What is the best marketing team structure for your business?

By now there is no question of it: if your company doesn’t have a discerning digital marketing strategy led by a team of digital experts then it will lose out to competitors who do.

Consider your company’s online presence. Is there a clear marketing team structure? Is the current digital strategy lukewarm, feeble or unconvincing? If so, you need to act now. But a digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. First, a proper digital team must be created and an appropriate strategy decided upon.

Creating a Digital Team

You, or whoever is responsible for hiring within the company, will need to consider exactly which specialists are needed and what team structure is appropriate. Roles to consider include, but are not limited to:

  • Technical specialists who can develop websites and set up analytics software in their sleep.
  • Social Media specialists who can be trusted to build a positive brand image and speak on behalf of your company.
  • Content Creators (like us!) who will bring a voice and thought leadership to your business.
  • Data Analysts who will be responsible for making crucial decisions.

These are all key roles to have in a digital team. But what’s most important is that anyone hired fundamentally understands the concept of digital marketing, and that the digital landscape is constantly changing.

It’s also worth considering the benefits a ‘t shape marketer’ can bring to a digital team. That is, an individual who understands a wide range of digital disciplines but holds a deeper and more complete skill set in one specific area.

Here is some further useful reading on how to hire and build a digital team:

Managing a Digital Team

Once a team is in place, it is vital that they are managed well and the overall strategy is clear. But where does the responsibility for managing that digital team lie? How can you ensure that your digital marketing plan is successful?

The weight of responsibility should not be placed solely on the shoulders of the senior team member – that would be insular and terribly restricting. The solution, unfortunately, is not so simple. The truth is that it depends on a number of variables:

  • It depends on the size of the business.
  • It depends on the business locations.
  • It depends on the existing appetite for digital within the business.
  • It depends on the nature of the business – b2c invariably have to move faster than b2b style businesses.
  • It depends on how departments within the company communicate with each other.
  • Most importantly, it depends on what marketing team structure is utilised.

All these aspects need to be considered carefully. If they aren’t then your digital strategy is likely to come grinding to a halt very early on in the game.

For instance, if the business is spread across multiple locations, will your digital marketing strategy need to take into account local values or customs? And if the digital team is centralized, can senior members from other departments be trusted to carry out their roles without the guidance of a digital expert?

Types of Marketing Team Structure

In their three-part 2013 publication, Jason Mogus, Michael Silberman and Chris Roy defined 4 types of digital business structures, best illustrated by these marketing models:

The Informal Model

The informal model involves one lone voice singing the praises of digital throughout the entire company. It is without question the most outdated marketing structure and if your company is still using this then a need for change couldn’t be more urgent!

The Centralized Model

What tends to follow next is the centralized model, since there was a kneejerk reaction for businesses to ‘do digital’ when the benefits became clear. The idea involves utilising the skills and expertise of one central team – or a ‘centre of excellence’ – which may not necessarily be needed in every department. This centre of excellence can provide training, develop websites, manage brand development in social arenas and support other entirely digital environments in one place. Local teams, on the other hand, can get on with content creation and social media in the meantime.

However, a common criticism of the centralised model is that other departments may consequently adopt a ‘nothing to do with us’ sort of approach, meaning digital is siloed in one area. And that goes against the all-embracing attitude absolutely needed to implement a digital strategy successfully.

The Independent Model

In contrast to the centralized model, the independent model seeks to add digital expertise to every department by splitting the digital team up so that there is no single digital team or department.

While this approach could ensure that a digital presence exists across the company, it doesn’t lend itself well to the notion of creating a purely digital environment where ideas can bounce off walls and new strategies are formed.

The Hybrid Model

The Hybrid model not only sounds cool; it is by far the best marketing team structure, and can work just as well in both international and national organisations . There is a central team providing training, support and strategic guidance, while other digital experts work individually in other departments.

Unsurprisingly this is the most difficult digital structure to create in old hat businesses.

Other ideas

In their 2013 manifesto The Evolution of Social Business”, digital gurus Charlene Li and Brian Solis identified an even shrewder (and decidedly more challenging) digital business structure – the holistic approach. This is whereby digital is at the forefront of every facet of a company; the idea that “a digital strategy becomes second nature, baked into every process, and social channels should no longer be treated as special or different”.

**Psst! You can order a copy of Brian Solis’s latest magnus opus “X: The Experience when Business Meets Design” here. It’s a must-read for any digital marketeer**

I like this idea. Which digital marketeer wouldn’t? But if the experts agree that the hybrid model is a challenging concept, then would successfully implementing this supposed holistic approach be akin to turning water into wine??

What do you think? How does your company currently utilise digital to achieve business goals? Which marketing team structure does it use? Would your company consider developing a holistic, social culture?

Vivienne Neale is a strategist and consultant working in social media, change management and digital transformation.

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