4 self-reflections to ensure your marketing team structure and culture are aligned with your organization's business needs and structure
There are several dimensions of a business’s structure that influence which parts of the marketing mix you should invest most heavily in, which you should manage and execute with in-house vs outsourced staff, and so on.
Below are 4 DNA traits to consider as you design and hone the marketing structure you need to best support your organization.
Centralized, Internal Agency, Matrixed, or Integrated
It is critically important to have a clear alignment between the marketing team structure and the corresponding corporate structure. Small and medium businesses frequently have a single, centralized marketing organization. The CMO reports to the CEO and sits on the executive team, and manages a unified marketing organization that serves the company functionally.
As companies grow, they may establish strategic business units that operate as mini-companies within the broader organization. Their leaders normally have a high degree of P&L responsibility and strategic autonomy. It is critically important to gain alignment on how marketing will serve such a structure. It might operate as an internal agency, utilized by all the business units, with the business units operating as customers who each contribute a portion of the marketing budget
In a matrixed model, some marketing functions might be absorbed into the business units, with other services served by the CMO organization. For example, product marketing, field marketing, and even demand generation might move into the SBU, with other functions (e.g. PR, branding, events) remaining at the corporate level
Finally, marketing might be more completely separated and integrated into the business units. If this happens, it might require the establishment of a separate corporate marketing team that manages the corporate brand, corporate events, etc, with a very high degree of autonomy granted to the SBU’s for their own day-to-day marketing needs.
Whatever marketing team structure you operate within, the entire organization should be clear on their responsibilities to each other and to the business. They should be prepared for frequent change, too: as the company structure evolves, the marketing team structure is likely to evolve along with it.
Service, Solution, Technology, Product, or Platform
Often overlooked, it is imperative to have organizational clarity about what it is you are marketing. You should consider at least the 5-way split below. As you can see, the characteristics of different offer types should influence the structure of your marketing plan and strategy, and therefore for your team:
Figure 1: Marketing considerations for different types of offering
B2B or B2C
The structure of a marketing team may depend on whether an organization is B2B or B2C. This distinction is primarily occupied with the different marketing mix compositions of B2C and B2B companies. Based on those mixes, it’s likely that marketing leaders will emphasize hiring in-house vs outsourced talent pools differently. This is a complex topic that could warrant its own book, so what follows is a high-level overview. You should assess the skill-sets you most want to maintain with FTEs and what is outsourced to consultants and contractors.
Since B2C marketing is typically focused on broad communication vehicles that can appeal to buyers’ emotions, like advertising and awareness campaigns on digital, TV, and radio. B2C normally marketers operate with a lower CAC (customer acquisition cost), on average. For high-priced items like cars, or university courses, the CAC may still run high, but the channels of mass marketing, or mass customization - vs highly personalized marketing - is the norm. Because B2C marketing tends to be heavily digital, it is common to find smaller teams with a higher spend per team-member; higher use of the brand and advertising agencies; metrics tend to be focused on impressions, clicks, brand perceptions, digital analytics, and data visualization
B2B typically has longer sales cycles than B2C: more complex, and less emotion-driven, buying processes with more rounds of approval, security, procurement, finance, competitive bids, etc. It is characterized by team buying rather than individual buying. B2B marketing, therefore, tends to pick its prospects very carefully and invest more in targeting them based on their profile, persona, and buyer characteristics. Once identified, B2B marketing will provide customized - even personalized - content to capture and retain the attention of prospects through the buying cycle.
B2B marketing tends to have larger in-house teams; bigger investment in product marketing, events teams, in-house PR teams, field marketing, sales enablement case-studies, thought leadership, and likely in marketing operations. For more successful marketing teams, learn the 7 characteristics of great marketing teams.
Some product-led-growth (PLG) SaaS companies, like Slack, marketing teams have more heavily adopted B2C marketing strategies even though they are clearly selling a B2B product. It is worth understanding whether your company falls into this category, ensuring that there is alignment around the key activities you will need to carry out to best serve your go-to-market motion, and structuring accordingly.
International or domestic
When a business becomes international, marketing complexity significantly grows. Strategically, you need to plan your marketing plan according to your market presence, brand awareness, perception, and competitive strength across multiple regions with disparate requirements. You must take into account cultural, economic, and regulatory differences across multiple countries. For example, there is a substantial difference in the respective security and privacy regulations around the globe. This will materially impact how and to whom you may advertise. You will need to understand how you should manage marketing budget bearing in mind that you will be generating and managing marketing expenses in more than one currency, and that these will ultimately all need to be managed within a budget of a single currency. As the company grows, the marketing organization needs to grow internationally with it, and it needs to be structured to address international needs in the context of all the other DNA attributes described above.
The Marketing DNA review described in this blog highlights a number of sometimes complex questions to consider with an organization's marketing team structure and culture over time. It’s not something so simple that it can be captured in a scorecard, but it does need to be considered thoughtfully and revisited regularly to ensure that you are continuously evolving your organization to stay in lockstep with the needs of the business.
As your company evolves, you will need to evolve a marketing team's structure, organization, and management. This is one of the reasons why the culture of the company, and of your marketing team is so worthy of your continuous focus and attention. Flexible teams with great communication and high degrees of trust will be better suited to the inevitable change that successful companies require of them.
Dan Faulkner is the CTO of Plannuh, a leading marketing resource management software used by CMOs and marketing teams. Dan has degrees in speech and language processing and marketing. He got his marketing degree after running research for text-to-speech synthesis research at SpeechWorks (now Nuance) and must have been looking for something easy to do. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.