6 Rules for a Highly Effective Marketing Team

In this guest post, Deb Maue examines how to build a highly effective marketing team.

July 30, 2015

One of my top priorities in my new role at Columbia College Chicago is to build a highly effective marketing organization. This means creating the right structure with the right roles, and then finding the right people to fill those roles. In doing this, here are six rules I’m following as we build our team:

1) Think competencies, not skills.

When looking to fill open positions, many organizations look for an exact match in skills and experience. This often limits opportunities for internal career advancement, since existing employees are unlikely to have an exact match in experience, particularly if the position is new. Companies that are committed to talent development focus on the competencies required to be effective in the job (for instance, communication skills, team orientation, problem-solving ability) and assume that smart employees can learn new skills. 

2) Take calculated risks.

Relatedly, a commitment to talent development means sometimes taking risks on people who may not be quite ready for the role. For instance, junior staff members may not have had experience managing people. Retaining and developing talented employees means sometimes taking risks on smart, motivated, committed employees and helping them to develop the skills they need to succeed.

3) Keep it short.

Higher ed job descriptions frequently list 20 or more “main” responsibilities. It’s impossible for an individual to focus on this many priorities. For each role, I’m identifying the five most important things we need the person in this role to accomplish.

4) Put content first.

We’re moving away from having “web writers” vs. “magazine writers” vs. “prospective student materials” writers. We’ve consolidated the responsibility for content development with one group, called Marketing Communications. This will help to ensure that we’re thinking first about identifying the stories that best represent the Columbia College Chicago brand, and then figuring out what audiences to communicate them to in what vehicle. This makes sure we’re making the best use of the content we have, and not duplicating efforts.

5) It’s about the experience.

One of my mantras is that effective branding is 10% what you say and 90% what you do. The experiences that people have with our brand – in class, in the dorm, and on our website – are way more important than our ad campaign ever will be. For this reason, we’re creating the role of User Experience Manager. This person’s job will be to focus on the experiences that people have with us across platforms and over time. Understanding the perspective of our customers and representing their voices in our conversations is a critical part of our Marketing efforts.

6) Identify one person.

We’re working toward assigning every department (academic and non-academic) to an account manager, whose job it will be to understand the client’s marketing and communication needs. This simplifies the process for the clients, who won’t have to keep track of whom to go to for a press release and whom to go to for a website update. But more importantly, it will help us be more consultative vs. order-taking. We want to help internal clients figure out what they need to do to achieve their goals vs. simply giving them what they ask for.

Deborah Maue was recently appointed to the newly created position of Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications at Columbia College Chicago, and is a leading voice in higher education marketing.


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