21 Mar How to Build a Modern Marketing Team
It is often said that a modern marketing team should eat, sleep and breathe “growth.” You know what? I couldn’t agree more. There is no other way to put it if you want to either join a successful and modern “growth” team or build one. Injecting growth into your veins is a must.
Okay, so maybe I’m a little over the top here, but as a growth strategist and practitioner, I love the “figuring out” stage, finding which levers to push and pull to extract a favorable outcome. For me, I love sinking my teeth into difficult problems, leveraging data to glean insights and figuring out what makes a consumer tick. I dig and dig to uncover what their pathway to purchase looks like behind-the-scenes. I’m fascinated by it all — how buyers think, how they feel, and what they do. I’m in perma-research mode. It never stops.
Yeah, I know – I need a life but that’s the type of mindset today’s marketers need.
As I sit here sipping my black tea this morning – a delightful infusion of all sorts of wonderful spices like cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg – I can’t help relating this fine cup with a Fortune 50 growth assignment that is absorbing my every thought. I know the analogy might seem like a non-sequitur, but stick with me here. All these spices combined make up a delightful sipping experience by early morning. And I indulge in discovering the same combination of individual parts as I think about this project. Both the tea and what will be the result of this project work because of the part and parcel unique to the whole.
Although fun to ideate on how to pull together the right ingredients for that same type of blend in your organization, the process requires a little finesse. Make the wrong blend, and you’ll create a drink (or company) no consumer will enjoy. On the other hand, the perfect combination can lead to an experience that makes consumers come back time and again with an insatiable craving for more, more, and more.
The devil of growth is, in fact, in the details of each unique buyer segment. Each part centers on improving the customer experience (CX) to make that journey sublime. CX is the foundation of any growth model that stands a chance to build a sustainable, successful business. Taking a Fortune 50 brand and re-engineering a long-standing division for iterative growth is not only a significant mindset shift internally, but it’s also very challenging for me, the outsider stepping inward to lead those changes. Much of the success is riding on whether my strategic growth models work. No pressure, right? Wrong. There’s lots of pressure to come through with something phenomenal, but, I live for this stuff.
I’m not stressed about the assignment. Honestly. As arrogant as this might sound (kidding, sort of), I have zero doubt that I can help drive incredible growth for this well-known brand – a brand which is as American as it gets. Why am I this confident? Simple. I know how to build modern marketing teams around sophisticated growth models and luckily for me, this brand has untapped talent oozing out of its proverbial pores.
Within this particular growth assignment, I’m focused on building models which support the core initiative: acquire new members and increase member retention? Is it the idea? The product? The vision? The pain point? Sure, all of those components are critical to growth, but I’d argue that at the base of any growth model – rapid or incremental – is the quality of your people. Your team. The road to success boils down to how vested, driven and strategic your people assets are. Period. End of story.
Growth is All About Your People
In my role as a growth marketing strategist, one of the most common counter-points I run up against is the idea of building a “modern” growth marketing team. That suggestion often yields a glossy stare with the knee-jerk reaction of, “Huh?” And I get it. The next question that usually follows is, “Buckley, what makes the team modern? Why use the word, ‘growth’? We’re up to speed and using many of the bleeding edge practices. How much more modern can we get?”
My response usually starts off by going down the rabbit hole of listing out the differences between growth and marketing and where the two intersect. To illustrate these differences, and that intersection point, let’s take a step back in time into a traditional manufacturing plant (if that feels like a stretch, stick with me). In this traditional workplace setting, the laborers and production managers spent their days pulling levers, pushing the right buttons, and using tools to get the job done. They’d have to optimize product lines to operate as efficiently as possible. The people working in the plant had to be very skilled to know how to do all of this.
Now, let’s shift our focus back into the current world and over to the marketing departments of today. Modern marketers have software to manage, data to cull through, and yes, they still must push the right buttons at the right time to get their message out.
In both traditional manufacturing plants and today’s marketing teams, it’s the people behind the machinery that makes the operation run smoothly and drives the success.
The tools today’s modern marketing team use to deploy growth marketing tactics are critical, yes. But without the right people behind the now digital levers and buttons, knowing how to optimize a funnel and which proverbial levers will get the fastest and best results, your team is stuck.
