There seems to be one question on everyone’s mind lately, and that’s: How do I structure my marketing team?
I’ve been a solo marketer and a CMO of a large team, and I can tell you firsthand that there are a lot of ways to do it. That’s why I’ve made it a habit to ask marketing leaders how they approach their work and how they build teams from the ground up.
I spoke with Rosie Guest, CMO at Apex Group; Sara Varni, Former CMO at Twilio, now CMO at Attentive; Udi Ledergor, CMO at Gong; Lauren Vacarello, CMO at Talend; and Tom Wentworth, CMO at Recorded Future, to find out what matters the most for your marketing team and to get a few examples of how the best leaders structure their teams.
As you think about who to hire and how to structure your team it’s important to remember your goals, which are specific to your business, and your current team size. What works for Lauren Vacarello’s 100-person team at Talend may not fit your scrappy, five-person team (though Udi Ledergor’s 12-person team at Gong may be something worth thinking about).
But let’s not get all existential here by jumping ahead too fast. Before you start talking about different marketing structures, you have to ask yourself the why behind marketing.
Why marketing exists in the first place
There’s a fundamental concept in biology that form follows function. The same should be true of your marketing structure, based on your company size, maturity, funding, and where marketing fits into your other teams.
Marketing takes on a ton of responsibility today in driving revenue and building a great brand, which requires functions like:
- Creative: Design a brand and assets that reflect the business.
- PR/Corporate Comms: Generate positive word-of-mouth in the marketplace and build thought leadership.
- Social Media: Manage social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn TikTok, and Twitter.
- Content Marketing: Create written, visual, or audio educational content across your website and other channels.
- Email/SMS Marketing: Build relationships or drive sales with an opted-in audience on email or via text.
- Product Marketing: Responsible for P&L of a given product, working closely with product development.
- Demand Generation: Drive demand for products and services (sometimes 100% focused on lead generation).
- Event/Field Marketing: Build virtual and in-person experiences that solidify thought leadership and facilitate sales conversations.
- Growth Marketing: Facilitating flywheel-style loops and eliminating friction through detailed experiments.
- Account-Based Marketing: Red-carpet treatment and personalized marketing campaigns for a specific subset of target accounts.
- Sales Enablement: Produce materials, training, and assets for the sales team.
- SEO/Web Development/User Experience: Curate the website experience, including optimizing for SEO.
That’s…a lot of stuff to divvy up and keep track of. I mean, we all know how much marketing does on a regular basis, but when you break it down, it’s easy to see how it can be overwhelming. Trying to figure out who should do what, and how to make sure you’re managing all of the different moving parts in a way that actually achieves your goals can be a lot.
Note: You obviously don’t have to do all of these things. This is just a sample of some of the team names and marketing functions I’ve seen in my many years of experience, and I’m sure I’m missing some that are specific to your business. You can mix and match any of these functions to suit your organization.
I love this quote from Udi Ledergor, CMO at Gong, on the purpose for his marketing team:
“The purpose marketing serves in our company is so simple, I can describe it to you in three words: make sales easier. That’s it. That’s what we do.”
Before thinking through these marketing team structures from five marketing leaders, it’s important that you understand the main goal of your function. You can’t know what structure will be right for you if you can’t work backward from the end goal. Now, let’s dive in…
How to structure and manage your marketing team, according to 5 marketing leaders
First, a brief disclosure: there’s no one way to structure a team, as you’ll see when we look into how these CMOs build and manage their direct reports. You can organize yours by an overarching goal (say, traffic or leads), by marketing channel, by business unit, by geographical location, or map your team to the customer journey. Here’s how these leaders do it:
1. A 250-person team covering the full scope of marketing
Twilio CMO Sara Varni thinks of her marketing team by function and skillset, but also considers it a work in progress. She scaled her team after deep conversations with every single member to better understand their perspective — and to make sure information can flow easily throughout her team.
“When I started at Twilio, the team was much smaller, so it was easier to do this,” Sara says. “I sat down with everyone on the team, maybe 85 people at the time, to understand where we were underfunded, where things were working well, and what I needed to know.”
Right now, her team looks like this:
- Product Marketing
- Corporate Communications
- Developer Relations
- Brand Marketing
- Growth Marketing
- Demand Generation
- Field and Events Marketing
- Solutions Marketing
…all rolling up to the CMO.
