Imagine that you are on a hunt for antelope. Will you get better results acting as a sluggish (though surprisingly aggressive, in case you aren’t aware) hippo or an agile, maneuverable cheetah?
The answer is obvious. But what makes a cheetah such a successful predator?
It is the combination of not only tools such as claws and fangs, the factor of rapid velocity, but just as importantly, flexibility. The ability to outpace the prey because you can adjust to changes in direction quicker than the prey can.
Enough talk about hunting for meals in the African savannah, but the parallel here is that your target audience is your prey and your marketing team are your predators. Your team is hungry, and they want to be fed. Flexibility helps feed them, and thusly you.
We are going to cover the five tips that will help your marketing team members work with greater flexibility. Movement is life, and flexibility allows for more fluid movement. 63% of marketing experts regard flexibility as an essential for success. Let’s get into it…
1. Encourage and allow for greater individual autonomy
Okay, this one may seem a bit tricky, but encourage your team to think and work on their own, producing results with a minimal level of supervision. Ease your hands off (but do not take them off completely) of the reins and give your team members the ability to brew new ideas on their own, without a need for constant review of their marketing decisions.
The marketing team was hired for a specific reason: to market. It is likely that they are professionals that know what they are doing. While you may be a project manager or executive, these are the people that you hired to think on their feet. While your job is to manage, their job is to problem solve, and whip up new plans for how to market your brand.
Affording your marketing team autonomy not only gives your marketers the freedom to craft new ideas, but it saves time on constant review of novel ideas. More often than not, especially if you have hired seasoned professionals (or inexperienced savants that have a short track record of perfection), when you have been reviewing the work presented before you, the response has been “Great job, I agree, keep up the good work.”
If that is not the case, then the fault is on you for hiring incapable employees in the first place. Don’t worry, it happens. But, if you have done a good job in selecting your marketing staff, they can likely function under minimal supervision.
Spending less time on supervising your staff not only saves you time, but allows for your marketing team to think outside of the box, and spend more of their own time adjusting to market shifts and trends. Perhaps check in on a weekly basis, making sure that the team does not get off track, but allow for your team to think for themselves.
Constant, engaged supervision fosters a mentality that makes an employee question their actions, taking up time and headspace that could otherwise be applied to observing trends and adjusting to them. Think of it this way, and put yourself in their shoes: if you are being micromanaged, if every step of the way you are being told what to do, how flexible and adaptable would you be?
Under constant direction, your marketing team will believe that there is only one way to do things. As a PM or CEO you will need to check in from time to time and make sure that everyone is on track, but you do not want to dictate that there is only one approach to handle marketing at your company. If you do, you are stifling the creativity and flexibility of your marketing staff.
By granting your staff greater autonomy, you are not in fact making them their own bosses, but engaging their talents to produce timely, novel approaches that cater to your market.
2. Accept and adapt to the fact that marketing is no longer a one-way street
Traditionally, marketing has been the product provider telling the customer what they need, and why they need it. This is no longer the case. Ever since the advent of social media, and especially since user-review open platforms like Yelp are now relevant in purchasing decisions, marketers need to adapt to the availability, and rapidity with which customers and potential customers are able to share their experiences and expectations of a company.
We first talked about the importance of autonomy in affording flexibility, but it is equally important for your marketing team to have access to feedback from customers, and potential clients in user-review forums and websites.
While only 4% of dissatisfied customers will let your company know that they are unhappy, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as valuable reflections concerning a company’s reliability and product quality, just as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member.
Knowledge is power, and if you are uninformed you will not be able to empower your team to take steps to check in and gauge online reviews, which allows them greater flexibility in adapting to market shifts and meeting customer demands.
3. Make sure that your managers are equipped to handle flexible marketers
So, you have established a culture of flexibility in your marketing department, but have you made sure that your managers and team leaders are able to cope with and appropriately manage a flexible staff?
Increased flexibility leads to novel approaches to addressing a targeted market, but it can also lead to increases in errors, especially if a team member is new to the company. How are you going to instill a system of managing empowered, adaptable yet young marketing employees?
In this case, communication is key for keeping your marketing in check, but a balance between oversight and freedom is essential. Your project managers need to be trained in how to collaborate and communicate with the marketing team without micromanaging.
