Marketing Bench-Building Mentoring Hacks

How to conjure your inner Yoda and other really cool mentors

If you’re leading a marketing team, you have a problem.

As you gaze at your team and smile at their skills and experience, you are not seeing the big picture. If your company is growing, if your team is unchallenged and stagnant, if opportunities are on the horizon … you’ve got a problem.

Your problem is bench strength.

People leave, get promoted and generally move on.

Your problem is this. If you’re comfortable with your team, wait a beat and you’ll find yourself struggling and searching.

Which brings me to Yoda.

Everybody loves Yoda.

The big eyes, the wry smile and the funny, quotable voice.

Yet those qualities aren’t why we love Yoda.

Yoda is the mentor we all want. All-knowing, funny and fiercely dedicated. Yoda is the person we want in our corner when it comes to growing our careers.

Think of the great mentor images of our society. The kind and wise, yet demanding mentors.

No matter how weak or strong your skills sets may be, everybody dreams of a mentor who can guide them through the thousands of challenges that we call a day at work.

Mentor programs for marketing are not only the answer, they are becoming a necessity. Yesterday’s skills and strategies are like a box of cassette tapes, useful tools that disappear in a flash as the shiny, new tools take over.

Let’s look at some new trends that can be quick mentoring hacks.

Like Mr. Miyagi and the Karate Kid, Bring in the Micro-Mentors

Your team is sharp and dedicated. They have basic skills, but the world is moving fast.

Bring in the micro-mentors! Mr. Miyagi first taught the Karate Kid basic skills. Wax on, wax off. But he later advanced and refined specific skills. There is no end to the skills that are necessary in today’s marketing departments. Bring in the social media experts to mentor your social media team. Data science mentors show your database group how to hot-wire new techniques.

By bringing in mentors with specific skills for short periods of time, you can move your department ahead without the cost of long, expensive classes that are half as effective.

Like Professor John Keating from Dead Poets Society, Cue the Inspirational Speakers

If your mentor program is undeveloped, consider bringing in one-shot speakers to cover marketing techniques. Like Professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society, you can carpe diem, or “seize the day” with a series of speakers who cover a wide range of knowledge. Speakers can be more practical than scholarly. Ask your attorney to teach contracts, bring in your advertising agency for a class on digital media techniques, consider a sales training session for your player development department. Cross-training your team today could save you later when team members are promoted or leave.

Like Professor Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter, Try Magic Mentoring

Harry Potter’s mentor, Professor Albus Dumbledore, allowed Potter to get into scrapes, but always oversaw from afar. Bringing in virtual mentors is a hack that you can employ for your marketing team. Virtual mentor programs and training can be easily accessed today. A wide variety of subjects can help your team gain knowledge with skills like copywriting, design, media buying and marketing planning. Call on the magic Google machine and find virtual mentor programs that fit your needs.

Doing It Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker-Style

Obi-Wan Kenobi took the one-on-one route with Luke and Anakin Skywalker. Sometimes old school is best. Here are three tips to make classic mentoring work:

  1. Your marketing mentor relationship is about building skills and creating decision makers with solid judgment. Focus on step-by-step skills training, but back it up with opportunities to teach about learning from mistakes.
  2. Keep your energy high and cynicism low. Marketing personalities range from the silent to the hubris-heavy. Each marketing team member has concepts and opinions that can be short-sighted or brilliant. You may be wiser and scarred from experience, but keeping positive momentum is important.
  3. Marketing is never an island. Interactive skills between the marketing department and all other departments are learned techniques. Marketing mentees need to understand that their success comes from all departments, not just marketing. Teaching interpersonal skills and collaborative approaches is the difference between failed programs and success.

As Mr. Miyagi said, “No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” When it comes to marketing mentoring, “Use the Force, Luke.” Just keep your Force positive.

Tom Osiecki
Tom Osiecki 14 Articles