Why do marketers have so many off-sites?

Doug Landis, sales productivity guru and former Chief Storyteller at Box, asked me a provocative question: “why do all you marketers have so many off-sites?” He said it in jest but in doing so exposed an underlying truth. He was right. Marketers have a lot of off-sites. I asked myself and my marketing colleagues why. Here’s what I found:

Most marketing teams either:

  • don’t have a marketing playbook or
  • haven’t operationalized their marketing playbook

Off-sites serve as a crutch.

Our sales, product, service, and customer success colleagues don’t struggle with the same problem. Each of those departments has a generally accepted methodology and software system which establishes a repeatable process and provides visibility into the activities of the department.

Let’s take sales for example. Tom Siebel founded Siebel Systems in 1993 and codified his sales playbook into software known as sales force automation. Salesforce later made sales force automation and opportunity management the de facto standard for sales. Sales trainers espouse different methodologies which are just different flavors of the same basic process. Popular methodologies include MEDDIC, Target Account Selling, Sandler, Value Selling, and many others. Today, companies spend several billion dollars per year on CRM software and sales training to help them adopt and operationalize their sales playbook. As a result, sales people know their objectives, the process they must follow to achieve them, and their results.

Marketing remains one of the few departments without a standard methodology or software tool.


The problem isn’t caused by a lack of technology. Marketers have access to more than 3,800+ marketing technology vendors according to Scott Brinker. However, most marketing tech focuses on delivering content to the channel rather than operationalizing our playbook.

3,800+ marketing tech vendors as of 2016, none automate the marketing playbook

3,800+ marketing tech vendors as of 2016, none automate the marketing playbook

While we may not be able to buy the marketing equivalent of Salesforce, Zendesk, or Gainsight, we can still turn our strategies into results. 

First, craft your marketing playbook

Does your team have a playbook? Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • Does my team have clear, measurable, and time bound objectives?
  • Have we outlined the programs we use to achieve those objectives?
  • Can every team member articulate how their tactics tie to the team's objectives?

I have a post forthcoming on crafting a marketing playbook.

Next, operationalize your playbook

While most teams have some form of a marketing playbook (often a PowerPoint artifact from multiple off-sites) very few teams have turned that playbook into repeatable and measurable processes.

  • Can we track our progress towards our objectives?
  • Do we have a cadence which allows us to both focus and course correct?
  • Do we have program and task templates to standardize our processes?

I’ll share thoughts on this in a future post as well.

Once we create and operationalize our playbook we can spend our off-sites on more important topics than coordinating work (see post on off-sites). 

Doug will be proud.