Team work makes the dream work:

What makes a brilliant marketing team?

Following the results from the recent Hays Skills Survey Report and the unexpected yet amazing news that the CIM’s North West Board had won “Team of the Year” for 2021 at this year’s National Volunteer Awards, it inspired us to think about team work and team dynamics in Marketing, especially the softer skills managers and directors look for when hiring and leading a team. We decided to ask our local network of marketing leaders the all important questions about what it takes to build a perfect marketing team.

Our team interviewed Dean Morris, Client Director at More2, Donna Howitt, Place Strategy Director for Liverpool One, Richard Slee (FCIM MCIPR) Chartered Marketer, CIM Board Member and Managing Director for RS Marketing and PR and Laura Gill, Head of Marketing and Business Intelligence for IoM Department for Enterprise. Four very skilled and highly experienced marketing leaders, across different sectors in the North West, here is what they had to say:

What key ingredient is required in a marketing team to make a brilliant team dynamic?

 “I think there are two key ingredients that drive a brilliant team dynamic” claims Dean Morris, Client Director at More2,  “The first is clarity. Clarity of vision and what success looks like; everyone in the team needs to really understand what the goal is, how to get there and why it is important. Clarity of roles and responsibilities - each member of the team should properly understand what part they play to deliver the plan. The second ingredient is open and regular communication. Ensure there are appropriate forums to share progress, how and why the plan is changing; make extra effort to celebrate achievements and success (it's all too easy to just focus on the challenges), and make sure that the whole team feel empowered and responsible to participate in this process. And have some fun along the way.”

What also comes from open and regular communication between a team, is another essential ingredient. As Richard Slee points out “ Trust, honesty, as well as a strong leader to empower and support all team members, but who will also take ownership when things don’t go as planned”

“Definitely trust! “ exclaims Laura Gill, “Marketing is such a mix of disciplines, but if you have taken the time to build trust and respect within your team, then there is a much stronger opportunity to take on board different people’s ideas or ways of seeing the same topic. Trust between team members also allows you to make mistakes or try something new even with the risk of “failure” which we really encourage. I’d also say collaboration. While this year has shown us that we can all work remotely, sometimes there is nothing more productive than getting together for a creative ideas session. Collaboration helps us all to improve and consider new ways of approaching things.”

Do you always look for specialists or generalists or is it more about finding people with the right fit?

Donna states “A mix of skills with specialisms but willingness and ability to be able to adapt to all areas to some degree depending on projects, plans and workloads.  We usually look for people that are creative thinkers, problem solvers, good communicators and those who can be organised. You need visionaries and strategic, yet creative thinkers in any team.”

“You definitely need a healthy mix.” agrees Laura Gill, “We use the Smart insights colour profiling system within our team – I’d say every marketing team needs a good mix of analytical thinkers (blues), creatives (yellow) and greens (for their social awareness and consideration) – as well some red traits to ensure projects get delivered! It also means we can lean on other people’s strengths if we need.”

“Diversity of thinking and of ideas is crucial.” Adds Richard Slee, “I despair when I see recruitments made on the suitability of the candidate to ‘fit in’ with the rest of the team. Usually means fit in with the dominating demographic traits.”

Dean Morris agrees and continues, “The marketing function covers such a wide range of disciplines; you need creatives, commercial analysts, project managers, people with specific technical experience and lots in between. Naturally, some of these roles are more specialist and others will be broader, requiring broader business and marketing acumen to succeed. It is vitally important however, that individuals demonstrate the right behaviours and attitudes towards other members of the team, respecting the different skills and experience that they bring to the team dynamic.”

 When does a marketing team not work well together?

“When team members silo themselves too much creating either an over-dependence on one person or skills gaps, again depending on projects, plans and workloads.” answers Donna Howitt.

“Marketing teams generally work in dynamic environments.” adds Dean Morris, “I see most issues happen when there are badly defined roles so responsibilities aren't clear, or poorly communicated changes to priorities or plans. Over time this can destroy a team spirit, causing confusion and conflict.”

Laura Gill agrees in relation to the need for clarity and adds “When the brief isn’t clear from the outset, for example, we spend a lot of time defining the task with our business partners to ensure we’re clear on the brief. We find that having the best foundations, through thorough research and data at the start allows a lot more collaboration and creativity further down the line.”

As well as a brief not being clear, Richard Slee warns about avoiding ‘group-think’ phenomenon, “When everyone is agreeing with each other, blind to obvious errors, missing open goals in terms of opportunities and issues. When a team forgets that there’s supposed to be a customer at the end of the process. I’ve seen some teams effectively marketing to themselves.”

There you have it...

Four different perspectives about what is essential to create and lead a dynamic team within marketing. We want to thank Donna, Dean and Laura, for giving us these great nuggets and we hope this helps aspiring marketing leaders out there.

This interview was conducted by our North West board members, Rasha El-Shirbini, founder of Social Jaguar and Rachel Emson, Managing Director at VIVID. For more insights on leading a marketing team, you can visit our webinar express content hub or watch our Youtube channel  for the latest talks and teachings across the marketing discipline.