What makes up a high-performance marketing team?

August 25, 2021


Marketing spans a wide range of arts and sciences. So naturally, it attracts an eclectic mix of personalities. This presents a major challenge for brands who need to scale up their marketing efforts. Steve Dyson, Talent Acquisition Specialist, joins the show to talk about his experience with what makes up a high-performance marketing team, like:

  • why attributes are just as important as skills
  • tools to predict personality fit for the role
  • ways managers can promote cohesion
  • the role of diversity in building teams

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John Tyreman:  Hi gang. Welcome to The Digital Marketing Troop, where we go in the trenches to help you learn more about digital marketing. I’m your host, John Tyreman, and I am joined today by Steve Dyson, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Silverback Strategies. And we are here to talk about how brands can build a high performance marketing team but before we dive into our topic today, Steve, I’ve got a question for you. I actually just got back from a little mini vacation myself, that I’m curious, do you have any vacation plans coming up? Funny

Steve Dyson:  Funny you should ask, John. I actually, just this morning, I booked a trip to Iceland with my parents for the last week of August, essentially.

JohnTyreman:  Are you going to see the volcanoes up there?

Steve Dyson:  The volcanoes, the Blue Lagoon, all that good stuff. I’ve never been to Iceland, and I’ve heard really wonderful things from everybody who’s gone and so my family was really eager to get out of the country after all the COVID situation and you know, it’s a little tough with restrictions and whatnot right now, so we looked at countries that have been open for quite some time to tourism. Iceland is on that list. We figure August is a great time to go and I’m super excited about it.

John Tyreman:  That’s awesome. I’ve heard Greenland is full of ice and Iceland is… can be a little bit greener, so. Well, Steve, let’s jump into our topic at hand today and maybe let’s start here. What do we mean by high performance marketing teams?

Steve Dyson:  Yeah, John, it’s interesting because I feel like high performance is a very vague term in a sense. I think it can mean a lot of things. I typically think of that in terms of pretty strict ROI and KPIs, just in terms of the fact that, you know, a high performance team is one that obviously will not only meet, but exceed client expectations every time more or less. So, you know, it’s one thing to have a team that can deliver on the projected ROI on like let’s say a given Google ads campaign or or a Facebook campaign, what have you, but to build a team that is able to surpass those expectations from a budget perspective, maybe it’s a timeline perspective, conversion rate perspective, just all those things. So a team that is really able to just go above and beyond every time for our clients, because obviously that’s the name of the game – that’s what every agency wants – is a team that is going to not only meet those expectations but shatter them and you know, drive business and keep those clients coming back for more.

John Tyreman:  So I imagine that, obviously, skill plays a ton in building these teams. But I imagine that personality and more of the softer attributes play a big role, too. And I know that there’s a ton of personality tests like Myers Brigg, disc assessments… I’m curious, from your perspective what tools have you used to build a high performance marketing team?

Steve Dyson:  Yeah, it’s an interesting question because like you said, there are a ton of assessments out there. I’m definitely familiar with Myers Briggs. I think it’s more of a “for fun” tool. Let’s just say I don’t know how much credence that has in the professional space but it’s always fun to know what your letters are, I guess you could say. Something that we’ve been using very successfully here at Silverback is a tool called the Predictive Index or PI, which has been really cool for us for a few reasons. So, essentially the PI has two components: they have the behavioral assessment and then the cognitive assessment. So the behavioral assessment is a series essentially of basically word association questions about how others perceive you and how you perceive yourself. And from a seemingly very random list of words you can get amazingly specific personality profiles, there’s actually 17 different types, and we’ve used that to great effect to not only look for candidates who kind of fit the ideal PI profile of the roles that we’re looking to fill because, especially if it’s a position like Paid Media Account Associate or SEO Associate, something that we’ve been hiring for for ages, we know what that person looks like to a certain extent, although we’re also mindful of the fact that it’s not a one size fits all thing and there’s a lot of kind of room for for wiggle room there. But we also use it to kind of look at team dynamics and manager, direct report dynamics, because that can be very instructive too. So like, somebody like our Director Of Paid Media, Andrew Fuchs. He is much more, kind of cognitive and analytical than he is a very big talker like I am. Our PI profiles actually look very different. So if I were to be reporting directly to Fuchs, I would imagine there would be a lot of, I guess knowledge and insight we could gain from looking at the way that our PI profile, interact, and kind of using that to structure our, let’s say, monthly one on ones that we would have. The PI also has a cognitive assessment which is pretty cool. It’s essentially like, not quite an SAT style series of questions, but it looks a little bit like those standardized tests from high school that I’m sure everybody loves so much and remembers so fondly. And that’s also just been a cool way to kind of just make sure that people are in line with the, I guess you could say, more cognitive demands of the roles that we’re looking to hire. So all in all that has been an awesome tool for us. I definitely recommend it for anybody who’s looking to kind of bring that extra element into the team building experience. 

John Tyreman:  I’m curious, what’s your PI profile? 

