Ask a CMO: How to Build a High-Performance Marketing Team


All marketing leaders aim to elevate their teams from good to great. But Christine Schaefer, CMO of ThreatConnect, has a blueprint to make this dream a reality.

Christine joined #TrackMavenLive to share her four-step process for structuring, organizing, and incentivizing a high-performance marketing team.

Watch the complete presentation now, or read the key takeaways below!

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How to build a high-performance marketing team in four steps

Step 1. Start with good design principles
A machine doesn’t perform optimally without a well thought-out design. Once you understand the marketing goals your team is trying to accomplish – such as leads or brand awareness – do the following:

  • Create a discrete purpose for each stage of production. Ensure all team members understand their roles and functions and are goaled accordingly.
  • Think about each stage with all stages in mind. Ensure a smooth flow from one stage of production to the next.
  • Measure each stage of production and everything in between. Whatever your stages, be sure to measure performance with a relevant metric and goal. To encourage the best performance possible, comp every person on the marketing team with a bonus plan based on these goals. Regularly review a KPI dashboard to watch the health of the business and ensure the machine (i.e., the team) is on track.

Step 2: Construct the team
Now comes time to choose the parts for the machine – or the members for the marketing team.

  • Don’t leave recruiting to HR. Take a hands-on approach, starting with a job description that describes the personality of the perfect candidate, not just the skills, to attract as many viable candidates as possible.
  • Ensure the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Think of yourself as the Wizard of Oz, turning the dials and tweaking the levers to make sure all things and all members are running as efficiently, collaboratively, and at the highest levels possible.
  • Protect team cohesion at (almost) any cost. In order for a machine to work effectively, all parts must work in sync, with no one function disrupting the others. To that end, Christine advocates for the following:
    • Know the Myers-Briggs and/or the DISC for every person on your marketing team. This knowledge allows leaders to truly understand how team members function and help them understand the same about one other.
    • Arrange hiring interviews with more than one person on the team. Peer-to-peer interviews ensure team chemistry.
    • Enforce transparency and accountability. Build systems and processes that clearly define what each person is responsible for and working on.
    • Avoiding a hub-and-spoke model. Encourage collaboration instead of silos.
    • Providing regular performance feedback. Use specific and constructive terms, and encourage team members to share the same with each other.
    • Nip drama in the bud. Christine recommends the mantra, “Hire slow, fire fast.” Don’t underestimate the productivity cost of a single disruptive employee.

Step 3: Manage the machine
After you build the machine, here’s how to manage it.

  • Build a regular reporting cadence. Outline a methodical routine for sharing updates, tracking results, and sharing ideas to improve performance. Here’s an example of a marketing reporting cadence:
    • Daily: Stay up to speed daily, such as by reading an article about marketing trends or an analyst report, and checking KPIs.
    • Weekly: Gather weekly as a team, such as to review projects and progress, as well as on a one-on-one basis.
    • Monthly: Share updates on major issues and topics.
    • Quarterly retreats: This can be as simple as an offsite lunch; the goal is for everyone to step back, clear their heads, and connect with each other out of the office.
  • Keep a steady pace. Don’t idle or go too fast. Aim for consistent production. Plan out the entire year and then make adjustments along the way to maintain balance between priority and urgent projects and keep a steady pace.
  • Use software to make the machine work faster, better, and more efficiently. Take advantage of all the marketing software out there to equip your team to work smarter instead of harder. The key is to implement one piece of software at a time, ensuring successful adoption and use before deploying the next.

Step 4: Hold on to your humanity
Though you are building a marketing machine, remember: these are people, not cogs in a wheel.

  • Figure out how to “Orbit the Giant Hairball.” Drawing from the lessons in “Orbiting the Giant Hairball”, a book about how to maintain creativity in the workplace, hire and delegate to fill in gaps on either the creativity or data side.
  • Stay connected to everyone. People are unhappy at work when they feel anonymous or overlooked so it’s up to the marketing leader to stay connected with each person on the team in a meaningful way. This doesn’t mean prying into personal lives, but it does mean making the effort to engage each person, even if only to greet them each morning.
  • Don’t go with the wrong 1984. You don’t want to be Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984. Instead, strive to be Tina Turner, the rock star in 1984. In other words, be the kind of marketing leader who’s creative, energetic, and lively – somebody that everyone wants to be around, not someone who oppresses everyone around them.

Are you ready to build a high-performance marketing machine? Watch Christine Schaefer’s complete presentation for the detailed blueprint.

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