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January 16, 2013
Marketing Department Woes
Last month, I wrote about the “Marketing Jungle” and how brands suffer from the failure to effectively integrate the wide variety of tactics and channels in today’s crazy marketing landscape. Beyond this struggle with external customer-facing communications, my experience indicates that CMOs are also finding it difficult to create and manage a productive internal team. As more companies take some or all marketing services in-house, these departments are getting larger and therefore more difficult to run.
I interviewed various marketing department heads to get their take on this issue. This anecdotal research coupled with my working relationships with brands indicate that most internal problems fall into one of these three categories:
1. Inability to focus
2. Inconsistency
3. Lack of expertise
Let me examine each factor more carefully.
Inability to Focus. Casey Holloran, Co-founder and CMO of Costa Rican Vacations, says, “I have a team of copywriters, videographers, social media and SEO gurus, and web programmers, all of whom are very creative people with a lot of great ideas. It's a challenge to keep the team (and myself) focused on what tasks are most critical.” This suggests that having a well-organized, process-driven and goal-oriented marketing department leader is crucial. In addition to the creative and opportunistic strengths that CMOs usually have, they now must polish their management skills as well. Marketing divisions should be well-oiled machines that work together (and with the other divisions within the company) to reach a common goal. They must work diligently toward their pre-established goals and plans and not get distracted by the latest tactic “of the day.” Maintaining a keen focus is a critical factor to success, especially in the long term.
Inconsistency. This internal dynamic is directly related to the inability to focus. Inconsistency is the result of this lack of concentration. Today’s complex marketing departments can be all over the board in terms of deciding which tactics to implement and when. They get started on an initiative, lose steam or receive a change in direction from the top, and move on to something else. Or often, they dedicate too much time and effort to one initiative and neglect other important ones. This inconsistency leads to an anything-but-seamless experience for customers that is very damaging for brands. Jordan Brannon, CMO of Coalition Technologies, says, “I often see a lack of cohesion where things are outsourced to numerous companies or are ignored, which leads to delays in campaign launches and a lack of results.”
Expertise (or Lack Thereof). As the expansion of digital technologies continues at a ridiculously rapid pace, it is challenging for marketing departments to keep up. Not only is it difficult to know and learn about the latest communications tool, but also it’s tough to find people with the technical expertise and a sense of the importance of a good customer experience. Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers explains a move he made recently: “I brought on a social media specialist because I felt it necessary to fully take advantage of the huge opportunity that social media marketing presents for my small business. This person has definitely assisted in keeping my marketing department staff members all rowing in the same direction.” Another desirable skill set is one of data management and analysis. With the onslaught of digital communications comes the necessary tracking associated with it. Finding qualified personnel to translate advertising results into meaningful and actionable information isn’t easy.
If CMOs recognize these three issues, they should be able to head them off at the pass and develop appropriate management systems for their departments. Establishing clear guidelines and courses of action for their teams should help prevent these issues from arising or at least keep them to a minimum. Marketing firms have long understood the value of having an Account Manager (one that keeps all team members, including clients, marching in the same direction). It might not be a bad idea for CMOs handling various marketing activities in-house to adopt this practice from agencies and create an administrative position to help keep the internal team aligned. Also taking the time to find people with the appropriate skill sets should provide peace of mind as well. 

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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