As a senior marketing leader, you’re all too familiar with the slowdowns and trainwrecks caused by silos and a lack of alignment between different teams and functions in the marketing ecosystem. CMOs consistently name this one of the biggest barriers to smooth marketing operations and achieving desired results.

However, the solution isn’t just better communication or coordination between isolated teams and roles. The most effective marketing organizations (MEMOs) know that true cross-functional collaboration bridging organizational gaps requires a fundamental shift in how marketing is structured and how work gets done.

In today’s marketing landscape, versatility, agility and speed are paramount. Initiatives require input, execution and buy-in from countless roles across the organization – from creative to analytics, operations to IT and beyond. Rigid boundaries between these roles and a lack of shared context stifle innovation and create friction.

So what secrets do MEMOs know about how to break down silos and foster an environment of seamless cross-functional collaboration? 

Secret 1: Pods FTW!

Rather than having rigidly siloed teams organized by strict function or channel, many MEMOs organize their marketing initiatives into multidisciplinary pods. Each pod brings together all the roles and skill sets needed to plan, execute and optimize a particular marketing area in a unified, collaborative way. The organizational chart doesn’t change; it only changes the approach to the work.

For example, you might have a “digital demand gen” pod with search marketers, marketing ops, web developers, conversion analysts and sales enablement. Or a “product marketing” pod with product experts, messaging strategists, content creators and sales trainers. You could also consider creating pods for a specific campaign, product, or line of business. 

Pod members don’t need to be dedicated to a single pod; individual SMEs can work in multiple pods simultaneously as appropriate for the volume of work in each. 

The exact composition varies depending on the charter, but the core premise is the same: Embed all the functions needed to deliver holistic, exceptional work within each pod. This eliminates the inefficiency and misalignment that can happen with multiple handoffs and encourages shared accountability and deep collaboration from the outset of the effort.

Secret 2: Redundancy isn’t always a dirty word

In addition to mixing functions within each pod, consider intentionally having some redundancy and overlapping responsibilities between pod members. While this may seem counterintuitive, it can prevent the “get out of my sandbox” and the “that’s not my job” mindsets.

For example, your web developer and MOps specialist within a pod could share responsibilities around managing the marketing stack and automations. Or your messaging strategist and your content marketing manager could both weigh in on content strategy discussions.

This pooling of responsibilities builds empathy and respect between roles while promoting knowledge sharing and a spirit of trust and collaboration. Leaders of MEMOs cite a few other advantages to this approach as well. It prevents the team from suffering from single-source-of-failure syndrome and PTO paralysis.

Secret 3: No, really, you cannot communicate enough 

Pods cannot become islands, though. Open communication across pods, frequent check-ins and a shared understanding of the big-picture vision are critical to keeping them all facing the same direction.

Leverage technology to make it easy for everyone to access and understand the current objectives, priorities and workstreams across the entire marketing ecosystem. A shared project management tool with automated dashboards, real-time reporting and analytics is a great place to start.

MEMOs also utilize technology for digital asset management and knowledge sharing, which helps to provide context on top of the nuts-and-bolts workflow information.

And be intentional about creating forums for pods and individuals to sync up regularly. Standing meetings, slack channels and in-person events can all help maintain the constant flow of information and context needed for harmonious collaboration.

Dig deeper: The 4 secrets of effective communication

Secret 4: Collaboration is a culture and the eyes are on you 

Even with the right structures and systems in place, these ways of working can still fail without the right culture and leadership. In MEMOs, collaboration is a culture, not a process.

You and your senior leaders need to model and actively nurture an environment of psychological safety where people feel comfortable taking risks, voicing opinions, dissenting and challenging the status quo without fear of embarrassment or retribution.

Beyond just creating safety, MEMOs actively seek opportunities to hear and amplify diverse perspectives. They give equal platform to ideas from all levels and all roles within their teams and practice inclusive decision-making.

Lead with humility and humanity. Show vulnerability, admit mistakes and create space for people to bring their full authentic selves to collaborations rather than just showing up as titles or roles.

Most importantly, ensure that you, as a senior leader, are modeling these behaviors openly for your teams to see. Invite your peers to department meetings and publish joint reports or memos. If you’re in an office, be seen working and lunching together. 

Dig deeper: How to foster effective collaboration between marketing and IT

Secret 5: Your most important partners are probably not in your marketing org

Finally, the notion of “cross-functional” should be expanded beyond the marketing sphere. MEMOs are tightly integrated and aligned with other core business units like sales, product, customer success, HR, legal, etc. They work lock-step to deliver seamless customer experiences.

Consider embedding cross-functional representatives from these groups into relevant marketing pods and workstreams from the outset. Bring external partners like agencies, consultants and vendors closer into the fold in meaningful ways beyond just outsourced execution. The more, the merrier.

Promoting knowledge sharing and cross-team alignment

Silos prevent good work from being delivered at the speed of culture. Breaking down silos isn’t just about improving efficiency or boosting productivity — it’s about creating an environment where people feel valued, heard and inspired to do their best work. 

It’s possible to bridge those gaps inside and outside the marketing ecosystem by proactively reconsidering working team structures, building in some intentional overlap and ensuring that communication and information-sharing are frequent and easy. Actively support safety and diversity and broaden your definition of “partner.” Let’s start tearing down those walls.

Dig deeper: Unifying the C-suite: A roadmap for CMO-CTO partnerships

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