The marketing team is like the heart of your company. Just like the real organ, your business couldn’t live without it. Sure, I know it’s kind of a cheesy metaphor … but there’s nothing I love more than a really complex comparison between two seemingly unrelated things. Hang in there with me and you won’t miss a beat (ugh, there I go again).
But how do you structure a department conducive to the overall health and success of your business’s long-term goals? Marketing involves many responsibilities and it impacts nearly every aspect of the company.
Like how your heart pumps life into the rest of your body, the marketing department should pump creativity and qualified leads to your other teams. Successful marketing departments capitalize on their cross-functional expertise across search engine optimization (SEO), data science, public relations (PR), content marketing and design.
Today’s Marketing Dream Team
Have you ever randomly decided to run a couple miles without working up to the challenge? If so, you probably felt like your heart was going to beat out of your chest by the end of it … at least mine did. But if you’d prepared a little beforehand with some stretching and warm-up cardio, you’d be in the right shape.
A marketing team is very similar; the members of the department should be ready to keep pumping without hitting burnout. In addition to stamina, agility is another important factor in ensuring that you can not only keep up with the competition but pivot at a moment’s notice.
The structure of your marketing team makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of the department. Just like a healthy heart, your marketing team should be in the right shape to support the business as it goes the distance and be prepared to sprint when the time comes.
Think of your marketing organization as a relay team with the cross-functional expertise to support a variety of needs, making the overall race easier. Marketing underpins a brand from end to end, owning every task from demand generation to customer engagement on social media.
But it’s a complex discipline, fraught with constantly changing trends and technologies. However, the obstacle course of marketing is nothing new. Just take a look at this article published by McKinsey Quarterly from way back in 1996″, which says, “the ability to master and exploit change has become one of the most sought-after management skills. This is particularly true in marketing, where the very tempo of change is constantly quickening.”
Whew, I’m already sweating! (But maybe that’s just because my air conditioner is broken?) Anyway, to ensure that your marketing team is in peak performance condition, remember the way you marketed in 2011. That’s because the most popular marketing channels, the optimal types of content for them and the marketing team roles involved all dramatically changed in the interim.
The Ideal Marketing Team Structure
When you want to increase your own body’s stamina, there are seemingly endless workouts and fitness options to choose from. This is much the same when it comes to shaping up your marketing team. Without careful consideration, it’s easy to squander the marketing department’s budget and fail to deliver business value.
To avoid these cost overruns as well as operational silos and delays, a marketing team should be built for flexibility and adaptability. Its structure should enable productive collaboration between everyone from the chief marketing officer (CMO) and the marketing managers that report to them, to any data scientists, social media managers and content writers on staff.
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Spotlight on Agile Marketing Teams
Think of Agile marketing as the TRX or pilates of the marketing world; very popular and extremely effective when used correctly. Agile marketing is a methodology inspired by the similarly named software development practice, which emphasizes collaboration between cross-functional teams (i.e., teams with a wide range of skills from across the organization), along with iteration, continuous improvement and flexible planning.
Agile marketing teams stay flexible thanks to a core team of SEO leads, art directors, content writers, software developers, marketing campaign strategists and product or campaign owners. Departments that thrive under this methodology work with extended teams across PR, legal, IT and business development.
When teams are honed in, flexible and agile it becomes easier to continuously align with company leadership and with other departments to coordinate campaign strategy, set expectations and make decisions with the customer in mind. Some teams struggle to prioritize data, but Agile marketing encourages teams to make decisions based on experience over opinions and conventions, using what they’ve learned to continuously iterate their ideas.
8 Key Roles (+ Responsibilities) of a Successful Marketing Team
Hopefully, by now you’re on board with this whole heart metaphor that I’m doing here because we’re about to get into the nitty-gritty of what it really means to have a well-functioning marketing team.
How leadership roles and other positions map to an exact marketing team structure will vary based on a company’s size. Larger organizations are more likely to have multiple layers of hierarchy that report to the CMO, whereas smaller companies and Agile marketing practitioners will have lighter-weight structures and more autonomous teams.
No matter your team’s size, here are some of the most important roles and responsibilities that will help you get to the finish line:
1. The Coach
Possible titles: VP of marketing (or of content marketing), marketing team leader, marketing leader, marketing director.
