Building a Marketing Team? Start by Doing These 5 Things

As a marketing leader, one of the most important and most stressful things you can do is build a high performing marketing team from the ground up. Over the past three years, I’ve had the pleasure of doing just that in my role with Return Path, after the executive leadership made the decision to invest more strategically in the marketing function.

In my experience, the biggest challenge in building a team is that there are endless possibilities, and no “right” way to do it. For one, hiring incorrectly is costly. Secondly, the team should be built around the correct marketing strategy for the business; and this can be hard to do when starting from scratch because it is unknown territory.

Then there’s the time pressure that CMOs face. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer dropped another six months over the past two years. That puts the average tenure for CMOs at 42 just months. We have to get it right in a timely manner.

All of this means you need to move fast, but also keep an eye on long-term strategy. Your early decisions need to yield quick wins, but also set you up for the future. Nothing you do will guarantee overnight success, but thoughtful day-to-day decision making can position your marketing team as a respected business driver for your company.

Here are five things you can do to help improve your chances of both short and long term success.

Seek Out “The New Marketer”
The talent moving through the marketing ranks right now really excites me. It’s a whole new type of marketer that is skilled at all forms of communication, but also has an inherent talent for all things digital. This person can login to your CMS, build a landing page, gain insights from analytics, work effortlessly across a number of tools, find creative ways to drive better engagement, track campaigns through a CRM, generate meaningful reporting, and use data to adjust strategies.

This is the new superstar of marketing. Build your team around people like this. As they grow, they will be well suited for any number of management and leadership roles within the marketing team-areas like content strategy, demand generation, brand and digital, marketing operations, and more. These are the future CMOs of the world, so hire lots of them.

Invest in Technical Depth
Marketing today is much more than branding, messaging, and great design. It’s a complex time for marketers with more accessible data than ever in the history of humanity! Data provides insights-insights that will improve your decision making, optimize your channels, and increase conversions. You must embrace data.

Which means, you must invest technically. A modern marketing team needs developers, front end designers, data analysts, and digitally-savvy marketers. Creating a strong technical foundation within the marketing team will prepare you to handle the speed at which technology moves and changes, while also putting you in a position to make data-driven marketing decisions.

A popular topic among marketers right now is the marketing technology stack. What kind of content management system are you using? Who is your email service provider? What advertising platform are you on? All common questions. Building out the right technical team ensures you will be embracing the correct technology philosophy and positioning your team to move with agility, speed, and decisiveness.

The majority of your pipeline and new business channels (such as direct to website, email, advertising, downloads, event registrations, webinars, and so on) will perform-or fail to perform-because of this marketing technology stack. Invest in a strong technical team and avoid ill-advised and costly technology decisions.

Build Out Your “Situation Room”
As you visualize the ideal marketing team, think of the marketing operations function as your “Situation Room.” You need data-driven and obsessed individuals at the core of your marketing team, to assess every threat and opportunity you face on a month-by month and quarter-by-quarter basis. Marketing budget, pipeline, demand generation, and program calendar should be joined at the hip, an interdependent ecosystem that illustrates the true health of your marketing team.

This will allow you to focus on a number of things:

  • Improving marketing ROI
  • Pipeline health through every stage of a quarter
  • Optimizing demand generation channels like advertising, PPC, and email
  • Investing budget in the right places
  • Ensuring pipeline coverage throughout the year based on marketing programming
  • Aligning with sales around account-based marketing initiatives and field marketing events
  • Providing detailed data for sales development
  • Utilizing data for smarter decision making

Combine this data-focused Situation Room with the new marketer and an investment in technical talent and you’ve got something special brewing: a true marketing machine.

Make Friends with the Sales Team
Initially, I underestimated the importance of a strong, collaborative, positive relationship with the sales team. Don’t make this mistake.

Sales and marketing should be a like any good buddy duo in history: Jerry and Elaine, Jordan and Pippen, Obama and Joe, Frank and Charlie (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)-you get the idea.

If the company isn’t hitting its quarterly goals, then marketing and sales have a lot of reflecting to do. Work with sales. Understand their needs. Keep the pipeline full so they can close deals.

And most importantly, listen to them. Your sales reps are on the front lines with the prospects and customers who consume everything marketing produces. They’re a real live focus group that can help you understand whether marketing has the right message, content strategy, and targeting. You can’t do this alone, and data can only do so much-you need human feedback. As we move from traditional B2C and B2B marketing to a “business to human” approach, a healthy relationship with sales is imperative.

And let’s be honest. The best way to exceed 42 months as CMO is to hit your numbers. It’s not rocket science.

Have Fun!
If you can’t have fun working in marketing, then there’s something very wrong. Marketing is a blast.


Without a real focus on technology, data, and collaboration, marketing is just fluff. First you have to define the infrastructure, platforms, and foundations all of the challenging and tedious hurdles then you can have fun.

Because when you have the right data and technology foundation, it allows everything else to flourish. Here’s what I mean:

  • Bring the brand to life through compelling customer experiences
  • Shout your messaging from the rooftops
  • Allow design to evolve the brand across all of your channels and touchpoints
  • Innovate with content and watch as your metrics increase
  • Test, test, test
  • Create event experiences that reflect the company’s story and brand DNA
  • Drive and disrupt the industry through creativity

Marketing should be the heartbeat of a company, providing the energy, drive, and creativity to reach the next level.

If we only have 42 months to do this, we may as well have fun while it lasts.

This post originally appeared on Martech Advisor.

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