There’s no question that the marketing environment is changing. Equally there’s no question that these changes are throwing up new challenges for all those involved with managing and leading marketers. It seems likely that the brands that embrace the opportunities offered by new technology will achieve a significant competitive advantage.
It now also seems certain that these new opportunities cannot be realised and executed with old fashioned marketing structures and management processes. Senior marketers have to look inwards as well as outwards if they are going to adapt.
Nature Of Change
In a previous article for CMO.com, I looked in detail about how some of these changes were manifesting. In summary though, there are three key themes that I feel are important at the moment:
- Marketing moves from campaigns to conversations – Structured broadcast campaigns are unlikely to achieve the relevance demanded by the modern consumer. The increase in opportunities for a consumer to ‘talk back’ at a brand, and the increasing likelihood that this talk back is heard and valued by other consumers, will force brands to adopt a more conversational stance.
- Fast reacting and responsive – The search for relevance for the consumer - and trust from the consumer - will shorten the planning time available for marketing communications. This will mean that increasingly, marketing success will be measured as much by timeliness and responsiveness as by creativity (although of course the killer combination will continue to be timeliness and creativity).
- Customer driven – The rise of ‘word of mouth’ through social channels and the increasing demand for personal relevance in marketing communications puts the customer in the driving seat. What they believe and what they want to hear will drive their response. Brand marketing that is out of synch with customer sentiment is unlikely to do well.
In addition to these sociological challenges, the rise of marketing technology and the new channels driven by that technology will create immense management issues for marketing leaders.
Challenges For Management
I’m sure that most marketing leaders recognise that this changing environment throws up profound challenges. The flexibility demanded to create conversation-driven marketing moves business away from ‘long view’ thinking and drawn out strategy/planning cycles into a far more immediate and granular planning approach.
Technology is constantly changing. The key consideration in this immediate context is how the technologists are successfully integrated into a marketing team and how those teams can get the best out of technology either in a micro or macro scale.
As an additional challenge, leaders have to manage team members who have skill sets they don’t necessarily understand. They will increasingly have to rely on their teams to produce effective integration organically and to use the technology tools to the best benefit of the business.
The Growth Of The T-shaped Marketer
These challenges and new realities lead to a very different type of marketing team and marketing team member.
A ‘traditional’ marketing team can look very siloed. The skills required to create an excellent POS experience have felt a long way from those required to plan a media campaign; even copy and design have traditionally come from two different parts of the team, each with different skill sets.
In a modern marketing context, effective marketing comes from every member of a team being aware of the potential and ‘fit’ of other team members, at least in outline. It is essential that speed and responsiveness is facilitated through every member of the team having, from the outset, an understanding of how their ‘piece’ fits in with what others might do.
Even at a relatively junior level, marketers need to know to ask the right question at the right time, to involve other team members and people from other teams at the right time, and to ensure that they know that they have a huge responsibility for overall marketing effectiveness.
This produces the need for ‘T-shaped marketers’; people who have a broad understanding of the capabilities, function and roles of all the various elements of marketing (whether the other parts are being delivered by the in-house team or an outside agency). In the future the best marketing teams will undoubtedly comprise people who have a detailed knowledge of their own speciality, but also have a broad understand of the entire marketing mix. They will make decisions based on how their activity fits together with the activities of others.
In this case the marketer is an SEO specialist, but has a broad understanding of all the other facets of marketing shown here.
What This Means
Understanding and deploying T-shaped marketers has some profound implications on team management.
- The operational environment is different – there should be no ‘stand-alone’ activities. Marketing activity will become increasingly cross-fertilised across the channels. (For example: what happens on the website is important to the social channel and vice versa; experiential marketing is innately tied into the follow-up through digital channels etc.)
- Team management processes and KPIs are different - Under these conditions teams have to be more collaborative rather than less so. This guides management from a tendency to tell their teams what to do, to an approach that lays out what has to be achieved and allows the teams to work within a broader remit. As a manager asks the team to take more responsibility for the effectiveness of the team as a whole, personal KPIs need to be changed to reflect these demands.
- Ongoing team training is different - It’s all well and good hiring T-shaped marketers, but it is important that they stay T-shaped. Team leaders have to be continually ensuring that the broad knowledge remains and that teams are continually being updated on the broad outlines of new things in marketing.
- Recruitment is different – It’s worth noting that in creating a team of T-shaped marketers, an individual’s knowledge of the broader issues may be just as important as their knowledge of their own speciality. At the recruitment stage this broad knowledge should be tested.
An effective response to the strategic challenges of modern marketing is driven, to a very large degree, from the bottom up. Brands that create and nurture T-shaped teams and facilitate their use of that knowledge will have a head start over brands that don’t.
To make the best use of such teams requires marketing leaders to change their management habits and to create an eco-system of collaborative self-determining teams.