If you’re struggling with the way your marketing team is constructed and you’re looking for a better way, you’ve landed in the right place.
This article explores the factors required to develop a high-performance marketing team, the common capabilities of team members, and the primary execution system to achieve specific marketing team goals. In addition, the article offers suggestions for ways you can help marketing teams achieve high performance.
High-performance marketing teams are essential to the way most organizations organize and carry out their work, resulting in superior growth performance, which translates into a significant competitive advantage.
By leveraging this framework ourselves and by helping other organizations implement a similar structure for their marketing teams, not only have we helped make them more productive, but we’ve helped them achieve goals that were unattainable in the past.
If you adopt the framework we’re teaching you, you’ll be able to produce more predictable outcomes and have a greater impact on your organization as a whole.
The only organizations that shouldn’t follow this approach are companies who have no standard operating procedures, and no formal structure to their marketing organization. It’s challenging for you to bring on people to seamlessly fit into positions within our framework if you haven’t created the infrastructure for them to be successful.
So read on to find out whether you’re ready to boost the efficiency, effectiveness, and happiness of your team – and ultimately the success of your company – to new and exciting heights.
What Is a Hive Marketing Team Structure and Why Did We Make the Switch?
Uhuru History: How We Structured Our Digital Agency When We Started
In the very beginning, we followed a “traditional” marketing team approach, where you have all your people fit into specific departments.
For example, you might have individual departments that look something like this:
- Paid media
- Public Relations
- Creative: Art and Design
- Creative: Copywriting
- Account Management
A project lead typically determined the allocation of resources.
Ultimately, this proved to be ineffective and inefficient means of getting work done because you’re allowing the departments to establish priorities, not the actual situation or problem that needs addressing.
Uhuru Marketing Team Evolution
So we shifted, and this shift happened before we implemented agile marketing with Scrum.
When we implemented this operating style, it was so we could create a cross-functional team that’s able to complete everything they need to complete within a “sprint” – a given time domain in the scrum (for us, it’s a week starting on Wednesday), without having to go outside the scrum team.
For example, outside the scrum team would be an external department where additional resources would be needed to get some level of work done.
To be effective, we wanted our teams to be built in a way that could get all the work done, without needing non-scrum team resources.
What Is a Hive Marketing Team Structure and Is This Unique?
A hive marketing team, by definition, is a group of individuals that represent a variety of skill sets that have been assigned into a cross-functional team – and they implement Scrum to organize work that needs to get done.
Our hives consist of:
- An experienced strategic marketer who leads the overall strategy.
- Specific marketing channel experts; Digital Marketing Consultants that have experience in, content marketing, copywriting, and SEO.
- Another specialized marketing consultant with experience in paid media or Google Ads, media buying/PPC, Facebook advertising, LinkedIn advertising, Twitter advertising, etc.
- A Graphic/Web Designer. The designer is responsible for the visual creative within that team, with the assistance of the marketers.
- We also assign a copywriter. The copywriter is individually responsible for writing and creating content that aligns with marketing campaigns and the strategic direction of the content marketing initiatives.
- And finally, what a lot of teams typically don’t have, but ours do, is an assigned developer and quality assurance editor.
These team members create the overall hive that allows you to have a high-performance marketing team.
If you’re looking at how marketing teams are constructed, if there is a CMO or VP of Sales and Marketing, they’re typically looking for implementation resources.
We have an approach that gives us the ability not to group individuals into sub-teams, but rather construct cross-functional marketing teams to prioritize and execute to solve problems, which we’ve found to be more effective.
Characteristics of High-Performance Cross-functional Marketing Teams
Although there is no simple measure of performance effectiveness marking teams, and no team is the same, there seems to be a shared understanding of what makes an effective team.
High-performance marketing teams are generally composed of a combination of purpose and goals, talent, skills, performance ethics, incentives and motivation, ability, leadership, conflict, communication, power and empowerment, and operational norms and standards.
Hive Marketing Team Members
Hive Marketing Team members are continuing units responsible for producing goods or providing services. The team is typically stable, full-time and well-defined.
Increasingly, these teams are self-managing; involving employees making decisions that were formerly made by supervisors.
How Our Marketing Team Structure Enables Us to Maximize Scrum
Uhuru’s Marketing team structure enables us to successfully implement Scrum to be agile.
Across most industries, companies have started to adapt to a more agile work environment and offering greater team flexibility has become commonplace but the commitment to Scrum, especially in Marketing, is still lacking.
