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The best structure for highly effective marketing teams

DJ Waldow 10 min read
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In the digital marketing era, modern marketing teams are undergoing a rapid evolution — how they work, what they need to accomplish, and their strategic value.

There is often a fine line between what separates highly effective marketing teams from ones that just spin their wheels.

In today’s business environment, marketing departments need to undergo significant leadership, technological, and cultural changes to meet — and exceed — their business goals.

How can you and your team tackle these challenges successfully? What’s the most effective marketing team structure? How important are team leaders? How do you ensure you reach your target market? How does social media play a role?

Over the next few minutes, we’ll revisit the basics of (digital) marketing teams, detail the various marketing roles and goals of marketing teams, stress the importance of social marketing, and preview the future of marketing.

Revisiting the basics of marketing (& marketing teams)

If your company doesn’t have a dedicated marketing department yet, it can be tricky knowing where to start.

Let’s revisit the basics.

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), “marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

The main goal: Help convert your target audience into customers. However, marketing can also assist in building (and maintaining) the corporate culture and reputation.

Marketing team members, naturally, include the collection of employees who work on marketing initiatives and goals (email marketing, generating leads, creating collateral, etc.). Marketing teams can be 100% in-house, 100% outsourced, or be some combination of in-house + contractor/agency. The hybrid option is becoming more commonplace of late.

Okay, now that we are all on the same page …

What are the main roles and goals of marketing teams?

According to Gartner, marketing plays a more prominent and crucial role in both creating and driving innovation. 91% of marketers say their team is involved in their organization’s overall innovation strategy, while only 29% say marketing is the only department involved.

Marketers are well-positioned to lead organization-wide innovation because they are data-driven by nature. They are focused (obsessed!) with testing, trying new digital tools, and collaborating across multiple departments.

Increasingly, marketing-derived data and perspectives have become invaluable to departments like sales, R&D, and customer support. These departments require a deeper understanding of the market climate, competition, and individual customer profiles in order to build products, sell, and support customers effectively.

In an ideal world, your department already has the leadership, talent, and technology required to fulfill its evolving role in the organization. But in the real world, most marketing departments are still in the process of adapting to their new duties and “ad-hoc’ing” their way forward.

Before you can start hiring for or re-tooling your digital marketing team, you need to be clear on overall goals. You can use the help of a goal-setting worksheet and easily set and communicate your goals with your team.

Remember, the main goal of marketing is to help convert audiences into customers.

However, marketing team members objectives and responsibilities will depend on your business type, size (small business, enterprise, etc.), and so on, but they will likely include some (if not all) of the following:

  • Collecting and analyzing data-driven marketing research (often with help from a data analyst)
  • Growing brand awareness and reputation
  • Leveraging email marketing to create buzz
  • Developing brand positioning and communication standards
  • Driving qualified leads or sales
  • Planning and executing data-driven campaigns for the above objectives
  • Interpret insights on the competition and target customers
  • Determining the brand’s media mix
  • Creating brand assets like multimedia and copy
  • Collaborating across many other departments

Once the team starts growing, it can help to have a marketing team charter or roadmap that can help keep everyone aligned around the chosen objectives. MindTools explains that team charters “define the purpose of the team, how it will work, and what the expected outcomes are.” Here at, we use one or two major Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to align around for every project.

In general, these will be similar from team to team. The purpose will be to find, nurture, and convert potential customers. Expected outcomes will be related to your key performance indicators, which depend on your current goals.  

A marketing team’s work has a large range of goals and project types. For these reasons, building the right marketing team for your business goals is so essential.

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Building a well-aligned, agile marketing organization

Cross-team alignment is essential to a successful organization, especially for digital marketing teams that engage with just about every other team.

While the main marketing roles and goals of your marketing team will remain consistent, there will be many times where one-time (sometimes one-off) projects will arise: conducting interviews, performing research, working on new messaging, and so on. This will require the team to quickly shift from one marketing channel to another, requiring adjustments in marketing strategy, collateral, and prioritization.

Example: At, the marketing team’s focus is on reaching individual humans, even when marketing to larger organizations. Campaigns speak to one person within a company and the problem(s) that person faces. Where we’re reaching them might change from Facebook to Google to YouTube, or include a combination of all 3 — but the goal stays the same.

The key: Agility (and agile marketing).

Agile marketing is an approach or framework for marketing project management that’s inspired by agile project management in software development. An agile marketing team structure is intentional and strategic to follow this approach.

Why does that matter?

In order to be most effective, marketing teams need to move away from conventional, hierarchical structures to empower teams to be more autonomous: team members cannot wait for managers to make top-down decisions that trickle throughout the organization. 

To keep pace, teams must be able to make decisions on the fly and work in the way that suits them to achieve their goals. 

