Challenges CMOs Face: How to Deal with Turnover and Reduced Team Size

May 10, 2021 Brandi Starr

CMOs have fewer direct reports than they did just a few short years ago. Despite these smaller teams, CMOs are still expected to do more with less. In this installment of our "Challenges CMOs Face" blog series, we'll discuss how to build a "marketing dream team" and sync it with a long-term roadmap for marketing activities.

The CMO Survey reports that 8.2% of marketing jobs were lost in the last year. Although job sentiment is improving as the pandemic progresses, predicting more jobs returning faster, many organizations are still having to do more with less resources.

The reduced number of people able to continuously re-evaluate marketing campaigns and channels also means fewer people to help CMOs get rid of programs that aren't working, and to help you capitalize on programs that work well. Worst of all, that's fewer people making sense of the data and insights needed to reinvent the way we market to current and potential customers.

The reduction in people power also affects a core component of your marketing strategy: content marketing. As content becomes more and more essential, the volume of content required is increasing.

Consequently, marketing teams are now expected to produce more compelling content with fewer staff. Digital marketing is no longer an optional part of your marketing strategy. As your team develops personalized campaigns aligned to the buyer's journey, every step will require fresh, compelling content that helps to inform and guide the customer to the next step toward purchase.

Content is lifeblood for your digital marketing program, and it requires creative minds and reliable customer data to inform each piece. The fewer minds you have, the more challenges you will have to face and overcome.

A smaller staff also means inherently fewer skills. A digital marketing program contains many moving parts that each contain their own disciplines and skillsets. On any given campaign, you could need highly skilled people to produce editorial content, shoot video, storyboard podcasts, build social media presence, work with SEO or SEM, or design and build your marketing automation platform. What can you do to improve the functionality of a smaller team?

How to build the right marketing team

Step 1: Decide on the right structure

Today's marketing teams need people fulfilling certain roles to nurture successful marketing programs. Ideally, you will need team members focused on:

  • Demand Generation: These people are responsible for the strategy to acquire new customers. They will need skills in inbound marketing, including search engine marketing, search engine optimization, graphic display, and social media.
  • Loyalty and Retention: This team is responsible for forming the strategy to cross-sell and upsell, as well as drive customer advocacy. These kinds of skills enrich your company's efforts to gain customer loyalty that lasts a lifetime.
  • Campaign Execution: Once a marketing strategy is developed, you need a team that can execute. These are the power users of various technologies in the company's MarTech stack. They take the strategy developed by the staff members responsible for Demand Generation and Loyalty and Retention - and they make the strategy a reality.

Step 2: Decide on how to measure the impact of each role

Each member of your team brings a certain level of human capital, but at the same time, you should be measuring performance in the most literal sense. Determine the key performance indicators for success in each role. Ideally, you should factor in the inherent element of risk that comes with trying new ideas and initiatives. So, if a program "fails," it might not be because of the person, but rather, a good idea that just didn't work.

For each of the three structural elements of your team, here are some example key performance indicators to consider:

  • Web traffic increases over time
  • Number of customers retained year to year
  • Number of brand advocates (earned media)
  • New blog subscribers
  • Blog post views
  • Blog bounce rate
  • Number of clicks from paid traffic campaigns
  • Impact of search engine optimization
  • Cost per click of paid traffic campaigns
  • Average customer response times on social media
  • Brand sentiment online and on social media
  • Unique page visits
  • Referral traffic from social media
  • Reactions, shares and new followers on social media

Step 3: Weed out poor performers, and promote who's left

Yes, that's blunt, but it's the truth. Here's the nicer version: Pay your people more than average market value for their skills. Then create a fantastic culture that defines your company's values.

If you're properly measuring the impact of each role, it will soon become abundantly clear who belongs, and who does not. Give those people an opportunity to be counselled. If it still doesn't take, and they aren't adhering to your clearly defined culture, it's time for them to go. Anyone who is left will serve your company well and stick around for a long time.

Step 4: Bridge the Gap by Tapping into Outsourced Support

There are countless articles, webinars, and other content pieces debating whether you should outsource or maintain an in-house team. There are pros and cons to both options, but the answer to the question “which is best?” is, both. An all or nothing approach to supporting your marketing team creates undue risks for the business. Combining the strengths of each approach yields all the benefits while minimizing the risks.

Over the years, the term ‘outsourcing’ has become associated with low-cost resources in foreign countries or questionable freelancers offering bargain pricing. Although inexpensive, these types of relationships come with much risk. Instead, engage with a trusted consulting partner or agency. Then, outsourcing becomes valuable and low risk. The benefits of working with a reputable partner are plenty, but the key strengths correlate directly to the top resourcing challenges. A trusted partner is:

  • Adaptive and scalable. Consultancies and agencies operate in agile environments able to shift priorities and resources with ease. They can easily scale up the available resources to lean in more when volume is high or reduce support during slower business cycles.
  • Consistent and a source of knowledge. Often, the tenure of a consultant is longer than the tenure of an employee thereby retaining critical business knowledge over a longer period. A common consulting practice is to maintain a client knowledge base. This in-depth knowledge and low rate of turnover help to reduce the knowledge gap when employees depart. Partners can also provide training and refreshers to new/returning employees.
  • Cost effective for expertise across disciplines. A skilled marketing consultancy has experts across multiple marketing functions and technologies. You are partnering with a team of marketing experts who are already trained to deliver results.
  • Strategic and full of ideas. Seasoned consultants start as seasoned marketers. They’ve seen the evolution of the industry and have a vast experience solving difficult marketing challenges.

Despite many marketing departments seeing fewer resources and more demands, modern marketing leaders can still thrive in tough economic times. By partnering with the right consultancy to work alongside in-house experts, you can adapt your marketing department to meet the new expectations.


About the Author

Brandi Starr

Brandi Starr is a true Modern Marketing Maven; she believes marketing magic happens at the intersection of strategy, creativity, and technology. As Chief Operating Officer at Tegrita Brandi helps companies of varying sizes to attract, convert, close, and retain customers using technology. Brandi is the Co-Author of CMO to CRO, The Revenue Takeover by The Next Generation Executive and the host of the Revenue Rehab podcast.

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