Minimum Viable Inbound Marketing Team?

There seems to be a (not so) new kid in town and it’s called inbound marketing. Most of the time it’s defined along the lines of digital content marketing. Furthermore, it is positioned as something that completely changed the profession and role of marketing.  It might. Frankly, I don’t know. I’ve never been active in “traditional marketing”.  What’s even more, I truly hate old school marketing, driven by ads and interruption. 
After about 10 years of practicing so-called inbound and content marketing, I guess I understand what it takes.  And as I notice loads of companies (and even agencies) struggle to organize for inbound, I believe I might help some people out by explaining my ideas on how to organize for such a (not so) new way of marketing.

Most organizations fail in New Marketing because they can’t organize for this new style of marketing 

Over the last couple of years I witnessed loads of attempts to start New Marketing.  Most of them failed. Because they were doing “digital” from an old school Marketing perspective.

Those companies didn’t fail because the Web and New Marketing don’t work. They failed because the Web and New Marketing work only when applied to the right organization. New Media makes a promise to the consumer. If the organization is unable to keep that promise, it fails.

Everybody is a marketer in the right organization.

Marketers spend a lot of time on tactics, social networks, SEO, adwords, etc. At the core however, something with a larger impact is happening. It’s the one where entire organizations change in response to the change in marketing.

When an organization uses New Marketing to reinvent itself, it’s not just the marketing department that needs to change but the entire company.

You can become the right organization. You can align your organization from the bottom up to sync with New Marketing, and you can transform your organization into one that thrives in this transformative world.

This transformation can be done by the Minimum Viable Marketing Team for Inbound Marketing.

The Minimum Viable Marketing Team leads the transformation. 

In our view, a minimum viable marketing team is able to lead the transformation. From within. Bottom-up. If there’s the right leadership on top, that is. If leadership is not convinced of this new way, success will be hard to reach. So you need leadership buy-in. But what you don’t need (on the other hand) is a leader who believes he’s better suited to lead the transformation than the experienced strategist. Buy-in is required, yes. General management should support, facilitate and join transformation. But not lead it, per se. They have plenty of other things to be on.

Some CEOs might of course be able to take lead in a correct way. But most of them should better leave it up to a general marketing expert with experience in digital, content and inbound for years.

How does a Minimum Viable Marketing team look like? And how does it bolster a company-wide ‘culture of content’ or ‘inbound culture’?

Minimum Viable Inbound Marketing Team 

A minimum viable inbound marketing team has 3 responsibilities:

  • Defining the marketing strategy
  • Running marketing operations
  • Encouraging and activating co-workers to think and do inbound

A content marketing team is small and agile, regardless of how big the organization is. You need a small team. But you need a team with the right people – each talented in a specific domain. So what profiles do you need?

  • Marketing Leader: a strategist and generalist that understands digital

Any team needs an experienced leader who’s able to both think strategically and help in execution. He/ she is the person leading your content marketing strategy. All content and processes should flow through. The Marketing Leader is involved in all steps and connects with every team member.

In essence, the marketing leader creates the vision, defines the strategy, sets the goals and makes sure these goals are obtained.

Defining, managing and governing content
Approving designs
Getting web, print and event resources
Budgeting projects
Negotiating contracts
Developing audiences
Developing non-marketing department content creators
Researching and measuring content results

It should be clear that the content marketing team leader needs to be an experienced marketer, preferably in digital marketing. The marketing leader is basically the CEO of the “media business” that rises alongside the “core business” of an organization.

  • Storyteller, Copywriter, Content Creator 

The essence of inbound is that you “pull” people towards you by creating meaningful content. Content that helps potential buyers. It’s by offering content that people build trust in an organization. It’s trust that makes them buy a product or a service.

A content creator writes blogs, ebooks, … However, in today’s world, one cannot deny the importance of visual storytelling. Hence, you might need a designer as well. I suggest to see this multimedia designer as a separate essential profile. After all, it hardly ever occurs that one person is a brilliant writer and designer. Most of the time it’s one of the skills that dominate.

