Marketing is tough, if you want to do a good job of it. And for most businesses, it’s probably a job that’s too big for one person to manage alone. Not only is it just a lot of work in terms of sheer volume, but there are so many disciplines that make up a good marketing strategy in the modern world that it’s hard to find one person who can do it all. Sure, there are people who can write as well as they design, and manage everything from social media to paid media with ease. But there aren’t many of them.
A group of people with disparate but complementary talents, together, can meet the challenges of modern marketing head-on. So what are you looking for? Where do you start, and how do you go about building that team? Let’s get into it.
How to build a marketing team
Much like marketing itself, the process of building your team can be difficult. It’s a big deal, after all—not only are you setting the course of your business, but you’re affecting individual lives (namely, the people you’re either hiring or transitioning from role to role to make up the team). So it’s critically important that you plan ahead before you just start hiring people willy-nilly.
Starting with goals and expectations
To make an informed decision about what your marketing team will need, you need to know what your marketing team is going to be asked to do. Are you going to be a full-service multimedia team, expected to be as fluent on Twitter as on a billboard, and able to create videos or direct mail or digital campaigns as the situation demands? Or are you simply running a blog and crossposting to Facebook, with a newspaper ad mixed in now and again? Will your team be the totality of your business’s marketing presence, or are you going to be tasked with working closely with an outside agency partner?
Think about the overall goals of your organization, and how they should be reflected in your marketing—and how that should be reflected in the structure and makeup of your team. And of course executive expectations for marketing should also be taken into account here, but you shouldn’t simply blindly follow their lead.
The CEO or president doesn’t have to be the only visionary in your business. As a leader in your burgeoning marketing department, you get to build in your own image, as well. Do some research. See what works, and what doesn’t. Determine the kind of marketing team you want to lead, and what you want its culture to be like. Then make it happen.
Filling key roles
Once you have an idea of where your marketing team needs to go and what you’re expecting out of them, you can start to think through who you need on this newly created team. How big should it be? How much specialization can you afford, and how much will you need people to be able to fill multiple roles?
There are, of course, certain roles that need to be filled in any marketing team. You need someone to lead personnel and lead strategically. You need creators to write content and design the assets, and more generally to concept the creative side of your marketing. You need someone who knows digital marketing and can navigate things like SEO, paid media, and the ever-shifting Google algorithm. But in some cases those roles might not all be different people. If you’ve got a smaller budget for marketing, or if you’re just not churning out tons of content on a constant basis, you might have an art director who also writes, or a digital expert who’s also running point on strategy.
Another crucial part of this planning process is assessing what’s already there. You might have a de facto marketing team already in place—maybe someone’s been managing a blog without direction for a while, or you have some social media accounts that are being run in a coworker’s spare time. Are they doing a great job with limited resources? Could they do a great job if they had more reasonable resources to work with? Are they in the right seats?
The people who are killing it should be a part of your plans moving forward, one way or the other. They don’t necessarily have to transition into a full-time marketing role (though they could!), but they should probably at least be a part of the process. And if there are people who just aren’t suited for the roles they’re filling, that’s fine! Now that you’re building a real marketing team, they can just go back to doing what they do best, because the cavalry is here.
What’s your operating budget?
The things you can do as a marketing team are invariably going to depend on how much money you have available. Obviously you need to have enough to pay the people who are working on marketing, whether that means full-time salaries or the investment in hours and opportunity cost that goes into pulling people into part-time marketing roles.
But your budget also includes the individual investments in the parts of your marketing. That means having the money to pay for the direct mail piece you’ve designed—construction, mailing, follow-ups. It means being able to invest in paid digital media to promote the webinar you’re going to host, or the content series you’ve spent a month putting together. It means having the ability to sink cash and time into rebuilding your website, when your existing site just isn’t getting the job done.
Before you start building your team and deciding what direction to send them, you need to know what your budget is so you’re certain you’re not setting them—and your business—up for failure. If you bring in more people than you can afford, or you set your sights too high, nothing good can follow.
Especially if you’re in the startup phase of your business, it might be a good idea to see where you can start small, at least at first. Can you concentrate on quarterly plans rather than sweeping strategies? Can you hire freelance or part-time rather than bringing in a permanent addition? You can always ramp up if things work well or if more money becomes available. But if you bite off more than you can chew, it can really hurt.
How should this new marketing team be structured?
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for an intelligently constructed team, it’s time to construct the team. There are obviously some more detail-oriented things to consider, but don’t forget the broad strokes. The overarching conceptual decisions you make will have sweeping effects on what your marketing team is doing.