What is Growth Marketing?
Don Draper would cringe at what I’m about to say — modern marketers aren’t working in the same silos as traditional marketers did back in his day. For there to be success, you have to drop departmental walls and get marketers linking arms with people across your organization. Today’s savvy marketers know this, which is why they’re no deploying what is called, “growth marketing.”
Before we dig into the steps you must take to build a modern marketing team, let’s take a closer look at that term I keep using: growth marketing. This term defines what modern marketing teams are trying to accomplish, so it’s important you understand the concept.
There are a lot of definitions out there for growth marketing. One of my favorite growth marketing tools happens to be Lotus Growth. They define it like this:
Growth marketing is the practice of using data and agility to scale revenue.
I love that definition because it touches on the harmony between indisputable evidence (the data) and quick shifts (agility) to put budgets toward the most profitable course of action.
Sounds pretty great, right? I think so too, but it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, like what skillsets and processes are needed to become a growth marketer. Do you need to go back to school to learn data science? Not necessarily (although knowing something about data science is never a bad thing in today’s world). Check out this image from a Lotus Growth post distinguishing the subtle differences between Growth Hacking vs. Growth Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing.
In this Venn diagram, you can see the processes for growth hacking on the left, and the processes for traditional marketing on the right. Growth marketing meets in the middle, represented by the area shaded in dark purple.
For the sake of simplicity and for those new to the terms “growth”, here’s what we can pull from it.
- Growth marketers are quicker to move than traditional marketers but still take the time to make smart decisions about the direction they’re heading.
- Growth marketers have a relentless focus on the customer’s experience, which requires a solid understanding of the awareness cycle, but an equally important understanding of which channels are bringing in revenues.
- Growth marketers appreciate agile processes that can ebb and flow depending on data insights.
- Growth marketers work in small teams within their department, but require the help of larger teams throughout their organization.
So, look, I realize this shoe doesn’t fit every company and every culture. This post is to serve as a start…a primer. Or, more importantly, start discussing how can you create a modern marketing team with a focus on growth marketing? Ultimately, the discussion should foster ideas on how you can turn your marketing team into one that employs tactics focused on the entire funnel coupled with a highly experimental approach.
Here is a simple and actionable 9-step approach to building a modern growth marketing team.
Step 1: Alter the Marketing Team’s Mindset
Old habits die hard, right? But without killing the traditional mindset stifling your employees, you’ll never be able to embrace your new modern marketing team fully.
I can hear the moaning already. And, I get it. Change is uncomfortable.
Altering the way you think about the role of marketing in your company is much easier said than done. Still, it’s a challenge you should welcome with arms wide open. By shaking up your team’s mindset in favor of a growth marketing framework, you’ll emerge from the cozy cocoon of the traditional setup and gain the wings to scale your business effectively.
Sound good? I think so too. So let’s talk about which direction to steer your team’s mindset internally because it’s time to treat marketing like the core business intelligence department that it is.
That’s what growth marketing is at its core. It’s rooting the entire team in understanding the customer experience (CX) and using data to reach new markets in innovative ways.
Considering the customer’s experience when making marketing decisions isn’t all that revolutionary. After all, you want your customers to rave about what they experienced when buying from you, right? Sure! But that only encompasses one part of the CX puzzle. Many businesses only pay attention after a sale. The other (often missing) piece is what happens before the sale.
Take this infographic about the customer experience lifecycle from Capterra as an example.
Here, you can see two core times when the customer experience matters – when the purchase is happening (and when your marketing and sales teams are closest in touch with the buyer), and after you’ve earned (and own) the business. During the buying phase, the marketing and sales teams are gathering a host of knowledge about what gets customers excited, engaged, and eager to purchase. Then, once you’ve won the business, the marketing and sales teams drop off, and the support teams take over.
In a traditional setting, the marketing and support teams work independently of one another. In a modern setting, they join forces to discover new growth potential.
As I mentioned before, marketing is the core business intelligence department. This team gathers both qualitative and quantitative data through a variety Voice of the Customer initiatives, which helps understand the customer’s specific wants and needs. This data needs to permeate your entire company for you to take a posture of growth.
