We marketers are special, that’s a given; but we also occasionally suffer from the same career plateaus and lack of inspiration that most professionals encounter at least once in their tenure. You know, that blah phase when nothing’s going on with the product, all’s quiet on the industry front, it seems like there’s no new territory to be discovered in the market, and you and your department have become virtually—and figuratively—invisible to the rest of your company. Because marketing is often made up of pretty tight teams—which often get lumped in under the same unfortunate generalizations—when one of us up-levels their game, it usually has an elevating effect on the whole unit. And in my experience, there is one sure way to kickstart an idling marketing motor: Network internally.
Sounds daunting, right? Unless you’re going to buy something from the sales director, he usually seems pretty uninterested. Approach the CEO? With what, a cup of coffee and a quippy quote? And the product team has way too much on their plate to talk to so-and-so from marketing. Well, put that all aside, do some light prep, and go out there and make friends! (And play nice in the sandbox.)
Let me break it down. Before marketing can do anything worthwhile with its giant megaphone (messaging, channels, campaigns, website, etc.) it needs to truly understand the customer impact journey, and a great deal of that customer knowledge is possessed by the internal stakeholders at your company. Duh! After all, each of them is an expert at a different aspect of the business, and their own perspective pieces of the customer impact journey. This is the fun part—when you get to put on your Margaret Mead hat and venture forth to learn their motivations, strategies, and priorities. Let go of your reptilian brain and move towards the middle brain or new brain.
First, sketch out the customer journey and all of the folks internally that have something to do with it (product, marketing, execs, sales, customer success, etc.). Ask to have short meetings with each one and interview them about their particular piece of the puzzle. People love to talk about what they do, especially if you remind them how crucial their role is to the bigger picture and the overall strategy. Listen closely for specific words they use to describe the product, features, and customer pain points. See how their descriptions align with how marketing—and the customer—refers to the same things. I once worked at a company that repeatedly touted how well their product “automated data,” but when I listened in on sales calls and spent time chatting with sales team members, I realized the customer had no idea what “automating data” actually meant (this was a few years back; automation is now a very common term).
I find that folks in all departments are blown away by the simple question: “How can marketing help make your life easier?” Yes, we feel unappreciated, but they probably do too and their perspective contains valuable clues that lead to your next actions. Above all, make nice with your colleagues and know that internal allies are exactly what you need to up-level your performance and the performance of your team.