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How to Create Accountability & Ownership in Your Marketing Team


If you’re not seeing the kind of progress in your business you hoped for in 2021, you’re not alone. After 2020 ravaged businesses nation- and worldwide, the recovery has not yet truly completed—one measure shows that the American economy remains only at 94% of the capacity it held in March of 2020. It’s better, but it’s not perfect.

Marketing is key to the recovery, and even if your business has rebounded well, it’s key to continuing growth as the economy continues to build. If your own marketing team isn’t getting the job done, getting to that next level will be difficult. Here’s how you can jumpstart marketing without having to remake your team.

Building accountability and ownership in your marketing team

One issue that your marketing team may be facing is a simple lack of freedom. That might sound silly, but in plenty of circumstances, marketing is entirely beholden to other interests. For example, they might be utilized primarily as a delivery shop—told by “higher-ups” what needs to be created, handed a deadline and a bulleted list of requirements for what the final product has to look like, and ordered to get to work.

That’s not really marketing.

So if that’s wrong, what’s right? How do you break those habits and build a sense of self-reliance and ownership within your marketing team?

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Accountability doesn’t mean helicopter parenting

One great way to reduce any team’s feeling of ownership of their work is to hover over them and demand to approve everything before it’s allowed to ship. That doesn’t mean the QA process isn’t important—I've done that job, so you will never hear me say that. What it means is that if you’ve hired people to write, design, and strategize, you should trust them to do their jobs. If they can’t do it, if they’re in the wrong seat, fix that issue rather than just micromanaging.

The only way to grow a sense of accountability is to foster a sense of independence, and the only way to do that is to allow it.

Build a smart, sound marketing strategy that everyone understands

Independence is great, but it doesn’t mean a free-for-all. That kind of work environment can work in some industries, but for most, providing some guidance is key, particularly when it comes to goals and to roles.

What is the marketing team trying to achieve? Who is available to help reach those goals, and in what conditions are they available? If the executive team has a goal of growing revenue by 3%, that has an effect on what marketing should be trying to achieve. If the team is made up of people who are moonlighting in other roles, that needs to be planned for ahead of time.

The marketing strategy doesn’t have to be spearheaded by a CEO or even a VP of marketing. A marketing manager or similar role can take the lead. But support from the people who are leading the overall strategy of the business as a whole is critical.

What should the marketing team own?

Obviously if your goal is to build a sense of ownership within your marketing team, it’s important to give them something to own. Sales and marketing are two parts of the same whole—a revenue-building team. Neither one should be subservient to the other. Rather, they should be working together to meet the same goals. There’s a lot more to marketing than just responding to RFPs and creating whatever sales collateral the sales team requests.

Take some ownership over the pipeline

Here’s a great example of where sales and marketing should be working closely together. Obviously once a prospect has entered your pipeline, sales is probably going to take the lead. But there are, just as obviously, ways that marketing plays a role in that process as well.

First of all, where are those prospects coming from? Some will come from referrals from your other customers or clients, some will come from the personal networks of people within your organization. But some will be purely marketing-generated leads. And even the leads that are coming from other sources will, if you’re doing it right, be affected by your marketing. One of the things you’re doing with marketing is building brand awareness, and strong marketing means that when one of your colleagues tells a friend about your business, they should (hopefully) already have a strong positive association with you. Which, of course, helps.

Additionally, marketing can help move prospects along the pipeline. One of the main ways this works is retargeting—basically, once someone has interacted with your brand once, you reinforce their connection with you by providing further touchpoints for them to interact with you. Put a bit more simply, sometimes when you visit a business’ website, you then see ads for their products or services elsewhere online. That’s retargeting, and it works—the average click-through rate for a display ad is 0.07%, while the average retargeted ad draws a 0.7% click-through rate. It’s not magic, it’s just that the more times someone interacts with your brand, the more likely they are to want to continue interacting with it.

So while marketing isn’t going to have full authority over the pipeline’s success or failure, it should be playing a role, and it should be an important one.

Work towards meeting specific strategic business objectives

Sometimes it can sort of feel like marketing is separate from the rest of the business. Even when you’re a part of a marketing team at a marketing firm, you’re not quite doing the same kind of work everyone else is. When that separation starts to show, it can be easy to disappear into your own little world and focus on the things you want to do, rather than the business’ goals as a whole.

But marketing is only truly successful when it’s helping move the business toward achieving its strategic goals. At the end of the day, leadership really cares most about how much revenue marketing helped to drive for the organization. KPIs like website traffic are a means to that end, not the end itself. Don’t get so wrapped up in your own internal numbers that you focus exclusively on them rather than the real goal: driving wins for the business as a whole.

Define and manage the business’ brand

The brand is, effectively, the center of everything when it comes to marketing, but it’s really more than that. It needs to represent what’s true about your business, its heart and soul. It’s pretty important, and it needs people to build it, defend it, and preserve it. Who better than the marketing team?

In some cases, larger brand projects like a rebrand might require some outside help. That help could come from other parts of your business, or it could mean hiring additional outside marketers—say, a marketing consultant or agency—to bring new perspective. But the keepers of your brand should be your own marketing team. They get input into any brand decision because nobody on the planet should know the brand better than them.

Shape the shared messaging between sales and marketing

Since your sales and marketing teams are two parts of one whole, that means the different halves of your revenue-building apparatus need to be on the same page. If a lead comes in through marketing channels, but what they’re hearing changes completely once they get handed off to a salesperson, that’s going to be disorienting. Messaging needs to be aligned from the first time a prospect experiences your brand all the way through until the deal’s closed.

Both sides should help to craft that messaging. Like I just got done saying, marketing should be experts in the brand, and understand how all the parts fit together to create a cohesive whole. Sales spends the most time face-to-face with your audience, so they have the best insight into the questions they’re asking and what they’re really looking for. Both perspectives are invaluable.

The bottom line: grow the business

If your marketing team doesn’t feel an intimate connection to the rest of the business, that’s an issue. Why? Because their role is only a success when they’re working to grow the business and help it meet its goals. Building that link is critical—otherwise it’s far too easy to get caught up in marketing for marketing’s sake rather than for the good of the business.

Accountability towards goals and ownership over the work help to bridge any gap between marketing and the business, and will help to gas up results without having to make wholesale changes to your team.

Thomas Wachtel Team Photo at Element Three

Thomas wears a few hats—writer, editor, and European soccer expert—but his passion is content creation. When he's not crafting thoughtful content, he's coaching high school running, watching the Mets, or talking up Indianapolis to anyone who will listen.