The 4 secrets of effective communication

If your marketing team can't communicate with each other, how do you expect them to communicate your message to the world?

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Is your marketing team communicating effectively?

Everything in marketing is built upon communication. Being able to have a powerful message and present it clear and memorable way is critical. Without communication, there would be no marketing.

It turns out internal communication is equally, if not more, important than communication with your customers.

The reality? Most marketing teams struggle to communicate with themselves, resulting in a wide array of dysfunctions that destroy performance. Poor communication affects everything, brings progress to a halt, creates duplicate and failed work, and drastically hinders quality and performance.

Improving the communication of your marketing team isn’t just essential — doing so will boost your performance faster than almost anything else.

4 things that kill communication

To understand how to improve communication among your team, let’s first cover the primary areas where most marketing teams fail to communicate effectively.

1. Meetings: I estimate that 99% of the marketing team’s calendar is filled with back-to-back meetings every single day. How does anyone get any work done?

Put simply, meetings are terrible.

  • No one enjoys them
  • No one is prepared
  • Actionable takeaways are usually nonexistent
  • The required people are often not present
  • People join late
  • There are technical issues (Jon, you’re on mute)
  • They result in repeating information
  • No one takes good notes

Other than that, meetings are a great idea.

If you want to transform your team, boost morale and skyrocket productivity…we need to reimagine how to approach meetings.

2. Email: Who likes receiving email? I sure don’t.

We all get too many emails by an order of magnitude. Plus, the inbox is a place where things get lost. It was never designed for the purpose we’re trying to use it for.

On top of that, it’s hard to tell the tone of the message which leads to people taking offense, being confused, or both.

Email also requires follow-up with lots of back-and-forth messages. And since you can’t easily add in people to see the history—or remove them without someone messing it up—it’s a hellscape that must be avoided at all costs.

3. Project management tools: Rest assured, the right project management tool will save your team, make managing campaigns effortless, and keep everyone on track every single day.

Just kidding. It won’t do any of that.

Instead, it will annoy the hell out of you with 153 notifications every day, make it more complicated to find the stuff you need, and still not give you any clear idea of how things are progressing.

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Don’t worry. You can always switch to the latest trendy project management platform next quarter and hope for the best.

Can we stop this madness? 

Project management platforms are all basically the same, and they don’t manage projects for you, even if your team believes they will.

4. Hidden messages: Has this ever happened on your team?

A small group makes a decision or has a conversation and never tells anyone else. Or a key person isn’t included (even unintentionally) in an important conversation.

The communication happened, but it happened in the shadows. It wasn’t said to everyone. It wasn’t documented. And there’s no record or context. 

Not to mention the fact that other people may believe or have said competing things on the topic. 

Now what do we do?

Unfortunately, this happens all the time in any team, but especially often in marketing teams. And it’s a massive problem that must be addressed if you want to improve your team’s communication.

The 4 secrets

Here are the core principles of effective communication that I’ve learned after years of coaching marketing teams and seeing first-hand what works and what doesn’t.

1. Delete your meetings: When I say delete your meetings, I mean it. We live in a remote world, yet we’re still operating as if we were in the office. It’s no surprise that it isn’t working.

The key to effective communication isn’t more or better meetings—it’s to eliminate the need for meetings altogether. In the modern world, operating asynchronously isn’t only easier, it’s also much more effective. This is especially true of global teams who work across a multitude of time zones.

Creating systems and processes that streamline operations and communications, including writing communication, documentation and structured channels of messaging, can eliminate 70% of your team’s meetings.

I tell all of my clients to “Loom not Zoom,” meaning to send a 5-minute Loom video rather than wasting time in a meeting on Zoom. There’s a whole host of benefits to this approach, including:

  • It’s faster and easier
  • Anyone can watch it when they are available
  • It can be rewatched later (for reference or recall)
  • It can be shared with others (no need to repeat yourself)
  • It serves as a historical document
  • The team can comment on a specific timestamp in the video (really useful)
  • It tracks who watched it and when (also useful)

I could go on and on about the benefits of Loom over Zoom. The point is—just do it. Stop wasting countless hours in meetings and get your team hooked on short, to-the-point videos instead.

