Unsupported, under-resourced and frantically busy: Australian marketing teams are in crisis

Natalie Coulson, founder and director of Amped Up Marketing & Communications, looks at the pressure points challenging the marketing industry.

When fellow boutique agency owner Nicki Sciberras and I set ourselves a challenge this year to speak to as many marketers as we could, we didn’t realise how many teams would be at crisis point. 

Instead of a range of useful insights, what we found were stories of burnout, isolation and rigid traditional silos leading to business inefficiencies. 

As an industry, marketing is facing massive ongoing disruption. “Technology is constantly changing, which is exciting in many ways, but means you need to race to keep up. We’re expected to be on top of various platforms and new tools are available all the time,” said one marketing manager. 

“Juggling multiple marketing projects, supporting a busy sales team and keeping up with the ever-changing digital world means we constantly feel like we’re chasing our tail and working long hours to keep up. It’s not sustainable,” said another marketing director. 

While COVID-19 has meant positives for some roles, for marketers the widespread uptake of remote work has meant pushing jobs through months or years ahead of schedule, or pivoting quickly to support sales teams needing to adjust to a changed landscape. 

We heard many stories of marketing and sales managers who were required to abandon projects in March or April last year and shift their attention to the COVID response – either mitigating the effects of customers falling away in some industries or to speed up projects required by B2B customers needing to work remotely. 

COVID has certainly exacerbated the dysfunction in teams, leading to isolation and rapid change, but according to the marketing managers we spoke to, it was not the only cause.

Marketing teams are feeling unsupported by leadership much of the time, saying leaders aren’t sharing important strategic information, and managers aren’t supporting their teams when working with other senior staff. Team strengths aren’t understood, so frustrations and inefficiencies are rife. 

“It was alarming how many marketers I sat down with didn’t know their corporate or marketing strategies,” said Sciberras. “To me, this didn’t make sense as each layer of strategy and objectives should come from the preceding layer, so we are all working towards a common goal.”

Many marketers weren’t aware of the company’s strategic purpose and didn’t have a clear picture of the brand values and vision of the organisation. However the overriding theme in almost every conversation with marketers was the huge disconnect between marketing and sales. Sales people have told us there is frustration with the time it takes to receive information from marketers, and when they do receive it, it’s often collateral they can’t use because it’s not relevant.

“While salespeople are on the ground, building relationships with clients and receiving ever-evolving updates, marketers are data-driven, obsessed with trends and aren’t living in the real world,” a sales director told us. 

Marketers are feeling under immense pressure to perform, and delays are largely due to the approval times and red tape. “The red tape is killing innovation. There’s no creativity in marketing anymore,” one sales director told us. 

Marketers have said they’re overwhelmed with responsibilities, but it’s the small tasks keeping them busy, leaving little time for new projects and ideas. 

Marketing and sales teams could focus on their own deliverables within siloed teams 15 years ago, but it’s now important for everyone to communicate and work together, often under a sales and marketing director or CMO. From our conversations with marketing and sales professionals, teams that haven’t made the shift to collaborative work are feeling the brunt of this frustration. It’s creating angst, widespread inefficiency and burnout. 

“We all need to remember we must work together towards a common goal, and that is to increase sales and revenue for the company, but it’s not easy,” said one marketing manager.

Many teams are getting better at bridging this gap, with support from leadership and by outsourcing. The professionals we met who were working in effective, collaborative teams felt they were led well, with strategies, objectives and responsibilities clearly set out and adhered to, and with opportunities to learn and develop. They were still finding their roles busy, and frustrating at times, but there was a clear path forward.  

Natalie Coulson is the founder and director of Amped Up Marketing & Communications. 


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