Running a highly efficient marketing team

Tips and strategies from best-in-class organizations

Introduction

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Efficiency matters. 

While scale has become the key objective for the average fast-growing business, successfully doing so is no walk in the park. The quicker a business grows, the more complicated running it becomes. The door for risk becomes wider, the number of people that need to be aligned gets larger, and the amount of ROI you aim to generate gets bigger. 

As a company enters that crucial period of hypergrowth, efficiency must become a top priority for marketers. Every dollar spent should generate even more revenue, so to maintain business health and weather unforeseen challenges, teams need to remain lean while increasing their output. We’re especially seeing this hold true today, during a period where businesses — some of which may feel like they're still in COVID-19 recovery mode — are aware of the current unstable state of the global economy. Moments like this can make or break a business, and it’s up to marketing leaders to be proactive and make crucial business decisions, including scaling back budgets, slowing hiring, and focus on programs and strategies that will bring down operating expenses in the short-term. 

To truly protect your business and help it thrive, organizations need to stay ahead of the curve and invest in tools and processes that position them for long-term success. Rather than being reactive in a moment’s notice, marketing leaders need to foster a culture of agility, efficiency, and productivity. Doing so will not just help teams collaborate and adapt in times of crisis — it will also position the business at large for sustainable growth.

To get you started, we talked to four marketing leaders with experience leading highly effective marketing teams to get their take on what it takes to build a productive team and future proof your business.

Chapter 1

The common challenges facing modern marketing teams

Four of the primary obstacles marketers must tackle to achieve business growth

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No simple task, it’s one that requires teams to keep up with our outpace evolving trends and best practices, experiment, build a best-in-class marketing stack, create scalable processes, and lean on strategies that best support your business needs — often with limited resources. 

The past few years have proven that every business can face unforeseen challenges and consumer needs can change in an instant. It’s in these moments where your marketing team’s agility — the ability to move fast and move together — becomes the defining factor that dictates whether your organization can keep pushing forward and scale. 

Modern marketing teams face a wide range of hurdles, both organizationally and in their day-to-day. Several factors can impact what specific challenges they may face in a given moment, especially the state of the global economy, shifting trends, resource availability, and time. 

To narrow down the list of common challenges these teams often encounter, we interviewed a number of experienced marketers with a history of building successful teams and marketing programs.

Challenge #1: Acquiring a sufficient budget

Growing marketing teams need sizable budgets to run high-performing, revenue generating campaigns, but businesses need the assurance these budgets will generate positive ROI. However, because attribution can be difficult to measure in some facets of marketing — be it brand awareness plays or the impact of content campaigns — leadership might be wary of approving hefty budgets. During periods of volatility (like businesses experienced following the onset of COVID-19), these budgets may shrink in a moment’s notice. And while HubSpot data reveals marketers have made some headway in recouping the budgets they need to run campaigns, analysts at Gartner report that marketing budgets still haven’t fully bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. 

Limited resources affect your ability to execute your marketing strategies, making it especially important that your budget is optimized in all the right places. As a result, ensuring you have methods for measuring impact, defining how different parts of the budget will be used, outlining startup costs, and documenting the objectives you have for bringing on more in-house or agency support can help decision makers understand how your budget requests will ultimately help the business meet its growth goals.

Challenge #2: Hiring quality talent

Building a team with a range of skills and qualifications can be a daunting task. And it’s not uncommon for members of a marketing team to wear different hats: A strategist, a communicator, an analyst, a decision maker. This makes it all the more important to hire people that are the right fit — and work well together — for your team. 

The labor market often dictates hiring efforts

The job market can dramatically impact hiring, and it can be difficult to determine who you want vs. who you need. Marketing leaders are tasked with deciding what headcount they need to  fulfill both short-term and long-term business needs, as well as balancing what skills are a must-have vs. nice-to-haves in potential new hires. 

