“What’s the best marketing structure?” “If you were hired to design a marketing organization from the ground up, what would it look like?”  

Many people are constantly  trying to determine what the best marketing organization or structure looks like– and maybe one day we’ll have a definitive answer.  However, a more realistic way to look at team design is based on various pillars and needs to be agile instead of perfect.

Below are the pillars that you should be always take into account when building a marketing structure, whether you’re starting from scratch, expanding, or need to course correct.

We’re not the ‘make it pretty’ team
Being a marketing leader comes with unique challenges. While there are similarities across the C-suite, heads of marketing face a distinctive landscape.

Pillar 1: Your business model and operating strategy

Are you a PLG business? Do you focus on slow-cycle, large buying committee deals? Or is it about quantity over quality, or even a self-serve model?  All of these questions help design your marketing strategy and organizational needs.  

For example, if you’re focused on quantity over quality– your team probably needs more individuals with SEO, paid search, and affiliate marketing skills rather than experiential, event, or website personalization skills. While, on the flip side, if you’re focused on fewer, higher-value deals, you’re most likely employing an account-based marketing strategy and need high-value content, experiential events, sophisticated targeting, and email nurture strategies.

Pillar 2: The people and talent you have

Instead of highlighting how many people you need in specific positions in order to achieve your target goals while focused on a specific strategy, being flexible based on the existing team can help your organization go further and even with less expense.

Let me tell you a story about a creative director I’ve worked with – she was passionate about making creative numbers-oriented, part of the strategy, and a growth-center instead of a cost-center. As team members left the company or moved to other departments, we were in a position where we were going to need to hire someone to manage conversion rate optimization and user experience.  

However, this creative director raised their hand for the role.  From that, not only were there financial savings, but it allowed the team to be reinvigorated with a new purpose and way to measure their creative impact on KPIs and campaigns.  It was a win-win that no “perfect” organization design would have originally planned for.

Pillar 3: Your team goals and KPIs

Every team is more likely to hit their numbers if they make a clear goal around it and a strategy to support it.  These goals also factor into the best organizational design for your team.  

For example, I know of a team that had a customer marketer who was tasked with getting customers to speak at events and in content. However, all of the marketing goals were focused on new business growth.  Fast-forward to a period when customers were churning, and the customer marketer was under pressure to solve the problem of the leaking bucket.

The problem in this situation was that the employee in question was hired to work with customers on demand generation efforts, but had little experience in partnering with customers to solve their problems or develop advocacy programs to prevent their churn. This meant those skills were the priority for expanding the team.

Pillar 4: The structure or agility needed

Depending on company size, stage, industry, or audience, the ability to adapt and be flexible can be key for an organization's design as well. Agile marketing organizations are designed to be flexible and adaptable. They can quickly respond to changing market dynamics, customer preferences, and emerging trends. This flexibility enables them to seize opportunities and address challenges in a more agile and responsive manner. This accelerated speed to market can give the organization a competitive edge and increase its ability to capitalize on market opportunities.

An agile setup could include more “generalists” or it could be more focused, like if teams are set up on sprint teams, by product line, or by type of work. This will also have an important role in how project management is handled within your marketing team.  

How and why I restructured The Alliance’s marketing team
Deciding on the best way to structure for success is no easy task, so in this article, I’ll be chatting you through my thought process, why I landed on the structure I did, the pros and cons, and key considerations for if/when you go through a re-structure yourself.

Pillar 5: Full-time vs fractional

As your strategy is built and aligned with executional needs, it’s important to determine if you need a full-time employee or a contractor, or fractional hire for any specific area.  This can allow for a wider hiring and talent pool (some people don’t want to be full-time) while also saving the company expenses such as salary and benefits.

An example of this is a previous animation professional I’ve worked with. This animator was extremely talented, however, the company didn’t have 40 hours a week of animation needs, so the talent felt unfulfilled and bored, while the company felt like they were paying a salary (and benefits) without getting much in return. This role at this company would have been better as a contract hire for a specific number of hours per month.

A marketing organization should be able to pivot based on people because customers and their needs are at the core of any marketing strategy. By understanding and responding to people's changing preferences, behaviors, and demands, a marketing organization can effectively reach its target audience, create meaningful connections, and drive business success.

Do these pillars match your own when it comes to structuring your marketing team? What principles are the most important for you? Share your insights with a global network of marketing leaders and CMOs on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel.