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How to Build a Winning Marketing Team

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A UK marketing director landed in Tokyo on a mission to boost the performance of her new department and asked how she could best coach and build a winning team in Japan.

I took her questions to the most successful marketing directors operating in the Asian pharma market, and their answers reveal the secrets of marketing success. Peter Drucker’s mantra, “What gets measured gets managed,” is a good start. Another marketing director, based in Singapore, praises the management technique of Kaizen (Continuous Improvement), which follows on from Drucker’s idea. “We deployed a new system that involved monthly reports and meetings to review progress along with KPIs,” he said. “Setting an expectation for improvement, working side-by-side to reinforce progress, and going back to root causes of errors with patience were the keys. The KPIs were tracked publicly and repeatedly in a positive way, and this helped to establish a carrot to reward the team on progress.” Other executives were more focused on solving problems. Henry Ford said, “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”

Thanks to the advice of Japan’s top marketing minds, I’ve combined their offerings to present the four “Ps” of building a great marketing team:

  • Purpose
  • Problem Identification
  • Proactive Marketing
  • Prioritization Purpose

What is the goal? What are the Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)? (BHAG was coined by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1996 article, “Building Your Company’s Vision,” with the core idea to begin with the end in mind.) Goals must be set, and a marketing team must ask, “Where will we be in 5 years, 3 years, 1 year, 6 months, 1 month?” “If we had the perfect team, what would it look like? If everyone was maximizing their potential, what would the team look like?”

We learn by doing, and in the individual components of the marketing process, we best learn in teams. The successful team employs each new component in its routine activities and then progress is recorded. As the results flow in, strategies and business plans are mapped out.

My research indicates that successful teams learn together. Winning teams read marketing books together and apply new strategies to day-to-day business. These teams understand that learning and education is a lifetime pursuit, and there is always a new way to look at a problem. They also know that they don’t have to know all the answers. Outside consultants, external courses, and offsite meetings can breathe new life into their marketing programs.

Problem Identification

Questioning the challenge is the key to explaining everything we do, and it’s simple as ABC:

(A) Solve a problem.

(B) Meet an unmet need.

(C) Take advantage of a process in order to ultimately increase sales.

All of our marketing activities should meet these criteria.

Proactive Marketing

“Reactive” and “proactive” are the key words. The urgent isn’t always important, and the important is seldom urgent. Many get caught in the reactive trap. Good marketing is understood as the overlap between reactive and proactive marketing. In other words, the customer wants something (reactive), and we can put a solution together (proactive) to ensure the benefit falls within the mapped out and well-designed strategic plan. Thousands of drill bits are sold every year, but who wants a drill bit? People want the holes. So sell them on the value of a hole.


Decisions need to be validated. Is the decision being made on anecdotal evidence? What is the worst-case scenario? After deciding on a course of action, plan for the worst, and expect the best. It’s never too late to start again. Knowing what we know now, what would we do differently if we could start all over again?

Written by Philip Carrigan, (Pharma, Medical Device Recruiter Japan). Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Morunda should be your choice of recruiting partner in Japan and Asia Pacific. Why? Because we live and breathe the pharmaceutical industry in Asia and the Pacific—we’re specialists!

Morunda has completed over 400 managers to director-level placements since 2001.

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