What is the best marketing team structure to survive 2017?
Will there ever be the perfect blueprint for marketing teams?
Building an effective marketing team is one of the most important challenges businesses face.
Not so long ago it was possible that a senior marketer could have a fairly comprehensive overview of all marketing channel - from TV Ads, Direct Mail to Fax. Since then the media landscape has fragmented in a thousand different directions, with customer data spread across multiple devices and requires a real-time, personalised response.
Is it possible for any one person - or any one team - to be expert in all channels, all forms of content, its programmatic distribution, the analytics and technology, not to mention overall marketing strategy?
Unlikely. None of these area of the modern marketing are a simple, easy-to-learn discipline, but requires a team of skills and capabilities. Take content, which is not just one skill but (according to this matrix from Econsultancy) no fewer than 16 different roles.
As the concept of 'Marketing' has spiralled to encompass everything from technology spend to, well, pretty much everything a business does, it has become necessary to rebuild team structures around different specialisms and to recruit from outside the traditional marketing hunting grounds.
When TFM interviewed Ann Lewnes, Adobe CMO she explained
"One the great misconceptions of digital marketing is that you'll need fewer people to do it. It's actually the opposite - it's highly human intensive."
She went on to explain the Adobe approach building marketing teams around specialisms:
"To make it work, specialism is necessary. At Adobe, we have a whole department called Marketing Operations and Insights which didn't exist five years ago. That's our central intelligence hub of all our marketing, and the team are far more analytical than the traditional marketers we know and love."
Amanda Rendle, Ex-CMO at HSBC took a similar view in a recent interview with TFM:
"There are two different areas of expertise developing in marketing. There is the 'left brain' of data, insights, marketing operations and automation, and I need to hire really good analysts to interrogate our data and make sense to produce valuable insights. Then there is the 'right brain' of content and creative."
When to centralise?
One of the biggest structural questions this raises is whether to group teams by function (horizontally) or by market (vertical). For example, to bring marketing operations teams together into a central team or to have them part of market-facing brand teams.
Dave Chaffey, founder of Smart Insights and regular speaker at TFM, advises that when a business brings in new marketing technology or significant changes, the right approach is usually to centralise around technologies.
"In the early days digital marketing teams were created, but they weren't integrated with brand product marketing teams. The natural journey is to move from a centralised centre of excellence to reskill teams, and to eventually restructure so that these skills go back into business as usual." says Chaffey in the Digital Transformation Survival Guide.
What about the strategy?
The problem is that moving towards lots of specialism can simply create lots of silos and tactics that do not work together. In the words of Sun Tzu: "Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."
Amanda Rendle told TFM "We are missing the leaders of the future who are capable to straddling both to see the overall strategy, how we use digital and social channels. We need to train our talent to fuse the two."
But where to find this rare breed? One solution is to recruit for teams made up of 'T Shaped Marketers' who have in-depth knowledge in 1 or maybe 2 specific areas, and broad knowledge covering a wide range of digital tactics.
Outside of the specialism bucket, it is important to nurture behaviours such as being data-driven, results focused and an effective collaborator, as these will be the leaders of the future.
What role do agencies play in 2017?
As marketing teams change shape, so too does the role of the traditional agency.
In a world in which marketers are trying to create a single customer view of prospects, does outsourcing social media or display advertising to external specialists still make any kind of sense?
Rendle thinks not "In my experience, most agencies are unable to fuse technology and creative. They still treat social as a campaign tool rather than customer opportunity. It's because they don't understand the full customer journey and I think it's becoming real problem. If agencies don't come to us with wider solutions to encompass the whole customer journey, you will see advertising agencies scope become narrower."
So... what's the answer then?
Which is all to say, there is no straightforward 'target operating model' that applies equally to all marketing teams of all shapes and sizes.
This is why IDM and Technology for Marketing are keen to know how you see your team developing in 2017. Will you be looking at increasing in-house resource in areas or relying more on agencies? Which parts of the marketing mix will be most important for you in the year ahead?