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What’s the Ideal Marketing Team Structure?

Marketing is an essential part of a successful business, and the structure of the marketing team within a company will define how successful the department can be. There are different ways to structure a marketing team based on the company that the team is a part of. Picking the right structure and team members creates the foundation for success. 

However, many companies need to learn more about marketing teams and structures to be more effective. Here is a look at the structures of marketing teams and how companies can choose the ideal marketing team for their needs.

Changes in Marketing Teams

The organizational structure for marketing teams has changed in the past two decades. The traditional model included a department separate from the rest of the company that focused on print marketing operations as the primary means of reaching customers. 

Television and radio changed this to make all three options equally weighted and forced teams to add new skillsets for different mediums. Digital marketing is forcing another change in how companies structure their marketing teams.

Today, marketing teams are moving away from focusing on a specific medium, like newspapers and television, and toward customer and relationship-focused models. This change puts the focus on the experience rather than on the means of reaching customers. The result is a potential improvement in quality and engagement among a much wider audience. 

However, companies must adjust to see the benefits of digital marketing and the restructuring of marketing departments.

The Types of Marketing Department Structures

Current research shows that marketing departments are shifting toward six defined department structures. These structures are based on the views of the company when it comes to customers rather than focusing on the best methods of different mediums. Overall, this shows a greater concern for the quality of the connections made with customers rather than focusing solely on reaching the greatest volume of customers. 

Here is a look at the six types of marketing department structures.

Customer Experience Model

Currently, one of the best options for marketing departments is to switch to a customer experience model. Companies that provide services see the best returns on this model, but product companies can see similar levels of success if they focus on the customer experience aspects of their operations. This model often incorporates brand management and awareness methods that are tied to how customers interact with the company.

For this method to be successful, however, the company has to have a strong focus on the customer experience. Many companies are making this transition because they want to draw in customers based on having a better experience than competitors, even with similar products and product quality. Many companies have found that customers are more focused on experiences and even ignore products and quality to some extent in favor of a better experience.

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For marketing teams, this means highlighting the positive aspects of the customer experience by focusing on a complete experience. Social proof is often a useful tool since it is easy to collect and gives customers a reliable look at how customers currently feel about working with the company. This also means taking advantage of social media and similar tools to create an online brand with a positive message.

Segment-focused Structure

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Rather than focusing internally, a segment-focused structure pinpoints the needs of a segment in an industry. This is similar to how marketing departments performed in the early years of digital marketing. However, it is more focused on identifying specific target segments and creating content for the needs of the segment. It focuses more on the group rather than on the individual customer. That way, it can reach a wide audience of people with the same problem to solve.

For marketing departments, this means creating an online persona within that industry and focusing on being a problem solver. Companies want to be the go-to option for people with a specific problem. So, focusing on the experience of solving that problem using the available products and services is essential. 

Marketing departments need to have an acute awareness of what is happening in that segment and industry so that they can adjust as needed to target the right segment.

Operational Teams Model

The internal structure of a marketing department can cover many different areas of operations. In an operational teams model, the department is divided into teams that focus on specific goals or functionalities. 

For example, a department can have separate teams for advertising, social media, and research. Each team excels in its area and does not overlap with the others.

This structure is useful for building teams of specialists that excel in a specific area. That way, companies can see major improvements in specific operational fields. However, the teams must be able to collaborate to reach marketing objectives. If the teams cannot collaborate, then much of the specialized effort could be wasted.

Geography-focused Model

Marketing teams for major, national, and international companies may need to be divided into functional teams that focus on a specific geographical area of operations. This is because marketing needs change based on location.

For example, a company that advertises in the U.S. needs different methods for advertising in India. The tastes of consumers changes in each area, and legal requirements may also necessitate the need for different methods.

In this case, companies can see major benefits because the teams are experts in their areas. Therefore, many companies develop teams with specialists who live in those areas. With that level of immersive experience, marketing methods can be much more effective. 

However, the company needs a unifying department leader or structure to help the teams work together. This will keep the underlying brand and message of advertising the same across the regions.

Channel-specific Teams Model

While many companies are trying to build multi-functional teams, the rise of different digital marketing channels makes the challenge more difficult. A channel-specific teams model creates teams that focus on specific channels. 

For example, a company can have a social media team, a print team, and a video content team. This can be drilled down even smaller by creating teams for different platforms like Instagram and YouTube.

The key to being successful with channel-specific teams is to have a unifying structure that  makes sure that the advertising delivers the same quality and message across all of the channels. Each channel can have its own unique look and feel, but it all must represent the brand cohesively.

Product-based Teams Model

Companies that have many products may benefit from using a product-based teams model. Each major product gets a team of marketing specialists that can promote it effectively when and where it is needed. The biggest benefit is that every product can stand on its own and be placed with the segment that most needs it. 

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The potential drawback is that these products should function completely separately from any other major product from the company. That way, multiple teams won’t have to coordinate to increase sales. They can just focus on one specific thing to get the best results. It also makes it easier for the company to see which products are worth investing in based on marketing returns.

How to Choose the Right Marketing Team Structure

Choosing the right marketing team structure for a company begins by identifying how the company needs to operate. Product-based businesses need to sell products either on volume or by value. If the product has a high value, the company can get by selling less of it and focus on the quality of those transactions. Alternatively, companies that need to sell on volume will focus on a different approach. Knowing what the company needs to do to survive makes the decision much easier.

Companies that provide services or can stay open with lower volume levels can focus on experience and relationship-focused methods. For example, a company that has services should focus on the customer experience model. Customers are often most focused on what their experience with the company will be, and companies curate experiences to match. So, that should be the marketing/selling point for the company.

A company that sells high-value products should focus on a product-based teams model for the marketing department. For these companies, they often have fewer customers that spend more money with the company. 

Many companies cultivate relationships with consistent buyers, including other major companies. So, the marketing department should focus on marketing the product as a solution for these types of clients. SaaS (Software as a Service) companies do this often by connecting with other major companies that need technical infrastructure for their operations.

Companies that are international or cover a wide area should focus on the geography-focused model. This gives them the best options for adjusting to the needs of different markets. Companies like Microsoft do this since the needs of each market vary widely based on their location. Each product and marketing strategy is tailored to the needs of each market for maximum effectiveness.

Companies that use a diverse collection of channels and mediums should use either the channel-specific teams model or the operational teams model. Both options provide flexibility and infrastructure for addressing the needs of specific platforms. The difference between the two is how the company markets. However, many companies incorporate elements of both structures to accommodate the needs of the company.

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Finally, any company that focuses on solving a range of problems that are specific to a group of related customers should use a segment-focused model. Apple is a prime example of this as it covers an entire segment of tech users. By offering multiple related products to them, the company makes the lives of customers across that segment easier. The marketing structure should reflect that to provide the most value.

Choosing a marketing team structure is easier once it is clear what the company needs. Start with some internal research to see what drives the company forward. Then, identify the structure that matches the needs of the company. The result should be a dramatic change in how the company’s marketing efforts affect sales and customer relationships.

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Melanie G. is a freelance writer and editor living in Tampa, Florida. She's freelanced full-time since she left her writing job at Nielsen in 2012.

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