Steve Dyson:  So my PI profile is a promoter, which is described as a very casual, uninhibited communicator. Kind of sounds like a backhanded compliment on paper, the uninhibited part. But I will say it’s definitely pretty accurate to who I am and ironically it’s a very very strong fit for my job on paper. So, I guess you could say I’m right exactly where I’m supposed to be.

John Tyreman:  That’s awesome. Yeah, I turned out to be a captain, which I thought was pretty interesting and reading through it, you definitely get… you say “Oh man, that really describes me”. So I’ve used it in terms of direct reports, but also in working, you know, across teams and managing up too. There’s a lot of really cool use cases for that. So, that is a really cool tool. Well, you know, the tools and the personalities play a big role too. We talked about skill, we talked about personality, and then assembling that team is really kind of only half the battle once you get all these people with the right skills, the right attributes together. But there’s really some team building, some gelling and cohesion that really needs to happen. So I’m curious Steve, from your perspective, what are some ways that managers can promote that team building and cohesion?

Steve Dyson:  There are definitely a few approaches to this. And I would say the best way to go about promoting that cohesion is almost a multifaceted approach. So, this can start even in the pre employment process. I mean I know for example, for the most recent round of SEO associates that we’re looking to hire for Kurt Lambert, we’re kind of having all of these candidates, after they speak with me and after they speak with Kurt and they kind of go through those requisite interview steps, we’re actually having them meet with a member, a senior member of the SEO team just to honestly bounce ideas off each other, it kind of get to know each other get to know each other’s communication styles, and just see if that would potentially be a good fit from, you know, a peer to peer perspective because that’s very important too, and that’s something that you can kind of screen for in a sense, in the interview process. And I think not every company does that, which I do think is kind of a mistake. And then when you look at actually having the team built, you know, let’s say you’ve hired three new associates and they’re all super super different in terms of personalities, but they’re all great fits from a professional standpoint, I would say the best way to go about continuing to build out that team is just to really foster and facilitate environment where everybody’s voices feel heard. You know, where people feel like they can be themselves and communicate in the style that’s most natural to them so they don’t feel inhibited from sharing anything or from speaking up if they have an idea, and just keeping channels of communication very open. I think that’s something that we actually do very very well here at Silverback. We’re always talking in our Slack channels, there’s lots of, you know, back and forth, not even with people who are on the exact same team, but even like cross functionally, across departments, and I think just ensuring that you have those lines of communication open and emphasizing from a managerial level. Because it does – things begin and end with managers and direct reports mirror the behavior they see their managers doing. So if you have a manager who is very communicative and who makes it known that, you know, it’s a more or less an open door policy and, and we’re all in this together, so let’s talk about it.  That can be a very very powerful tool to kind of model the behavior that you want to see in your team because you want your teammates to be talking to each other and you want them to be as collaborative and communicative as possible, especially when you work in a space like digital marketing that is so, you know, changing on a day to day basis. There’s always a new, I guess, component to a campaign, there’s always new demands and it’s just important to make sure everybody is abreast of those changes and feels they can contribute their ideas.

John Tyreman:  Yeah, I remember… It’s funny how building professional teams, like a high performance marketing team, it’s amazing how similar it is to team sports. I remember playing football back in high school with, you know, a bunch of guys that I grew up with and we were all so really comfortable with each other, and you know we trusted each other. And it was a really great dynamic. And then, you know, I was on teams, after high school and college, where we didn’t really know each other and we didn’t trust each other and it translated to poor performance on the field. So I totally get that. You mentioned, Steve, about having everyone’s voices being heard, and really like being included, and I know that diversity and inclusion is a big topic in the business world today. So I’m curious, from your perspective, what role does diversity play in building out a marketing team?

Steve Dyson:  I think we’re at a point where diversity and inclusion are so paramount when you’re looking at building a team and you’re looking at hiring and, you know, that’s wonderful because I think that’s been such a long time coming. Really, it’s amazing to see companies at every level, big and small, across industries really look critically at their talent acquisition strategies and at their current demographics and just think, “okay, wow, maybe we have, you know, an opportunity to switch this up a little bit and get a couple more voices in the room”, let’s just say. I think from a marketing perspective as well it’s very interesting because when you’re looking at building a digital marketing campaign, you have to always think who’s the end user. And who is the target demographic. And spoiler alert if your team is composed of four white guys in their 20s who all live on the east coast, I don’t think you’re gonna necessarily have the most insightful look at who that target demographic might be, because chances are, your business, whatever it is, doesn’t matter what industry, doesn’t matter what your product is, is trying to appeal to more than just like guys in their 20s who live on the east coast. So I think the more that you can get –  incorporate people of different ethnicities, races, sexualities, gender IDs, whatever it might be, the smarter position you’re putting yourself into. I mean not only is it the right thing to do but from a business perspective you’re also broadening your horizons and broadening the potential to appeal to a wider customer base because people do bring their experiences, their life experiences and their cultures with them to work. It’s inevitable. It’s counterproductive to pretend that’s not the case. And I think the smartest teams, especially in digital marketing, are the ones that really tap into that and use that to their advantage to just broaden their customer base and broaden their horizons of who they can reach with their campaigns.

