Improve Your Marketing Team with the Deming Method

It took until the 1980s for U.S. automotive manufacturers to realize how much they missed by ignoring Dr. W. Edwards Deming for thirty years. His revolutionary ideas on total quality management and continuous improvement helped Japan’s automotive industry experience an industrial enlightenment in the 1950’s.

With Deming’s help, Japan kept improving and caught Detroit asleep at the wheel.

Deming outlined fourteen points to give corporations a pathway when aiming for meaningful, measurable improvement in quality and results. Deming’s fourteen points apply to every aspect of continuously improving marketing team:


1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, aiming to become competitive, stay in business, and provide jobs.

  • Your B2B marketing program should include a goal of continuous improvement and an ongoing process for testing, analyzing, and adapting. Start by focusing more on your customer’s needs than yours. They will recognize the results, and the rewards will follow.

2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.

  • Embrace change and work together towards constant improvement. Your marketing efforts will only break through the clutter with something different or better than your competition, with a shared commitment to creating remarkable content.

3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for massive inspection by building quality into the product in the first place.

  • All media is now digital, so there are many ways to make mistakes in marketing at every point of the process. Invest in a well-trained and passionately engaged team and save time correcting errors and rejecting inferior work.

4. End the practice of awarding business based on a price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move towards a single supplier for any item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

  • A supplier or outside resource may provide a better deal at a cheaper price, but this can be a danger sign. Consider the quality of their product, reputation for reliability, and ability to stay on schedule and budget.
  • Be careful and very selective when choosing an outside agency, specialized talent, production vendor, or media channel. Work with vendors who share your vision and understanding of your quality standards and customers’ needs and expectations.

5. Constantly and forever improve the production and service system to improve quality and productivity, thus continuously decreasing costs.

  • Focus on the pursuit of perfection. Aiming for this highest target will make you more competitive and positively impact total costs by reducing waste and improving your process to make it more efficient.
  • Realistically, there’s no perfect playbook for marketing. Breaking the rules and taking extra risks can sometimes lead to breakthroughs. But by constantly striving to improve your process for the required steps of development, implementation, testing, and refinement, you will have more time to create remarkable content consistently.

6. Institute training on the job.

  • I believe a “never quit learning” mindset is required for marketing. What “always worked before” may be the worst thing you can do today. There are constantly new tricks of the trade to learn, and everything keeps evolving, including your competition. A proactive culture of on-the-job training can also ensure new employees understand best practices and positive performance from the start.

7. Institute leadership. Supervision should aim to help people, machines, and gadgets do a better job. Supervision of management needs overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.

  • Good leadership empowers employees without intimidating them. Patient and considerate leadership can sometimes be a challenge in the marketing workplace. Quality of work can be subjective, ideas can be challenging to exchange, and opinions can clash. But the principles of good leadership still apply, and so do the benefits.

8. Drive out fear so everyone may work effectively for the company.

  • Fear is a detriment to the creativity of individuals. People will limit themselves to avoid doing anything wrong and getting punished or called out on it.
  • To continuously discover more innovative and more efficient ways of doing things, it pays to encourage creativity. Individuals on the marketing team deal with challenging processes daily and can more creatively solve problems if given the opportunity.

9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team to foresee problems of production and usage that may be encountered with the product or service.

  • This is especially important for marketing and sales. There are more tools available than ever to help marketing and sales collaborate. Both teams should develop meaningful and measurable shared goals, each having “skin in the game.”

10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce, asking for zero defects and new productivity levels. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the workforce.

  • Deming believed that employees or teams should be encouraged to set goals and develop themes. The employees take ownership of the challenge and take a personal stake in the shared endeavor.
  • Is there any department more qualified to set measurable goals and create meaningful slogans for themselves than the marketing team? I don’t think so.

11. Eliminate work quotas on the factory floor. Substitute with leadership.

  • Content is required for fuel for your inbound marketing program to be a lead-gen engine. However, focusing on the content volume rather than the quality can be a big mistake. If there’s any place where we could use less clutter and a smaller quantity of messages, it’s in marketing. Less is more if it’s of remarkable quality.

12. Remove barriers that rob the worker of his right to pride in workmanship.

  • Seasoned marketing executives can become so conservative or dictatorial that it limits new ideas or approaches from being suggested by other team members.
  • Allowing for innovative initiatives and sharing recognition can go a long way.

13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.

  • Creating a continuously improving marketing program is only possible if you train employees when they begin. Professional development training will keep employees’ skills current and help them engage and perform optimally. What I said before about training applies to ongoing education and retraining. Marketing is a “never quit learning” profession. And that’s a good thing.

14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

  • This is the most exciting time ever to be in marketing. We enjoy creating great work and have the tools to measure results, analyze the effort, and improve our ideas. There’s no excuse for laziness in marketing and there’s nowhere to hide if you are. Everyone on your marketing team should share ownership of the challenge to transform through continuous improvement.