow — especially in the digital realm where human attention spans are shrinking and audiences are bombarded with a wealth of information.

Your marketing team needs to keep finding ways to explore new paths. The problem is that existing compensation structures and performance plans fail to align with risk-taking and innovation.

According to a Wall Street Journal article by Suzanne Vranica:

“Marketers are juggling an onslaught of new marketing channels from Facebook to Pinterest as well as dealing with the proliferation of new devices from tablets to smartphones. At the same time, the data side of the business has exploded, forcing many to learn new skills and find partners that can help them navigate the sector.”

People are afraid to test new strategies because the risk of losing money or making a mistake is incredibly high. Team members are afraid that they’ll lose their jobs if they fail to hit traffic or lead generation quotas. But sometimes, taking three steps forward means taking a step back. 

To keep up with the pace of marketing and stay at the forefront of new opportunities, your team needs to build a culture of trust. Reward experimentation, and give your marketers the freedom the test new ideas. Create a “sandbox of innovation” with a dedicated testing budget, team-defined experiments, and an employee review process that encourages innovative action. This structured, disciplined approach to innovation will help minimize aversion to taking risks.

Final Thoughts

As a CMO, you are more than a marketing leader. You are the person most responsible for building a customer-centric organization. Your job is tough, but remember — at the end of the day — you’re not alone. You’re one of many CMOs looking to transform your marketing into something people love. 

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