As the digital realm expands and becomes increasingly complex, many modern-day marketing departments are dividing themselves into multiple specialized teams. CMOs believe this is the best way to remain nimble and on the cutting edge of the latest techniques and tactics — and they're correct.
However, if they aren't careful, the decision to divide can easily backfire.
In a siloed environment, cross-team collaboration naturally becomes an uphill battle. Not only do communication barriers emerge, but the managers of each team also grow highly protective of their resources while prioritizing their internal KPIs above anything else.
This is a recipe for missed deadlines, underperforming campaigns and workplace tension. The executors on staff will quickly grow frustrated with working in slow, combative environments and turnover will become a costly concern. According to the Society for Human Resource Management's latest numbers, it costs today's companies upward of $4,000 to fill empty positions — and it takes more than 40 days for them to do so.
Earlier in his career, one of my team members found himself working in a marketing department that struggled to efficiently and effectively collaborate. Here's how he described his experience:
"If someone on the sales marketing team approached a designer for help, he'd be told to talk to the design supervisor. Then, the design supervisor would prioritize the project based on her team's ongoing initiatives and internal KPIs — which meant the design wouldn't be created for several months. The sales marketer would then have to explain to his supervisor why he wouldn't be able to hit his deadline, and that supervisor would then complain to the CMO about the whole situation."
If you keep finding yourself in the middle of these types of messes, it's time to take action. Show your team the value of collaboration, and provide them with processes and tools that make it possible.
Align the Troops
Before true collaboration can occur, all your marketing teams need to understand (and genuinely believe) that holistic company growth is — and always will be — their top priority.
This might sound obvious, but it's actually something that countless companies struggle to convey to their workers. In fact, one study found that 29 per cent of employees could find no clear relation between their role and the overarching company strategy.
Once everyone agrees to fight for the same cause, marketing leaders must then work to create and instill a clear collaborative process — and they must hold their teams accountable to it. The process should outline the procedure for accepting and prioritizing projects, and it should clearly convey the roles and responsibilities of each team member. On top of that, it needs to promote frequent communication. Companies that communicate often and effectively are half as likely to experience high levels of turnover.
Conduct Your Orchestra
If digital marketing campaigns are instruments, your multiple teams make up the orchestra, and you — as the leader — are the maestro. Your role is to ensure all sections of the symphony work in harmony and stay focused on the end goal. Begin your quest to collaboration by teaching your teams how to think like you so they eventually act like you. Similar to how a conductor’s sweeping arm motions guide an orchestra, use your words and actions to influence your employees.
You have a birds-eye view of how each group contributes to the whole, and this view guides you toward smart decisions. Clearly communicate the department's primary goal, and show how each team’s KPIs fuel that objective independently and combined.
Then, define the process for cross-team collaboration, and invest in tools and platforms that act as facilitators. However, be sure to keep your tool kit lean and mean. A recent Ipsos study revealed that growing numbers of employees feel like they waste time at work because they have too many communication tools. Strive to find a tool or platform that creates one single source of truth for task management, scheduling, communication and organization. Without a centralized hub where all parties can see everything, collaborative projects are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to execute. Ideal tools will transparently display who is responsible for each project, their deadlines and their workflows. They should also promote easy communication via notes or emails so every movement is captured as deliverables are executed. Of course, over time, your process will evolve, so don't be afraid to fail fast and iterate. As you implement new systems and processes, be sure to educate your teams on why you're making these changes and the benefits that will result from embracing them.
A conductor is only as good as his or her orchestra. Aligning your teams to perform in unison can be challenging, but it isn't impossible. If you define a process, choose the right tools, and garner support from employees along the way, your department can easily thrive in today's fast-paced digital marketing realm.
Garrett Moon is the CEO and co-founder of CoSchedule, the web’s most popular marketing calendar and the fastest-growing startup in North Dakota. Ranked as the best business tool built by a startup by Entrepreneur.com, CoSchedule helps more than 8,000 marketing teams stay organized in more than 100 countries.