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Managing The Digital Marketing Culture Shift

By Christopher Hosford on September 27, 2019

In this blog series on developing a strong marketing plan for your company, we’ve most recently covered assembling a strategic marketing operations team, and the key personnel roles in modern digital marketing that you should consider filling.


Let’s now turn to perhaps an unexpected aspect of all this: not your own expectations of the people you need, but rather to their expectations.


I don’t have to tell you that printers are very time-oriented. In many cases, you’re essentially a manufacturing operation. Printers think of themselves as engineers and manufacturers of print, not necessarily as marketers. But if you want to attract strong marketing talent, there may be a need to change your work environment. To attract the best and brightest, you may need to think less like a manufacturing company and more like a Silicon Valley high-tech company.


Some background on the changing landscape of today’s employees:


In a survey by recruitment company Robert Half Management Resources, each age group demonstrates different approaches to work, including Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1961), Gen X (1962-81), Gen Y (1982-2000), and the youngest, Gen Z. Among the biggest differences are in communication skills, and the ability to adapt to change. You may have noticed some of the findings already:


  • Communications. Boomers are more reserved than later generations, and favor a “control-and-command style,” both from above and toward those under them. Meanwhile, Gen Y (AKA, millennials) prefer a more collaborative approach, while Gen Z enjoy interpersonal relations.


  • Change management. Boomers may be uncomfortable with change, and marketers know that being agile and ready to take advantage of new opportunities is key. Gens X view change most positively, in particular as a pathway to new opportunities.


You probably already have a multigenerational workforce, or will have shortly when your marketing operations team is in place. Your marketing leader will probably be older (but not necessarily); your content writer will probably be a seasoned journalist but not a graybeard; your technologist will probably be on the youngish side but with marketing experience, and your social media manager will definitely hail from Gen Y or even Z.


Here are some thoughts to keep in mind about who in your marketing team does what when, how they might individually approach their work, and the kinds of feedback they prefer from you, the boss.


As a (very) general rule, your older employees prefer formal feedback, both from the boss and, in turn, toward those they manage. This indeed may be a preferable approach for marketing leaders, tasked with charting strategy and keeping things on a steady course. But keep the following in mind.


Gen X prefers feedback more often, associated with accomplishments in real time; call it the “Hey, great job!” approach. And millennials really like feedback often and regularly, even weekly, regardless of results; you might assume they’re relatively unsure of themselves, but in reality they’re probably bonding with their managers—a good thing.


As for what might be called “work ethic,” Gen Y expects a healthy work-life balance. They often prefer to work their own hours, including from home, if it allows them recreational and personal time. Meanwhile, the youngsters of Gen Z may be the most loyal. They’re generally passionate about doing good in the world, in particular if your brand vision is committed to that as well.


There are lots of variations here. I personally know Boomers who are immensely tech savvy, and Gen Yers who are nose-to-the-grindstone types. The point is, don’t be surprised that you have so many different personality types and expectations in your marketing ops team.


For print business owners and managers, a good way to approach marketing is to loosen your time- and production-intensive approach and allow the team to work in the style best suited for them. Acknowledge the efforts of each team member regardless of their work styles.


Of course continue to maintain standards, including time management and deadlines, and be on top of measuring marketing success. But remember that everyone’s different, and probably nowhere so variable as in your marketing operations team.


Call it “The Power of Four,” encompassing the industriousness and creativity of these four generations, each in his or her own way, to infuse your marketing with excitement and success. Good luck.


Christopher Hosford is a contributing editor with Target Marketing. He was editor-in-chief of Sales & Marketing Management magazine and East Coast bureau chief with Advertising Age’s BtoB magazine, and has covered all aspects of marketing, advertising and sales.