Once you’ve figured out the required roles and skills you need to assemble a well-rounded team, you have to face the challenges that come with talent acquisition — particularly having the time to find candidates and having the resources needed to offer competitive compensation.  If you don’t strike the right balance, you may end up hiring too quickly or too slowly, which either means you’ve brought on an employee who’s the wrong fit or you’ve potentially lost excellent candidates.

Hiring managers need to balance talent wants and needs

Marketing teams are often strapped for time or resources, which can make the hiring process feel daunting. That was definitely the case for Aunalisa Arellano, Head of Customer Marketing at software leader Filevine. She started her current role in February 2022 and was tasked with building a marketing team from the ground up with limited resources — a proven hiring strategy and the budget to acquire top talent in a competitive labor market. 

Arellano knew that in order to build a strong, yet efficient team, she would need to think outside of the box. She didn’t have what she needed to hire highly experienced marketers during a time that favored talent. Instead, she had to look for quick-minded people who potentially had less experience but could:

  • Work collaboratively
  • Pick up new skills quickly and learn on the fly 
  • Confidently make sound business decisions autonomously

She took further steps to ensure they hired the right people by creating and putting together a hiring panel that understood her goals and the skills she was looking for. She explained, “I'm a big proponent of panel interviews so a candidate can meet multiple people in the department that they'll [potentially] be working with,” she explained. “I know it can be intimidating for some candidates, but I’ve seen other teams really silo their hiring [processes]. I like getting a broader perspective, and feel like it gives me better insights.”

Challenge #3: Meeting changing consumer preferences

Nothing is stationary in marketing. Consumer needs change, and marketers have to adapt to these changes. The challenge is finding the balance between jumping on every new marketing trend and strategically adopting ones that engage your target audience. 

Carly Pallis, VP of Marketing of the members-only community for GTM leaders, Pavilion, understands the challenge of keeping up with and staying ahead of shifting buyer behaviors. She explained that she has intentionally built a team that looks for signals of conversion to identify key learnings they can implement into their marketing strategies. And in doing so, they are then able to create messages that truly resonate with their audience. 

In Pallis’s experience, she finds adjusting to changes in buyer behavior is an evergreen challenge for today’s businesses:

Marketers have to be cognizant of keeping up with consumer preferences and adapt their messaging, calls to action, and nurture strategies so they better fit how buyers want to make purchase [decisions] today.

Challenge #4: Aligning with key stakeholders

Everything that goes on in a marketing department doesn’t always have company-wide visibility, but typically, their projects require cross-department collaboration. A marketing team can’t make every decision unilaterally, especially if it requires a significant amount of company resources. The challenge for some teams is offering easy-to-understand information — ideally backed by data — to stakeholders and decision-makers in order to stay aligned. 

Dan Dawson, Marketing Technologist and Senior Manager of Digital Properties at software company NCR, has extensive experience as an agile and creative problem solver. He says that everyone has a different perspective when it comes to making major operational changes, investing in technology, or implementing new strategies. To gain stakeholder buy-in, he distills business objectives into actionable and deliverable goals to make his case. He also believes being an effective communicator has helped him become a self-described “consensus builder across all seniority levels and organizations.” 

Dawson explained that stakeholders want to see proof — the value you plan to generate from making a particular decision — before they provide their stamp of approval, such as why you need to expand your marketing team or the benefits of adding a tool to your stack. Aligning with key people on major marketing decisions and helping them understand how it will positively impact the company as a whole can reduce friction and smooth the way to adopting new strategies, bringing on new tools, or increasing your budget.

Being agile can help today’s marketers overcome common challenges

Marketing teams don’t always have unlimited resources to address unexpected issues. That’s why being flexible and agile is so important — it helps teams transform obstacles into opportunities, keep things moving, and make difficult decisions when necessary. And while leaders need to keep their sights set on the bigger picture to keep the business running smoothly at all times, it’s important they also empower their team members to make strategic decisions in the face of new challenges as your business continues to grow.

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