Motivating Globally-dispersed B2B Marketing Teams
Just as every action has an equal and opposite reaction, every marketing action invokes reactions, which in many instances are neither favorable nor intended. For example, there are side effects when advertising or promotion are used to support short-term results. There are side effects when exhibition spending is cut. And there are side effects when marketing attempts to drive new customer acquisition.
Most marketing side effects manifest themselves in customer facing functions such as sales and engineering. However, there is one side effect which occurs clearly within the marketing function. That is, the effect of marketing initiatives on marketing team motivation. This article considers how global marketing initiatives may negatively affect output of small B2B marketing teams overseas.
Motivation and Marketing Output
Marketing activities can be categorized as either short-term or long-term oriented, with branding and lead generation often used as de facto extremities on this continuum. Motivation level has a direct influence on marketing output. A poorly motivated marketing team will make more mistakes and errors of judgement, be more reactive than proactive, unable to make timely decisions, lose its customer focus, and learn less from experience.
Motivation is an important variable in any business, but not systematically or scientifically managed in many organizations. Motivation management is often viewed as the responsibility of immediate team leaders. However, the nature and scope of discretionary response available to leaders is much more limited in B2B marketing teams, compared with B2C marketing, B2B sales or engineering departments.
B2B sales and engineering departments can utilize the following factors in managing motivation levels across time:
- Peer recognition (sales and engineering departments are generally many times larger than marketing departments in B2B organizations, so peer recognition can be a powerful incentive)
- Monetary incentives (sales department contribution can be associated directly with sales outcomes, whereas marketing contribution is not correctly attributed in many B2B organizations)
- Career development (sales and engineering departments, due to their larger size, provide a wider range of career options for team members)
The problem of motivating B2B marketing departments is further complicated in international organizations where senior managers are located overseas and the organization culture is not uniform across countries.
Check Prior to Rolling Out Marketing Initiatives
Senior marketing managers should review how rolling out a particular initiative would affect a remote marketing team’s motivation and factor this into go-no-go and timing decisions. Specifically, you should ask yourself the following kinds of questions:
- Without internal closure on a previous initiative, is it really advisable to move ahead on another initiative which would draw heavily on sales and engineering resources? Or will you just be putting your local marketing team in the line of fire of disgruntled sales persons and engineers?
- In choosing between alternative marketing proposals, do you take into account the operational or implementation burden one alternative imposes on the local marketing team compared with another? Or do you just choose the proposal with the most favorable outcome or highest projected return?
- If you do chose to implement a proposal which draws heavily on local marketing resources, does your local team have easy access to external vendors to lift their short-term output? Or is there a culture of self-reliance which makes the local marketing team hesitate to ask for assistance?
Setting Standards for Motivation Management
Senior marketing management need to set standards for managing motivation, especially in disperse groups spread around the world. This should be a reciprocal process whereby senior marketing managers are held responsible for motivation management and team members create marketing proposals that elevate motivation. Ideally, motivation management should be included as an item in the annual performance evaluation of marketing team members and senior marketing management alike.
Address Career Opportunity Inequities
Career development is another element which can be used to motivate marketing team members in remote locations. There are usually more opportunities for career development in marketing teams located closer to corporate headquarters. The further away from headquarters the smaller the marketing teams become and opportunities for internal advancement and recognition are sparse. If there is no possibility for growth or advancement within a marketing team locally, how about shifting a local employee overseas for a certain period to widen their perspective, experience, and internal connections? This would enable them to perform increasingly important roles in cross-functional global teams and afford peer recognition on an international scale.
Avoid Steep Learning Curves
Irrespective of whether the marketing plan is weighted toward short-term or long-term objectives, marketing itself is a long-term undertaking where time and resources are required to grow and mature the function and personnel, not only at corporate headquarters but in overseas teams as well. Marketing teams often welcome the opportunity to tackle new challenges involved in introduction of a new marketing platform or program. However, the more difficult a platform or program is to master, the more people will fail to achieve operational competence, resulting in a considerable setback for the initiative and further regression of motivation. Senior marketing managers should give their teams sufficient time to learn and learn from their mistakes by adopting less ambitious timetables when introducing new marketing tools and programs. This is indeed a case of “Slow but steady wins the race”.
Survey and Rethink Your Approach
The first step in reducing implementation side effects on motivation is to acknowledge their existence. You can qualify the current situation through an online survey to reduce bias arising from personal interactions. The second step is to establish a more open decision-making process for global marketing initiatives if this is currently handled by a small group of people at headquarters, as is often the case.
It is important to understand all the effects (i.e. both positive and negative) of marketing initiatives on local organizations, and factor this into the design of global marketing activities. Strain is likely to appear first in overseas organizations where access to marketing and other resources is limited.