How Target built a world-class digital marketing team: Tips from CMO Jeff Jones

May 7, 2016 by ahmed

 

Originally posted on Linkedin by Kyle Wong

Brands create elaborate marketing strategy plans in hopes of attaining that elusive goal: to deliver a great experience that reels customers in and keeps them coming back. Unfortunately, there’s a wide gulf between what brands want to do with digital and what they actually do — because they simply can’t hire enough top-tier digital marketing talent to execute on their visions.

For example, brands know they should embrace social, visual storytelling, and experiential marketing to connect with Millennials, but they aren’t able to hire the talent who can execute on these emerging trends. Competition for superstar digital marketers is fierce, with companies such as Facebook and Google, as well as deep-pocketed startups, snatching up the best and brightest.

So how can brands attract the kind of talent they need to stay relevant? Target is a prime example of an established retail brand that does digital marketing well. Target’s stock is trading near its record high and the company has strong revenue growth – and that’s in large part due to a talented marketing team. Target spends well over $1 billion a year on marketing and has over 1,000 team members on its global marketing team. I recently sat down with Target CMO Jeff Jones to find out how his company attracts – and keeps – the best digital marketing talent.

What’s unique about Target?

There are four main reasons top digital marketers choose to join Target, according to Jones. First, they know “marketing has a seat at the table.” In other words, marketers at Target feel their work is valuable and their voices will be heard. Second, they know Target is willing to try experimental digital marketing trends – from sponsoring Gwen Stefani’s performance of a live commercial video at the Grammy Awards to the company’s billion-dollar mobile coupon app business, Cartwheel, to the Target Media Network that lets brands connect with Target shoppers online, on mobile, and in-store via creative marketing content. All of these initiatives were conceived and built entirely in-house. Third, at Target, digital marketing isn’t just a cost center. Every program must meet specific revenue goals, making the digital marketing team a strategic part of company growth. Fourth, they know the work they do will reach millions of consumers; more than 30 million people visit Target stores, and 20 million make purchases online, each week.

Of course, not every company has the pull of Target. So what can you do to attract top digital marketing talent if you aren’t already a multibillion-dollar brand beloved by hundreds of millions of consumers? Jeff has a few tips for any organization looking to snag great marketers.

Tell your unique marketing story

You can’t attract great marketing talent if you don’t have a great marketing story. Target is well-known for launching cool campaigns, trying cutting-edge techniques, and building a cohesive brand message. If you’re a small company, you’ll have to work harder to “tell your story” to potential candidates. First, get your CMO involved directly in hiring, sending him or her out on the road to meet potential candidates, give talks, and connect with aspiring marketers at top universities. Use every communications strategy possible to share your company’s passion for cutting-edge marketing – from articles and content, to speeches, videos, and more. Showcase your marketing wins, but also be honest about challenges. The best talent loves to tackle big challenges through new marketing methods. Most important, articulate your company’s vision for the future. Talented, ambitious people want to work at companies with a clear vision to change the world.

Understand the barriers keeping talent away

Sometimes, top talent isn’t interested in working for your company for an easy-to-fix reason. Target, for example, realized some go-getters weren’t willing to relocate to the company’s headquarters in Minneapolis, so they opened offices in San Francisco and New York. Other times, marketers stay away because of a deeper problem. For example, one common issue is that companies “silo” their marketing teams into groups such as social, video/TV, online, traditional, etc. But the best marketers don’t want to work in vacuums. They want to work on teams that cross-pollinate ideas, contributing directly to the company’s overall growth. If your marketing teams are fractured, consider bringing everyone together under one division, allowing team members to interact with one another on a daily basis. Jones is convinced Target’s “one big marketing team” is a fundamental reason the company has been so successful in telling a cohesive brand story.

Think ahead to retention

Attracting top talent is only the first step – retention is even more important, and far more difficult. Target deals with potential poaching of its top talent on a regular basis, so the company puts a focus on retention. Jones points out that retention can’t be tackled in broad strokes; leaders must take time to truly understand the individual aspirations of each person and help them achieve these goals over time. Always try to spot signs of discontent early, and then work with the individual to create a path forward that makes her feel appreciated, valued, and supported. Of course, what the best talent values is outlined above: a seat at the executive table, being part of a cross-pollinating team, and proof their work contributes directly to the bottom line. Make sure you don’t just promise these “golden tickets,” but actually deliver on them every day.

Only brands that embrace the newest marketing methods will survive in the next decade. Thus, those companies unable to hire top digital talent will be the first to fail. Even the best digital strategy is moot unless you have digital talent to execute on your vision. Make sure your company is a fantastic place to work for digital marketers and you’ll have a good shot at building a successful marketing organization like Target.

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