And Gartner agrees with us, stating: “CMOs must build a diverse, adaptable range of team capabilities to keep their brands competitive amid rapid marketplace shifts. An agile approach would serve them well.”

The most effective agile marketing team structure for your organization will depend on your industry, target customer profile, and chosen media mix, but also to make sure that your teams can make decisions on the fly to react to changing customer needs and tastes. 

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3 key changes marketing departments must embrace

Digital marketing teams must embrace change. The good news? Many are already on the right path but need some focus and prioritization. Here are 3 things marketing can work towards:

1. Broadening the C-suite with CMO allies

CMOs have led marketing departments for years, but two other roles have emerged as important partners for driving growth and promoting innovation across the organization: the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Chief Growth Officer (CGO).

CDOs play a crucial role in the organization’s pursuit of digital maturity, innovation, and operational excellence. Alternatively dubbed “transformer in chief” by McKinsey, the primary duties of this executive are to drive growth, promote customer retention, and create new business value through better use of digital technologies, processes, and services.

CDOs don’t always come from a marketing background. However, the combined expertise of CDOs and CMOs is essential for developing a coherent digital vision and executing innovation initiatives at scale.

CGOs are focused on accelerating broader business growth while establishing the infrastructure to sustain a larger customer base. While some of their duties may overlap with the CMO, CGOs’ initiatives and influence extend beyond marketing into other departments that are responsible for driving growth: again, sales, customer success, and R&D. Assigning a CGO alongside your CMO enables better continuity across departments, increases alignment, and supports efforts to be lean and agile.

While adding two more roles to the C-suite might seem like overcrowding, each organization must determine which roles are necessary for their unique goals and needs. But what’s indisputable is that the breadth of marketing responsibilities is expanding and becoming more complex.

Not only must CMOs push the marketing department forward, but they’re expected to bring the rest of the organization with them. With the partnership of a CDO and CGO, you can bolster your leadership capabilities to achieve more — faster.

2. Mastering technology that unlocks innovation and drives growth

With increasing workloads and rising pressure to meet higher targets, marketing teams need digital platforms to help them manage their workflows, innovate on the fly, test, and optimize their processes. Currently, marketing automation and CRM platforms don’t fulfill these needs, so teams end up resorting to meetings, managing an abundance of spreadsheets, and emails.

More specialized and advanced technology will enable marketers to fulfill their new duties better and carry out more strategic initiatives.

However, digital investments should not be made hastily. Prioritizing which tools are mission-critical and which are simply nice add-ons is an essential first step to refining your digital toolbox. Currently, collaboration, workflow, marketing management, and project management platforms are among the highest priority.

Workflow platforms that readily enable collaboration — both within the marketing department and across other teams — have become fundamental to maintaining desired levels of agility and alignment, even as workloads increase. Combined with project management and communication functions, overall team speed is increased as the need for status updates and feedback is handled online instead of in meetings.

3. Emphasizing the importance of teamwork & individual accountability

Because the marketing team has become a primary driver of innovation and growth, individual team members must adapt to new responsibilities and expectations quickly.

True marketing talent extends beyond domain expertise and experience. Successful team members are adaptable, agile, flexible, self-driven, and proactive about learning new skills and technologies. In addition, they are willing and prepared to wear many different hats when the need arises.

The days of siloed marketing roles are over, and cultures that don’t actively dismantle barriers in collaboration, communication, and accountability will be ill-equipped to meet rising demands. Only teams with a unified, hyper-collaborative culture will be positioned to fulfill the department’s goals. In other words, individuals must be just as good at working together as they are at performing their own duties if they want to complete complex work effectively and quickly.

Don't forget about social media & social marketing!

A social marketing campaign is a way to push your company and your content out on social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and [insert latest and greatest social media tool]. 

An effective social marketing campaign helps spread brand awareness and gets your brand in front of more eyeballs … while also creating sales opportunities.

A whopping 97% of marketers use social media, which makes sense when you consider there are 3.6 billion social media users worldwide, which is predicted to grow to 4.41 billion by 2025.

Not a target audience you want to ignore.

The future of marketing: It's here, now.

To be an effective marketing team, it’s no longer just “generate leads, increase subscribers, and garner likes.” This is just table stakes.

The modern marketing team (successful ones, at least) is defined by its ability to achieve all of the above AND encouraging innovation across the organization, accelerating growth, and inventing and reimagining new ways to differentiate the brand.

In addition, teams must design effective workflows to manage increasingly complex projects. A marketing work management software like help keep your marketing team in motion to keep everyone aligned and on track.

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DJ is a freelance writer specializing in all things words. He's a father of 4 (including twins), husband to one, and an alum of the University of Michigan. DJ is a self-proclaimed giphy master and #HashtagAddict.
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