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Leadership in Marketing

evolution of a rubber ducky, from egg to adult

Since expanding our team over the past two years, I have begun to learn what it takes to be a leader in the world of marketing. After having flying solo for the first 15 years or so, leading a team is a lot different, and has changed many things.

It’s different than just being “leading-edge” in your field, and it’s certainly different than just leading yourself a “solo practitioner.” Here are 6 key differences:

1.  Leadership Weaknesses

It starts with realizing my own weak areas, which I’ve found, are most noticeable when we are pitching a client.  The client will ask questions such as “Have you done a project like this before?” or “What should I do in this kind of a situation?”   If I can’t give them a confident answer right off the cuff, to say “Yes, I had a client in a similar scenario to that, and here’s how we overcame it,”  then I think to myself, “WEAK AREA” — and note it!

I also can tell weak areas when the team has to “prod” me for answers. The more projects came in, the more I was firing them around.   One of the team “suggested” we needed a online project management system, and introduced me to one. This has been a tremendous help, and is really helping us keep on top of things.

My mother has an expression: “Never refuse a breath mint.” Noticing your weak areas is a lot like that – if someone makes a suggestion, it’s probably because I NEED IT!

2. Building a Stronger Team

As a leader, you sometimes notice weak spots in your team. Social media has been an area we have had success in, and we know quite a lot as a team. However, until recently we didn’t have a person on our team who had really mastered it to the point of building a huge international following. I knew we were solid, but I didn’t like selling a “star-level expectation” without a “star-level player”.

It’s a bit like “If you build it, they will come.” I realized that if there were better social media strategists out there than ours, and if there was one here in Calgary, then I had to bring that person in.  Otherwise we would be doing a disservice to our clients, not making the MOST of what social tools had to offer. So, we got that social media expert…and an announcement is coming this week. Expect to see a lot more social action coming soon from Team Tenato!

3. Improving the Existing Team

So, yes, finding and adding talents is important. But it is also crucial to NOT REMAIN STATIC.

Once we bring in new talent, I find it is important to share it around so the rest of the team can learn and understand how to integrate that knowledge. The more we cross-train, the more we can find the synergies between strategy, market research, public relations, online advertising, social media, search engine optimization and more.

We also encourage our team to read, blog, recommend reading to each other, and keep pushing for new knowledge to star ahead of the curve.  Our regular team meetings give us a chance to exchange the latest ideas and cases in the world of marketing.

4. Challenging the Team

At Tenato, we now have an exceptional group of seasoned experts in numerous facets of marketing. I almost said “every facet”, but just when I think I have everything covered, something new pops up! So as the leader, is it important to drive business in the door that is challenging?

CRUCIAL!  So that means I have to work to drive in projects that are either large, interesting, or unique in some way….clients that have high goals and the energy push for them.

I’ll tell you, in my experience, as soon as people get bored, they want to leave. I remember being in my high school band in Grade 12, which was really fun when I started high school. Then, the band teacher pulled out the repertoire for the coming year, and it was the same old music I’d done the last two years. So I quit. Over and over, I’ve seen that in business too.

Leadership is reaching for the stars. Smart people crave challenges, and those challenges make them better. So I like to ask our team what kind of clients and projects they’d like to work on, and then I work on bring these kinds of things in our door. This keeps us excited and enthusiastic for the future.

5. Watch for Overwhelm

One other thing I’ve learned in the past couple years:  Don’t make anyone else do something you wouldn’t do yourself.

I had an Associate nearly melt down over a huge project with a brutal deadline, trying to finish a writeup for a client with half the “blanks” not filled in from the client.    When I realized she was really stressing out, we visited the client, coaxed the answers out of him, and then I picked up dinner and sat with her all night, working on the project together. We had a good time and lots of laughs. It helped me learn that there is “challenge” and then there is “reason” – and you have to give people what they really need to succeed.

6. Open Communication

Leadership means being humble and brave enough to let your team have the freedom to take you down a peg.

I recently had a huge project 99.9% finished, and then ran it by a couple of my team members to get their feedback. One had minor suggestions, the other had quite major ones. I thought, “Yikes, do I really have time to make these changes happen?” Then I thought, wow, what a lot work and time she put in to giving me this excellent critique — if it’s worth her time, it’s worth mine!  And a further thought was this – “What if this critique is exactly what the client would think?”  Better to improve internally through brutal honesty than to have the client say, “I thought it would have been better…” which is twice the sting! Internal criticism is a gift!

Looking Ahead

It’s our job to know where the field of marketing, advertising and public relations is heading, and to continually prepare our business for the future. I will tell you one thing about the future – IT IS BETTER than ever before. Online marketing measurement techniques have given marketing a scientific, quantifiable element that makes it more tangible to clients.

This means clients will be more apt to check results, and re-invest in marketing because they CAN SEE RESULTS. It also gives us, as a marketing/PR firm the chance to MEASURE CAMPAIGN AGAINST CAMPAIGN….and see if we are improving in OUR skills! How exciting to be able to see how well our numbers improve as we get better and better. And to be able to pinpoint exactly what we can do better each time.

Truly, the field of marketing is heading for great things – and more and more companies are going to boost its priority, and commit to it. That means firms like ours will be able to grow, invest in ourselves, and see our businesses improve too. A bright future indeed!

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About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."