Our team interviewed marketing managers of family businesses in a wide range of industries. We learned that many of them were feeling burned out from entirely avoidable situations. By offering clarity, focus, and professional development, leaders of family businesses can set up these key employees for success.

Three Ways You’re Burning Out Your Marketing Manager – And Three Solutions

When you spend as much time as I do talking to CEOs and executives in family businesses, you can start to get a distorted view of reality.

I know some of you are nodding along, thinking that you have to be a little crazy to work with your parents, kids, in-laws, or Great Uncle Herbert. But that’s not what I mean. I often only hear the executive side of the story, and I miss the perspective of others in the organization who have keen insights into the day-to-day opportunities and issues within a business… if not always the power to act on their insights.

So our team took the time to talk to marketing managers this summer. These are often key employees who are “caught in the middle” – they are overseeing the work of internal marketing teams or agencies, and they report to owners or executives who may know very little about marketing or branding.

These conversations quickly yielded patterns and key take-aways you can benefit from. Because chances are, if you have a marketing manager, you are probably burning them out.

Here are three things that you or the person overseeing your marketing manager are likely doing that need to stop. (Get the full report here.)

#1: You know what you want, but can’t clearly explain it.
(And even if you think you are being clear, chances are, you aren’t.) This was one of the most common frustrations of marketing managers. They desperately want to “get it right” for the executive team, but they don’t always have a clear idea about what “right” looks like… they just know what is wrong because they have been burned multiple times.

We heard marketing managers expressing that their most important professional goals were to be good stewards of the company’s investment in marketing. They often cited their worst fears were “letting people down.”

These are qualities that you want in an employee, but these same qualities combined with lack of clear direction can be a recipe for frustration on all sides.

If you’ve ever said (or thought) “I’ll know it when I see it,” you are guilty of this. And as frustrating as it may feel to actually have to take the time to communicate what you know by instinct, it is worth it.

In order to accomplish this, you will likely need a colleague or trusted advisor to ask you questions and help you clarify your ideas. Then challenge yourself to state them as positives, not negatives. Sometimes you are just too close to your own vision to be able to formulate it clearly.

A checklist for clear direction would look something like this:

  • Have you stated the outcome you want? Is it a positive statement? (not just specifying what you don’t want)
  • Have you clearly defined how you will know when this outcome has been achieved? What evidence will you see/hear/feel?
  • What are the obstacles to achieving that outcome? What are the resources available to them (people, information, budget)?
  • Have you provided examples of when this has been done in the past, or when you have seen it done in other companies? This is especially important if you are providing some kind of creative direction… Words like “bright” or “authentic” can be achieved in a lot of different ways, and mean different things to different people.

#2: You are putting too much on their plates.
When I see this, it is usually done with good intentions, and often as a sign of respect. Chances are, if you are guilty of this, you are lucky enough to have a marketing manager who “gets it.” They understand your industry and your business pretty well, they can write and communicate succinctly, and you work well together.

Unfortunately, these capable people get flooded with requests and responsibilities. They are constantly having to juggle the short-term urgent requests with the long-term strategic priorities asked of them. Plus, they are conscientious and don’t want to let you or anyone else down. It is a recipe for frustration and burnout in the best times, but now with labor shortages in every industry, it is even more likely.

One solution to help to minimize burnout and also to develop this person as a leader is to enable them to delegate. This might mean introducing them to a prioritization tool like the Eisenhower Matrix, and then providing them with a budget to outsource tasks that are not important to freelancers on Upwork or an existing agency partner. Even if the budget is not large to start, empowering them to manage their own priorities with support while still being accountable for the same outcomes will help to build leadership skills and stave off burnout.

We also heard from marketing managers who feel like the “marketing” part of their job often gets second priority to being a support to the sales team. It can be helpful to better differentiate between marketing and sales. This could include providing the sales team with a separate support role specifically to tackle time-sensitive requests such as presentation decks, sell sheets, and lead tracking.

#3: They aren’t receiving professional development opportunities.
In family businesses, many people learn the job while they are on the job. That can be great to pass down industry knowledge or company-specific processes, but for a rapidly evolving field like marketing, it is not enough.

Without access to expertise and peers, many marketing managers feel worried that they are missing out on opportunities, or are working off of old assumptions. For many of them, the feeling that the company has been doing marketing the same way for years is both concerning and frustrating, but they don’t have the insights or the skills needed to suggest changes confidently.

When we spoke with high-performing marketing departments, they often cited professional development at conferences and peer learning as being critical to their confidence level and job satisfaction. But where to begin?

Our Effective Marketing Manager report lists some of the most often cited sources of professional development

How we can help
Six-Point is now offering our new Aligned Brand program that combines professional development, peer learning, and marketing plan development. Our inaugural six-week cohort kicks off in October!