For many marketing founders on the hook for increasing revenue, the past few years haven't left much room for the same old activities. Business leaders realized they were spending too much time on the product in their messaging and not enough on the customer.
Tactics are changing wildly on a year-to-year basis, and innovation isn't just for geniuses. Being innovative today is simply being able to react when opportunity strikes. Being responsive to where attention is shifting, budgeting for changes, and adapting are hallmarks of the modern marketing powerhouse.
Just as tactics and strategies are changing, leading a team to move the needle for your marketing initiatives will require new skills:
1. Lead by defining results.
For new leaders, micromanagement is either a replacement for clearly defining a result or a crutch for poor hiring. Unfortunately, marketing leaders suffer from this just as much as anyone else -- they're notorious for taking over an activity after they've delegated it.
Leaders have to let the experts they've hired own the result. This aligns with my research that 88 percent of fast-growth companies believe employees' ability to take ownership is important to company growth.
Leaders must also spot-check. If quality is an issue, it's up to the leader to provide training material or one-on-one coaching. It's unsustainable to have every piece of marketing go through one person once a company or department reaches a certain size.
2. Create scorecards for clarity.
One effective way of leading smart people and ensuring that they provide value is through the scorecard method. Defining a scorecard is an excellent guide for developing people. The scorecard method lists core competencies and clear results on a one-page document for an employee to accomplish.
The scorecard sets expectations for employees and gives them clarity on their work targets.
3. Ask the right questions.
I recently worked with a company whose small marketing team kept getting sidetracked by low-value activities, such as print materials that took hundreds of hours of productivity. I asked, "Has this print material ever led to new business?" At first, they resisted giving it up. Then, after considering the ROI, they decided to reallocate the time to creating high-value content on the company's website.
"Where is the attention now?" and other crucial questions may lead you to difficult conversations. But they may also lead to no-brainers, like moving that outdated print budget to search marketing. In fact, 50 percent of marketing leaders polled in December 2019 said the highest ROI marketing activities are search-related. Beyond that, 70 percent of marketing professionals aren't happy with their website's conversion rate. The right questions can unlock new solutions and new results.
4. Consider two marketing departments: Leads versus Brand
As your company grows, you may consider splitting traditional lead generation and brand strategy. The problem with a purely numbers-driven marketing department is that this strategy doesn't often account for brand awareness. That's a massive selling point for your products or services.
In a recent Content Marketing Institute study, "B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends -- North America," 89 percent of the more than 5,000 B2B marketers surveyed said brand awareness was the most important goal with content marketing. Following brand awareness were sales and lead generation.
This goes to show that marketers are starting to realize that lead generation and brand awareness are two different objectives. While there's some overlap, dedicated strategies and initiatives for each are important for success.
5. Ride the line between marketing and sales.
With my clients, I've seen the line between sales and marketing break down. In some instances, they're almost nonexistent. One marketing leader discussed his mistrust of salespeople's ability to properly attribute success to the marketing department's lead generation efforts.
According to a client of mine, Tim Brown of Hook Agency, a lead generation company for small businesses and construction companies, you have to understand that not all leads are the same. Brown explained, "When it's up to salespeople to say whether a lead is an MQL (marketing qualified lead) or an SQL (sales qualified lead) -- and their sales closing rate is something they are judged against -- it blurs the line to who is responsible for lacking numbers of closed deals."
This is why it's so important to clearly define an MQL and an SQL within your organization. Focus your marketing efforts on the efforts that actually led to closed deals, not just more leads.
If the result is most important, and tactics are changing all the time -- even in the age of automation and marketing tools -- people are the absolute biggest factor. Don't forget the result of Google's two-year study on what propels high-performing teams: psychological safety. If you're not trusting your people, you're not creating a safe environment for small failures and innovation.