As a lifelong product marketer, Sara had to get comfortable with the other aspects of marketing and make sure each department felt equally heard, without letting her own bias get in the way.
“With the functions we have, there’s no way any one person is going to be an expert in all of those things,” she says. “It’s really important to push yourself into the functions that you don’t have 15 years of experience in, or however many years’ experience so that you’re staying on top of your blind spots too.”
How does Twilio do it? Hiring great talent, for one. But consistent skip-level meetings that illuminate pain points she might not hear about at the top of the food chain is also key.
“It’s one thing to hear about Jira tickets stacking up in aggregate,” she says. “But that’s not as painful as when you talk to an individual contributor in product marketing, and they tell you, ‘I haven’t been able to get this one page up for this feature for three months.’ That’s my job to help them with that at that point.”
2. Marketing 21 different acquisitions with an integrated team
CMO Rosie Guest from financial services firm Apex Group spent the last seven years building her marketing team from the ground up. This included weathering more than 21 acquisitions as the company grew to over 8,000 employees — with a marketing team of only 30 people.
“For the size of business we have, we’re really lean,” Rosie says. “Our team is so integrated and so hybrid because it’s small, with less than 30 people. In some cases, those reporting lines are inconsequential if the machine operates the way it should. We’ve structured it in a needs-based way.”
Rather than set up separate marketing teams by product line, Apex Group takes an integrated approach. Her team focuses on four major areas, plus one outsourced team:
- Portfolio Marketing
- Demand Generation
- Marketing Operations
- Brand and Communications
- Creative – Outsourced
For her, the #1 goal is to drive toward sales. With a year-long, complex sales cycle (and five sub-brands), her team has its work cut out for them. To do this right, each function’s role is to demystify their products and educate both internal and external stakeholders on their value.
“Portfolio marketing drives that audience-centric piece and our go-to-market positioning, which feeds into our demand team, which contains field marketing and is split by region. They generate leads and target revenue as our hunter-gatherers. Our digital team facilitates this, which falls under marketing operations.”
As Rosie continues to build her team and advocate for her seat at the table in a very traditional sales environment, she’s not afraid to roll up her sleeves.
“I’m doing a lot of brand and comms work myself at the moment, and it’s an area we’re focused on building out next year,” she says. “I’ve spent so much time focused on operations and revenue, and it’s so exciting to explore other things, like sponsoring the West Indies Cricket Team, which for Americans might not be as exciting, but it’s a big deal.”
3. Building a brand that creates demand with connected teams
CMO Tom Wentworth at Recorded Future sits on the other side of the spectrum with his marketing team. The 450-person cybersecurity firm recently launched their own media effort, The Record, which Tom keeps completely separate from the rest of Recorded Future’s marketing functions.
His product-first team is split into four:
- Product Marketing
- Brand and Demand
- International Marketing
- The Record
Keeping The Record separate intentionally protects the team from becoming a shared resource:
“Our journalists are unbelievable copywriters. I can already see my demand gen team saying, ‘Hey can we borrow…” And the answer is no. Our media property is not the same as Recorded Future,” says Tom.
For him, this structure allows them to think about building a brand as intentionally as possible — without dropping the ball on sales, which is why brand and demand go together.
Tom believes firmly in creating your own materials to build your brand. Coupling the teams together ensures that everything the creative team builds gets used and that everything the demand team asks for gets made — something he learned the hard way in his previous role at Acquia.
“I underappreciated the brand then and over-rotated on demand gen. I was a math major, I’m really good at spreadsheets. I can crush that all day, but I underappreciated creativity and it hurt the company because we didn’t do enough for brand building,” he says. “[At Recorded Future], we are focusing on the brand and the demand happens after.”
4. A scrappy team built for sales enablement
CMO Udi Ledergor’s team at Gong is nothing if not outnumbered:
“We have a grand total of 12 marketers, including yours truly. There are just over 50 AEs and SDRs, and around 50 CSMs,” he says. “Our job is to make it easier for the sales team to sell, but also to make it easier for customers to buy.”
His team is divided like this:
- Product Marketing
- Demand Generation
- Category Creation
- Brand and Creative (Currently outsourced but planning to bring in-house)
Why so small? Udi intentionally wants to scale as slow as possible to make sure that every hire makes an impact:
“A year ago, we only had four marketers. We were a tiny marketing team for years, and I think that’s way more productive and creative. I don’t hire anyone until everyone, and I mean everyone including me, is completely maxed out. There are no nice-to-have hires on my team.”