Step 2: Align the CIO, CTO, and CMO
Until now, I’ve only addressed the departments that have direct contact with buyers. Does that mean these are the only two teams that need to be in touch with the data uncovered through the Voice of the Customer initiatives? Hardly.
You might’ve heard that marketing’s a blend of art and science. Taking customer feedback and turning it into compelling copy and imagery is the art side of it. The science side of marketing happens when you use facts and figures to analyze and identify patterns to improve that copy and imagery.
Brian Balfour at CoElevate talks about growth marketing skills in one of his essays, where he discusses the need for both qualitative skills and quantitative abilities.
Balfour’s advice? Go deep. He says, “Anyone can learn the surface layer of a subject. But going deep requires you to solve problems where the answer isn’t in some hacktics blog post.”
This is important. You can’t skate by with surface level analytics. You need robust marketing tools and technology in place to help uncover deeper insights about your customers and what they’re experiencing. Remember, it’s all about the CX.
Getting a deeper understanding of your buyer’s journey requires technology – and boy, are marketers investing money in software products and solutions to enable them to go deeper on CX. Take a look at where marketers spent their money on technology in 2016 in this (almost overwhelming) infographic showing the hottest marketing software from Martech Advisor.
There’s a lot of data and business intelligence available to the marketing department today, but to access it and sift through it all – to go deep – requires the help of the CIO and CTO.
Aligning the CIO and CTO with the CMO goes way beyond setting up a few meetings to review and implement these tools. It often requires you to adjust your organizational design, so the CMO works hand in hand with the CIO and CTO. Many times, the C-Suite team of executives also works alongside a Data as a Service provider to get even deeper into the trenches of what’s available to them via their data. By having an expert work alongside them, they can pull out patterns and insights that can generate substantial business results.
The way you structure your company has a dramatic impact on your growth and scalability. I see many businesses that have these departments working independently of each other. If that sounds like your current structure, you’re putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage.
Align the CIO and CTO with the CMO so that technology can work smoothly and effectively across all departments. Doing this will ensure the marketing team gets what they need to make artistic decisions based on scientific evidence.
Step 3: Make Agility Mandatory
Some teams frequently fall into the trap of wanting to be right, and thus, perfect, all the time. If that sounds like you (be honest here), you probably aren’t operating from a place agility.
I love these agile marketing values used for the Agile Marketing Manifesto at SprintZero.
Here’s my take on each point.
- Don’t get so stuck on being right (or being perfect) that you stop learning from the data.
- Customer experience trumps everything.
- Lather, rinse and repeat your marketing campaigns instead of coming from a place of shock and awe.
- Never stop getting to know your buyers.
- Stay nimble; avoid over-planning…
- … but have a plan in place if you need to change direction.
- Keep experimenting and adapt as needed.
Notice that nowhere in here did I say to stick to your guns and bury your head in the sand while you work a plan. Growth marketing happens when you evolve alongside your customer base. Require a heads up, eyes open approach from each member of your marketing team and your team will be in a growth posture.
David Edelman, Jason Heller, and Spittaels wrote an excellent article for McKinsey. Their definition of agile marketing was spot-on.
Agile, in the marketing context, means using data and analytics to continuously source promising opportunities or solutions to problems in real time, deploying tests quickly, evaluating the results, and rapidly iterating.
For growth-centric companies, this means you can scale your operations and continue to develop your marketing. With an agile approach, you can have hundreds of marketing campaigns running alongside each other. All it takes to make this entire process work smoothly? Yep, the right team.
Edelman, Heller, and Spittaels went on in their McKinsey article to discuss the essential components of an agile marketing team. Here are the non-negotiable people that must play a role in every agile marketing, or modern marketing, team.
You can see that there are a wide variety of roles on this team but each one serves a single purpose – to improve the customer’s experience. Even the extended teams – IT, legal, the business owners, and the HR department – play a part in bettering the buyer’s experience from start to finish.
Keep the focus on CX. Anytime you see a shift that could improve the experience your customers have with your business, harness your agility and make a change. It’ll pay dividends in the long run.
Or, from Vince Lombardi’s perspective, chase after perfecting the customer experience no matter what shift in direction is needed and you’ll achieve excellence.
Step 4: Devise Your Superhero Team
Feeling overwhelmed? Growth marketing doesn’t happen because of the actions of one person. It takes a village. Or in this case, a team of superheroes.
