Foolproof Hacks for Small Marketing Teams, Part 1
At the risk of stating the obvious, when retailers first launch, they’re usually not able to expand their marketing team and solutions at the rate they might like. In the meantime, they assess their team and resources, and try to figure out how to fill the gaps. I’ve worked with marketing teams as large as 50 and as small as two, and have learned that running a department efficiently comes down to a simple set of best practices.
1. Be transparent. Create a list of both short- and long-term goals and share them frequently with your department, sales team and executive management. Set the parameters of the terms and make sure your goals are in alignment with the company and all relevant departments. This sets both individual and companywide expectations, gets everyone on the same page, and confirms that your group is moving in the right direction.
In setting goals, it’s important to know your perspective relative to the size of your company, whether you’re just one person or a team of five or 10. Seeing your team in this context will help you prioritize, keep a realistic balance of tasks that are both easily achievable and professionally challenging, and adjust the lists as tasks are completed, lagging behind schedule or no longer feasible. This ensures that everyone stays busy but no one becomes overwhelmed, and if a team member does become overwhelmed, you’ll have the freedom and visibility to adjust resources and goals accordingly. Maintain a “no surprises” policy by keeping open and friendly dialogue about team and individual goals at your regular meetings.
2. Plan, plan, plan. At minimum, develop an annual plan and check in on it on a rolling basis for flexibility and frequent evaluation. Whether your plan is monthly, quarterly or annual, make sure it’s achievable and matches your goals. For example, if you’re planning on a quarterly basis, don’t just look at Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, but also review it in three-month increments. This rolling scheduling will keep you set up for success and help you pivot if needed. Set a cadence according to what you’re trying to achieve, what makes the most sense for your company’s sales cycle, and what type of marketing you do.
3. Go with a theme. Work out a theme for a certain period or project and stick to it. This will unify the messaging across all programs. Schedule overarching themes and programs depending on your needs. For example, if you’re in e-commerce and holidays are big, then October through December might be a good time to roll out a marketing theme for all major campaigns and communications. Similarly, if your company attends trade shows or conferences throughout the year, create a general event theme that includes different components that can be added or subtracted as needed. Adding a theme to your plan will help you prepare all assets ahead of time, which is both a good way to save money and stay sane.
Once you have that theme, stick to it. It’s important to present consistent branding, graphics, advertising and messaging in the marketplace. Keep a running list of theme ideas to tap into in the future so you’re not tempted every time a team member comes up with a good idea.
4. Cross-train and collaborate. Sharing skills and responsibility prevents chaos and dependence on one person in the case of an absence or departure.
Cross-training is really important. If you have a small team and one person is out — whether it’s a planned time away or they're sick — you need to have coverage or at least a backup. Every task should have two team members that can take care of it in case something absolutely must get done. It’s worth noting backup is also needed for jobs handled by contractors.
Managers can often step in because they have experience with several necessary skills, processes and tools. This also rings true across departments. For example, a sales director may be able to step into a webinar or networking event for a marketing director, or vice versa. And speaking of cross-team collaboration, if every department head is aware of what your team is working on, they should be able to step in and advise on an ad hoc basis. Introducing a fresh perspective on a project can often make for very effective marketing.
When hiring for your team, think of the complementary skill sets that candidates will need. Sometimes it’s best to hire a generalist for a short period of time until you need them to focus on a specific area. Think about where a new hire is going to fit in the short term and long term in order for them to be successful and grow within that role.
5. Leverage partnerships. Find people and companies within your industry that are complementary to you and your business, and then make friends. It’s OK to let them do some of the heavy lifting.
It goes without saying, networking is an important part of life if you want to be successful in your career. Look for people and businesses that complement your skill set. For example, I’m no design expert, so I try to network and collaborate with people who can contribute in that way and even teach me a few things while they’re at it. Similarly, think of what your company needs on a larger scale, and look for partners that can step in and fill gaps. On the flip side, know how to sell your company’s strengths to those who may need them and learn how to trade tasks, tools and resources so everyone can get more done.
Follow these suggestions and you’ll soon see signs that your small marketing department is running effectively. How will you know? You and your team will enjoy increased confidence from executive management; more meaningful collaboration with the sales team; and happier, well-adjusted team members. You’ll also sleep better at night.
Christina Del Villar is the head of marketing and partnerships at Webgility Inc. She has more than 20 years of experience building and working with marketing teams at Fortune 100 companies and startups.