Four Talent Categories You Need to Win in a Connected World

A very good article about how to build and manage a team that is multi-faceted and adaptable in the digital age. Love the football versus rugby analogy.

You and Your Team Must Approach Your Jobs Differently 

by Chris Kuenne
Published: February 17, 2011

Chris Kuenne
Chris Kuenne

Marketers are being forced to rewire their skills as they use technology to make their brands more personally relevant and to measure and optimize the performance of their programs. Why will some organizations succeed while others become also-rans? It comes down to the fundamentals of skill development, deployment, intellectual capital development and culture.

A CMO’s ability to attract, inspire and retain the best talent will be key to winning in the connected world. When you review your marketing organization, do you really have the right mix and level of skills necessary to win?

Here’s a sports analogy I recall from an old Harvard Business Review article that captures today’s marketing challenge: In football, everyone is a specialist with a distinct position and responsibility. Each player goes one-on-one against his opponent, helping the team advance the ball in a linear fashion down the field. Marketing over the past 50 years reflected this linear approach, in which a brand’s marketing plan specified a highly planned, seldom altered, set of initiatives. The digital world does not operate this way. With Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, e-commerce and mobile, your target consumer is seeking interactions with your brand 24/7. The old set of skills and conventional deployment will not work.

Today marketing is closer to rugby. All players handle multiple roles, using many different skills. Every player has the ability to affect the outcome. Think of the scrum, with the forwards bound together, trying to get the ball back to their team’s side. Do you manage a football or a rugby team?

There are four skill categories required for a successful marketing organization:

1. Strategic. You still need tried-and-true brand strategists, but have yours kept up with the times? Do they know how to convert a brand positioning, promise and ethos into personally relevant experiences? Do they know how and when to deploy search and social marketing to attract and engage; mobile and web to deepen, capture and manage the relationship; and e-commerce to enable shopping and purchase?

2. Analytic. Have you combined traditional market research with web analytics to understand the what, why, when and where of consumer decisions? Can your team synthesize terabytes of data into actionable changes — all in real time?

3. Program design. Do you have people who can translate the brand promise into relevant and entertaining interactions that always seem fresh and new?

4. Technological. Is your team able to build engaging interactions across platforms in a stable and scalable manner so that the customer experience is consistent across devices? Just as important, do you have a technologist as a member of your inner circle, someone involved in initiatives from the start? We are seeing the emergence of the chief marketing technology officer on both the agency and client side — evidence of a broadening of the marketing team’s composition and outlook.

It’s a major transition from the hub-of-the-wheel organization in which the brand or product manager is at the center, to the Rubik’s Cube structure that requires all functions to be interlocked with one another as they rotate around a core — the brand — in perpetual pursuit of the winning pattern. Successful interactive marketing demands collaboration and cohesion.

As CMO, your other challenge is cultural. Many of the people required for the optimal interactive team aren’t typical team players, nor are they accustomed to operating in a command-and-control environment. The brand strategist and interactive program architect may be familiar types. But you may also have an analytic Mozart who tracks and synthesizes search, social, clickstream and e-commerce data, and a technology whiz who designs and builds the platform. The result: the high school equivalent of the captain of the football team hanging out with the class chess champion and the AV club president. You must encourage collaboration across radically different temperaments, skills and backgrounds.

And it isn’t just your team that needs to do its job differently. So do you. Borrow the approach taken by investment banking or law firms. They win by attracting, cultivating and retaining the best people in the industry. Once you have in place a team that is collaborative, creative and agile, then you must strive to keep its members passionate and focused, with incentives to win.

You can move your organization ahead of your competitors. Start today by focusing on the mix and level of skills and the culture necessary to achieve the front-runner position. Master the human dynamics so that you have a culture that fosters excellence within a cube-like organizational structure that supports a mix of skills and styles. Measure your team’s effectiveness through the level of innovation and period-to-period business results. How many of your new customers are coming from new programs and new channels? Is your team taking market share from your competitors by outsmarting them?

If you can begin to measure your organization’s skills, create an environment that nurtures and appreciates talent and then be willing to take a cold, hard look at what is succeeding and what is not, then you’ll be well on your way to building a team that can win in the connected world.

Chris Kuenne is chairman-CEO of Rosetta.

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