team of employees working together
Marketing plans are as unique as the business they are designed for and will change over time. — Getty Images/Nikada

No matter what industry your business is in — from restaurants to fashion to enterprise software — marketing has a vital role to play in attracting customers. While the importance of marketing has remained steady over the years, the strategies powering it have changed frequently during the past decade.

To adapt to the ever-changing marketing landscape, companies need to build a team that can adapt with the times. Here are several tips on how to build a forward-thinking marketing department.

No one-size-fits-all approach

Before we dive into the basics of building out your marketing team, first keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for this. Generally speaking, you can at least usually break down marketing into two structures: distributed and centralized.

A distributed approach means that different teams (defined by product lines, marketing functions, geographical locations, etc.) will work on their own goals without coordinating with other teams, which makes these teams more nimble but less connected. A centralized approach means a single team runs everything related to marketing, which leads to more coordinated efforts but less flexibility.

“Each end of the spectrum has its own issues, so define a place on the spectrum that works for your organization and then proactively prepare a plan and set of processes to address potential issues around control and visibility,” Anita Brearton, founder and CEO of CabinetM, writes.

Start as lean as possible

When building out a marketing department, it may be tempting to try performing every function, including search engine marketing (SEM), multiple social media channels, content marketing, email marketing campaigns and creating a slick website with every bell and whistle. Instead, survey your target audience and find out what they would respond to. For example, if the majority of your audience uses LinkedIn more than Facebook or prefers reading emails to social media, use this knowledge to focus on the key ways you can attract customers and do those things well.

“One of the smartest decisions you can make when building a new marketing department is to keep things as lean as possible,” marketing guru and author Neil Patel writes. “This way you can focus on quality over quantity, and you can put energy into the channels and tactics that will give you disproportionate results.”

One of the smartest decisions you can make when building a new marketing department is to keep things as lean as possible

Neil Patel

Hire people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets

An important part of building a future-looking marketing team, naturally, is hiring a team that can do a lot and execute on your marketing strategies. Marketing requires versatility, and as such, you’ll want to look for team members that have diverse backgrounds and skill sets. By having people with different perspectives, you can help ensure your marketing message connects with a broader audience. As for skill sets, it’s incredibly useful to make sure your team can handle every possible task.

“Hiring versatile employees has many benefits,” Pratik Dholakiya, founder of Growfusely, writes. “For one, it will keep your labor costs down — considering that you can't afford to bring on multiple specialists with exclusive skills. Second, people can jump in and solve issues quickly without all the back-and-forth. Three, both your business and your employees will be constantly expanding their savviness.”

Set and document goals

Once you’ve zeroed in on the types of marketing you want to engage in and hired team members, now you need to set your goals. You should create clear goals for both the marketing team and the company. The head of the marketing team can then design strategies for meeting these goals and communicating why these goals are important to the future of the company.

“Goal setting is important for every marketing team because it provides structure to all your activities,” Kevin Barber, founder of Lean Labs, writes. “A clear destination brings focus to the team and a clear objective inspires people to do what it takes to achieve the goal.”

Always consider the future

Finally, as your marketing team develops, be sure to continue refining your strategies and hiring people who can help you adapt to the times. Keeping your marketing organization nimble is challenging as it becomes entrenched, but it is vital if you want to spur growth and remain relevant.

“Most marketing functions still develop and roll out large and infrequent campaigns, rely on agencies to make the same old media purchases, and are organized by geography or product,” McKinsey & Company writes. “As a result, few marketing organizations are able to take full advantage of new digital and advanced analytics tools that would enable them to be more agile, engaging, and effective.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published September 25, 2020