John Tyreman:  Do you think there are ways where companies who want to build a diverse and inclusive team can go beyond the demographic characteristics like race or gender, to include more diversity of thought or perspectives? What’s your take on that?

Steve Dyson:  That’s a very interesting question and I feel like, on the one hand, sometimes those things are a bit part and parcel just because thoughts and perspectives do stem so much from identity and that tends to, honestly… well not tends to because that is a very blanket statement, but it certainly can be linked to things like racial identity, ethnic identity, gender identity, that kind of thing. But I think beyond that and this is something that actually, I certainly do as part of my interview process. I’m the first round interview screen with any candidate who’s applying to Silverback Strategies. It does not matter what level, what department, I’m the first person they talk to. And so part of my role in that, I view it as looking for different personalities as well. You know, I think people who bring a fresh perspective to the table and a different energy than what might already be on say the Paid Media Team or on the SEO Team. I think that’s really valuable as well because you don’t want an organization where everybody is the same and has the same personality and thinks the same. I mean, Silverback is a company that really prides itself on a strong culture and we have an extremely strong culture, but strong cultures are not homogenous cultures. That’s rarely, if ever, the case. The more you can get people who do bring kind of different, I hesitate to say energies, that’s such a vague word, but just people who bring something different to the table, the more you’re setting yourself up for having a really interesting, and inclusive and three dimensional culture.

John Tyreman:  No stone left unturned, right? You have to include all the different perspectives to know which one is right. 

Steve Dyson:  Yep. 

John Tyreman:  Well Steve, so you know, we touched on this a little bit in terms of effective communication but I really want to dig into that a little bit. So what are some ways where you’ve seen high performance marketing teams communicate effectively with each other? Or on the flip side, what are some examples of poor communication you’ve seen that may hinder team progress?

Steve Dyson:  Yeah, totally. I am a big believer that an effective team is a team that talks to each other a lot and enjoys talking to each other. So I think doing things like, not only having, of course, weekly check-ins and weekly team meetings, that’s pretty standard, but making sure to include as a part of those meetings just chatting and getting to know, you know, how your weekend was and what do you have planned for the week and what’s going on in your life outside of the parameters of the project that we’re currently working on. I think, even though it might seem counterintuitive because you’re, you know, quote unquote, not talking about work. I think having that connection really builds and emphasizes your ability to execute effectively on a project because you just feel more excited about the people that you’re working with and, in turn, if you’re more excited about the work that you’re doing and you’re more inclined to do a good job. I mean I can tell you in our, in the People Team here at Silverback, we have our Monday HR Sync calls that last about 45 minutes, usually between Jamie, myself, Marie and Kelly, and we always spend at least 10 or 15 minutes just kind of chatting, and just, you know, catching up on the weekend and just what’s going on in each other’s lives and I think that’s really wonderful. And I would not trade that 10 or 15 minute period for anything because I think that it just helps facilitate that sense of closeness with your coworkers and as I said, that’s key to doing a good job, really. On the flip side, I’ve seen a lot of teams stumble in the sense where you can be the most high performing team out there, you’re always hitting your metrics, you’re always hitting your KPIs, you have phenomenal, you know, client ROI. But that only lasts for a certain amount of time. People don’t stay where they are and people don’t continue to do a good job and you don’t have high employee engagement and retention if you don’t tap into more of a, I don’t want to say personal connection because, you know, some people do prefer to keep their personal lives a lot more separate, but you have to have more than just the work going on, I think. Otherwise people just feel, you know, undervalued, they feel like they’re just a number and they feel burnt out. So I would say for hiring managers or anybody who’s leading a high performing team, not only in marketing but really in any industry, yes, of course, the focus is on the work first and foremost, but don’t forget that your employees are people and don’t forget to engage them as such and make your interactions with them feel more human.

John Tyreman:  Well, people are seldom very logical, and more often than not irrational and emotional in their decision making. So, I think you hit the nail on the head there. Well, Steve, thank you so much for taking the time. It sounds like there’s a lot that goes into building a high performance marketing team from the skills, to the attributes, personalities, communication among the teams, how to manage the team. So there’s a lot to go into it. Thank you so much for taking the time. If listeners want to connect with you or learn more about your work or want… maybe they want to join Silverback Strategies. Where would you have them find you?

Steve Dyson:  Yeah, I would absolutely encourage anybody who wants to learn more about Silverback or just have a chat really, to connect with me on LinkedIn – just Steve Dyson, just my name. I’m always looking to chat with anybody across industries. I think there’s a lot of value in just building that network. And you can also just feel free to shoot me an email at SDyson@SilverbackStrategies.com.

John Tyreman:  There you have it folks. Well, connect with Steve. And Steve, thank you so much for taking the time. This has been a pleasure. 

Steve Dyson:  Thank you, John.

John Tyreman:  If you found this podcast episode insightful, please subscribe, tell a friend and leave a rating and review. And to learn more, head on over to silverbackstrategies.com where we have a wealth of digital marketing insights on our blog and Resource Center. We’ll see you next time on The Digital Marketing Troop.