There are specific roles that you should have on your modern marketing team to fuel your growth efforts.
- The Orchestrator: This person sets the strategic vision for your business based solely around CX.
- The Content Marketer: This content marketer understands every channel perfectly. He is not afraid to get on a podcast, take on a keynote, or start a social media advertising campaign.
- The Writer/Editor: This person is a storyteller, and may even be a journalism major. She has a passion for every topic you’re talking about.
- The Data/Analytics Ninja: This person does it all from Google A to coupling insights from heat mapping, and building out intricate customer journey maps. He or she is responsible for syncing with the team on how to test and optimize each customer touch point within the journey. To do this, you’ll find this person building great surveys, going on site to do exit polling (for brick and mortar), and constantly on the hunt to uncover what the customer is thinking, feeling, or doing during his or her path toward buying specific products.
- The Tech Lead: This person lives, eats, and breathes everything technical from writing code to flawlessly executing on UX/UI.
- The Creative Designer and Video Manager: This person (or people) use the customer journey maps and data to develop attention-grabbing creative at every stage of the funnel. From SEM to infographics to social video, this person (or team) uses an agile production process to create the perfect message and deliver it at the perfect time.
These roles cover almost all of your marketing team bases. Even with this powerhouse of a team, it can help to bring in outside perspective.
Step 5: Bring A Little Outside Help on Board
You immerse yourself in your marketing. If you’re doing things right, you’re also going deep into your customer’s world and pulling out new ways to talk to, access, and excite your target market. Sometimes, this close attention to what’s happening in your business can be a distraction rather than a help. In these cases, it’s valuable to have the help of an outside strategist.
Marketing strategists bring specific areas of expertise to the table. They’re often called T-shaped marketers. Rand Fishkin from Moz describes this type of marketer as having, “…a broad array of skills, a deep knowledge/ability in a single one (or a few).” To illustrate his point, he made this image for one of his presentations. It gives a great visual for this type of strategist.
Your full-time marketing team is juggling a lot. You poise your business for growth when you bring in someone with an outside perspective who is an expert in a particular area where you have limited knowledge or resources.
Sounds great, right? But it can be hard to know when to bring this person on board. Think of it this way.
Let’s say you’re struggling with how to address one particular pain point in your buyer’s journey. A strategist can walk you through how to improve on the CX and come up with specific strategies to solve the problem. Then, they’ll walk your superhero team through the costs and the step-by-step ways to implement the new strategy. In the end, they’ll be able to show you exactly how these solutions foster growth. The T-shaped marketer defined above can see the big picture but can also drill down to the details giving you the exact roadmap you need to scale your business.
Step 6: Keep Laser Focused on the Big Picture
I’ve referred several times to the big picture and your buyer’s journey, but what does that look like in your business?
Everything the modern marketing team does centers on the customer experience. That experience starts long before he or she even knows about your business or offering.
To get an accurate glimpse into what the big picture looks like for your buyer, you need to create a map of the journey. Tandemseven has done a great job of talking about the five core components to mapping out the customer journey and I encourage you to read the detailed article here. In short, you must take these five steps when building out your offering.
- Build from your customer’s point of view; not your business’s point of view.
- Understand your buyer’s perceptions of their experiences relative to their goals.
- Draw out the customers’ current or future journey across various touchpoints instead of focusing on just one.
- Add in performance indicators.
- Make it visual to make it easy for your team to understand, engage, and make decisions based on the overall customer’s story.
It’s that last point that rings true for me louder than all of the others. When it comes to building your modern marketing team, it’s helpful to layer emotions on top of touchpoints, on top of actions, etc. By adding a variety of elements, you’re able to create a journey map that looks a lot like this one (from Tandemseven’s post).
Creating a map like this takes time – specifically the data collection and data analysis process – but it’s well worth the investment. It can be used as a microscopic lens to make decisions about where to invest your growth marketing spending (the science of marketing) or, where and how to improve each touchpoint and how to speak to your customers given where they’re at on their journey (the art of marketing). This healthy blend of facts and emotions paints a deeper picture for your entire team.
To help you understand how to create a customer journey and experience map, here is a great wire frame from NNGroup.
