7 Characteristics of a High-Functioning Marketing Team

Over the course of my many years in the ad agency world and working closely with Fortune 100 marketing departments, I’ve come to appreciate the difficulty of running a successful team… especially one where the product is not some widget that comes off an assembly line and sits on a shelf, but a product that is manufactured completely by collective brainpower. The marketing message is such a product. 

Marketing, at least according to marketing professionals (those in sales might disagree!), is the most critical function of any organization. Creating and running a well-oiled marketing machine is no mean feat because getting the most out of your marketing team hinges, of course, on getting the most out of each individual. And that means creating and maintaining the kind of culture that will enable you to attract and retain the best talent in the industry. Over the years, I’ve learned this:  Individual talent is nothing. Culture is everything.

As Forbes states in, Traits that define High-Performing Marketing Organizations, “people come and go, but organizations with staying power understand that there is something bigger and better than a group of qualified individuals. The underlying achievement of a team is bolstered by an alignment of values, core strengths and beliefs. Shared energy and passion build a collective power that aligns business goals with individual achievements. This synergy not only creates a culture of satisfaction, but also nurtures the bottom line of your entire organization.” So, are you ready to get the most out of your marketing team? Of course, you are. Here are some culture traits that you’d do well to foster:

  1.         Trustworthiness or “Psychological Safety*”

A critical trait for high-performing teams is a high level of comfort and trust among members. In short, do members of the team — as well as stakeholders integral to the marketing function — feel that they are able (not just able, but encouraged) to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed? If there is any risk-aversion in your marketing department, drum it out right away.  Individuals… teams… companies cannot succeed wit a culture of fear.

*What Google’s HR department calls it.

  1.         Self-Awareness

To put it bluntly, are you being completely honest with yourself in assessing your team’s capabilities? Self-awareness demands a keen and sometimes painfully honest understanding of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and, of course, the collective strengths and weaknesses of the overall marketing team. Don’t be afraid (see #1 above) to, on a regular basis, take that brutally honest view of the team’s capabilities and make whatever talent adjustments are deemed necessary.

  1.         Empathy

The most talented marketing professionals are those who take an interest in their fellow human beings.  What is empathy? “The ability to understand and share the feelings of others.” Isn’t that understanding and sharing the very foundation of a relevant and compelling marketing message? It is. The most effective marketers are students of human nature who have a passion for learning about the consumer… how they think and what motivates them to act. 

  1.         An Eagerness to Learn

Speaking of learning, true marketing professionals understand that the tenets of the marketing craft are not etching in stone tablets. Marketing is a dynamic discipline. The marketing team leaders who excel are those who are constantly aware of the importance of “psychological safety” while fostering a culture of continuous learning. It’s only through an environment that encourages risk-taking that team members can continue to develop and contribute at greater levels.

  1.         Celebrating failure

Highly effective teams always “celebrate” their failures. They take the time to understand what went wrong, learn from that experience and move on. This self-reflection must not only be valued but also celebrated and encouraged. The Harvard Business Review even goes as far as to say that “failure is not always bad. In organizational life it is sometimes bad, sometimes inevitable, and sometimes even good. We must recognize that there is significantly more information in our failures than in our successes. If we celebrate our failures, we will not repeat them.”

  1.         Impact of work

Does everyone on your team truly believe that the work they do matters? High-performing marketing teams have a profound passion for excellence and want to know that their work has an impact that is, well, appreciated. This is work that requires passion which means that done properly, a significant amount of “heart and soul” goes into it. Recognition of this fuels the team’s work and can help spur them on during challenging times... of which, there are always many.

  1.         Structure & Clarity

Are goals, roles, and execution plans clear to the team? It’s important that objectives— from the project-specific to the long-term departmental — as well as the strategies for achieving them, be clearly communicated and constantly reinforced. Team members are more comfortable in a predictable environment and that comfort level will enhance their performance.

Building and maintaining an organizational culture that can attract and retain top marketing talent is always a work in progress. But remember, the goal isn’t so much to reach a destination as it is to, instead, enjoy the journey.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the development of effective marketing communication, that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. Like this retirement strategy ad campaign, for instance, recently added to our library of content.