Building A Great Marketing Team: Lessons From The Golden State Warriors

As an Oakland, Calif., native and lifelong Northern Californian, I'm in basketball euphoria. The Golden State Warriors, perennially at the bottom of the standings, are now the hottest team in the NBA.

They won the 2015 championship and started the 2016 season with 24 straight wins. They also racked up 40 straight home-court victories (over two seasons) and a 42-4 record so far.  

How did a mediocre team suddenly achieve greatness, and what can email-marketing teams learn from the transformation?

1. Leadership/management: The team's new owners installed new management and coaches and invested in players. They created a winning mindset from the top of the organization on down.

Lesson: Successful email-marketing teams almost always have strong leadership as well as have significant buy-in and support from top-level management.

2. A system: Luke Walton, the Warriors' assistant coach, stepped in to lead the team to a 38-4 record while head coach Steve Kerr was out with spinal fluid issues resulting from back surgery.



Aside from Walton's great coaching, the team's success demonstrated that Kerr and the Warriors had created a system that was almost bigger than the coaching.

Lesson: Many email teams struggle when people leave. Create a process for everything you do, and document it. Marketers come and go, but email marketing must go on.

3. Talent and experience: The Warriors have some of the best players in the NBA, including reigning MVP Stephen Curry, plus Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and veterans like Andre Iguodala, Sean Livingston and Leandro Barbosa.

The team has incredible balance, combining overall talent, specialists, role players and grizzled veterans who provide on-court and off-court leadership.

Lesson: Too many companies lack this balance. They have no veteran email or digital marketing leadership and just a recent college graduate running the email program.

Email marketing is a great career for young marketers, but best-in-class teams need experienced digital marketers who can turn young players into superstars.

4. Fun: Instead of the usual pregame film on the upcoming opponent, Kerr showed a funny video mash-up about Australia Day (center Andrew Bogut is from Australia). Result: The Warriors beat that opponent – the Dallas Mavericks – 127-107.  

Lesson: Day-to-day email marketing can become a grind. Team leaders need to create a fun working environment by getting everybody out of the office with team lunches, retreats and visits to clients or your stores and warehouses.

Keep your team members feeling loose and ready to tackle anything. Look beyond mistakes, too, like sending a test email to the entire list.

5. Adapt to the environment: The Warriors have great defensive and offensive players, three-point shooters and line-ups that feature both big, defense-minded players and smaller, nimble players. The coach changes line-ups throughout the game until he finds the combination that outplays the other team.

Lesson: With email, the only constant is change, whether it's Gmail interface changes, ISP filtering, growth in mobile readership, new acquisition tactics like pop-over forms or symbols in subject lines. Email marketers need skills and processes that let them adapt to changes and take advantage of opportunities.

6. Metrics that matter: The Warriors measure game success on metrics like number of assists, assists-to-turnovers differential and passes per game. They set goals: 30 assists and 130 passes per game.

These metrics set up a playing style that drives ball movement and passing past most defensive players. If the Warriors can hit these metrics or come close, they're almost guaranteed to win the game.

Lesson: Email-marketing teams must move beyond the usual open and click-through rates. Instead, develop critical metrics that align email success with goals like engagement and revenue per email from loyalty program members, net churn rates and mobile conversion rates.

Find your critical benchmarks and use them, along with standard email metrics, to measure your progress.

Until next time, take it up a notch.

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