How to Build Your Marketing Team: Structure, Roles and Requirements – for Any Company Size
It is quite common with smaller companies and startups that, in the early stages, only one or two people do marketing tasks. Many times, for the simple reason that there is no budget to hire more staff or because the owners are afraid to grow the team. But it shouldn’t necessarily be like that.
Online marketing is not a one-man task, but a process which needs a significant amount of human resources.
It’s especially true if the company is involved in more marketing activities. Just think of an ecommerce business where content marketing, SEO, Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, retargeting and email marketing may be used for customer acquisition and retention.
Beyond a certain level of complexity and size, all these tasks are simply impossible to perform by a single person.
For this reason, it’s worth assessing what kind of resources you have and what you will need in the future.
This largely influences what type of team should be employed and whether you are able to build such a team.
Allocating tasks and responsibilities depends mainly on 3 factors:
- Quantity of tasks
- Size of the organization
- Available budget
These factors usually operate parallel with each other. This is good news because you can make estimations based on them so that you can build the proper team structure for executing the necessary projects.
When looking at the marketing solutions and channels as a process, we can define 3 main phases:
- Traffic generation
- Soft conversion
- Hard conversion (sales)
These elements are the stages of the sales funnel. You start “loading” the users (e.g. readers) at the mouth of the funnel and try to guide as many of them as possible over to the next level.
The hard fact is that you’ll lose a number of them at each stage.
Thus, for the whole process, the conversion rate is 2/100 (20%x10%), which is 2%. So finally you managed to convert 2 visitors out of 100.
Traffic generation takes place in the top part of the funnel.
This is called top-of-the-funnel (TOFU). The middle part is called the middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) and the sales (hard conversion) part is the bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU).
Team size: 1 person
If the whole process is managed by only one person, all three functions have to be performed by the same individual.
They are called “full-funnel” marketing experts.
If you can employ more staff, then you can separate these parts and assign each to different people.
If we take a look at content marketing as the main marketing activity managed by one person, he or she will have the following tasks:
- Generating content ideas
- Creating content
- Search engine optimization
- Content distribution
- Managing social networking accounts
This specialist needs to be good at creating content strategy, copywriting, SEO, email marketing and social media communication.
Needless to say, it’s not an easy job.
Team size: 3 people
That’s why it can be a good idea to hire different people (even interns or trainees) for different tasks.
These structures work mostly for teams of 2-5 people.
Here, with option 1, the 3 specializations are assigned to 3 different professionals.
With option 2, traffic and soft conversion are typically in the hand of one person. But it’s also possible to have soft and hard conversion handled by one expert.
The point is that the three fields are now separated.
As the size of the team grows, this hierarchy can be divided even further.
Team size: over 8 people
These tasks are completely separated with a staff of 6-8. If we go further, one task can be fulfilled by more than one person, or even by a team.
In this case a dedicated marketing manager (Head of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer) is needed who’s not into content creation or other specific projects, but coordinates his team.
As the size of the teams grows, these organizational charts get more and more complex.
You can see above that 4 different professionals manage traffic generation and content creation:
- One person builds and maintains the website’s blog.
- Another one is responsible for layout and design.
- A third one for SEO.
- The fourth person elaborates the content strategy, writes blog posts, shoots videos or manages social networking.
The largest team I’ve been ever part of, was made up of 14 people. We were in charge of the entire online marketing for a US company.
The Head of Marketing coordinated the team, not participating in the actual content creation and distribution.
Almost half of the team (6 experts) were not employees, but freelancers.
I focused solely on SEO. I didn’t have to deal with email marketing, web design or other areas.
This was a genuine, full-size online marketing team.
Roles in a digital marketing team
Briefly, let’s take a look at what kind of competencies are needed in such a full-size marketing team.
