How Should a Marketing Team be Structured?

The following outtake, focused on breaking into digital marketing is taken from a recent exclusive recording of an MMC Moments of Truth discussion between Stephanie Leigh-Rose, education and media director at MMC Learning and David Edmundson-Bird, who is an author, a principal lecture in digital marketing and thought leader.

In this extract, Stephanie and David talk about the importance of building and structuring an effective marketing team and finding the best talent for your business.

Watch the 13 minute video below for fascinating expert advice on the topic.

How do you structure a marketing team?

So next question. How should a marketing team be structured?

David Edmundson-Bird:

So when you’re thinking about your client side marketing team, it depends on the size of the organisation, because that’s going to affect some of the decisions you can make about the kinds of people you can bring in and the relationships they have with each other. So for example the size of organisation will affect whether you have something like a marketing director.

I think sometimes organisations put marketing as ‘a nice little thing we might do’, but your marketing team know your customers better than anyone else in your organisation, so having somebody at the most senior level of the organisation responsible for marketing, is really important. Whether they’re called a marketing director doesn’t matter.

Let’s think about your team now. Who is the person who knows all of the things going on from a marketing manager point of view? They’re the one who’s able to bring together all of the different players and make them all sing in harmony.

You often call this the master marketing mixer, and it’s the person who knows which people to bring for which parts of projects, which parts of campaigns and they have that kind of oversight of the capabilities of the different members of the team and the requirements of different projects.

What roles should you have on a marketing team?

So what other roles should you have, I guess it depends on the kind of assets you currently use to promote your organisation. If I think about it from a digital marketing perspective, if you are an organisation that is very heavily dependent on search to bring in a lot of traffic and you would expect to have people who are responsible for SEO within your team, you might, depending on your organisation, look at having somebody who’s responsible for paid search.

If you find that actually that’s a skill you don’t have the resources to have in house, then there’s an opportunity for looking at a contractor and outsourcing your paid search activity.

A lot of organisations do that because maybe they don’t have that skill as a core set in their organisation, and by doing that you are sort of transferring the risk of that knowledge to an organisation whose job is paid search, and then working with your search team. That can be a really good way of handling that problem.

You’ve also got to have people who are good at content. Now there’s a relationship between content and search obviously, but your content team can be people who can assist in the effort of search, but then might also be creating content for other channels. Those people may well be people who can operate the channels themselves. Somebody might be a great content marketer who also has skills in social media marketing.

So you’ve got somebody who’s really good at managing the Twitter account and the Instagram account and they can also be the person who could be really good at your content marketing.

So I think that you need to have those people in house and wouldn’t necessarily look at outsourcing them. Cause those people need to have a real intimate understanding of the organisation and its audience.

What are the challenges when creating and running an effective marketing team and how do we resolve them?

One of my biggest concerns about organisations, particularly big ones is when you start to see silos develop.

So you might have the SEO team and you might have the content marketing team and the social media team, and they kind of operate in isolation from each other. You might think, well, that just sounds really stupid, why would anyone do that? Yet it does happen.

You see it particularly as organisations grow and as marketing teams grow and I think you’ve got to really try and get away from a siloed approach to running a team.

So one of the ways to structure it is rather than structure it around disciplines, structure it around campaigns or projects so that people are across areas, you have a kind matrix layout for your organisation so that you might have a product that’s going through a promotional campaign.

You bring together a search person, content person, a social media person and say, “Right, your focus is around this project for that period of time.” So the silo is around a project rather than necessarily just around disciplines and that allows a much more coherent view of communications to take place and for decisions to be made by a project team about what’s going to happen. It allows you to do campaign planning in a much more effective way.

At the same time, those specialists will still have that subject matter relationship with their job role. So they’ll know what the other people in for example their search engine team are doing, they’ll know what the other people are up to elsewhere. So that’s a really good way of people remaining connected with other projects. Then they’re connected through their specialism, but it stopped that discipline subject matter expert thing happening and things going on that no one knows about.

How do you put together a marketing team?

David Edmundson-Bird:

I think you’ve got to think though, that trying to get everyone to be good at everything is probably not possible.

So you do need to think about the idea of a T-shaped marketer or increasingly it’s M shaped or whatever the letter is, but somebody might be specialist in more than one area. So you might have somebody who’s an SEO who also has content marketing capabilities. So hire people who are specialists in one or more areas and where you have gaps, try and make those gaps things that you can contract from outside.

