This is a challenging time for marketing departments everywhere. The pandemic brought in-person events to a screeching halt, which was especially jarring for B2B teams that rely on tradeshows and conferences to generate leads. There was a huge shift to digital channels. There were marketing budget cuts at many companies. At the same time, investment in martech spiked.
The industry is seeing a rapid evolution and marketers are looking for insights as to what is next. They are seeking out data for answers, and more marketers are adopting agile methodologies to increase resilience.
All the changes in the space make leadership more important than ever. But what separates the good marketing leaders from the greats as they navigate the evolving landscape? Here are three traits great marketing leaders share.
- Great marketing leaders have a clear vision and the ability to communicate it. Specifically, marketing leaders who consistently achieve excellence know exactly how their team contributes to business success and have a strategy for executing on that vision. It may sound obvious, but in hectic day-to-day operations, it’s easy to get sidetracked and lose sight of the big picture. Great leaders keep their eyes on the prize, which is creating measurable value for the company.
Great marketing leaders are also able to articulate their vision in a way that resonates with their team, and they explicitly connect each team member’s job to what it takes to achieve the vision. Great leaders are relentlessly on message about their vision, to the point of being repetitive. The larger the team, the more repetitive the leader has to be to ensure that everyone understands how their individual efforts connect to the larger objective of driving business value.
- Great marketing leaders organize teams to simplify and streamline value creation. This gets overlooked sometimes, but it’s crucial to organize teams in a way that makes it easier for each team member to do their work. In well-run marketing departments, team members are inspired by clarity, ambiguity is eliminated, and everyone knows who is responsible for what. High-performance teams are also typically cross-functional, which helps everyone work together more effectively.
Organizing teams isn’t easy because marketing is incredibly complex. The department’s roles may encompass everything from strategy development to corporate communication to product management to field marketing. The massive proliferation of martech contributes to a high degree of specialization within marketing departments. But campaigns need a consistent theme across channels, so the team must be organized in a way that fosters collaboration.
- Great marketing leaders tell marketing’s story across the organization. Marketing leaders are extremely busy, so it can be tempting to keep their heads down and focus on their department. But a critical part of their job is to communicate what marketing does and why across the entire organization. Great marketing leaders build alliances in the C-suite and ensure that everyone understands how vital marketing’s efforts are to company success.
To fully tell marketing’s story, great marketing leaders provide data that clearly demonstrates the value they deliver. With metrics drawn from a single source of truth, marketing leaders can confidently take their seat at the strategy table and work with colleagues to build a plan to achieve company growth and revenue goals. They can “defend the spend” by demonstrating how each dollar invested in the marketing budget generates returns in terms of won revenue.
With persistent economic uncertainty, budgets in flux, digital transformation initiatives and evolving customer profiles to consider, marketing leaders will have plenty of strategic challenges on their plates for the foreseeable future. It can be overwhelming, and leaders who are faced with so many challenges at once may have the impulse to hunker down and just try to get through the next quarter.
But as the old saying goes, adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it. Marketing leaders who develop and articulate a clear vision, build teams in a way that maximizes efficiency and cooperation, and confidently communicate their team’s contributions have an opportunity to become not just good leaders but truly great ones.
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Companies need to respond to changes in demand patterns and shorten sales cycles, which requires experienced salespeople. And everyone must collaborate to maximize revenue and efficiency, which requires the ability to measure performance and generate accurate, meaningful data, which takes technology. For all of those reasons, we need CMOs now more than ever.