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5 things martech leaders wish their teams knew

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5 things martech leaders wish their teams knew

There’s something we don’t often talk about in martech: the growing disconnect between martech leaders and practitioners. Many practitioners, the ones managing technology day-to-day, are working overtime to deliver projects and keep the marketing lights on. When this hard work goes unappreciated, these subject-matter-experts move on to another company – hard to blame them. But is this the whole story?

Martech leaders agree that martech professionals and marketing operations are the unsung heroes of the marketing department. But in speaking with them, we learn that the problem of underappreciation doesn’t fully rest on the shoulders of marketing leadership. The issue is multi-faceted, and when asked the question “What are key things you wish martech teams knew?” the responses are quite insightful.

While you may not hear these points out loud or in one-on-one meetings, it’s important to understand the perspective of martech leaders and how they think the problem should be addressed. Here are five key things martech leaders wish you knew.


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1. The perception of the martech team has to be shaped, and it starts with you

The team that owns martech (typically marketing operations) has not always had the best reputation. Other teams have thought of them as the “order-takers” or the “button-pushers,” or even the IT of marketing, another obstacle they have to overcome. While many practitioners complain about this and jump from role to role, hoping the next company will be a different story, they often overlook the proactive steps they can take to change this perception.

Where to start? Start by making sure your current projects are tied to the business’s top priorities. If they aren’t, reprioritize, or find ways to link them indirectly if you must.

Make sure the projects you are working on are top priorities for the business. If not, find out how to link them, at least indirectly. Also, emphasize the downsides or negative impact if these projects are not put in place.

Find an opportunity to show off: most martech professionals may hide behind their technology, but this is the opposite of shaping perception. Put together a quarterly business review, schedule a presentation or start a biweekly newsletter highlighting all the great results martech generates.

2. Understand the dangers of opportunity cost

Here’s an interesting analogy: pretend there is a mix of bills spread across the field, in increments of 100s, 20s, fives, and ones. With limited time, which bills do you go after first?

Unfortunately, many martech teams spend their time working on projects worth fives and ones versus those worth 100s. This example brings stark reality to the meaning of opportunity cost: spending time on something with little value at the expense of pursuing something with higher value.

Nick Bonfiglio, founder and CEO of Syncari, says it like this: “Focus on quality over quantity every time.” To his team of martech operators, he says, “you can test programs that generate engagement, but what I want you to really focus on is initiatives that drive qualified opportunities. Spend your time on projects that will create opportunities with an above 25% close rate minimum.”

Does that mean his team never experiments? Never tries anything new? Quite the opposite, the Syncari team reserves time for innovation. The key difference is they are judicious about the majority of their project work.

3. Translate martech success to business outcomes

Here is another problem that plagues martech teams everywhere: doing great work that their stakeholders don’t understand. Years ago, I spent an entire month migrating a lead routing system from a decentralized model to a single, centralized workflow. After sharing this accomplishment with the larger team, I was met with many blank stares.

What was I missing? I needed to explain how the project would impact their work and the business at large in simple terms. Once I shared how the new lead routing cut their campaign management time by 25% and virtually eliminated all of the lead management errors they were experiencing, they sat up much straighter and appreciated the work being done.

“Figure out what your work will unlock for stakeholders,” says Jessica Kao, director at F5 Networks. “This is what I tell my team: If you are building something or implementing a new tool, communicate how it will translate to more leads, meetings, pipeline and revenue. We might be doing the right things, but being able to tie it back to the business reason is the key to success within an organization.”

Like Jessica says, take a look at your work and explain how it will impact the business. Explain how investments in data will turn into better targeting and better personalization. Articulate how investing in a new platform will improve productivity by 20%. Translate martech work into business results, and you will be on the right track to martech success.

4. Team structure isn’t as important as vision, goals and accountability

Should you organize your team into a revenue ops team or keep sales ops and marketing ops separate? While there are varying benefits for each organization, the truth is that any structure you choose will fall apart without an overarching vision for sales and marketing success.

Here is the truth: at micro-startups, sales and marketing are naturally connected because the entire team is only a handful of members. At the enterprise level, there is a high volume of projects requiring specialization that may not need input from other groups as frequently as with smaller organizations, though alignment is always critical.

