How to Create the Ultimate Digital Marketing Team

Digital has changed marketing. In terms of processes, strategies, and outreach, digital technologies have created new opportunities and challenges.

As a result, the marketing department is now a hub of activity. From lead generation to community management and customer value, marketers are charged with engaging and influencing customers at many stages of the funnel; no easy task for even the most advanced of teams.

The most successful digital businesses know that marketing needs to be at the heart of activities and play an integral role in the growth and success of a business.

In light of new technologies, how should organizations structure their marketing teams to get the best results from the digital world?

Although technology is integral to progressing digital transformation, the most important elements are organizational and functional issues. Marketing teams must address these so that transformative vision can thrive. Today’s modern marketing team needs to structure and align their people, processes, and partners.

People

In the digital age, new teams and roles are created while others are vanishing. In order to keep up with changing skill sets, professional development, training, and culture are crucial as part of a people strategy.

Structuring your marketing team along functional expertise allows you to organize teams according to common job functions. C-suite players can then act as orchestrators, bringing together employees with different kinds of focus. This is known as the Orchestrator Model. With the rise of social and digital media, marketing expertise must be grouped into areas of “think”, “feel” and “do” to make this model effective.

Tom de Baere, managing partner at Invisible Puppy, indicates that for this model to work today, the following areas of expertise are essential:

  • Insights & Analytics: provide market, customer, product and channel insights across marketing and sales to drive analytically based decision making
  • Customer Experience & Marketing Innovation: responsible for identifying customer segments, customer experience strategies and customer-focused marketing innovation to advocate for “customer-first” marketing.
  • Marketing Strategy & Planning: responsible for setting the marketing strategy, annual marketing plan, annual budgets and a high-level campaign calendar based on prioritization.
  • Marketing Operations: the marketing execution arm that provides cross-functional program management, agency management, marketing tools management, process excellence, print and fulfillment, and reporting.
  • Marketing technology: the increasing technical complexity of digital marketing requires expertise that spans both marketing and marketing technology.

Organising your team by specialism in this way can have its drawbacks. One of the biggest challenges facing businesses today is the issue of silos, which lead to multifarious tactics and mini-strategies that do not work together as a coherent whole.

A solution to this is T-shaped marketers who have a broad knowledge of a few digital tactics, with in-depth specialism in one or two. This can be achieved by either hiring the right new recruits or training and upskilling talent in-house. This can be particularly effective for employees who are results-focused and effective collaborators. 

Processes

As discussed above, collaboration is an essential element of modern marketing. Departments must be open to working together if they are to drive change and experimentation. Some teams are adopting agile processes to knock down crippling organizational silos and allow for nimbler workflows.

Structuring your marketing department using a data strategy is an effective way to bring your teams into the modern, digital world. Data is the revolutionary new tool that builds insights and growth. Enabling open access to data can empower data-savvy teams.

Google’s marketing insights arm, Think with Google, offers three models for data-driven marketing teams:

  • Center-of-excellence model: a central digital expert (or team) establishes and documents all guidelines and processes. Good for companies that cannot support an analytics team in every division.
  • Distributed team model: analysists are embedded in teams and locations throughout the company. Allows senior management to focus on oversight without having to micromanage data.
  • Hub-and-spoke model: a combination of the previous two models, for organizations with adequate budget and infrastructure. Encourages coordination between divisions and central management.

Furthermore, embracing data can lead to ever high-performing marketing. After all, high-performing marketing teams are three times more likely to use AI in their marketing strategy.

Using customer data in this way allows teams to effectively personalize at every stage of the user journey. What’s more, the algorithms can find correlations in vast, impenetrable repositories of data and use them to predict customer behaviors, preferences and desired experiences.

With customer expectations increasing with every new technological development, successful marketing teams must ride ahead of the curve through innovation through data.

Partners

A fluid third-party structure is important to help the evolution of the marketing team. Many agencies and consultancies work with marketing teams to guide their people and process transformation, while other companies are abandoning their partners and focusing on skilling up in-house. Ultimately, it’s about achieving flexibility in order to maintain a smooth customer journey.

Amanda Rendle, Ex-CMO at HSBC explains what happens when an external partner loses their ability to adapt: “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 a 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.”

By organizing your marketing department along the customer journey, you can make sure that your marketing solutions don’t miss anything important. In this structure, the department is made up of divisions, each led by a “hub person” who has a wide understanding of the different strategies and tactics available. Their role is to take a project brief and find the best solution in an integrated campaign. This means using a perfect combination of skill-sets – rather than allocating a single channel to solve the problem, which reinforces silos.

This strategy means that different disciplines work together, allowing all members to feel validated and acknowledged, avoiding unhelpful hierarchies between skillsets. This avenue is also a great opportunity to nurture employees who show signs of being strong collaborators, despite their own specialism. 

Conclusion

This article has touched on some of the tried and tested avenues for successful marketing teams in a digital world. Of course, how you structure for best results will ultimately depend on the needs and demands of your company.

As we have seen, aligning along functional expertise is one of the most common types of organizational structures. While it runs the risk of creating silos, using Tom de Baere’s list will help to make sure that your team’s expertise covers all the necessary areas for a modern marketing department. Pairing this list of skills to T-shaped employees, as well as training current talent in collaboration and communication, will also help to create a hostile environment for silos.

Furthermore, in a digital world, data strategy is crucial. Structuring your marketing department along a data strategy is an important consideration in today’s climate. And, if you have the capabilities, developing your AI capacity is strongly recommended to drive your marketing performance and customer experience.

Finally, organizations have had to evolve from being product centric to customer centric as a result of technological advancement. It is important therefore to consider the way your marketing team interacts with the customer journey. Structuring your department along the customer journey can be effective, and reduce your dependence on third-party vendors, such as agencies. However, it requires skilled program planners and careful consideration of your L&D strategy and employee training program to make sure you have good collaborators and results-focused leaders.