In our fast-paced digital marketing lives, one of the most difficult things to do is to slow down. We all have busy schedules, and at times ridiculous demands on our time and energy. Every agency exec, account supervisor or client service manager, and every client-side marketing leader, manager and coordinator acknowledges the value of proper planning, communication and collaboration, yet it is still common for these important priorities to get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day executional responsibilities.
Every company should have a digital champion to facilitate and motivate the progressive cultural shift towards embracing cross-functional collaboration and iteration. Sometimes this digital muse is an internal team member, and sometimes an external partner. But without that spark, all pistons won’t be firing. Marketing leaders must adopt a formal plan to organize for digital excellence, develop written processes, rally the troops, and enforce productive workflow.
Get Operations in Order: Organizing and facilitating collaboration among cross-functional teams is sometimes easier said than done. It requires navigating corporate politics, breaking down legacy habits, and taking on incremental responsibilities. At times it may feel like herding cats, but don’t let that dissuade you. An executive-level commitment is vital, as you are looking to operationally re-org to ensure that digital is more than a set of capabilities, but instead part of your company’s DNA. Integration is more than a word on a marketing plan or capabilities presentation. (See: “The Digital Re-Org -- Agent Of Cultural Change”)
Go Offsite: Often the phrase “offsite” brings palpitations to teams who view a day away from the office as a mechanism of creating even more backlog in an already hectic work schedule. However, it is important to gather your cross-functional teams at least once a year for an offsite “Digital Day” -- a full day of immersive digital boot-camp-like training and inspiration. Use this valuable and distraction-free time to highlight the evolving digital landscape, key shifts in consumer behaviors, and your company’s responsiveness to the market. Present new capabilities and processes developed throughout the year. Granted, once you have the proper collaboration systems in place, your teams should be communicating and learning from each other regularly. But nothing beats a good ol’ pep rally for a jolt of inspiration and to build morale.
Involve Everyone: Participation in the Digital Day should be mandatory. Invite any individuals who can potentially provide inputs in any capacity, or can benefit from the dissemination of outputs and key lessons. That means representation from all facets of marketing, sales, ecommerce, customer service, IT, legal, HR, PR, product development, research, operations and of course execs. Depending on your business, you may have other departments that should participate. Your first Digital Day should be limited to your internal teams, but for subsequent years you should consider inviting external partners to participate.
Empower Team Leaders: Those who are leading the charge in various digital disciplines -- including but not limited to media, SEO, performance marketing, social media, mobile, creative and development, ecommerce, and analytics -- should each have the opportunity to present their priorities and objectives, accomplishments and challenges to their cross-functional counterparts. Developing these presentations enforces the leadership roles of these individuals and allows for their concerns and collaborative needs to be voiced and acknowledged by all.
Mandate and Enforce Processes: When it comes to process, rules are not meant to be broken. While adherence to the letter is not always essential, processes are put in place to prevent mistakes and miscommunication, particularly when we’re all moving a mile a minute and tasks are increasingly collaborative in nature. Marketing leadership, preferably the CMO, must commit to supporting the enforcement of processes, and this should be reinforced to the cross-functional teams during the Digital Day and beyond.
Be Patient and Committed: Corporate culture doesn’t change overnight. It requires a commitment at the highest level to support and empower staff, in part by protecting them from legacy politics (See: “The Most Dangerous Phrase In Marketing”) and letting them spread their wings. Today’s work force understands the need for and benefits of collaboration. Good ideas can and do come from everywhere within an organization. Good processes enable those ideas to funnel through the proper channels and materialize as a team effort.
How does your company rally the troops? Share your stories in the comments or hit me on Twitter @jasonheller .