What is the one thing you are proud about in your career? When I get asked that question, my answer is always “building world class teams that deliver!” I have had the opportunity and honor of working in various team-based environments in my 25+ year career spanning multiple global consulting firms, advertising agencies, and Fortune companies where I have built teams anywhere from 5 to over 100 people strong.
My teams have been geographically dispersed across the US or in multiple countries, speaking different languages, following different work cultures/norms, collaborating in multiple setups (remote, hybrid, onsite) post pandemic, and representing various functions of marketing and other disciplines such as technology, product, project management, tele-sales, etc.
TLDR version? Diversity has always been a core fabric of the teams I have built.
Marketing management in diverse B2B (business-to-business) companies presents unique opportunities and challenges. In today's global and interconnected marketplace, diversity is not only a matter of social responsibility but a strategic imperative. A diverse marketing team can provide fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a deeper understanding of a wide range of diverse audience needs and markets.
However, effective management of such a team requires a thoughtful and inclusive approach that leverages the strengths of diversity while fostering a cohesive and collaborative work environment. In this article, I'll share how both full-time and fractional CMOs can build a strong and diverse marketing team.
Why Is Diversity In B2B Marketing Important?
Diversity in B2B marketing is not just a matter of social responsibility; it is also a strategic advantage! Here are some key reasons why diversity is so crucial, and how it can benefit your business in a broader sense.
A diverse marketing team can better represent your target audience. B2B markets are made up of a wide range of businesses, industries, and individuals. Having a diverse team ensures that your marketing campaigns resonate with a broader spectrum of potential customers, clients, and partners.
Insights and Innovation
Diverse teams bring a variety of perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the table. This diversity of thought can lead to more innovative marketing strategies and campaigns, inform content marketing, build relevant customer experience, and create more inclusive marketing messages.
If your B2B marketing efforts extend beyond your local market, diversity becomes even more critical. A diverse team can help navigate cultural nuances, language barriers, and regional preferences, making it easier to connect with international clients and partners.
A diverse team is less likely to rely on stereotypes or unintentionally incorporate bias into marketing materials. This can help avoid alienating potential customers or perpetuating harmful stereotypes, which can damage your brand's reputation.
Increased Customer Trust
Businesses today are more likely to engage with companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion. Demonstrating a commitment to diversity in your marketing efforts can build trust with your B2B clients, who may also have their own diversity and inclusion initiatives.
A diverse marketing team can also contribute to the overall well-being of your organization. Employees who see diversity and inclusion in action are often more satisfied and engaged, which can lead to higher productivity and retention rates.
In a competitive B2B landscape, diversity can be a differentiator. Businesses that are known for their commitment to diversity may be more attractive to clients, partners, and potential employees.
Brand Image and Reputation
Public perception of your brand can be significantly influenced by your diversity efforts. A positive reputation for diversity can enhance your brand awareness, brand image and make it more appealing to a wider range of stakeholders
What Does A Diverse Marketing Team Look Like?
A diverse marketing team is a group of professionals with a wide range of backgrounds, demographics, industries, and experiences. You need all of these things in your b2b marketing team structure. Here is what it might look like:
Racial and Ethnic Diversity: The team comprises members from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, including people of color and reflecting the multicultural nature of your target audience.
Gender Diversity: The team includes individuals of different genders and sexual orientation including women, men, transgender individuals, and non-binary individuals, promoting gender diversity and inclusivity.
Age Diversity: The team consists of individuals across different age groups, from young millennials to seasoned professionals, ensuring that marketing campaigns resonate with a broad spectrum of age demographics.
Cultural Diversity: Team members come from diverse cultural backgrounds and ethnicities, and possess language skills that can help tailor marketing materials for specific markets and international audiences.
Educational and Professional Backgrounds: The team is composed of individuals with various educational backgrounds, including degrees in marketing, psychology, business, arts, and sciences, offering a wealth of skills and perspectives for creative marketing strategies.
Ability and Disabilities: Inclusivity extends to individuals with disabilities, ensuring that marketing materials are accessible to all and fostering a more inclusive work environment.
Thought Diversity: The team encompasses individuals with different thinking styles, problem-solving approaches, and levels of creativity, fostering innovation and creative marketing solutions.
Diversity of Roles: The team includes members with a variety of roles and skills, such as content creators, data analysts, designers, strategists, and social media specialists, ensuring comprehensive coverage of marketing functions.
