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Marketing team motivation: How marketing leaders can run a happy ship in a sea of uncertainty

A motivated marketing team

Marketing team sentiment has shifted dramatically in the last six months, and as a result marketing leaders have to embrace new tactics and techniques to keep their teams settled, loyal and productive – that’s was clear from the attendees to our recent Propolis marketing leaders roundtable.

It’s a disappointing inevitability that economic headwinds typically translate into business caution and then into marketing uncertainty for B2B companies. That means marketing leaders revaluating commitments and planned spend – both for the remainder of the financial year and likely into next.

But although spreadsheet ‘jockeying’ over budget lines can be reduced to a strictly rational (if painful!) exercise, dealing with the fallout of this uncertainty on humans in the marketing team requires nuance, intuition, creativity and (perhaps above all) compassion. How best to do this was the focus of our latest Propolis marketing leaders roundtable, where we bring together CMOs and other senior marketers from Propolis member companies to discuss prevalent and prescient issues.

This event took place in B2B Marketing’s offices in Holborn in early December, with marketers attending from a wide variety of industries, all eager to discuss how to manage, motivate and get the best out of a marketing team that’s likely to be feeling the fallout from economic headwinds and (at the very least) greater caution and scrutiny around marketing spend.

This in itself is a marked and significant shift from only a few months ago in the summer, when marketing leaders’ attending our annual Leaders Forum reported that their main team development challenge was how to find the right people in an extraordinarily tight recruitment market. How times have changed: today, many attendees recruited having a recruitment freeze, and that they need to focus on making the best of what they’ve got, maximising productivity and cohesion, and minimising further churn.

As ever, the discussion at the roundtable was fascinating, wide-ranging and compelling – I’ve distilled the standout comments and suggestions into a 10-step checklist which is available in our Propolis community intelligence platform for members to access, comment on and contribute to. If you’re not already a member, we’d love to talk to you about getting involved – please do message me. In the meantime, here’s a sample of the full article.

  1. Elevate team members beyond the daily grind. Too often marketers in executional roles are too stuck in the detail to see the bigger picture, and that’s both stressful and demotivational. Give them the opportunity for external perspectives and to reinvigorate their work – let them spend time with agencies, partners or the sales team, and actively encourage them to have fun. Give them time to attend conferences or events, to see what’s happening in the wider B2B marketing world.
  2. Celebrate innovation, challenge conventional thinking and seek out new ideas. Encourage team members to identify brands that they think are doing interesting things, and report back on these. More generally, look out for new formats, mechanisms or techniques and suggest how these can be used within your marketing.
  3. Allow marketers to be their best selves. The more leaders can treat team members as individuals, rather than as an clones or drones, the more effective and loyal they will be. Great woman or man-management (to use football parlance) requires leaders to understand the specific motivators and strengths of each individual and build a role to suit, which accentuates these. Strive for them to be as candid as possible about their professional goals, and how you can help them achieve these. Too often underachieving marketers simply haven’t been given the context or opportunity to thrive. Today’s underachiever could easily be tomorrow’s Rock Star – roundtable attendees highlighted a number of examples of this.
  4. Make culture the team driver. It was management guru Peter Drucker who famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The importance of a positive team culture cannot be overstated, and underpins all of the points above. Having a great culture does not excuse leaders from doing all the other things that drive great marketing, keep team members motivated and happy in their roles, but it does make everything else easier and other initiatives more likely to stick. Invest in your team, and their internal relationships. Allow them to learn, share and grow together – and above all, have fun and get enjoyment from their jobs.

Propolis leaders roundtables are run monthly, open to senior client-side marketers, focusing on issues relating to strategy and team leadership. For more information on what’s coming up, and how to attend, please message me via this platform.


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