Five reasons your team are underperforming

Five reasons your team are underperforming

There are times when a marketing department will not be as effective as it should be, but the reasons why are not always clear. 

We asked five senior global marketers for their thoughts on some of the most common reasons for underperformance.

1) There are a lack of clear objectives and KPIs, with irregular or ineffective measurement of marketing performance

Marketers need to know what is expected of them and managers should be able to gauge performance in a transparent way.

Moreover, marketers will have a better understanding of their role if there are realistic and achievable KPIs in place.

For example, if marketers are focused on demand generation, the company needs to know if their marketing campaigns are generating enough leads to support the sales team. Also, are these leads converting into genuine opportunities that close?

“To achieve their full potential, marketers must be challenged regularly to prove their success and to be bold,” says Stuart Hobbs, B2B marketing lead at Finastra, the world’s third largest fintech company. “Do they understand how their campaigns drive growth for their organisation? Are their integrated campaigns using the right mix of tactics and the appropriate messaging for target personas? A team operating at its full potential will provide credible answers to these questions backed up by evidence.”

Marketing teams must also communicate effectively and not be embarrassed to ask questions of each other. Many teams use project management technology such as Microsoft project, Slack, Teamwork or

Regular face-to-face meetings also ensure people feel more confident about their role.

“Whether your team is in one building or located in different countries, the more you can bring the team together to talk the better,” says Mike Essex, head of marketing at power generation business Bowman Power. “In my last role we had several marketers working for different sub companies in different locations, often on similar projects. Even with one weekly 30-minute call we saved a huge amount of budget and time by cutting down on repetition, sharing best practice and finding better ways of working together.”

Shaun Briggs, head of marketing for Specsavers in Australia, says some measurement is more intuitive. “It is more about feeling than it is hard metrics,” he says. “If we could accurately measure mood and properly capture sentiment then we’d never be blindsided.”

2) There is not enough investment in training and technology

Marketers want to feel valued, plug any skill gaps and have access to the most suitable technology to unlock actionable data, and use their ability to turn it in to valuable insight.

 Coaching and mentoring should be available, and employees encouraged to attend industry events to explore best practice with industry leaders. Individual continuing professional development (CPD) plans should also be developed to meet specific training needs.

“The more you communicate with your team and demonstrate an open mind about their needs, the better the outcome for the marketing department,” says international marketing consultant Cindy Berichon. She was previously head of global marketing at payroll and HR technology business SD Worx.

Marketers can be fearless where there is a positive working culture with an ethos of testing and learning. Also, when the most suitable technology exists, they can be challenged and respond confidently with data and evidence. A modern marketer should have data at their fingertips, armed with a plan for what to do when performance falls short and the figures to back it all up.

3) Marketing is not working closely enough with the HR function

By working with HR, marketing can change the perception of the business and promote its values, vision and mission. It can also attract talent by boosting the employer brand.

“HR plays a significant role in the business for the employees to thrive, and marketing is here to articulate it,” says Berichon.

Through inductions, company values, internal workshops, brand guidelines, corporate communications and other channels, HR can ensure that key marketing messages are understood at all levels.

Mike Essex sees HR as a key ally in improving market perception and making sure every employee has the same values and enhances the customer experience. “The customer journey is hugely complex with numerous touch points across large parts of an organisation. From sales to customer service, to finance, account management, delivery and more.”

The HR function can also assist with retaining the highest-performing marketing talent, says Finastra’s Hobbs.

“This can be achieved by ensuring that renumeration is properly benchmarked against industry standards, flexible working is available, and an employee’s personal and professional development is supported,” he says.

He adds that marketers should foster close relationships with other internal teams too, including sales and product management.

4) The chemistry within the marketing department is wrong and the team dynamic is not working

The talk these days is all about collaboration, whether that is across the business or within individual teams.

A marketing team is a complex mixture of people with different personalities, experience, priorities, career goals, job descriptions and skill sets. It can be incredibly difficult to micro-manage, especially if the chemistry is wrong (perhaps through poor recruitment or inexperienced leadership).

“No marketing team is ever simple to manage,” says Essex. “In addition to those you have a direct responsibility for, there are other employees in the company working on a given project as well as external agencies.”

He says you have to trust people to deliver on time, to a high quality and within a set budget. “That’s true whether you’re managing a team of one or 100, internal or external.”  

Specsavers’ Shaun Briggs agrees performance can be affected by chemistry and that it can also be difficult to judge a marketer’s potential within a wider, complex team of individuals.

“Potential is very hard to get a feel for,” he says. “I’ve often felt someone has a certain potential only to see them improve and grow far beyond it. As a result, I tend to think of potential as the amount the individual actively works on their improvement as part of the team.”

5) Your marketing leaders are not encouraged to think differently

Technical workshops, conferences, webinars are a fantastic start, but it’s also important your marketers develop a balanced and informed view of the industry around them.

Marks & Spencer’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, Sahar Milani, says it is vital to look beyond the traditional and the obvious.

“I encourage my team to visit art and design exhibitions, experience the power of music, not only in pop culture but across sub-cultures, develop skills in emotional intelligence, and frequently discuss the science of wellbeing,” she says. “This adds colour and fresh perspectives to our marketing team conversations and, in turn, helps us drive forward thinking strategies and enhanced performance for each market.”

She manages eight countries across the region and says M&S marketers need to understand differences in legislation, trading patterns and socio-economic factors. 

“The team is given opportunities to join leadership meetings on a weekly basis in order to upskill them on the wider trading requirements and encourage them to be creative and proactive marketers.”

No matter what challenges your team are facing, CIM can help. We have a range of tailored training programmes to identify and address skills gaps, allowing you to gain a holistic view of your team’s marketing capabilities. To find out more about how we could help you drive business growth through quality investment in your team, get in touch.

Steve Hemsley Journalist
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