Marketing Strategies

The 8 Challenges of Lean Marketing Teams

Discover the consistent and proven best practices that can make the most of your resources to drive outstanding business results.

Patrick Regan's avatar
Patrick Regan

May 21, 2018


It’s the same story every year: Marketing budgets are shrinking, teams are getting (or staying) lean, and there’s lots of scrutiny around results, ROI and the effectiveness of marketing programs.

Sound familiar? If you’re a small team—especially one tasked with managing a global brand—you feel that pain acutely.

But there are some consistent and proven best practices that can help you make the most of the resources you do have to drive outstanding results for your company.

Challenge #1: Hiring the Right People

For small marketing teams, every hire counts. One misstep impacts not just the culture of the team itself (which is huge), but the ability for that team to deliver on the marketing programs that are critical to the company’s success.

The key is to hire specialists who are also strong generalists. The success of smaller teams depends on people who are “T-shaped”—in other words, people who have depth in one or two areas but can be functional and helpful in a number of others to maximize their impact on your strategy.

Challenge #2: The Modern Velocity of Marketing

Digital marketing is moving at a breakneck pace, and it’s having a profound impact on marketers. Most struggle to understand the ever-changing landscape, and gain their footing.

The key to modern marketing success for small teams is in staying nimble, agile, and adaptable. Simplify your planning and approval processes to six-week cycles, and get comfortable with shifting gears quickly (and often).

Focus on nailing the basics, and executing on the things that get your most essential messages in front of your most important audiences.

Challenge #3: Prioritizing Efforts

When your team is small, it’s hard to balance the drive to do everything with the resources to only do some things.

Remember that in marketing, as in most things, the 80/20 rule typically applies. That means that 80% of the results you achieve will come from only 20% of your activities and initiatives.

Focus on nailing the basics, and executing on the things that get your most essential messages in front of your most important audiences.

Challenge #4: Content Overload

Content, content, content. It’s the battle cry you hear for modern marketing: “We must have more content!

But more isn’t always the answer.

Content is important, but for lean teams especially, it’s about quality over quantity. Focus on building evergreen assets that address your customers’ most important questions, and that can be remixed, repurposed and distributed in many different channels to maximize their lifespan and impact.

Challenge #5: Scaling and Automating

The key for many small teams is to “punch above your weight class,” or to have a few people able to do the work of many more through the help of things like technology.

Don’t be afraid to invest budget in software or other tech solutions that can help you automate the everyday tasks and processes. That helps your team focus on the meatier problems that require depth of knowledge and critical thinking.

Challenge #6: Not Enough Hands and Brains

Sometimes, technology alone isn’t enough to help you scale. That’s when small teams need partners, vendors, and agencies that can help them execute on the strategies that might just require a bit more horsepower.

Outsourcing some of the expertise you need can help you save time, money and prevent you from making some of the mistakes they’ve seen a thousand times.

Challenge #7: Drowning in Yesterday’s Marketing

We may be in the midst of a digital revolution, but plenty of companies haven’t really made the shift. They’re still relying on print marketing, live events, and expensive direct mail.

If yours is one of them, considering how digital can help advance your business is the best gift you can give to a small team. Digital is just how business gets done today, but for small marketing teams, the ability to work in the cloud and on the web can save time, money, and resources that can be better spent on scaling the business and driving growth.

We may be in the midst of a digital revolution, but plenty of companies haven’t really made the shift.

Challenge #8: Long Cycle Learning

Marketing teams in the past would spend months making an annual plan, and then the entire course of a year executing on those plans.

Today, the answer is to set shorter term goals, have regular, simplified reporting in place, and to be comfortable with failing fast so that adjustments and pivots can be made based on learnings, in real-time.


Lean marketing teams are more of the norm today than the exception, but they can certainly be mighty and powerful.

Don’t let your small size stop you; make a few key investments and prioritize well, and you’ll be able to stand toe to toe with the largest marketing teams … and win.

Last updated on May 21, 2018
Patrick Regan's avatar

About Patrick Regan

For more than 15 years, Patrick Regan has created win-win partnerships by matching his solutions to prospective customers’ needs and objectives. When he’s not working, he enjoys being a dad, the adventures of parenthood, and watching his favorite football team play on Saturdays. (Go Noles!)

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