Understanding the customer journey down to every touchpoint, every detail is about finding out what customers think, feel and do during each stage of their purchase journey. In today’s omnichannel landscape, it’s critical to see how each touchpoint performs across an overarching journey. More on the customer journey and customer mapping in another post. For now, I’d suggest reaching out to a customer experience (CX), data-driven consultancy – like RocketSource – to help you further define and build a customer journey and experience map. At any rate, lots more detail to discuss on this topic but not in this post.
Beyond the traditional modern marketing funnel, a growth marketer needs to think about the entire experience post purchase. This full bow-tie funnel marketing approach is essential to enhancing LTV so your modern marketing team always knows how to react from start to end, regardless of whether you’re using a digital or an offline channel. It’s all encompassed on your map, which makes it easy to keep the CX focus that’s so essential to growth marketing.
Step 7: Define Your North Star Metric
Are you still with me? Good!
There are a lot of layers here. We’re talking about considering emotions, data points, and touch points, and then blending all of these to come up with fascinating, captivating creative. It’s hard work – work which requires a modern marketing team to approach with finesse.
It’s easy to get lost, even when you keep the customer’s experience at the forefront of your mind. That’s why modern marketing teams use a north star metric.
I write about the north star metric in detail here (check it out if you’re unfamiliar with the term – I think you’ll be intrigued by the concept) but I’ll summarize. The north star metric is the one metric chosen by you that’ll determine whether or not you’re successful.
The knee-jerk reaction to this is to say, “money!” If you earn more money, you’re successful right? Yes and no.
Although having money in the bank is important to your growth, it’s not the only metric that signals whether you’re on the right path. For example, what if you’re earning more money from your current customer base but you’re not bringing in any new customers? There’s a ceiling there that you’ll hit and soon, your revenues will dry up faster than an Arizona river after a rainstorm.
Your north star metric is your primary focus. It’s where you can come back to when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the buyer’s journey and unsure of the next step to take. If you’re questioning your agile marketing efforts, you can always ask yourself, “will this keep me on the right path toward the north star? Or will I veer in another direction?”
When defining your north star metric, think of the moment your buyer pulls out his wallet and swipes his credit card. That’s the action that you want hundreds of thousands to take. That’s the metric that should become your north star.
Once you’ve defined your north star, tie every role on your team to that star in some way. Make sure the data guy is taking the same steps toward the north star as the creative and content marketer. Use it as your beacon and come back to it every time you hold a meeting to ensure everyone is staying on course toward growth.
Step 8: Hold Weekly Stand-Up Meetings
In a Kissmetrics article called, “Why Growth Hacking is a Team Sport,” Sean Ellis at GrowthHackers outlined that the vast majority of marketers spend less than 25% of their time compiling, assessing, and sharing wins/losses. He says, “This is a big missed opportunity. Retrospectives and post-mortems are an important part of closing the feedback loop of growth experiments.”
Remember that agile methodology I talked about earlier? It’s important. But you won’t know whether you’re on course toward your north star metric or not if you’re not reviewing data as a team.
Every team member has their unique insight. The data team might have uncovered a trend that can help the writer in crafting her next post. Or, the Orchestrator might have a new insight on the customer experience that’ll help uncover a better strategy for the content marketing team.
Getting down to the results doesn’t have to eat up your work time but it does need to happen. By holding weekly stand-up meetings as a team, you’re able to check-in with each other and get insights faster, enabling you to be agile in your approach to the market.
Step 9: Find and Implement the Right Platforms for Your Team
Meetings are just the beginning. Technology has advanced to the point where teams can work together to gather insight seamlessly, regardless of where they are in the world. There are many, many tools out there for marketers to use (as you saw in the Martech Advisor’s infographic above), so which ones are the right ones for you? The answer depends on your company size, your team size, etc. With that in mind, here are some of the tools I recommend for those just getting into growth.
For the Orchestrator Who Needs Agile Productivity
If you’ve ever been a fan of the project management tool Trello, wait until you see the agile workflow tool, dapulse.
Dapulse is strangely addicting because of the built in recognition. Teams come together and keep each other updated on statuses of their portion of the projects. As they complete a task, it turns a beautiful shade of green that I like to call, “Done.” This is soooooo much better than Excel. And it’s even a step up from the Kanban tool Trello in my humble opinion.
