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Technology has become a critical factor in every marketing organization’s ability to be successful.  Skills in areas such as website development; marketing automation management; CRM integration; search engine optimization and website analytics have become just as important as the traditional marketing disciplines of public relations, competitive analysis, brand management and product marketing.

Skills such as website development, marketing automation management and search engine optimization are in high demand in the marketplace. It is likely that your technical talent is your highest retention risk.  And that is a big problem if you work at a smaller company.  When the person running your Marketo software quits your lead nurturing programs go on hold.  When the web developer managing your Drupal system jumps ship then your websites go into code freeze.

So what are you doing to convince these marketing techs that their future is best served by staying with your organization?  Compensation incentives such as above average raises, annual bonuses or retention packages are levers that some may be able to pull.  But the blockers in HR often limit how extensively you can use these.

Another approach is to create a designated career development program for these individuals, which offers non-cash incentives to stay. What types of incentives might work?  Below are three:

1.       Designated budget for participation in training sessions and conferences.  Think WordCamp or Eloqua Experience.

2.       Assigned mentors within the company who can foster their technical skills development.

3.       Hosting offsite meetings to discuss best practices and ideas. Consider bringing in an outside consultant or members of your agency to participate.

No matter how attractive you make your compensation or career development programs, people are going to leave.  These days you are lucky if you can retain top talent for three years.  So a contingency planning strategy is required as well.  Some suggestions:

1.       Train as many of your marketing team as possible on the self-service aspects of your website content management system, marketing automation management software and online advertising accounts.  That way even if you lose critical technical talent you will still be able to send email distributions, run ad campaigns and post website changes.

2.       Cross-train employees in key skill technologies so that you are at least two deep in key discipline.  Make sure more than one person knows who to create forms and landing pages.  Train a few people on how to reboot your webserver.  This is useful not only for attrition, but allowing people to really go on vacation to avoid burn-out.

3.       Build a network of freelancers or backup personnel at your agencies to provide additional redundancy.  Most agency staffers don’t want to run your email marketing programs day-to-day.  Most design firms don’t want to be in the business of applying content changes to your website.  But they are usually happy to accommodate for a few months until you can backfill your staff.

Finally, consider whether you are sufficiently staffed with technical versus creative and product people.  What percentage of your marketing staff are technical today?  What percentage should be – 30%, 40%, 50% or higher?

Steve Keifer

Steve Keifer has led marketing and product management teams at seven different SaaS and cloud providers ranging from venture-backed, early-stage startups to multi-billion, publicly traded companies - including several that experienced hypergrowth, filed IPOs, and reached unicorn status. In Bantrr, Steve shares many of the best practices and lessons learned from building and scaling marketing organizations. Topics include new category creation, brand development, and demand generation.

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