Scaling the team this way means that every person who comes in takes a piece away from something the existing team is already doing. They lean on partners for creative work, though they’re planning on taking it in-house soon.
“When making the decision to outsource, I asked myself, ‘What is core to our operations that makes Gong, Gong?” he says. “We have great branding partners for design and SEO, for example, because they aren’t core competencies. But content is at the core of what we do, and I haven’t outsourced a single article. We’ve written hundreds over the years.”
For Gong, it’s all about balancing those core elements with key differentiators. That’s exactly why they hired a category creation team, which is currently a team of one.
“We realized we outgrew our category we were originally identified with, and that’s a problem they’re going to solve,” he says. “I think we made the right decision bringing a dedicated leader to focus on this because product marketing is a never-ending slew of requests and materials and content. Eventually, we’ll merge that team with product marketing, but for now, we need to stay focused on that key strategic issue.”
5. A centralized, demand-driven model
Talend CMO Lauren Vacarello created a centralized marketing structure for her 100-person team that frees her up to think about the company strategy at a much higher level. This starts with her chief of staff, which is an all-encompassing role that keeps the entire organization together.
“She keeps the day-to-day rhythm of the team going,” says Lauren. “She holds us accountable, fills in when needed, and leads the strategy. It’s not like a chief of staff that’s more of an executive assistant or business operations. She’s a great program manager. I think the secret behind great leaders is they have someone that works for them to tell them what to do.”
This helps corral her direct reports so that every piece of marketing stays connected:
- Demand Generation
- Digital Marketing
- Product Marketing
- Corporate Marketing
- International Marketing
At Talend, the demand generation team is the centralized planning unit, working closely with the other teams to execute their key campaigns.
“The way we look at it is that demand gen focuses on campaign strategy, things like field marketing, and global events,” she says. “But digital really runs the website, the conversion optimization, and all of those channels behind it like paid social and SEO. They’re very distinct disciplines and skillsets, but they need to work really closely together.”
“Their marketing operations team sits within their digital marketing function since that is the team putting the funnel framework together to figure out how to reach their marketing goals” says Lauren, “It puts the onus of conversion on them. If they improve their leads, their scoring model, their routing model, and it loops all the way back, it creates a deep amount of accountability.”
But that only works as well as their product team:
“Demand isn’t a series of tactics. It’s only as good as your product marketing,” she says. “Someone needs to define the parameters with the product. Who is that target audience? What are we selling to them? Why does it matter? It’s partner marketing, competitive intelligence, and sales enablement.”
For the rest of the team, it’s filling in the elements of their centralized campaigns:
“The corporate marketing team has public relations, analyst relations, brand, and creative services. They define our narrative and brand message,” she says. “Finally, our international team makes sure we can’t forget about the global element of our business, and it manages our EMEA and APAC operations, and anything else outside of North America.”
Download our free checklist: 10 Sample Interview Questions for Your First Marketing Hire
What to hire first?
Ok, you’re probably having that oh-shit moment: great, but who do you hire now?
If you’re starting from scratch with a marketing team, then I would hire three people (though if you’re truly an early-stage company, your first marketer has to be all three of these).
- The promoter: Someone who can write, but who also knows how to get the word out about your company through social, email, and webinars. Hiring a journalist or top-tier writer at this point is just a waste of talent because it’s more of a hybrid position until you can split that out into a brand or communication function.
- The designer: Someone who can move fast with branded assets like your website, advertising, or other creative work. Design is the glue for pretty much everything, and it can be a key differentiator early on. On top of that, if you’ve ever been on a marketing team, you know that everything sucks when you don’t have a designer on the team.
- The math person: Someone who understands funnels and conversion metrics. But they also have to be process-obsessed enough to build the operations and analytics you need to build a marketing machine of predictable, repeatable growth. They need to have a pulse on your performance and the optimization piece.
You can watch the full video where I go deep on these here.
In case you couldn’t guess, in my early days at Drift, I was not the designer or the math person. I still had to do about five hundred million aspects of marketing, though. Maybe that’s you right now, or maybe you’re thinking about how to manage a team of hundreds.
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