Are there times when having a meeting is still the best choice? Sure. But 9 times out of 10 meetings are horrible and should be avoided.

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2. Email is obsolete: In a world of texting and chats, email is obsolete. You don’t still have a fax number, do you?

Get out of the inbox. Inbox Zero is the right idea with the wrong definition. The proper meaning is that you should have zero inboxes, or spend zero time in your inbox. Email is a trap because it wasn’t designed for the world we live in today. 

Get your team on Slack immediately. Learn how to use it and set up the proper structure and systems so that every type of message has a proper place and procedure. There’s definitely some work involved in building out the right operations to keep things organized, but it’s worth it.

Set up your channels. Train your team on using threads. Set a good example and build communication systems. The right structure and systems will allow you to avoid the inbox altogether and experience communication bliss. Your team will always know what’s happening, how and where to respond, and everyone will be in the loop at all times.

Yes, it’s possible — just not with email.

3. Install a project process: Project management tools are like racecars: super powerful if you know how to drive it, otherwise, you’re going to crash.

Having a project management tool is essential, but it’s only 20% of the solution. To get the real value from it you need a project process, which is a way to manage the inputs and outputs of the tool.

  • What are the categories of projects?
  • What templates exist, and are they being used (and up-to-date)?
  • Who can add things (and where and how)?
  • What is your approval process?
  • How are requirements provided and accepted?
  • What are the stages of work, and how do they change based on the type of work?
  • How do you manage the capacity of the team?

These are just some of the common questions that marketing teams overlook when adopting a project management solution. It helps to have a project manager to ensure the proper use of such a tool. Regardless, you must define the process of how projects are managed. This process needs to be detailed, comprehensive, documented and drilled into everyone’s heads. Then it has to be enforced ruthlessly.

If you do, your team will be able to make progress every day, increase quality, and skyrocket productivity.

4. Write it down: It didn’t happen unless it was written down. It’s true of communication, decisions and virtually anything else when managing a marketing team. The bigger your team, the more important it is to write down everything.

You must ensure that whenever your team has an important conversation, reviews performance or makes a decision, it gets documented. This means you need to define—in advance—where and how that will happen. 

Documenting your communication allows you to increase visibility and transparency. It also creates a historical record that can be referenced. Most importantly, it holds people accountable.

Writing it down means creating an artifact—a historical record. You could use video to do the same thing, as long as it’s recorded in some way that can be stored, shared, and referred back to at a later date.

Talk to your team

Communication is key for every marketing team. If you want to improve it, start by talking with your team. Ask for their feedback on where communication is lacking and how it can be improved.

Whenever communication fails, or something goes awry, write it down. Take time to reflect on it and figure out how to build or improve your systems and structure to prevent it in the future.

Every marketing team can and should be focused on improving their communication. Start small and take action by applying one of these principles in your team. Perhaps it’s moving away from meetings, escaping the inbox, or building a process for managing projects. No matter what, you’ll be able to improve your communication, get better performance, and enjoy a little less chaos every day.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Tim Parkin
Tim Parkin is a consultant, advisor, and coach to marketing executives globally. He specializes in helping marketing teams optimize performance, accelerate growth, and maximize their results. By applying more than 20 years of experience merging behavioral psychology and technology, Tim has unlocked rapid and dramatic growth for global brands and award-winning agencies alike. He is a speaker, author, and thought leader who has been featured in AdAge, AdWeek, Inc, TechCrunch, Forbes, and many other major industry publications. Tim is also a member of the American Marketing Association, Society for the Advancement of Consulting, and an inductee to the Million Dollar Consulting Hall of Fame.

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