June 09, 2008

Rebuild Your Database Marketing Department: Part 1

Set High Expectations.

You've been handed a department that you believe is broken. People don't get along. Your staff fail to obey "best practices".

You can fix this problem by forcing everybody to do everything your way. How often have you seen this happen? The new boss comes in with her own "system", and requires that everybody do things her way.

A weak leader demands that everybody do things a certain way. A weak leader tells you to put the shopping cart in the upper right hand corner of an e-mail marketing campaign. A weak leader demands you participate in every catalog co-op. A weak leader demands that a spreadsheet be formatted a certain way, with certain columns populated a certain way.

A strong leader sets high expectations.

Here are some of the things the new database marketing leader might do in year one.
  • Demand that all employees work a full work week. Don't demand the location they work from.
  • Demand that all employees get along, or they will not keep their job.
  • Demand that all employees attend at least one industry conference, and implement at least one thing they learned at their conference.
  • Demand that all employees submit a career advancement plan to you, and it is perfectly fine for the employee to tell you that he is happy where he is.
  • Demand that the entire department spend the first six months of the year calculating the profit they contribute to the company on an annual basis, and then demand that in the second half of the year, the department increase total profit by ten percent.
These are simple objectives.

More important, you aren't telling anybody "HOW" to do them. You are simply setting expectations that create a winning culture.

And then, you're going to HOLD people to these objectives. If they don't follow them, they don't get a raise. If they fight against the objectives and act in a subversive manner, they don't work in your department anymore. You act consistently, showing favoritism only for the folks who enthusiastically embrace the objectives and improve profitability. This is hard to do, and it is painful. But you do it.

The first step in rebuilding a database marketing department is setting high expectations. The second step is to follow through.

In my first six months at Nordstrom, in 2001, my expectations drove eight of ten employees out of the company, via retirement, via quitting, via being let go. It nearly cost me my job. But the rebuilding process made 2003, 2004, and 2005 among the best years I've seen a team have.

Set high expectations. This process begins and ends with YOU, not with software, not by implementing a system, not by hiring the right people. It starts with your leadership.