Overview: Think about this person as the one who keeps an eye on everything. This strategic thinker oversees budgets and other resources for the whole marketing team, providing crucial support and guidance. In an Agile marketing team, this person is outside the core cross-functional team and takes a light touch when interacting with its members, checking progress and resources, so as not to slow them down too much with bureaucracy.
- Direct demand generation and overall marketing strategy.
- Set budgets and establish key performance indicators.
- Report progress to the CMO, CEO and other marketing leaders.
- Serve as an evangelist for the company.
- Coach colleagues.
- Lead marketing meetings.
2. The Active Manager
Possible titles: Marketing manager, project manager, scrum master, content marketing manager, content marketing strategist, product manager.
Overview: The active manager keeps the project and team on track by coordinating with all members of the organ-ization (another heart reference … get it?) on priorities and action items. This marketing leader, who may hold a title like content marketing manager or scrum master (in an Agile context), ensures that marketing efforts and plans are tightly coordinated, and their execution highly synchronized. They also make sure that workloads are properly distributed so that no one gets burnt out.
- Define goals and objectives.
- Track completion statuses.
- Oversee sprints and task scheduling.
- Coordinate with other marketing leaders on resourcing
3. The Search Strategist
Possible titles: SEO specialist, SEO lead, PPC specialist, SEO writer.
Overview: These specialists ensure your marketing campaigns and content reach the right audiences. Without them, your content creation efforts may never reach the right users on search, a potentially fatal mistake. Their tasks have traditionally included keyword research and its application to landing page design and optimization, paid search campaigns and evaluation of copy against metrics like conversion rate. Multiple people will usually fit into this category in a marketing team. For instance, a PPC specialist and an SEO expert may work side by side.
- Research keywords.
- Perform SEO analysis.
- Identify opportunities for improving a page’s rank.
- Re-optimize existing content.
- Audit site changes for SEO.
- Launch new campaigns.
- Adjust bids (for PPC).
4. The Writer
Possible titles: Content writer, copywriter, marketing team writer.
Overview: While communication is important for every member of the team, the wordsmith is the master. They own the creation of written content, whether for display ads, blog posts, eBooks, white papers or any other asset in marketing. Beyond writing itself, they may also edit, communicate with other stakeholders about feedback and contribute to audio/visual media like podcasts and videos.
- Research and write on-brand copy.
- Edit and revise writing as needed.
- Pitch topics.
- Collaborate with designers.
5. The Visual Expert
Possible titles: Designer, graphic designer, video editor, illustrator, photographer, stylist, animator.
Overview: Designers are a vastly important part of the team because they’re in charge of every visual component, something that has always been an important part of marketing. From infographics to videos, the visual team in a marketing department is central to its success.
- Design infographics and illustrations.
- Produce and edit photos and videos.
- Optimize visual content for social media distribution.
- Match visual creative to written assets.
6. The Developer
Possible titles: Front-end developer, web developer, marketing developer, full-stack developer.
- Write and refactor code for marketing sites.
- Analyze site speed and usability.
- Maintain site hosting and upgrades.
- Fix bugs.
7. The Data Expert
Possible titles: Data scientist, data analyst.
Overview: Data scientists and analysts’ work is pivotal because modern marketing functions generate and depend upon large quantities of data related to customer interests and interactions, along with content performance. These are like the people who keep an eye on your heart rate to ensure everything is running smoothly.
- Gather, segment and interpret marketing campaign data.
- Funnel data into marketing automation tools.
- Make recommendations to the marketing leader.
8. The Communicator
Possible titles: Social media manager, PR specialist, public affairs officer, influencer marketer, media lead, product marketer.
Overview: This role includes all of the marketing jobs that involve building and maintaining relationships with both internal and external audiences. Social media managers who interact with customers, PR specialists who cultivate relationships with the media and product marketers who identify opportunities for alliances all fit in here.
- Evangelize the brand and represent its core values.
- Provide assistance and support to external audiences.
- Build business relationships and alliances.
- Communicate updates and marketing priorities.
Marketing Team Responsibilities
By now, it’s clear that every function of a marketing team is deeply intertwined. Of course, that raises an important question: What are those functions?
Everyone needs to understand what their responsibilities are to make the team successful.