  • Multimedia Designer

The ever-growing importance of visual, snackable content consumption makes clear that design is a key competitive differentiator when everybody produces content. And you don’t need somebody that is specialized in UX or UI. You need somebody with a wide range of design skills: able to create an attractive ebook layout, able to come up with a nice website layout, an infographic, an animated movie, a fair booth, …

  • Front-end Designer/Developer 

One key profile that is often forgot in structuring content marketing teams is a front-end designer / developer. This profile is absolutely necessary if you want to do marketing that transcends “content” into “experiences”.
After all, it’s through digital experiences that content is consumed. By deploying front-end developers in your inbound marketing team, you’ll be able to turn every content piece into an experience.

How to build your Content Marketing Team? 

As stated above, you need a collaboration of 4 profiles: generalist, storytellers, multimedia designers, front-end developers. But how do you build such a team?

  • Hire the best candidate for each position. I mean, it’s a war for talent in an overcrowded content space. Don’t just recruit to recruit. Make sure that the marketing team lead is already there when recruiting the team is happening. Otherwise, things just won’t work.
  • Train your Minimum Viable Marketing Team. Training is without a doubt the most expensive part of content marketing initiatives. These methods and how much training is needed depends on who you hired. So make sure you hire right. What if you had to train your entire team in all things digital because they just left school? Would clients believe they are “experts?” Hire people of high quality who already have the skills and talents that you need. Make sure to check talent during the recruitment process. In today’s world, everybody joining a marketing team should be able to write a blog post without a lot of efforts. What’s even more, everybody (even outside of marketing) should be able to do that. So, if you want to build a culture of content, start with hiring people who value content. Start with people who can create content.
  • Align with the organization. We’ve said it a couple of times throughout this post by now but we’ll rephrase it again: “Marketing is too important to solely leave it up to marketing.” Besides your minimum viable inbound marketing team, you need to engage the entire company. It’s all about finding individuals in other teams that can become a part of your minimum viable team. These people are of tremendous importance. If the minimum viable marketing team is unable to grow beyond its own marketing boundaries, content marketing efforts will proof to be obsolete. After all, it will be only jabberwocky, typical marketing bullshit that is created and communicated.
  • Transform the organization. After you’ve aligned yourself with the organization, it’s time to demonstrate the successes of that alignment. In this manner, alignment becomes transformation. How to continuously foster the transformation of an organization into a content marketing machine?

Transformation of the entire organization led by Marketing? 

Encourage everyone in your organization to write. You might even think to make it a requirement. Maybe you can even link HR incentives to it. (Note: if this incentive is required, blame HR and their recruiting method)

Set a company-wide blog post quota. Think about e.g. a quarterly “offer” quota for those in leadership positions or those looking to move laterally or up in the organization. These will help to get your content marketing program running.  It’s also the perfect way to foster the content culture you want.

In order to build a culture that kicks on content, it’s absolutely necessary for leaders (in the minimum viable marketing team or within the company) to communicate the benefits of being a published author.

Let employees freely contribute to your blog in ways that suit their talents. That could mean that they create a video, an infographic, a SlideShare presentation, present data they’ve researched, or a written blog post…

Make sure people that are interested in “content and storytelling” skills can be trained and coached by the Minimum Viable Marketing Team. That team can organize internal trainings and workshops on e.g. storytelling, writing for the web, social media, …

Over time, the entire company will benefit from the knowledge on how to be better content creators and a successful content marketing program that generates leads and customers.

Keep the content marketing machine running! 

Enabling and encouraging content creation helps to get people started. But is this enough to keep that up in the long term? Surely not. To keep a company-wide enthusiasm about content creation efforts, communicate the impact it has on your business!

Some content will be better than other. Rewarding the content creator will encourage both him (and other co-workers) to continue to create these types of content. Reward those employees by highlighting their content in a public way. By public we mean that the content creator you want to reward signs present in a meeting with other people. This encourages both the rewarded co-worker as well as his colleagues to create mind-blowing content.

Continue to lead by example. Especially from within the minimum viable team, this is absolutely key. It is of crucial importance that the marketing team lead is producing content himself while encouraging others to foster a culture of content.

Hope this helps. In case it didn’t, I have loads of other advise on how to organize for the overcrowded space “content marketing”.

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