You might bring someone in for a very, very specific project, or you might say this is a particular task that should be carried out by a specialist agency, paid marketing as an example, but learn that this isn’t a permanent structure. This is something that needs to evolve over time, as you bring new products or new projects to the fore, the shape and layout of your marketing organisation may well need to adapt to whatever posture your organisation is taken at that time.

So that’s why using freelancers and contractors can be really, really useful if you know that a campaign is only going to be around for a certain amount of time, you can use that in a really helpful way. Just don’t ever get the idea that this is our market team and that’s what they’re going to be like forever. That kind of thinking is problematic just because things change so often and you need to just make sure that your market team is agile and adaptive to the situation that it finds itself in.

What are the pro’s and cons of apprentices to a marketing team?

Stephanie Leigh-Rose:

Alright. Great, thank you for that insight on how to structure a marketing team. Some really valuable information there. I know that you are involved with apprenticeships. What are the opportunities for recruiting apprentices would you say?

David Edmundson-Bird:

So I think anyone who’s responsible for recruiting talent at the moment has two big problems, I’m sure that many of you watching this are pulling your hair out. One is how do I stop everyone leaving? Because there is a shortage of really good talent and when I go out and talk to businesses, they say, I can’t believe that company, they’ve just taken our best person who’s been with us for two years and everyone’s just cannibalising everyone else. So it’s a difficult problem.

Retaining staff is really hard at the moment and it means people are kind of a bit worried about training staff. There is the old adage that people say, oh, if we train them, they’ll just go somewhere else and then the come back is yeah, well, if you train them, they’ll stay. So there is a kind of an interesting way around this, with apprentices, if you want to mould some staff in your own image.

You want people who are going to learn the ropes, get the knowledge, get the skills and the capabilities.

Apprentices and degree apprentices offer you a really valuable opportunity to get someone who is going to be really quite clever, and very into what they do, and start to become accomplished and add value very, very quickly. They’re going to stay with you for at least the duration of the apprenticeship, which is going to be four years.

Now in that time, they will grow and develop in a lot of different areas because the apprenticeship standard will make them pick up a load of things and that’s really quite interesting because they will bring insights back to the organisation, which you probably won’t have.

They will start bringing thoughts and ideas and questions and new approaches that you possibly aren’t doing. They are a way of possibly looking at filling a gap that you have.

At the end of the four years, the worst thing that’s going to happen is they are going to leave, but you’ve got four years of value out of that person. The reality is that somebody who is quite advanced in their thinking, who has been working in your organisation for four years; my experience is that person starts to become a senior marketing figure in your business, they’re thinking from a career perspective about where do they go in this organisation next? Where can they take over?

So I’m starting to see my degree apprentices who are coming to the end of their apprenticeship time, moving into positions of seniority within the organisation and they are recruiting the next people into the team. It’s quite interesting, we’ve got undergraduates leaving their degree programme at the end of their final year, being recruited by a degree apprentice who’s just finished the final year of their degree, but they’ve been in the organisation for four years, so they already have that sense of seniority.

So that’s quite interesting, they know how the organisation works, they learn the way your organisation does things, they’ve come with that really interesting expertise that’s come from the programme and it’s quite cost effective.

Every organisation that has a payroll over such money has to pay into the levee. It doesn’t make sense to waste that money. It makes sense to use the levy to pay for the fees for that apprentice.

If you are an organisation that is smaller than that and has a payroll that’s below the levy fee, well, those levy fees will pay the fees for your apprentice and you’ll pay the absolute minute sum of money towards their fees. I think it’s about 10% of the total fees and that’s over four years. So it’s a small amount of money, but you get the advantage of that apprenticeship pool and start to recruit from that.

So I’m seeing quite a few organisations who are thinking, there’s no point in us trying to just keep poaching staff from other places. What we need is to build our staff up from start, get them trained up, maybe have a body of apprentices working for us and yes, some of them might leave, but some of them will stay and what better than somebody who needs your organisation and had a really great time there?

There’s a real fashion at the moment for people called boomerang employees as well. They come back after five years, having gained further experiences elsewhere and bring greater sort of, colour and complexity to the things you do. So I don’t discount them at all either. Think about this as a real opportunity to do something quite dramatic that could have a real impact on your business.