Balancing between too much oversight and freedom to allow your staff to be as autonomous as possible is case specific. At times your project managers may need to give more guidance, whether it is a new team member or the beginnings of a new project, but you do not want to fall into the temptation of controlling everything. Power is addictive, but if you resist the temptation to micromanage, so will your project managers.
Authority comes from the top down, and you want your marketing team to be as free and creative as possible, all while keeping in line with organizational standards and objectives.
If you are an executive, your project managers are your right-hand guys. Make sure they have the ability to finesse between too much oversight with the marketing team and also collaborate on communicating project directives.
Allowing for flexible marketers can sometimes be unnerving. Your management staff should not be entirely hands-off, but they should accept the practice that (if you hired well) the marketing team knows what they are doing, and if given the opportunity to make decisions without excess supervision, they will be generating salient, market-relevant ideas.
4. Cut the fat; not everyone is going to be able to be flexible right off the bat
OK, this is going to be a simple but hard truth: not every marketing team member is going to be able to function flexibly. It’s a fact. You may have hired a staff member that cannot cope with being charged with autonomy, while also producing decent content.
In a best case scenario, you will have hired only staff that are mentally equipped to handle change and adapt to shifting market values, but maybe you hired marketing staff that require persistent guidance.
For example, maybe you have a content writer on staff that knows how to command language well, but does not come up with novel ideas on their own, or conduct research to make sure they are coming up with the right ideas for the right audience. Perhaps they do not have an understanding of or a general motivation to research trends, or adopt new methodologies for approaching marketing techniques. Maybe they are fixed in their ways.
Not to sound too ruthless, but you may have to take effort to entirely reform their approach to marketing; you may have to change the way that staff are open to autonomy and flexibility. Hopefully, you can retrain staff to be open to exploring new ideas and accepting unfamiliar ideas as valued input. After all, keeping staff on and training them saves far more in project costs than hiring new staff.
In the worst case scenario, if you have a marketing staff member than cannot think on their feet, cannot be flexible, you may have to let them go. This will save your project money in the long-term, and future projects as well. Unfortunately, not everyone is built to be able to be flexible, and not be constantly directed.
Take time to train your staff in terms of flexibility, but also gain an awareness of which team members are fixed-in-their-ways marketers. If they cannot adapt to change, and be open to exploring new ideas, then we have bad news for you: you have to let them go. Sorry, but it’s the truth.
You may not need to entirely let staff go if they are not flexible, adaptable marketers; perhaps they can be reassigned. However, a flexible marketing team is not only more adept at market savvy, but necessary for boosting your own business. Customers like to know that the company they hired is readily adaptable to change, and can stay current with market trends.
So, cut the fat, streamline your team, and have marketers in place that can handle your caseload whilst being flexible.
5. Diversity in the workplace cultivates flexibility
We all know the value of diversity, that it brings forth the sharing of new ideas, different approaches to challenges, and an expansion of your talent pool. Take advantage of how diversity can foster flexibility in your marketing team.
Listen, everyone is different. However, unless a team member witnesses a different person approaching a task in a different way, how would they even know how to approach things differently in the first place?
Use a diverse marketing team to your benefit. Many marketing professionals come from many backgrounds. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you need to search for only like-minded individuals when assembling or reforming your marketing team.
Witnessing diversity, and different approaches to ideas, modes of problem solving, will encourage your marketing team to continue thinking outside of the box. When your marketing team notices that seemingly strange ideas are alright, they will be more so willing to follow and contribute their own seemingly strange ideas, thinking outside of the box.
Don’t be scared to have a marketing team that is coming up with crazy ideas. The project manager will deem how far a concept can go; the bounds which within is is acceptable to submit to a client or not.
Marketing team + flexibility = ingenuity, original ideas, better problem solving, success
Remember the cheetah chasing the antelope? Apply the five aforementioned tips to your marketing team’s approach and you will be a killer in the marketing realm. By harnessing your marketing team’s ability to be flexible, including letting go of absolute control, actually puts you in greater control than you would think.
Your marketing team is your creative hive. Approach them as an editor. Allow them the freedom to be creative, and think on their own with minimal guidance but the resources to study market trends. Odds are that they will be generating many great ideas when given greater flexibility, and then you simply need to filter out the best from the decent ones.