You don’t have to be in revenue operations to help sales. “I want my teams to know that it is important to empathize with sales,” says Thao Ngo, SVP of marketing at Allocadia. “Sales is laser-focused on their current deals and don’t have the time to read all of our marketing material. Make it easy for them: summarize key points, consolidate all resources for them in one place, and identify ways for them to hit their targets.”

So what principles should guide us when so many different structures can work? Leaders should set the organization’s vision and goals that are shared widely and operationalized in everything. For example, revenue goals should be set by both sales and marketing, approved by top leadership and broken down into sub-goals that each team commits to. Customer experience goals should be the same way – sales can look at referrals or upsells, while marketing may set CSAT or NPS goals.

Read next: More on marketing operations from Darrell Alfonso

5. If you are constantly drowning in work, stand up and look around

What’s a common refrain from martech and marketing operations teams? That there is way too much work to do in too little time. How do martech leaders respond to this?

“It’s true that martech teams are busy,” says a top executive at a mid-sized SAAS enterprise. “But to be honest, everyone in high-growth organizations has too much to do. Effective teams will carefully weigh the different initiatives in front of them and focus their energy on where they can get the most return on their money and time.”

Unfortunately, while it is true that marketing operations teams everywhere could use more resources, many are spending time on low-value tasks.

My recent LinkedIn post on the importance of prioritizing high-value tasks at the expense of low-value tasks was met with general agreement, but there were one too many comments, such as:

“Well, what if my low-value projects turn into high-project later on?” and “It’s not all about the numbers, you know.”

To that, I can only sadly shake my head – any effective leader knows that low-value projects don’t magically turn into high-value projects, and those that do were not scoped and appraised correctly. It’s hard to truly look at your work, evaluate projects’ impact, and make hard decisions to determine what you will and won’t do. Making smart tradeoffs is an effective leader’s mark, especially in martech.


About The Author

5 things martech leaders wish their teams knew
Darrell is an award-winning marketer and Martech professional. He was named one of the top Martech Marketers to Follow in 2020, won the Fearless Marketer award in 2018, is a 2X Marketo Champion, and is a certified Salesforce Administrator. He has consulted for several Fortune 500 companies including General Electric and Abbott Laboratories and currently leads marketing operations at Amazon Web Services where he helps empower hundreds of marketers to build world-class customer experiences. Darrell is a frequent speaker at martech events, and regularly posts thought leadership content on Linkedin and Twitter.


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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

How long has it been since your marketing team got restructured? 

Wearing our magic mind-reading hat, we’d guess it was within the last two years. 

Impressed by the guess? Don’t be.  

Research from Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds that almost half of marketing teams restructured in the last 12 months. (And the other half probably did it the previous year.) 

Why do marketing teams restructure so often? Is this a new thing? Is it just something that comes with marketing? What does it all mean for now and the future? 

CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose offers his take in this video and the summary below. 

Marketing means frequent change 

Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds 46.5% of marketing teams restructured in the last year — a 5-percentage point increase over 2023 when 41.4% of teams changed their structure. 

But that’s markedly less than the 56.5% of marketing teams that restructured in 2022, which most likely reflected the impact of remote work, the fallout of the pandemic, and other digital marketing trends. 

Maybe the real story isn’t, “Holy smokes, 46% of businesses restructured their marketing last year.” The real story may be, “Holy smokes, only 46% of businesses restructured their marketing.” 

Put simply, marketing teams are now in the business of changing frequently. 

It raises two questions.  

First, why does marketing experience this change? You don’t see this happening in other parts of the business. Accounting teams rarely get restructured (usually only if something dramatic happens in the organization). The same goes for legal or operations. Does marketing change too frequently? Or do other functions in business not change enough? 

Second, you may ask, “Wait a minute, we haven’t reorganized our marketing teams in some time. Are we behind? Are we missing out? What are they organizing into? Or you may fall at the other end of the spectrum and ask, “Are we changing too fast? Do companies that don’t change so often do better? 

OK, that’s more than one question, but the second question boils down to this: Should you restructure your marketing organization? 

