“We have a problem with our marketing.”
It’s the single most common thing I hear from clients, colleagues, even from friends over dinner. Everyone, it seems, has a problem with marketing. Sometimes it’s because they're not keeping up with digital trends; sometimes it’s that their website looks terrible; sometimes sales are down and their marketing team isn’t doing enough to fix it.
Even the term “marketing department” is tough to define these days. Many marketing departments are actually Web teams, or 20-somethings tasked with managing the company Facebook page. I’ve also seen marketing departments that are actually just salespeople coming up with promotions.
Meanwhile, anything new in the tech and digital space is automatically shunted to those in the company with marketing know-how to learn and implement. The issue begins when it becomes apparent that these tech and digital advancements require a new set of soft skills to operate as a piece of a successful marketing effort. Many new workflow platforms (our team loves Slack) require companywide buy-in. Those tools need to be implemented properly and updated on an ongoing basis. The entire team should learn how to use and adapt them.
When people come to agencies with marketing issues, they're usually just looking for a new set of skills.
The Outsourcing Issue
In truth, it can be easier to hire an outside company of experts to run platforms and digital pieces of the company for you. However, the cost of doing this is much higher than the amount you're paying upfront. Hiring a team that isn't in your office and doesn't know your product inside and out won't enhance your employees' skills. While they can certainly bring new ideas and their expertise to the table, your hired team probably won't teach you how to use new skills to increase the efficiency of your operations.
Companies in high-growth mode, on the other hand, make learning and implementing some of these soft skills a companywide effort. For example, problem solving itself is becoming a short-term team project. In these instances, teams are assembled based on the nature of the problem or desired result and are dissolved once the plan is in place or effort is underway. Using this strategy, not only can the organization operate with the correct people assessing new initiatives, but the company can also begin to function like an ecosystem rather than a group of separate departments that don’t know what the others are doing.
Before you go out and hire a handful of recent college grads to bring a digital mindset in-house, remember this: The talent you need is already in-house. You just need to change your company culture in order to set the stage for your team to begin to change how they approach problem solving, efficiency and even marketing.
Learning a New Way to Work
Try implementing an attitude of co-creation with your employees. Our team sees companies full of people who are terrified to touch the company website. Years ago, when simple sites cost $100,000 to build and no one had basic online writing skills, employees would rarely ever be expected to participate in building the company site. These days, the tools are simple and plentiful. This isn't just for 20-year-olds. Encouraging your team to get into the site and write their own bio is a good start toward interdepartmental conversation. It can begin to teach your team that they can learn to do something on the job and execute the change without a gridlock of permission meetings.
You can also form project-based teams to solve specific problems. Teams should choose their members, not just be tasked to a certain department. Not only does this allow for the correct people to see specific problems, but new ways of organizing teams start to appear when people come together this way. For example, if a team in charge of analyzing conversion rate doesn't sit near each other, your team may search for and start using a chat function to speak without having to get up and walk across the room. We've even seen brands add chat functions to its website to improve customer-service experience as the team got more comfortable using chat internally.
As new skill sets are developed from within your company, it's certainly possible that the benefits will stretch into the marketing realm. Great digital marketing is touted all over the Internet as a mindset. If this is true, then great marketing is going to start within the company itself and spread across departments—not vice versa.
Caitlin McCabe is the founder of Human Experience, a new kind of company that transforms organizations into self-sustaining innovators. We believe the talent that you need to succeed is already in-house, it just needs to be developed. We provide ways to transform your team, build a the right set of tools, and work in a new way. She is also a member of YEC, an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs.
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