Pick whatever cliché you want about the pace of change, but the simple truth is that the vast majority of marketing teams (agency and corporate) are not keeping pace. And if your marketing team isn't keeping up, then your business is likely falling behind.
There's no roadmap for success because the landscape keeps changing underneath our feet. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have some simple "rules of the road." The following rules lay the foundation for modernizing your marketing team.
1. Your business IS your brand.
Without a clear understanding of your brand or simply what a "Brand" is, it's impossible for your team to maximize its efforts in building the brand.
A client of mine once described their brand as a unique situation that ended with a humorous twist. What they were actually describing was the structure of their TV commercials. They were great commercials. But any advertising is an outgrowth of your brand, not the brand itself.
If your team is talking about "brand" as if it's your logo, the consistency of your messaging, or even a specific type of advertising, then it's time for their retraining to begin. Your brand is much bigger, FAR more important, and incredibly intangible. Your brand is the equity and perception you've built with current and prospective customers through every interaction and every experience they've had with your company, your products and your employees. In other words, it's inherent in and deeply intertwined with everything your business does.
2. If your business is your brand, then your brand is everyone's business.
While marketing may be the tip of the spear for your brand, everyone in the company needs to own your brand. Therefore, it's imperative that your marketing team articulate a brand strategy that is simple, clear and can be easily internalized. In doing so every department (not just marketing) can draft off that strategy to determine the priorities on which their teams should focus to help drive the brand forward.
3. Business first. Marketing second. Tactics come last.
These days, you'll hear a lot of marketing teams throw around "Digital First" and "Mobile First." This might be appropriate if your sole focus is on marketing communications, but your marketing teams need to think bigger and broader than communications.
You need people who understand business strategy and can translate that into a strong marketing strategy - across product, distribution and communications. Then, and only then, should they worry about the tactics. Anything less is the tail wagging the dog.
4. Innovation is always on the agenda.
Far too often and in far too many companies, you'll hear the age-old "That's not the way we've done it before." If this attitude is prevalent within your organization, it's a pretty good indicator that at least some of your team needs to step outside their current box.
On the flipside, you'll also see far too many people with shiny object syndrome, chasing the coolest new thing rather than focusing on what their business and brand really need.
But whether you're a conservative company or on the bleeding edge, there's a middle ground where you can build a strong culture of innovation while remaining true to your overall business strategy.
Google allocates time for employees to pursue individual projects.
Some companies are embracing hackathons for people inside and outside the company to collaborate on new ideas.
And others follow the 70/20/10 rule where 70% of their investment goes toward things they know are working, 20% goes to previous innovations that are starting to bear fruit, and the remaining 10% goes to testing new ideas.
Whatever approach you choose, it needs to be built into the way your team approaches their work every single day so that it becomes engrained in your team culture.
5. Get comfortable with failure.
This one is the simplest – and yet maybe the hardest. Failure should never be a problem for a company that truly wants to get ahead. It just means you're getting closer to understanding what does and does not work. Give your people opportunities to take risks, embrace a fail-fast mantra, and learn how to glean knowledge from that failure that will lead to future successes.