Building Better Marketing Teams

I have seen and heard of several large marketing departments of international firms, and they all to some extent had one malaise. Apathy.

The line employees, and sometimes even the first layer of management would do as they are told, pulling the hard plow without much enthusiasm or regard for the big picture. If you’d place 2 giant jars in front of them – one with pickles, one empty – the employees would obligingly transfer the pickles from one to another, and the manager would manage that process to make sure no one eats one.

That is perhaps a case in every department of your average large corporation. Especially so in B2B (complex products with long sales cycles), or established industries. There is a permeating feeling that what you personally do does not impact the bottom line much. Which may even be true. And yet, that is not the way to feel.

Invariably in such organizations, there is a crisis somewhere on top, existing or brewing. High-level, something is not working out. Not much of anything is told, much less the “why”, and the marketing plans and under such secrecy that evening mentioning the word “plan” (as in, “do we have a plan?”) gets you dirty looks. “The plan is to plow! Work harder! We will tell you details soon.” And you get apathy. Which guarantees sub par execution.

I’d love to lay down the solution. “The management has got to share the goals with everyone, the why, and the how. People need to be given the freedom to try for the stars and failures be forgiven”. But in real world, that just doesn’t work. Culture is difficult to change. In a way, status quo works well for everyone.

It is quite amazing to me, that the same people who publicly despise communism with its central planning have by their free will instituted the same system in their workplace. If I had a chance, I’d love to try and split the marketing department of these organisations up. In political terms, make it a federation. It is counter-intuitive, as this works against “efficiencies”, “alignment” and also diminishes the power of a central authority, stones thrown at finance, strategy and executive branch.

You get several smaller teams, hopefully with resources, working off a central base, but with much more overall authority and a whiff of entrepreneurial spirit. The top-level worries have now gotten to the bottom level where they can really be solved, and people give more, because they see what they do matters. “Power to the local teams” is the new “Power to the people”. What do you think?

Added benefit, you hire more marketers, and you work them better. Wink-wink!

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