Unlocking the potential in your marketing team for a successful 2021

by Feb 24, 2021

If there’s anything that 2020 gave us, it was the opportunity to see our pain points more clearly. Never before have businesses and marketing teams been so exposed to their weaknesses than when they were up against 2020’s lockdowns and economic challenges. And while we can dwell on why last year was so difficult, great marketing teams will use those challenges to sharpen their work. They’ll make 2021 bigger and better than ever before. They will innovate, advance ahead in digital transformation, and focus on agile working. 

I’ve already seen some businesses do great things out of 2020 – and I can already tell 2021 will see marketing teams doing even better. Every marketing team has the potential to be a powerhouse, driving growth and innovation. 

But to do great things, we’ve got a few challenges to address. Throughout my years consulting, I’ve spotted a number of weaknesses popping up time and time again – and a huge amount of potential going to waste. All that potential going unlocked only holds marketing teams back. You might’ve read my earlier blog about missing potential – now let’s dig into what potential needs to be unlocked for a successful 2021.


Prioritising what’s important

All too often, marketing teams aren’t doing their best work because they’re so bogged down in unnecessary admin. Teams struggle to prioritise what’s actually important (and deprioritise what isn’t) – leading to an awful lot of wasted time! Being busy shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, successful marketing teams work harder and smarter on what actually matters to achieving their vision.

Instead of just filling everyone’s task lists, set aside time to gain a mutual understanding of what’s essential to work on and what is just clutter. Then, give your team permission to focus their energy, time, resources and creativity around those priorities.

Only when you’ve got your priorities in place and a system around them can you really be efficient and give yourself the best opportunity to grow. 

To help teams gain clarity and alignment on what matters most to them right now, we use the Effort/Impact Scale in our leadership process. To do it yourself, get everyone to write down all the projects they have planned for the next quarter on post-it notes and stick them up on the wall. Give each person voting dots and have them select the project/s that are the most important in the first quarter to complete. Then place the top votes projects on the Effort/Impact Scale to understand which projects are the short-term priority, which ones are the longer-term projects and which ones you shouldn’t even be putting the effort into doing. 


Addressing uncertainty

Coming out of 2020, some marketing teams are simply afraid to change. In the face of uncertainty, they hesitate – which may see them lagging behind even further in 2021. If I could instil one thing in every marketer, it would be confidence in their ability to problem-solve and to try new things in the face of adversity – and the agile thinking to do it quickly. I’d love to see teams ready to pivot and change at short notice.

How ready do you think your team is to change in the face of challenges? How do you think your team would react if something challenging popped up suddenly? Do you have your systems and processes in place to change?

To find out, I’d recommend completing the change readiness assessment I released near the end of last year (you can find it here). You’ll gain insights into how equipped you are as a marketing team to deal with change – and how to get more prepared.

As they say, change is the only constant! It’s never going away, so it’s time we all got comfortable with it. We can’t be afraid of the future and the uncertainty it might bring; instead, we have to address it and be as prepared as possible for any surprises that come our way. That comes through alignment within your team, and strong and considered leadership – which you might’ve already read my thoughts on in my recent blog.


Aligning the vision with strategy

The beginning of the year is a better time than ever to get your whole team aligned and onboard for the year ahead. Reinvigorated from the summer break, your team members will hopefully bring a new and excited mindset to get inspired for the year ahead.

When establishing your goals and vision for the year ahead, it’s important to get everyone’s input. Ask your team:

What did we do differently last year that we should keep doing?What should we stop doing?

What pain points did we experience last year? Where are we vulnerable?

What do we want to achieve this year?

Who do we want to be for the customers we serve?

During this type of session, we recommend using the approach of ‘Together Alone’. Have everyone write one answer per post-it note, then place on the wall. By doing this, everyone writes their contributions without being influenced by others in the room. This will help negate the stronger personalities and ensure everyone contributes. 

If you want to save time in 2021, get your team connected, aligned around this vision, and speaking a common language. You’ll avoid time wasted discussing mundane details and unnecessary work. Instead, you’ll be able to do better work more efficiently.


Making 2021 better than ever

Many marketing teams seem to think they won’t ever be interrupted – that they won’t ever fail or won’t ever have a significant challenge impact their work. But that certainly isn’t the case.

If teams don’t adapt or innovate, their competitors will. If teams aren’t agile and are slow to work, their competitors will be faster. Other businesses will capitalise on opportunities that distracted and uninspired teams fail to notice.

We’ve all been hard hit by what 2020 threw at us – but will your marketing team be one of those that come out of the tough times more resilient? Will you be the ones to innovate, to come up with the creative solutions that will mean 2021 is the best year yet? Unlocking potential in your marketing team is the first step to making that happen.


Divergent is on a mission to transform marketing into the powerhouse we know it can be. Too much potential in marketing teams goes to waste – but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Through innovation problem-solving workshops, growth marketing and strategy sprints and consulting, Divergent harnesses a team’s potential to help them innovate and implement solutions that drive business growth.