All in all, a diverse marketing team brings together a wide array of individuals beyond demographics and color enabling your business to create more inclusive, relatable, and effective marketing strategies that resonate with diverse customer groups.
How To Manage A Diverse Marketing Team
Creating and sustaining a diverse marketing team requires commitment and effort from the marketing leadership team. I believe that actively managing a diverse workforce effectively is essential for harnessing the full potential of varied backgrounds and perspectives. Some strategies that have worked for me in managing a diverse marketing team successfully are as follows:
Create a culture of inclusivity where every team member feels safe, valued, and respected. Encourage open communication, active listening, and a safe space for sharing ideas and concerns.
Lead by Example
As a people leader, set the tone for inclusivity and diversity by demonstrating inclusive behaviors in your interactions with team members. This can also start with being intentional during the hiring process – not leaning on one kind of candidate and being open to interacting and giving opportunities to a diverse set of applicants.
Provide Diversity Training
Provide diversity and inclusion training for the entire team. This can help raise awareness, promote understanding, and ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the importance of diversity. These days several organizations have such training available as a part of the Learning & Development platform. Something that I have found very beneficial is to listen to DE&I leaders who have done significant work in the space and found success–leaders should find ways to invite these speakers to your company town halls or business unit meetings as live sessions have a much deeper and longer lasting impact on employees than on-demand training sessions.
Communicate Your Commitment
Communicate the organization's commitment to diversity and the benefits it brings to marketing efforts. Ensure that the team understands how diversity aligns with the company's mission and values. It is critical not to do this only during new employee onboarding or once a year in your annual town hall, but to make it a part of the ongoing all team meetings. It is too easy for everyone to get distracted or occupied with the next pressing topic and they need to continue to hear the company’s commitment to diversity.
Encourage collaboration and cross-functional teamwork. When diverse team members work together, they can bring different viewpoints to the table and develop more innovative marketing strategies. I make it a point to not close discussion on an important topic or brainstorming session without going around the room and soliciting attendee input. This makes everyone feel included and heard!
Open Feedback Channels
Establish channels for team members to provide feedback on diversity and inclusion issues. Some organizations make this a part of their semi-annual or annual employee engagement surveys. Individual team managers can seek more real time and actionable feedback from their teams via monthly or quarterly team discussions or anonymous virtual surveys. Act on their feedback to address concerns and make improvements. Action is critical here!
Recognize and celebrate cultural events, holidays, and milestones important to different team members. This fosters a sense of belonging and respect for diverse backgrounds.
Address Bias and Discrimination
In the cast of incidents of bias or discrimination, be sure to act swiftly. Ensure that there are clear policies in place for reporting and addressing such issues, and that these policies are communicated more frequently than during employee onboarding alone. While there is no one-size-fits-all policy, employers should follow one that’s ‘zero-tolerance’ where possible. This means that violations could potentially include suspension or termination.
Diversify Your Leadership
Promote diversity in leadership positions within the marketing team. The current ethnic skew of marketing/advertising space is at 32%, suggesting that there is much work left to do! While you always want to promote the very best person for the job, diverse leadership can help champion diversity initiatives and set an example for the rest of the team.
Track Diversity Metrics
Track diversity metrics such as ‘diversity in workforce vs application pool’, ‘diversity by organization level’, ‘job satisfaction and retention by employee cohorts’, and similar metrics to measure progress and hold the team accountable for diversity and inclusion goals.
Provide Educational Resources
Provide access to resources that promote diversity and inclusion, such as articles, webinars, and speakers who can share insights and experiences. When I worked at CNO Financial, we regularly invited external speakers who excelled in the DE&I space to employee town halls and other business/customer events. These investments build trust in the employer and solidify the top-down diversity related messages from leadership.
Ensure that all team activities and materials are accessible to individuals with disabilities, including digital content and physical spaces. Consider leveraging platforms like LevelAccess that not only have diagnostic ability, but can also assist with expedited addressing of all digital content.
Provide Feedback And Recognition
Regularly provide feedback and recognize the contributions of team members, acknowledging their diverse perspectives and accomplishments.
Keep Getting Better
I strongly believe that managing a diverse marketing team is an ongoing process. It requires a commitment to inclusivity, continuous learning, and a willingness to adapt as the team evolves.
Continue to Manage Powerfully
I hope these suggestions struck a chord with you and you will consider trying them with your teams. By fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion, you can leverage the strengths of your team to create more effective and resonant marketing campaigns. Feel free to share your thoughts and feedback below, or you can reach out to me on LinkedIn to continue the conversation.
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