Ten learnings from Wolff Olins on setting up a marketing department for success
setting up a marketing
department for success
1. Clarify your mandate
It’s essential to clarify what Marketing will do for the business.
This mandate must be agreed with senior management.
• Know and share your objectives.
• Know what tools you have authority over. If you are missing
tools, get agreements in place early (more than a few weeks
and you will probably lose the opportunity).
• Agree the edges of responsibility with your colleagues – what’s
managed by marketing, what’s centrally controlled, what’s in-market?
Too often CMOs are set unreasonable objectives for the resources
and tools at their disposal. You need to clarify your revenue
responsibilities to help achieve the right balance.
Wherever possible Marketing should own customer insight. If your mandate is
lifetime value marketing you cannot do this without customer intelligence; you will
have no control and will struggle to influence others without these basic insights.
2. Monitor the entire customer experience
Marketing should be seen as a ‘horizontal’ function within the business.
To do this you need visibility of the company’s performance
across the entire customer experience.
Your team cannot manage every customer touch point but they do need
to know how well the customer experience is managed. Without this
oversight you cannot allocate resources effectively. How would you
choose between high customer-acquisition cost v back-end longevity?
What’s more, Marketing must be integrated with the whole business -
marketing just to fill the front end of the sales funnel is not smart.
Your team should be informed of and – critically – should inform product
/service development in its inception. It is still staggering how many
companies view Marketing as a back-end ‘sell this box’ function.
3. Super-powering with a mantra
People love short lines. If you want to kick start or change the direction
of a large Marketing team – nothing works better than a one liner
that punctuates their everyday thoughts and actions.
This will become a mantra or North Star that the whole team
can gather around and focus on delivering.
It will be a line that every manager can use to assess whether
or not a product or a piece of copy is delivering to this goal.
This is valuable – but it needs to be right.
Marketing mantras are also very valuable in helping integrate
Marketing with the rest of the organisation – especially
when responsibilities overlap or resources are shared.
When the role of marketing is understood, co-operative coordination
and resources are more easily come by.
Never confuse a mantra with a ‘marketing brand’ – such things should not exist!
4. Build and integrate centres of excellence
Everyone needs a home. Marketing departments should be built
as clearly delineated but integrated centres of excellence.
Limiting the number of these centres means they need to be broad
– but keep them skill or resource focussed.
Keeping them broad means your structure is more easily understood within the
department, employees are more atuned to each others’ challenges and those
outside of Marketing know where and with whom they need to interact.
Keeping them skill focussed allows you to upskill segments and
manage their ‘looking out’ and learning as a unit. Besides that,
humans are tribal, geeks like geeks and creatives like creatives.
Build these centres of excellence – and encourage competition between
them – but ensure they interact - the common mantra helps this.
5. Don’t carry the legacy
Too often Marketing struggles to manage legacy resources and staff. Don’t.
As soon as you have agreed your mandate and tools – reappraise everything.
It makes life difficult for three months as you build the plane and fly it
but these decisions pay handsomely. If you delay your agility is at threat.
Re-appraise how your employees can be up-skilled. As you know,
Marketing philosophies have changed so dramatically in the last five
years – and many marketers are shy of new working practices –
encourage their re-energising and re-training.
Review your agencies – and generally cull them. Explore the in-house vs
outsource question. If you go for agencies know their strengths, weakness, price
points and how you will monitor them – ask them to rate their work every year and
account for the value they delivered. Accredit individuals who work on your
account and pay for no-one else. You will probably need to re-teach your agencies.
6. Relearn your offer
Too often companies make false assumptions about their products or services.
Assumptions about performance, functionality or service quality are
led by anecdote, adopted wisdom or blind misunderstanding.
Even razor sharp individuals in hard quant companies make this mistake.
Learn and refresh – challenge the accepted – trust but check - a little dose
of paranoia is very valuable at the start of the life of a new marketing team.
You must know, be true about and respect your competition.
On your calendar of activities you should be able to guess and pre-empt
their activities – you must know what they are saying and why – you must
know how you can disrupt them. You must never underestimate them.
7. Sharpen your process
Review your processes.
Like with product non-truths – there are also process non-truths. Over time
process shortcuts always appear and sometimes with negative consequences.
Assess how you can improve your processes first to optimise quality
and then downscale to meet the resources and time teams have available.
As long as you know where you are making the cuts you can
compensate and reappraise later.
Get the process known.
An hour spent assessing and optimising a process with a team
saves you hundreds. Some processes must be rules – but many
can be accepted practices that can evolve over time.
The new marketing department must know which process falls
into which box - allowing them to police quality and not the process.
8. Fix enablers
Quick win mania will abound in a new marketing department.
We recognise that there is much to do fast but do resist the temptation for
short-term pushes and the excitement of delivering customer-facing initiatives.
Building the long-term foundation stones of marketing
- the enablers - is essential.
Today’s real-time customers need real-time marketing and you will
never be able to do that without the marketing enablers in place.
We always recommend separating your budget into initiatives
and enablers so you can see in a snapshop if you are overinvesting
in one or the other and compensate for it.
It’s a question of timing and pressure.
Making the rest of your organisation aware of these early on in the life of
marketing department helps you secure the investment you require.
9. Plan and commit by cascade
For a new marketing team to come together as one team we
believe strongly in providing top down direction but that team
plans are built bottom-up.
Allowing teams to have authorship and control of their
future growth plans builds ambition, devolved leadership
and self management.
Early on in the life of a marketing department – the clarity of job
descriptions / roles and responsibilities are important.
But, as quickly as possible start to migrate to a position where
teams deliver through the use of personal laddered commitments
to each other – and demote the job descriptions and roles and
responsibilities to a supporting function.
10. Do less
Assess every activity the marketing department is doing
and think about their relative priorities.
You should know how each activity impacts your customer
experience, their lifetime value and your reputation.
Try to reduce the amount of material you produce to the
elements that are impactful.
If appropriate determine the criteria to decide whether or
not Marketing undertakes an activity – with these criteria
you can reduce the demands on ‘stuff’ and focus on the
Remember you don’t need to tell everyone everything.
Keep it short, tell a tight story.