Head of Marketing
- Coordinating the team
- Identifying and filling talent gaps
- Hiring staff
- Setting objectives and tracking performance
- Results-oriented, prefers data-driven marketing
- 2-3 years of experience in online marketing in at least 2-3 different fields
- Good communications skills
- Team player
Blogger, content writer
- Writing content on the basis of the scheduled topics
- Giving feedback to and editing guest posts
- Editing and formatting articles
- Being familiar with the given industry
- Good writing skills
- Can work independently
- 2-3 years of relevant experience
Social media manager
- Managing the social media accounts of the company
- Summarizing or compacting the published pieces of content, preparing them for sharing on social networking sites
- Moderating and answering comments and feedback
- Content distribution and promotion
- Advanced communications skills
- Continuous availability
- Knowledge of social media channel mechanisms
- Performing on-page and off-page SEO tasks
- Cooperation with bloggers and content writers
- Defining organic traffic objectives and tracking performance
- Following SEO trends and applying up-to-date techniques
- 2-3 years of relevant experience
- Thorough knowledge of SEO, analytics and keyword research
- Data driven attitude
- Good communications skills
- Visual enhancement of written content
- Cooperation with other content creators
- Creating visuals for content to be shared on social media websites
- Preparing presentations and infographics
- Willingness to create design relevant for the target audience
- Being open to design ideas other than his own
- Relevant experience
- Creative thinker, but effective graphic expert
- Fast and reliable
- In-house or agency experience is an advantage
All of these competences are rarely present at one single company.
That’s why freelancers, e.g. content writers, designers or SEO experts, are often involved in different projects to perform the needed tasks.
Of course, further specialists can be added to the team if needed, for example an email marketing or an analytics expert. In the case of an ecommerce business, an RFM model or a transactional email specialist may be hired as well.
Generally, it’s worth listing first what kinds of tasks are to be performed and then structuring the ideal marketing team can take place.
When doing this, you can rely on your own experience or get ideas from other players in the sector.
Here’s a useful tip:
- Find an international company that has roughly the same size and profile as your business
- Check on LinkedIn who work for that company
- Studying the job titles you can easily sketch the organizational chart
A simple example:
Run a search for Shapr3D on LinkedIn. You’ll get 13 results:
- If you check all these people one by one, you’ll realize that 3 out of the 13 don’t work for the company: the company name is present in their profile as a skill
- 1 person is not with the company anymore
- 2 people are advisors
- The actual workforce here is 7 people: 1 CEO, 3 developers, 1 product designer, 2 marketing specialists
- You could probably draw their organizational chart right now
Also, your desired company structure, much larger than that of a 7-member startup team, could be drafted as well with this same method.
Run another search on LinkedIn for „BioTech USA marketing”, then you’ll find those who work for Biotech USA and are also marketing specialists:
Job titles such as these are coming up:
- Head of Online
- Digital Marketing Strategist
- Marketing Manager
- Online Marketing Analyst
- Junior Marketing Manager
Now you can easily create a list of the different responsibilities and then define the team and task hierarchy.
The sheer size of the team is not the only thing, of course, but it can be a fine indicator for gauging the quantity of tasks and what kind of output can be expected from such a team.
If you are focusing on content creation, then it’s worthwhile to check how much time it takes to create a piece of high quality content.
How long does it take to create some good quality content?
Before answering, first you need to study these aspects:
- Do you have all the necessary resources within the company?
- Do you have the money to hire experts?
- Do you have any experience in content creation?
According to my experience, a well written and nicely formatted and designed article takes at least 1-2, but preferably 3-4 days to complete.
I can also mention a piece of content that was prepared by 8 people for 3 weeks. The biggest thing we created was finished after 2.5 months, consequently achieving much better results than the less work-intensive materials.
I came across this research a couple of years ago, prepared by TechValidate after questioning 236 companies.
According to their findings, a good piece of content mostly takes 2-5 weeks to complete. I can strongly confirm this.
This process includes finding a topic, research, writing, design, SEO, publication, distribution and tracking.
Of course, you can come out with some content faster, but if you don’t want to compromise on quality, you need to calculate with weeks, rather than with hours or days for preparing a fine piece of work.
The most time consuming types of content are mainly these:
- ebooks, whitepapers
- product demos
- case studies
Less time consuming projects:
- blog posts
- news, PR articles
Knowing your time limits is important so that you can properly allocate the necessary resources and schedule content releases well in advance. It’s worth publishing content on a regular basis, e.g. every Wednesday.
