StrategyDigital transformationCMO’s handbook to building great marketing teams

CMO's handbook to building great marketing teams

CFA Institute's CMO shares practical tips and guidance on the mindset that makes marketing a successful team sport

30-second summary:

  • Building effective marketing teams and fostering teamwork starts requires a top-down approach
  • Enabling your leaders to lead can help foster long-term success while inspiring leaders to re-imagine what is possible
  • To enable agile decision making, marketers must determine which activities to keep in-house, which to automate, and which to outsource

How do you really build effective marketing teams? Contrary to popular belief, they don’t just happen on their own. While there’s no shortage of talented marketers, you don’t always find that they’re doing everything they can to push a brand to where it needs to be. Without the right framework and communication in place, even the savviest marketers can fall short.

Building effective marketing teams needs a top-down approach. Starting with the leadership team first enables all team members to share common goals and agreed-upon best practices. Too many CMOs try to manage their teams alone, but I’ve found to end up with an amazing global team (like I have at CFA Institute!) you need to put a system in place to enable your leaders to lead!

I wrote an article on LinkedIn earlier this year, ‘Let your leaders lead‘, in which I quoted Peter Drucker who said,

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

After all, there’s no “I” in “team” for that very reason.

When leaders lead, they share their vision, excitement, and passion to motivate their followers. Good leaders lead by example, provide their teams with a picture of what is possible and inspire them to step up and take ownership.

There are several things you can do to support your team—both globally and locally—and build the right kind of support around them for long-term success.

1. Embrace a flexible mindset

The main thing you must have is a framework that’s flexible enough to support your team. Flexibility is critical, especially as many people return to work and new schedules following the pandemic. Many people are finding a new rhythm, and as a leader, you must have the right mindset in place to understand the needs of your team and set a direct course. At the same time, you also must give your team enough room to improvise, to take the ball and run, and to do what they feel is right—of course, knowing they’ll be supported.

Globally, this means creating clear and consistent lines of communication and arriving at shared goals and mileposts along the way. At the local level, this means giving your team room to paint the marketing canvas the way they feel it needs to be painted—because if you don’t put the ball in their hands, you’ll lose their motivation, and they’ll lose their way. There is a delicate balance between having total local empowerment and a consistent global brand, so think of this as a constant “work in progress.”

2. Have clear decision-making guidelines

You have to always have a sense of who gets to make what decisions. You can’t have every decision made at the top—at least not if you want to succeed. Once you have that set, your teams can move autonomously and cohesively to execute strategies and promote the brand’s vision—without any one person acting as a bottleneck.

More generally, marketers must determine which activities to keep in-house, which to automate, and which to outsource. None of these decisions can be made by marketing alone, they must be cross-functional. When marketing works closely with other functions to execute key decisions, it can avoid organizational obstacles and get things done far more quickly and effectively than in the past.

3. Establish brand guidelines

It might go without saying, but you need a healthy set of brand guidelines that everyone understands and agrees upon. That’s a big part of cohesion. Because without guidelines in place it doesn’t matter how quickly you can move because your brand will be all over the place.

Your regions need to be set up, too. Teams need to have a clear understanding of:

  1. How much budget is allocated?
  2. What tools do they already have at their disposal?
  3. What partner ties already exist and how can these be best used?

Again, without that, your marketing apparatus will grind to a halt. Even if you have every other part of the framework in place, your brand’s strategy will consist of a series of stabs in the dark that lack any consistency or cogency.

Remember, this is not a “one and done” exercise. Every single day as a leader you must work together to get the local/global balance right, keep readjusting and shifting and always remember that building great teams is indeed a team sport!

How have you empowered your marketing teams? And what can we learn from your successes? Please leave a comment below.


Michael Collins is CMO and Managing Director of CFA Institute.

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