In my career I have grown marketing teams that work in multiple countries. I also spent a lot of (too much) time studying what makes a team great at Business School. I have always been fascinated by the structures and strategies employed by competitors and great marketers.
But, I have usually worked in teams where marketing is a small proportion of the total workforce. This often resulted in under-resourced projects. It also required sensitively juggling demands from large sales teams with short term goals.
To understand the causes of this, I researched 100 companies to get a sense of the ideal marketing team structure.
What I found was that companies with effective marketing have common traits.
Here are the typical setups found at each startup growth stage.
As I discussed in ‘growing a small business’, each company requires a different team structure as they expand.
CB Insights cite failing to hire the right team as a reason that 14% of startups fail. The top three reasons for failure are
These factors highlight the importance of establishing a great team and product-market fit.
Taking inspiration from David Sacks SaaS org chart, here are my recommendations for your marketing team at each stage of growth.
While David recommends a ratio of 50% sales and marketing resource to other employees, his emphasis is on SaaS companies. Your setup is entirely dependent on the nature of your business and how many ‘hats’ you wear.
NOTE: some roles are optional as a value add based on your business or budget. I have marked these positions in grey boxes to highlight that they may not be essential for all.
A small company may need 1 or many employees to cover sales, marketing, product and customer service at the same time. The marketing coordinator may also have to ship products, deal with complaints and close business. It requires a generalist with an open mind.
This is a fantastic learning opportunity for a young marketer or founder. But, you should start to segment responsibilities as you grow. This requires identifying your ideal customer profile and hiring specialist marketers.
If you’re the only marketer in your startup, then Erwan Derlyn has some advice for you. Be strategic, test often, build a collaborative network and focus obsessively on the small things that are successful.
As you find product-market fit and gain momentum, you need to scale your team. At this stage you should start to understand the areas creating demand.
Ideally, someone within the business can help you dig into your analytics. This could be a tech-savvy marketer, or someone with data skills in finance. IT or operations. Alternatively, your marketing agency could help with this.
Look at Google Analytics and your CRM data to diagnose what activity is leading to revenue. Are you seeing returns from search engine traffic? Then double down on search engine optimisation (SEO) and inbound marketing.
This could be a case of hiring a technical SEO to improve website structure and performance. Or a content marketer to develop your blog and target profitable keywords within your niche.
Copper.co is a digital asset manager aiming to make cryptocurrency accessible to all. With 93 employees (source: LinkedIn), their marketing team is focused on growth with a ratio of 10.3 employees to each marketer.
You may be building momentum and naturally acquiring customers through word of mouth. Now is the time to start building an in-house media agency. This will enable you to execute and innovate without relying exclusively on outsourced support.
Agencies should still play a role in your marketing team by adding external expertise. But I wouldn’t rely on them exclusively. You will risk siloing your knowledge without developing your own talent.
It is at that stage that you may start to see diminishing returns from your most profitable channel. You may have saturated your market or been joined by new competitors. This can reduce conversion rates and increase the cost per click of paid ads.
Alternatively, algorithm changes can throw you off course. In previous years, Facebook was a fantastic channel for small businesses to reach new customers. But reduced organic reach and changes to privacy policies have weakened its effectiveness.
Constant changes to social and advertising platforms should encourage you to build an audience on a channel that you own. For most businesses, this is your website and mailing list.
Seek to drive traffic to your own site by hiring copywriters and developing your blog and email newsletter.
With that in mind, you should look to diversify your sources of traffic and revenue. This is where insourcing your marketing can help. Build specialist teams focused on a variety of marketing channels to grow new sources of profit.
This could be moving into new social platforms or expanding to non-digital channels like events. Or vice-versa if you are an offline business.
11:FS is a research, consulting and media company for digital challengers in the financial services industry. They have a dedicated media team designed to grow their brand and educate the market on their services through podcasts, videos and blogs.
They also have a large customer strategist function to provide competitive intelligence to clients. These roles may sit under customer success or the consulting function. They likely contribute to content strategy by repurposing research and sharing market insights.
According to LinkedIn, out of 150 employees, 16 employees work in marketing and 6 are customer strategists. Not including the strategists, the ratio of employees to each marketer is 9.3.
Peak.ai is an AI platform provider that helps companies make better business decisions. Their ‘decision intelligence’ platform provides customer behavioural insights and data to clients.
According to LinkedIn their current headcount is 250 with 14 working in marketing. The ratio of 17.8 marketers per employee could be an indication of the product-led nature of their business. They employ many data scientists and engineers to improve the platform and a product marketing manager to promote it.
Once you reach 500 employees and above, you will naturally evolve into more formalised processes and structures. Your marketing team should continue to grow in order to meet demand to enter new markets and continuously increase revenue.
You will probably find that the team that was effective at 50 employees are not able to step up to the responsibilities of a large organisation. Or, they have become bored as roles became more specialised and milestones achieved.
You may need to hire experienced leaders to take you to the next level and develop new talent.
At this stage, it is easy to let your organisation structure grow out of alignment so be careful that you don’t over or under hire talent. A good rule of thumb here is to assign 1 marketer for every 10-11 employees.
You may also benefit from hiring a content marketer or copywriter that specialises in each market you are targeting.
This ensures they develop expertise in that industry and can create compelling content that creates demand. This approach will be essential if you implement Account Based Marketing (ABM) to land larger enterprise clients.
It is important that you don’t build silos within your marketing team. Ensure they are constantly collaborating by encouraging the repurposing of content for different channels.
The master of content repurposing is Ross Simmonds. I strongly encourage you to check him out for his content strategy breakdowns and distribution guides.
Payfit is a provider of payroll solutions for small to medium-sized businesses in Europe. According to Linked, their current employee headcount is 706 and 62 work in marketing. A ratio of 11.3 employees to each marketer.
With 24 employees including ‘Growth’ in their job title, Payfit has an emphasis on scaling fast in order to get to market early. This follows the approach adopted by other SaaS firms looking to disrupt industries.
The global nature of Payfit can be demonstrated by the regional marketing teams spread across France, Germany, Spain and the UK.
A good rule of thumb is to hire 1 marketer for every 10 employees as you scale.
Smaller orgs will need to hire generalists and add specialists in PPC, SEO, social etc as the business becomes more complex.
Take a look at similar sized firms in related industries and benchmark how your team compares.
However, don’t feel you need to copy your competitors. Identify gaps in their marketing strategy that you can exploit. They may have a very small team and rely on a large outbound sales organisation.
Can you compete more efficiently by investing in SEO or social media? Or another channel that is not being exploited?