But first, bear in mind that scale has a lot to do with how these functions will be divvied up among individual team members. In smaller teams, a single person might wear more hats than they would in a well-funded enterprise marketing department or a content marketing agency.
Keep in mind that the core functions should be fulfilled in your marketing team structure. Here are some of the top functions of most marketing departments:
Typically focuses on goals related to SEO strategy, brand awareness, content creation, audience research and distribution. They are also responsible for aligning budget and execution.
The development of a creative execution plan for the strategy is important and requires input from the visual designers, developers, communicators, data experts and wordsmiths on your team, too.
Execution and Creative Tracking:
Once you have a strategy and high-level creative vision for the assets you want to produce, you need someone to create content calendars and social posting schedules and to manage timelines for deliverables.
Your wordsmiths, visual designers, developers, data experts and communicators help bring your strategic vision to life.
Promotion and Distribution:
Connecting with audiences requires expertise across areas like social media outreach and email marketing, to build a base of followers and grab their attention with compelling headlines that will lead them to your content and deeper into the sales funnel.
Dev and IT:
You need people who can help on the technical side of things — to make sure that different content types are loading correctly on your website, and that your integrations aren’t disrupting the customer experience.
Important Qualities of a Marketing Team
Just like people, marketing teams come in all shapes and sizes, suited to the types of organizations they support, the content they produce and the marketing efforts they oversee. But the best teams demonstrate these qualities:
Accountability can be a touchy subject, but assigning the right level of responsibility to each member is paramount. Veer away from using a heavy hand when it comes to blaming, but let your team members feel safe in taking accountability for their job. From the start, the leader should set clear goalposts and track the progress of the team along the way. Use data and analytics as a basis of proof and adhere to a previously set accountability standard.
“Too big to scale” — it’s an odd phrase, but one with an important truth in it: You can’t scale something that’s unwieldy. You also don’t want to scale a process or team structure that isn’t working to begin with. Focusing on highly collaborative processes with an Agile marketing paradigm can set you up for success.
As we’ve already mentioned, adaptability is hugely important in a marketing team. You can certainly establish an operating rhythm, but don’t get hung up on trying to create a rigid routine. Instead, let your results determine your next actions. Marketing follows a cycle, in that directives are continuously shared and passed between roles.
Whatever the case, the team will need to take action to respond to the newest findings. Consequently, the many roles of a content marketing team will play off each other in unique, and sometimes unpredictable, ways.
The Value of Flexibility in a Marketing Team
So maybe, you’ve been hitting the weights and cardio hard, and seeing this reflected in a boost in heart health. But without the addition of flexibility, you could hurt yourself. I think you see where I’m going with this. Flexibility in marketing means thinking quickly and having the ability to adjust the game plan following shifting internal or external factors.
So, how do you curate a group of people who are fluid and ready to change strategy at a moment’s notice? First of all, you need a leader who can point the team in the right direction but have enough trust that each member will do their part to the best of their ability. The absence of an iron fist allows for new ideas to form and for staff to work with autonomy. You’ll save time, and the team structure will be more efficient.
Always be looking for a new and better way to do things. Don’t disregard old, trusted models of work, but keep your eyes on the horizon. A modern global market is a competitive place, and to stay relevant and profitable, your team needs to be tuned into the newest avenues of success.
For example, the popular social media app TikTok is a relatively new marketing tool, something that no marketing team was giving much thought to five years ago. When it comes to product discovery, it blows Instagram out of the water. The numbers don’t lie: TikTok reports that 92% of users take some sort of action after viewing content; from likes, shares and purchasing a product, the app is highly effective.
Is your team ready to adapt to changes like this one? Even if some members are less equipped to handle the stormy seas, you can throw them a lifejacket while they learn to swim. While the values of the market shift, your team may need some extra guidance along the way. That’s why it’s important to hire people who have different perspectives and backgrounds. A diverse team possesses strength, stamina and flexibility.
Building a winning marketing team from scratch can seem like a daunting task, but it’s well worth your time and consideration. A healthy and agile marketing team is essential for the success of the rest of the team. See? I told you that our cheesy metaphor would guide us through to the end!
You’ve got this. Keep your eye on the goal, but don’t forget to congratulate yourself and the team along the way. Marketing is a journey, not a destination, after all.
Editor’s note: Updated August 2022.