Although a newer tool in my toolbelt, I’ve already deployed it internally at In The Know and RocketSource, recommended it to several private equity companies and the C-Suite at their portfolio companies, and am currently using it to implement a growth strategy for one of the most visible brands in America. That’s to say, it works.
It’s not just for the big players either. It’s ideal for smaller teams too. There’s no training required. The tool is intuitive enough to dive in and start using to plan and execute on your new strategies.
For the Content Marketer Who Needs Email Marketing With Teeth
Whoever says email marketing is dead hasn’t tried Litmus.
Litmus is an email marketing optimizer. In it, you can build your emails and get a detailed performance report to show you just how impactful your messaging was (or wasn’t in some cases – hey, it happens).
You can use this in tandem with any email client, like ConvertKit. By using these two in harmony, you move from kaleidoscope viewing (with so many colors and distractions, I can’t focus) to something much more microscopic. The clincher is in the reporting. It’s top notch and the best I’ve ever seen from an email marketing program. With it, you can go way beyond the standard open and click through rates. I know where subscribers open my email, how many times it gets forwarded and printed, and even how long a person engaged with my email. Can you imagine how much more insightful your analytics will be?
For the Data Ninja Who Needs Market Research and Customer Experience Analytics
This data mining tool takes hardcore big data and presents it in a beautiful dashboard. Reports are easier to generate, so you spend less time looking through facts and figures and more time analyzing. You choose which CX information and analytics to monitor and care about. Then, the tool will put it together for you in a report that’s easy to understand and present to others on your team. For the data ninja whose job it is to identify trends and predict future customer behavior, this is THE tool of choice.
For the Designer Who Needs to Work on Mobile UX/UI
If your designer works on a Mac, Sketch is a must have tool. Not only is it easy to use (a must these days) but it enables designers to create great work faster.
You can tell this tool was created specifically for talented designers because it eliminates a lot of the standard hand-tweaking found in other design software. I won’t get into the technical nitty-gritty (that’s up to your design team to do) but I will say that this tool is ideal for the agile team who needs to create and tweak imagery on a moment’s notice.
For All Modern Marketing Team Players: Data Visualization and Dashboards Rule the Roost
The days of number crunching in Excel are over – thankfully.
From the Orchestrator to the Data Ninja, visualizing data is a severe struggle. With tools available today, all of your data gets merged onto one dashboard, so it’s easy to see quickly and use to keep your growth marketing moving forward.
Now here’s the catch. There are many data visualization and dashboard tools to choose from. It depends on your business’s needs and company size. A few I recommend are:
- Klipfolio: This dashboard gives you an overview of everything from social media to Google analytics and can integrate with third-party systems, such as CallRail and Wistia.
- Domo: This dashboard offers a different perspective for everyone on the team. That means the CIO might see something different than the CMO. Pair this with a solid communication plan between all departments, and you can make faster decisions.
- Tableau: This dashboard is highly secure but equally easy to use, which will satisfy both the marketing and the IT departments. It’s built to give enterprises actionable data at a glance.
Or (even better), you can use RocketSource to help build data excellence into your modern marketing teams.
No matter which platform you use, your entire team must know how to use it and use it well. They must also stay committed to using these platforms for them to be at all effective.
Implementing These Steps
Sold on the concept of growth marketing and building a modern marketing team around growth? Now you have the 9-step roadmap to build your dream team. It’s time to take action!
Here’s a quick recap of the steps your organization must take to succeed at growth marketing.
- Alter your team’s mindset toward growth marketing
- Align the CIO, CTO, and CMO
- Get agile
- Pull together a team of superheroes using your current employees
- Bring in outside help from a strategist
- Create a plan to keep laser focused on the big picture
- Define your North Star metric
- Hold weekly stand-up meetings
- Implement new tools to help you visualize your company’s data and act on it faster.
I won’t sugar coat it. Each of these steps comes with their pain points. Still, remaining at a standstill in your organization comes with far more pain points and potentially dangerous consequences for your business at a whole. I encourage you to get uncomfortable and start implementing these steps today so you can see first-hand how effective it is to have a modern marketing team in your business.