How to Build a High-Performance Marketing Team

By Nichole Kelly, VP of Growth at Windward Consulting

Tired of waiting months for campaigns to ship? Want to finally find the end of the department to do list for once? Every marketing leader faces the challenge of productivity versus results. We want to know how we can finally deliver more, with less all while getting the results we expect. I get it. I have been a member of corporate marketing teams for over 20 years and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there are marketing teams that know how to deliver. And there are marketing teams that don’t. The key is to deliver the right things at the right time. Here are the strategies Nichole Kelly, VP of growth at Windward Consulting has used to build high performance marketing teams that know how to deliver on time and on budget. 


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Go Agile or Go Home

The never-ending, always moving to-do list kills team productivity. Instead, I’ve learned that project management is the absolute key to success. And it goes deeper than hiring people who know how to get things done. Instead, I focus on orchestrating across the team, rather than on individual contributors. The absolute best way to get work done is to move to an Agile Marketing method. In Agile Marketing, the work is broken down into chunks that can be completed in a specified period of time. For example, my team runs two-week sprints and we ensure that each person has tasks that can be completed in that time. If they can’t we break them down into even smaller chunks. This ensures that things are moving at a consistent pace. We begin our sprints every other Monday and have a process in place to ensure each sprint has been planned thoughtfully making sure we’re meeting our objectives and delivering on our goals. This means that every two weeks our team is shipping and shipping is the key. Too often projects get caught up in the process causing delays and missed deadlines. When you have scheduled dates to “ship” your work people know what they are working toward and how much time they have to complete it. To ensure we’re keeping stakeholders in the loop, we hold monthly meetings with team members from Sales and Operations to show the work we’ve shipped and the results from prior efforts. This provides a sense of accomplishment for the team every two weeks and that goes a long way toward job satisfaction. And every month we get to celebrate our wins and learn from our failures with the larger team

Start Rapid Prototyping 

Marketing is part Art and part Science. It’s the Science part that we often fail at as Creatives. But to perform at an optimal level we need a way to test ideas and fail quickly. Rapid prototyping is a process that allows you to run experiments in a strategic way. To set up the experiment you first define what you want to learn in the experiment? For example, which subject line performs best. Then you need to define how you’ll measure it. In our example, we’d measure open rates. Finally, you define what you can build in under two hours to test it. In this case, we’d build an email with two different subject lines and deploy a campaign with it. At the end of the experiment, we would know which subject line works best based on the comparison of open rates. Next, it’s time to put it through the feedback loop. Ask, what really worked? What would make it better next time? Finally, document the results in a way that ensures you keep track of what experiments have been run and which have been successful. There’s nothing like getting caught in the A/B test loop and testing the same things over and over and over again. Instead, set up a system for experimentation that includes a review of prior experiments beforehand. When you combine rapid prototyping with your Agile Marketing method you will be able to deliver results from experiments in as little as two weeks. This can help the marketing machine optimize far faster with consistent efforts towards improvement. And it also ensures failures are fast and small. Because we’ve only invested 2 hours into our prototype it’s okay if it fails. But if I’d invested 100 or more hours into a project that was doomed to failure from the start, it would be a real opportunity cost. This also creates micro-experiments where every 2-hour prototype can layer on the last to give you definitive results that have been through a feedback loop.

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Hire People with a Growth Mindset 

There are two types of people in the world. Those who want to grow and learn. And those who don’t. The number one thing to hire for in a high-performance marketing team is a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset thrive on change and if there’s one thing that’s certain; it’s that things will change. High-performance teams need to be able to respond to change and be even better for it. I’ve found the people who do that best already had a growth mindset before they came to work. I love hiring people who tell me stories about their personal development goals and the tools they use to reach them. I find that people who have a growth mindset will exuberantly tell you about their latest life lessons and how they got there. And if prompted can provide a litany of stories of their personal growth over the last year. When you ask them about their failures they offer up one or more stories about a time they disappointed, not someone else, but themselves. They hold themselves to a higher standard and as such have a level of pride in their work. Plus, people with a growth mindset absolutely love Agile Marketing and Rapid Protoyping because it creates an environment where they have both the resources and the structure to learn in a meaningful way. It’s an environment where the curious can thrive and these people are incredibly curious. Curiosity is the second thing I hire for. People who are curious are willing to pick apart things that could be broken so they can find a better way to put them back together. In marketing this skill is essential. There are hundreds of components to a marketing campaign that can all be tweaked, optimized or broken. Curious people find the leverage points and the breaking points.

When you need to maximize the output from your team and ensure you’re delivering on your objectives and goals you can deploy an Agile Marketing method, start Rapid Protoyping and hiring people with a growth mindset. These three simple shifts provide a framework for getting work done that orchestrates efforts across a cross-functional team, a system for experimentation that will encourage continual improvement and a team of people who strive to do their best at work. That is more than a recipe for high performance, it’s also a recipe for fun. Because people who win at work have more fun at work. By combining the Art and Science of marketing we can create the optimal environment for a healthy and fulfilling workplace which will allow us to recruit the absolute best talent and lead a team that thrives.


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