Marketers / Marketing Ops

How to Handle Organizational Politics as a Marketing Team

By Lucy Mazalon

Traditionally, the marketing team was considered a ‘cost center’ to an organization, and positioned in complete service to the whims of every other business function – they say: “jump”, and the marketing department was expected to say “how high?”. Even as a teenager, I took up placements in marketing departments as work experience, only to find ‘demand experience’ from other functions in the organization, navigating through the complex landscape of organizational politics. 

On a recent visit to my dad, I borrowed one of his business books called “Marketing by Matrix”. It has enabled me to see clearly among the fast-paced, reactive industry that I, and I’ve no doubt that many others, are working in.

“Marketing by Matrix”, published in 1992 (older than me!) is a book that I became absorbed into. I’m someone that appreciates pulling chaos, competing opinions, and different directions, into a visual that everyone involved can understand, and (hopefully) agree upon a way forward. For me, the matrix format answered my itch. 

The Marketing Politics Matrix

This matrix was too good not to share, plotting importance (to the marketer) against adaptability (the organization). This determines where you could face friction or go forth, plain sailing.

“Introducing marketing planning or changes of strategy can be a stab to the very center of the organization. The marketer needs to be aware of how, what are to them, seemingly obvious ideas are going to make an impact on the organization as a whole. Moreover, it is worth knowing on which issues to fight and where to be more circumspect.”

Box 1: High importance to the marketer/low acceptability to the organization

This is the area of high conflict. You’re advocating for a new approach – whether that’s messaging, design, a new marketing channel – that the rest of the organization can’t get onboard with. 

The advice that the book suggests is to either a) reevaluate your proposal, is it as important as you initially thought? Or b) ‘sell’ the idea harder to gain acceptance. 

This reflects the skills of a Business Analyst, and how highly transferable these skills are for marketers:

  • Stakeholder management: The marketing department works to ‘serve’ all other units in the organization. While marketing owns the customer experience (CX), they need buy-in from all other teams. Everyone from all levels of the org hierarchy – executives, managers, individuals – come with their own motivations, which makes balancing self-interests a challenge.  
  • Gathering requirements (elicitation): Compiling ‘evidence’ that your proposal will deliver benefits can come from asking different colleagues/customers what they need.  This can all feed into your proposal to build your case. Another form of analysis that will pique others’ interests is competitor analysis; what are your competitors doing better than you in terms of their customer journey? Where in your internal processes is keeping you back from keeping in line with them?
READ MORE: Salesforce Business Analyst Certification: Why Should Marketers Care?

Box 2: High importance to the marketer/high acceptability to the organization 

This is the area that should result in praise for the marketer/marketing team because they act, with motivation and momentum, on what the organization requires. 

You are comfortable with the capacity your team has to execute key campaigns. When it comes to new feature enablement, they are correctly prioritized and the setup effort is feasible without causing any ‘back slide’. There are many new features that are released each year, and so balancing our responsibilities with those of an overzealous manager who wants all the ‘shiny new toys’ is important. In this box, everyone is happy. 

READ MORE: Questions to Ask Before Enabling New Features: Pardot (Account Engagement)

Box 3: Low importance to the marketer/high acceptability to the organization

This is the area that should earn the marketer/marketing team credibility because they are addressing the needs of the organization. You are seen to be a ‘team player’ but the danger comes if you feel as if these acts of service distract you from important marketing plays – especially innovation and experimentation. 

If you feel stuck here, acknowledge that operating in this box for a short period of time could help you to move to box 1 or 2 in the future as the organization witnesses marketing’s strengths and warms up to your ideas. Just keep a pulse on which direction you’re moving, and recognise where marketing is being swayed too much by others’ priorities that steer marketing away from the right direction (even if others can’t see it).

Box 4: Low importance to the marketer/low acceptability to the organization

This area is known as ‘why bother?’. Any activities are fruitless to both you, as a marketer, and the organization. Avoid at all costs.


The matrix format is a visual that can help people from all corners of the organization to understand where different initiatives lie, in this case, in terms of importance to the marketer and acceptability to the wider organization. New time you receive a request, assess which box it falls into.

Traditionally, the marketing team was considered a ‘cost center’ to an organization, and positioned in complete service to the whims of every other business function. However, the marketing function has moved to become the ‘beating heart’ of any organization who wishes to capture the hearts and minds of their customers.  

As marketers operate in a world that moves incredibly fast, pulling chaos and competing opinions into a visual will (hopefully) result in agreement upon a way forward. For me, the matrix format answered my itch.  

Unfortunately, Marketing by Matrix is not available on Amazon US, but it’s currently available on Amazon UK.

The Author

Lucy Mazalon

Lucy is the Operations Director at Salesforce Ben. She is a 10x certified Marketing Champion and founder of The DRIP.

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