Why marketing teams underperform and what to do about it

Marketing teams image

Under the guise of research, I recently found myself watching reruns of The Simpsons. It was a mini-marathon of episodes and right in the middle of them all, The Simpsons script writers gave me the biggest belly laugh I had had in a while when Moe & Lenny had this conversation:


There’s something in our house.

Moe Szyslak:

Let’s put a pick axe in its brain!


You’re in marketing. Why do you even have a pick axe?

Moe Szyslak:

If you were in marketing, you’d know.

“The Simpsons: Four Great Women and a Manicure (#20.20)”(2009)

I laughed hard not only because I have worked with companies to help remove the need for pick axes in marketing, but I have also worked in marketing departments where I needed to carry a pick axe.

When your marketing department is made to feel like it has to carry a pick axe to get results, there’s something seriously wrong. And the fault does not necessarily lay at the feet of the poor pick axe carrying suckers in marketing, although it may.

Over the years TrinityP3 has conducted a vast number of marketing strategic alignments, where we work with a business to uncover and help them understand whether or not their marketing structures are set up in a way that will support the business to deliver on their strategic goals.

Or, sometimes, we help them understand why their marketing team just isn’t performing, and the evidence shows that more often than not when a marketing department is underperforming (and armed), the reason is one of two:

1. A lack of top down strategic direction

To lead any team you need to engage them, sell them the vision and clarify what their role in achieving that vision is. When people understand what is expected of them, as part of an overall team, they will embrace it and do whatever they can to achieve it.

However, when a company segregates itself into silos with the top level shut off, relying on middle managers to communicate strategic direction and focus, it can be a recipe for disaster.

Over years of working with and in businesses operating under this kind of fragmented structure, what I have witnessed is ingrained hierarchies, broken communication chains, miscommunication or more frighteningly, no communication at all.

This leaves the marketing department second guessing what is expected of them, or worse still, going off on a complete tangent.

The result, marketing is blamed (and quite rightly) for poor marketing performance, misappropriation of budget, strategic misalignment and general idiocy – but it’s not their fault. Really, it isn’t. It’s the fault of the multiple layers of communication (miscommunication) and the lack of insight into the big picture.

How can they deliver on what they know nothing about? Seriously, how can they? Business 101 tells us marketing is a fundamental function of business, just like finance, distribution, R&D and sales, so why are they often not treated as such?

It really is the role of marketing to act as a conduit between brand and consumer, in fact it’s their only role, so if they are not across which way the ship is steering long term, how can they be expected to package the right product, price it the right way, find the consumer, speak to them in the appropriate way and bring them into the conversion fold for sales to do their job?

2. An inefficient marketing structure to be able to deliver on said strategic direction

Having the right marketing structure in place is vital to driving a business forward. However structure doesn’t just mean layers, it also means skill set and experience – both internally and externally.

Attempting to achieve a strategic goal with the wrong people holding the wrong skills in place will mean it becomes just that – an attempt. A key part of a TrinityP3 marketing strategic alignment focusses on the skill set of the marketing team but also the suppliers that are in place supporting them.

We then assess this against the strategic focus of a business to see if they marry up. Often what we find is if it’s not slightly out of alignment, then it’s completely wrong. We see top heavy marketing teams with few people implementing, a team of implementers with no one leading the way or a roster of agency partners skilled in the wrong area for the business goals.

Getting the right balance is fundamental to being able to achieve on key deliverables to the business and it can mean really tough decisions need to be made. The result however is a more skilled and streamlined marketing team (and agency roster) that will be able to drive the business forward more efficiently and effectively, and that makes everyone put down their pick axes.

When TrinityP3 undertakes a marketing business alignment we start by identifying the underlying issues. Quite often this is not always evident but it is always bespoke (even if it does fall into one of two key issues). As a result, we approach all engagements by:

Asking the right questions of you, your organisation and your suppliers to articulate an aligned strategic ambition and define the key challenges

  • Build the strategic pillars necessary to achieve the ambition
  • Drill into key areas to construct a strategic road map
  • Work with you to execute against the roadmap, where appropriate

We don’t presume to be able to define your issues on this website. So what we’ve just said is indicative. Talking to us without obligation – that’s the first step to understanding where to next.

So for us, it’s never the same twice. But with us, you maximise your chance of performance growth.

Interested in driving enhanced marketing performance via alignment of process and commercial purpose? Read more on TrinityP3’s Marketing Business Alignment Service here