A lot of small companies or startups have a one-person, full-stack “team” who is responsible for several types of marketing tasks. There are also lots of small, 2-3-member teams.
It’s important to note that as your company grows, the complexity of responsibilities will grow as well. And this can mostly be solved by expanding resources, which is worth preparing for in advance.
This can be done most easily by studying the marketing team structure of other companies.
LinkedIn is a good tool for that. But you can use Facebook as well, although here fewer people give their company information.
So the tools are available, now the only thing you need to do is use them!
Restructuring a poorly performing team
You probably want to ask: what if you don’t want to build up a team from scratch, but make the existing one perform better?
The reason for that may be having new kinds of tasks, some competencies need to be reduced or someone underperforms.
In this case, two aspects are worth considering:
- The will, skill and knowledge of the specific person
- The time and expertise needed for fulfilling the given task
If a task needs a person with much higher expertise than the existing employee has, you have the following options:
- Hiring a senior level specialist. Giving some other task to the junior team member or laying them off.
- Hiring an advisor who will mentor the junior member to be able to cope with the challenges in a given time.
You need to identify which element of the will-skill-knowledge “triad” is the weakest. If the team member is passionate and smart, but lacks the appropriate knowledge, it’s not a big problem.
If someone is motivated, but unskilled, then his skills need to be developed. If there is passion, but all the rest are missing, it is very likely that cooperation will not work.
Still, it’s very hard to predict whether a person will become a top-notch expert or not, but it’s a fact that if there are serious problems with any 2 elements of the will-skill-knowledge set, you have chosen an underperforming colleague.
In this case you can think about assigning different tasks or a position to the person in question. If this seems impossible, you need to get rid of him.
A lot of times it happens that even if you know what kind of tasks need to be carried out, you simply cannot find the right people for that who would be able to join your company immediately.
The reasons may vary: there is a shortage of experts in that field, your project is not attractive enough or you don’t have the funds to hire the right professional.
There’s no easy way around in these situations, but if you manage to identify the main blocker and try to remove it, you have better chances to solve such a problem.
Here’s some help:
- Identify the problem, i.e. the main obstacle
- Elaborate a step by step strategy for solving it
- Break down the strategy into action items
- Set a time limit for solving the problem
- Do it step by step
If you go in the top-down direction, which is defining the necessary tasks by focusing on the objective, then you obligate yourself as well as the team to develop on an ongoing basis.
Most professional marketing teams have a quarterly or half-year plan broken down into monthly and weekly sprints.
They see clearly the objectives to be met in 3-6 months, discuss tasks every month and schedule them in weekly sprints.
Weekly meetings help allocating short term tasks effectively. Monthly and quarterly planning supports greatly mid and long term targets.
As for lots of markets, it’s also true for the online sector that it’s rather saturated in terms of human resources.
This means that there is a huge number of copywriters, content marketing specialists, but as you take a look at higher altitudes, the “air becomes thinner and thinner”.
There is a relatively low number of very good online marketing experts, not only locally, but on an international level as well.
This, however offers some excellent opportunities. If you find someone with a large follower base with whom you can cooperate and develop a partner relationship, then you can reach not only your own target audience, but theirs as well.
“Hunting down” such influencers may take a considerable amount of time and energy, but it can well worth the effort. You can appoint a team member to find and communicate with the influencers or the Head of Marketing may be given the task to regularly meet and talk to such people.
Personal relationships of the kind can lead to future cooperation helping to raise brand awareness, increase website traffic, get valuable backlinks (important for SEO) or can be useful for hiring purposes.
Just imagine that a highly praised marketing professional writes a detailed case study about your company on his own blog that has thousands of visitors a day.
Wouldn’t it be useful for your company? Of course it would.
Online marketing and SEO expert
Online marketing and SEO expert, founder of The Pitch online marketing blog. He has relevant experience in Search Engine Optimization, Growth Hacking and Business Models. His former clients include multinational companies, Techstars and Seedcamp portfolio companies, and even a New York Times Bestseller writer. He is the Growth Marketer of Shapr3D.