Build your team in your business’s image
When you’re determining the overall structure of what this team is going to look like, you can look close to home for inspiration. The roles and responsibilities within your team and the way in which they’re connected can easily reflect the way that the rest of your organization functions.
“That’s easy for you to say,” you might be thinking, “you work at a marketing consultancy so of course your marketing team can be just like the rest of the business.” But it’s only partly about the actual structure or org chart. It’s also about culture, and the kind of person you attract.
When you’re building your team, think about how they fit not only in terms of their skills, but also in terms of how they think about things, and how they feel about things. A person might be amazingly talented as a marketer, but if they’re a free-spirited process-hating libertine and you’re an accounting firm that functions by the book, that marriage is probably not going to work out. Put the right person in the right job, and if that job isn’t at your business, that’s okay. Both parties are probably better off in the long run.
Know people’s strengths, and know their weaknesses. Don’t ignore either, and don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s working if it isn’t.
Build based on what you need—not what you think
When you’re deciding how exactly to structure your team, don’t think in a vacuum. That is, don’t just consider a theoretical, generic marketing team. Think about what your team needs. Here’s what that means.
Your marketing is designed to attract leads and then move them through a process from discovering your business to being interested in buying from you to making a final decision to purchase. That’s the marketing funnel. Leads at the top of the funnel are learning who you are and what product or service you provide. Leads in the middle of the funnel are learning more details about your offerings, going from novice to expert. Leads near the bottom of the funnel are educated buyers, and are ready to make a decision on whether you’re the right fit or not.
As you might guess, those funnel stages demand very different marketing products. Your blog is great for a TOFU lead, to give a 101-level understanding of what you can do for them or to answer a simple question they might be struggling with. But for someone who’s ready to buy, “12 Ways an Air Fryer Makes Your Meals Tastier” doesn’t do anything. They already know air fryers are awesome, they’re looking to decide between your air fryer and someone else’s. They want the deep-dive details about why yours is good, or information on how to choose the right one for their needs.
So what does this mean for your marketing team? One of the mistakes teams sometimes make is to concentrate on one stage of the marketing funnel to the exclusion of the others. In other words, you might have a really great blog, but nothing to support it—no gated content that allows you to contact and nurture leads, no videos showing off cool features of your product or offering troubleshooting tips for common problems. You can get people interested, but can’t move them through the process.
When you’re building your team and, later, your strategy, make sure you’re taking care to fill in all the parts of the marketing funnel. Leaving one entirely blank could kill an otherwise capable team. Fill every role, not just some.
Build bridges wherever you can
This doesn’t just go for the different stages of the marketing funnel. It can be easy, when you’re a part of a business’s internal marketing team, to feel separated from the rest of the company. If they’re all immersed in the world of whatever widget you sell, and you’re only thinking about leads and SEO, that makes some sense. But it’s not super healthy, for either side.
One thing that can help here is having clear roles, and teasing out the ways in which they interact. That, obviously, applies to your marketing team itself—if you have a writer and you have a designer, don’t have the designer do a bunch of writing. But it also applies to the business at large.
It’s likely, unless you’re a large multinational company, that your marketing team is going to need help. People from outside the team will be needed to step in on certain things, whether it’s asking a subject-matter expert to write a blog about a particular subject they know better than anyone else or it’s gathering information from a project team to create a case study. Know before you start out who you might work with, and define the terms of those interactions. That way they won’t feel like they’re being unnecessarily pulled away from other work, and you won’t feel like they’re blowing you off when you do ask for help.
So make sure you aren’t isolating your marketing team from the rest of the business, and vice versa. Build bridges between the two, and show both sides how they help each other.
Measure twice, cut once
When you set out to build a marketing team, you’re embarking on a voyage that’s critical to the success of your business. It’s really important that you don’t simply make it all up as you go along. Build out a plan for what you’re going to try to accomplish, and do the legwork before you start churning to make sure that you know how to get where you want to go. Your blueprint probably won’t be foolproof—marketing moves fast, and you’re going to have to be able to improvise—but if your foundation is sound, you’ll have much firmer ground to stand on when you do need to pivot.
Thomas fills a few roles at E3—writer, editor, and resident European soccer expert—but his chief responsibility is content creation. When he's not crafting thoughtful content for the Element Three blog, he's captaining our kickball team, watching the Mets, or talking up Indianapolis to anyone who will listen.
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