Reorganizing marketing 

Centralization emerged as the theme coming out of the pandemic. Gartner reports (registration required) a distinct move to a fully centralized model for marketing over the last few years: “(R)esponsibilities across the marketing organization have shifted. Marketing’s sole responsibilities for marketing operations, marketing strategy, and marketing-led innovation have increased.”  

According to a Gartner study, marketing assuming sole responsibility for marketing operations, marketing innovation, brand management, and digital rose by double-digit percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.  

What does all that mean for today in plainer language? 

Because teams are siloed, it’s increasingly tougher to create a collaborative environment. And marketing and content creation processes are complex (there are lots of people doing more small parts to creative, content, channel management, and measurement). So it’s a lot harder these days to get stuff done if you’re not working as one big, joined-up team. 

Honestly, it comes down to this question: How do you better communicate and coordinate your content? That’s innovation in modern marketing — an idea and content factory operating in a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative way. 

Let me give you an example. All 25 companies we worked with last year experienced restructuring fatigue. They were not eager creative, operations, analytics, media, and digital tech teams champing at the bit for more new roles, responsibilities, and operational changes. They were still trying to settle into the last restructuring.  

What worked was fine-tuning a mostly centralized model into a fully centralized operational model. It wasn’t a full restructuring, just a nudge to keep going. 

In most of those situations, the Gartner data rang true. Marketing has shifted to get a tighter and closer set of disparate teams working together to collaborate, produce, and measure more efficiently and effectively.  

As Gartner said in true Gartner-speak fashion: “Marginal losses of sole responsibility (in favor of shared and collaborative) were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce, and CX.” 

Companies gave up the idea of marketing owning one part of the customer experience, content type, or channel. Instead, they moved into more collaborative sharing of the customer experience, content type, or channel.  

Rethinking the marketing reorg 

This evolution can be productive. 

Almost 10 years ago, Carla Johnson and I wrote about this in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We talked about the idea of building to change: 

“Tomorrow’s marketing and communications teams succeed by learning to adapt — and by deploying systems of engagement that facilitate adaptation. By constantly building to change, the marketing department builds to succeed.” 

We surmised the marketing team of the future wouldn’t be asking what it was changing into but why it was changing. Marketing today is at the tipping point of that. 

The fact that half of all marketing teams restructure and change every two years might not be a reaction to shifting markets. It may just be how you should think of marketingas something fluid that you build and change into whatever it needs to be tomorrow, not something you must tear down and restructure every few years.  

The strength in that view comes not in knowing you need to change or what you will change into. The strength comes from the ability and capacity to do whatever marketing should. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:  

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

2. Understand topical authority: Keywords vs. entities

Google has been talking about topical authority for a long time, and in Discover, it is completely relevant. Traditional SEO includes the use of keywords to position your web pages for a specific search, but the content strategy in Discover should be based on entities, i.e., concepts, characters, places, topics… everything that a Knowledge Panel can have. It is necessary to know in which topics Google considers we have more authority and relevance in order to talk about them.

3. Avoid clickbait in titles

“Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.” This is the opening sentence that describes how headlines should be in Google’s documentation. I always say that it is not about using clickbait but a bit of creativity from the journalist. Generating a good H1 is also part of the job of content creation.

Google also adds:

“Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.”

“Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.

Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.”

Do you think this information fits with what you see every day on Google Discover? I would reckon there were many sites that did not comply with this and received a lot of traffic from Discover.

With the last core updates in 2023, Google was extremely hard on news sites and some niches with content focused on Discover, directly affecting E-E-A-T. The impact was so severe that many publishers shared drastic drops in Search Console with expert Lily Ray, who wrote an article with data from more than 150 publishers.

4. Images are important

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you look at your Discover feed, you’ll see most of the images catch your attention. They are detailed shots of delicious food, close-ups of a person’s face showing emotions, or even images where the character in question does not appear, such as “the new manicure that will be a trend in 2024,” persuading you to click.

Google’s documentation recommends adding “high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover” and notes important technical requirements such as images needing to be “at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting.” You may also have found that media outlets create their own collages in order to have images that stand out from competitors.

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

One of the most important parts of having a website is making sure your audience can find your site (and find what they’re looking for).

The good news is that Google Search Essentials, formerly called Google Webmaster Guidelines, simplifies the process of optimizing your site for search performance.

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