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The best way to build marketing teams ready for the future

Tamara Rosin

The way we define success is changing. 

In the digital era,  marketing teams are undergoing a rapid evolution — in how they work, what they need to accomplish (and how fast), and their strategic value. 

To succeed given rising pressure and mounting workloads, marketing departments will need significant leadership, technological, and cultural changes. 

Here are three critical pillars that marketing leaders should evaluate as part of their overall marketing strategy.

Marketing teams are instrumental in promoting innovation

Across all sectors, marketing teams are feeling the heat to step up as leaders of innovation, drivers of growth, and builders of the business strategy. 

According to Gartner, marketing is playing a larger and more crucial role in both creating and driving innovation. The vast majority of marketers (91%) say their team is involved in their organization’s overall innovation strategy, while 29% say marketing is the only department involved.

Marketers are poised to lead organization-wide innovation because they are data-driven by nature. They are obsessed with testing, trying new digital tools, and they’re accustomed to collaborating across multiple departments. 

Increasingly, marketing-derived data and perspectives have become invaluable to departments like sales, R&D, and customer support. These departments require a deeper understanding of the market climate, competition, and individual customer profiles in order to build products, sell, and support customers effectively.

In an ideal world, your department already has the leadership, talent, and technology required to fulfill its evolving role in the organization. But in the real world, most marketing departments are still in the process of adapting to their new duties and ad-hocing their way forward. 

Instead of reinventing the wheel, here are three important changes marketing departments should prioritize.

1. Broaden the C-suite with CMO allies

CMOs have led marketing departments for years, but two other roles have emerged as important partners for driving growth and promoting innovation across the organization: the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Chief Growth Officer (CGO).

CDOs play a crucial role in the organization’s pursuit of digital maturity, innovation, and operational excellence. Alternatively dubbed “transformer in chief” by McKinsey, the main duties of this executive are to drive growth, promote customer retention, and create new business value through better use of digital technologies, processes, and services.

CDOs don’t always come from a marketing background. However, the combined expertise of CDOs and CMOs is essential for developing a coherent digital vision and executing innovation initiatives at scale. 

CGOs are focused on accelerating broader business growth while establishing the infrastructure to sustain a larger customer base. While some of their duties may overlap with the CMO, CGOs’ initiatives and influence extend beyond marketing into other departments that are responsible for driving growth: again, sales, customer success, and R&D. Assigning a CGO alongside your CMO enables better continuity across departments, increases alignment, and supports efforts to be lean and agile. 

Too many cooks in the kitchen?

Adding two more roles to the C-suite might seem like overcrowding. Each organization must determine which roles are necessary for their unique goals and needs. But what’s indisputable is that the breadth of marketing responsibilities is expanding and becoming more complex. 

Not only must CMOs push the marketing department forward, but they’re expected to bring the rest of the organization with them. With the partnership of a CDO and CGO, you can bolster your leadership capabilities to achieve more — faster.

2. Master technology that unlocks innovation and drives growth

With increasing workloads and rising pressure to meet higher targets, marketing teams need digital platforms that will help them manage their workflows, innovate on the fly, test, and optimize their processes. Currently, marketing automation and CRM platforms don’t fulfill these needs, so teams end up resorting to meetings, managing an abundance of spreadsheets, and emails. 

More specialized and advanced technology will enable marketers to better fulfill their new duties and carry out more strategic initiatives. 

However, digital investments should not be made hastily. Prioritizing which tools are mission-critical and which are simply nice add-ons is an important first step to refining your digital toolbox. Currently, collaboration, workflow, and project management platforms are among the highest priority.

Workflow platforms that readily enable collaboration — both within the marketing department and across other teams — have become fundamental to maintaining desired levels of agility and alignment, even as workloads increase. Combined with project management and communication functions, overall team speed is increased as the need for status updates and feedback is handled online instead of in meetings. 

These capabilities are integral to expediting a variety of processes and overcoming challenges that commonly interfere with innovation and slow teams down. For example:

  • Adapting processes to fit the needs of distributed and remote teams
  • Keeping up with an accelerating pace of business and quickly responding to changes in the market
  • Managing complex workflows that traverse multiple departments and pushing cross-departmental projects forward

3. Emphasize the importance of teamwork & individual accountability

Because the marketing team has become a primary driver of innovation and growth across the business, individuals team members must be prepared to quickly adapt to new responsibilities and expectations.

True marketing talent extends beyond domain expertise and experience. Successful team members are those that are adaptable, agile, flexible, self-driven, and proactive about learning new skills and technologies. They are willing and prepared to wear many different hats when the need arises. 

The days of siloed marketing roles are over, and cultures that don’t actively dismantle barriers in collaboration, communication, and accountability will be ill-equipped to meet rising demands. Only teams with a unified, hyper-collaborative culture will be positioned to fulfill the department’s goals. In other words, individuals must be just as good at working together as they are at performing their own duties if they want to complete complex work effectively and quickly. 

The future of marketing is here

Marketing teams today hardly resemble those of 10 or even five years ago. Similarly, the way we define success is profoundly different. 

Effective marketing is not just bringing in leads, increasing subscribers, or generating likes. Today, successful marketing teams are defined by their ability to achieve all of this while encouraging innovation across the organization, accelerating growth, and inventing new ways to differentiate their brand. 

Leadership, technology, and talent are three key focus areas for keeping up with rising expectations and evolving responsibilities. Are yours where they need to be?

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Tamara Rosin
Tamara's writing explores the effects of technology on organizational change, culture, and consumer behavior. When she isn't busy creating marketing content, you can find her writing short stories about life in Israel.
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