Digital MarketingStrategiesFive habits of high-performing marketing teams

Five habits of high-performing marketing teams

Putting these top skills into practice is a pathway for success in an unpredictable world.

30-second summary:

  • Nineteen percent is exactly how much time the average marketer today spends on their highest value work, according to Workfront’s global marketing report.
  • Without a solid tech stack in place, it’s next to impossible to tear down silos and enable cross-functional collaboration. And both are required—especially now—in order to increase agility and accelerate speed to market.
  • When all work details, communication, and collaboration flow through a central hub that everyone can access in real-time, you eliminate confusion, duplicated effort, and busy work.
  • Marketers need the ability to seamlessly collaborate within the context of the work they’re doing. This means that all online conversations about in-flight projects are embedded within the plans, details, and schedules that comprise the work itself.
  • One of the best ways to increase the amount of time marketers devote to high-value initiatives is to automate those time-consuming manual tasks.
  • As for enhancing the customer experience and responding quickly to market forces, it all circles back to the importance of reclaiming more than 19% of marketers’ time to innovate, create, and focus on the contributions they’re uniquely qualified to make.

Nineteen percent can sometimes be a good, solid number. It would be a great return on investment. It’s a perfectly acceptable email open rate. It would be a fantastic email click-through rate.

Nineteen percent can also not be so great. Like when it comes to credit card interest, college graduation rates, or positive COVID tests. And it’s definitely not a great percentage of your workday to spend on the work you were hired to do.

So what if I told you 19% is exactly how much time the average marketer today spends on their highest value work, according to our Global Marketing Report? This figure is especially troubling considering that the three skills marketers say are the most important to their jobs are:

  • Thinking and acting creatively
  • Delivering quality work on time
  • Quickly responding to changing market forces and disruption

A recent blog from my colleague and Executive Creative Director, Ben Child, outlines how creative teams can reclaim more time to focus on what matters most.

I’d like to expand on that approach, offering five tips high-performing marketing teams are using to carve out the capacity to put their top skills into practice.

Additional insights are offered by Jennifer Johnson, Director of Global Marketing Programs at Informatica, who joined me in a webinar on this topic.

1) Streamline processes

I know process talk isn’t what gets most marketers out of bed in the morning. But the more you can streamline workflows and reduce redundancy, the more time and energy you’ll have for what you love: creativity and innovation.

And one thing the pandemic has clearly revealed is that you can’t streamline processes through email and Zoom alone. Automating manual tasks and eliminating waste requires the right technology infrastructure.

Without a solid tech stack in place, it’s next to impossible to tear down silos and enable cross-functional collaboration. And both are required—especially now—in order to increase agility and accelerate speed to market.

Streamlined processes can also reduce the number of meetings marketers find themselves sitting through, day in and day out. Pre-pandemic, marketers were spending exactly as much time in meetings as they devoted to their most important work (yep, there’s that 19% again).

It’s surely much higher for nearly all marketers today. But Jennifer Johnson has found relief through enterprise work management, which has helped her ensure her meetings are shorter, more efficient, and more targeted, especially when company leadership is involved.

“My rule of thumb for VP and above is that they don’t want to be in the weeds, but they want to know at any given moment where everything is,” she says. She uses automated dashboards to provide “a cross-functional view of everything: of all the work streams, what’s going on, what’s running hot, and what’s doing well. It’s great because of the purpose of those meetings: they want to know where the blockers are, how things are going overall. Are we seeing any results? That’s what these should be about.”

2) Centralize work

Centralized work processes increase marketers’ and marketing leaders’ confidence that the work will get done, no matter what.

When all work details, communication, and collaboration flow through a central hub that everyone can access in real-time, you eliminate confusion, duplicated effort, and busy work.

You keep transparency and trust levels high. And you empower individuals and teams to remain focused on top priorities.

Furthermore, when a crisis hits, it’s much easier to avoid catastrophic disruption. Jennifer shared the story of an unexpected health emergency that required an extended recovery.

“I was so grateful to already have these processes in place,” she says. “It allowed me to give anybody the keys to the car, so they could take over. Everybody was already used to collaborating in that way. The only difference was, they didn’t hear my voice. But having that central repository for everything allowed me to step back and take care of myself.” 

3) Collaborate in context

Technology plays a really important role in being able to manage a distributed or dispersed workforce, which is an increasing part of our new reality.

Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 25 to 30 percent of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. And disconnected tools like email, chat, and spreadsheets simply aren’t cutting it.

Marketers need the ability to seamlessly collaborate within the context of the work they’re doing. This means that all online conversations about in-flight projects are embedded within the plans, details, and schedules that comprise the work itself.

With everything collected in a single system of record, all participants have instant access to progress and priorities, and you never waste time getting people up to speed or getting everyone on the same page.

“Collaboration is key,” Jennifer says. “Especially across teams. We have to quickly and easily know what work is being worked on, and by what teams, so we can make sure that the work that’s being done is aligning to our corporate strategy. We also need to make sure that we’re communicating to the right stakeholders at the right time.”

4) Automate repetitive tasks

One of the best ways to increase the amount of time marketers devote to high-value initiatives is to automate those time-consuming manual tasks.

The Global Marketing Report asked marketers which areas they’re looking at automating over the next couple of years, and here’s what they said:

  • 33% say prioritization and strategic goal alignment
  • 33% say budget tracking and financial workflows
  • 32% say time tracking
  • 32% say resource management
  • 30% say request/intake management

To use a train metaphor, automating tasks like these enable workers to focus on continually moving high-value work down the line, rather than constantly stopping to build and repair the tracks themselves.

“We’ve managed to automate key aspects of work,” Jennifer says. “We have project templates already pre-baked for most any work that is required in marketing. When we’re ready to embark on a project, we simply operationalize a project template and go from there.”

5) Adapt and innovate in the face of change

Global Marketing Report respondents said the top three most essential skills to succeed in the future of marketing are:

  • Enhancing the customer experience (31%)
  • Responding more quickly to market forces (27%)
  • Communicating to the right stakeholders at the right time with the right tools (21%)

In reference to that third bullet point, Jennifer reiterates the efficacy of dashboards: “A good way of ensuring proper collaboration is to make sure that we have dashboards or visuals of the work that’s happening that our executives can readily access. They dynamically update in real-time, so at any time our executives know the data they’re looking at is recent and representative of the work that we’re doing as a department.”

As for enhancing the customer experience and responding quickly to market forces, it all circles back to the importance of reclaiming more than 19% of marketers’ time to innovate, create, and focus on the contributions they’re uniquely qualified to make.

Of course, this survey took place right before the pandemic hit, and we’ve all been taking a crash-course in responding quickly to market forces ever since.

I’m not sure we even grasped what that phrase meant before March of 2020. And while it’s been challenging on every front, it has also revealed the importance of being agile as an organization and as individual marketing teams.

There’s a huge tie between being adaptive and leveraging creativity. Marketers must cultivate both skills in order to be successful in a volatile world.

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