Scrum consists of rituals; planning, retrospective, and a daily standup – and at the core of that, if you’re not participating in these rituals, it’s challenging to resolve impediments, learn from your mistakes, or adjust based upon an outcome.
What we’ve been able to do with this team structure is create teams, hives, that are agile, cross-functional and disciplined in Scrum.
They’re able to not only execute everything they need to complete, but they also learn and rapidly iterate for improvement. This benefit has been one of the most advantageous things a marketing team can do to accelerate performance and generate repeatable outcomes.
How Does This Benefit Employees?
This hive marketing team structure is a great benefit to marketers, in general. It enables individuals to be the expert within their domain and contribute at a high level to the value that’s created from the team.
Typically, if you’re just another marketer within a department, there are a lot of decisions that are made without you, and you’re merely implementing them.
By being part of a hive, you’re the domain expert, where you’re contributing to the overall strategic directions that impact your area of expertise.
This brings a lot of opportunities for positions to be fulfilling, as opposed to the ones that are merely implementing other people’s strategies. It also gives you access to other areas of marketing and other areas of campaign development and contribution, which has been proven to expand the understanding of a marketer’s position.
Empowered employees increase ownership, provide an opportunity to develop new skills, boost interest in our clients’ success and facilitate decision-making. Researchers label this ideal situation as being “loose-tight,” such that specific decision-making boundaries are constructed with enough room for individuals to make empowered choices and thus better choices.
What this ultimately means as a benefit to marketers is they don’t get bored.
There’s a high churn rate in the marketing profession because of limited mobility, whether that be upward or horizontal, as well as repetitive work that de-motivates individuals.
By putting a team together that is always communicating challenges from different perspectives and allowing them to work cohesively, it stimulates marketers and will enable them to grow – and gives them access to areas that they usually wouldn’t have within a departmental structure.
For instance, an Ad Manager has more exposure to content marketing and SEO by being in a hive marketing team than if they were just in the advertising department.
In a traditional ad department, they have little to no access to those individuals. Having access to other capabilities and people expands their overall marketing sophistication.
This exposure then allows them to expand their knowledge of marketing and thus contribute in a more significant way to the marketing initiatives and the marketing organization.
Also, you want strengths and weaknesses to support each other.
Someone might be stronger in one area and weaker in another; the next person you want to add to the team can be stronger in that other person’s weaker area, and therefore you get a lot of coverage on strengths.
When selecting our hive teams, it is critical to ensure that the team members possess complementary skills (e.g., technical, problem-solving, decision-making and interpersonal skills). Our Team members must exhibit a sustained commitment to performance excellence, exercise candor, mutual respect, and hold themselves, their hive team, and the organization accountable.
How Does This Marketing Team Structure Benefit Clients?
Our marketing team structures allow for the application of multiple skills, judgments, and experiences that are most appropriate for client-engagements requiring diverse expertise and problem-solving skills. We can execute more quickly, make better decisions, solve more complex problems, and do more to enhance creativity and produce greater outcomes than an individual can.
An important aspect is making sure that the people you have access to are those who are making the decisions and doing the work.
When you have an account manager, that account manager is responsible for communication – and that person then deciphers and translates to the marketing teams, or the department that represents those areas of expertise and skill sets, what is needed.
In Uhuru’s world, we’ve removed that barrier or bottleneck and allowed the people who are the experts to converse directly with clients, therefore putting the company right in the middle of the hive.
Pictured above; a honeycomb, with six combs around it and space in the middle for the core. That’s our client’s company.
When you open up lines of communication directly with the stakeholders who are responsible for driving success in different areas, you’ll find an extremely efficient way to get work done, to get feedback, and to execute on it.
Therefore, it makes all of our programs more successful than any company that doesn’t have this structure. It gives us a serious competitive advantage, which then in itself allows us to deliver better results to clients.
Uhuru’s teams need a clear understanding of where they want to end up and how to find the most efficient way to reach our clients’ goals. Our teams work with our clients to define what success looks like–enabling every team member to understand what is expected of him or her and also provides a way for team members to assess their progress.
As a result, the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) system used to determine relative marketing team success will need to include:
- A statement of the results the marketing team wants to achieve with measures and performance standards for each result.
- Statements of each individual’s results, with measures and performance standards for each result.
- A clear picture of the priorities and relative importance of marketing team and individual results.
- A plan for collecting and summarizing performance data so the team and individuals will know how they are performing.
Now that you understand the benefit to Uhuru and our clients, let’s examine how in-house marketing teams are structured at other companies.
How Are In-House Marketing Teams Structured at Other Companies?
In-house marketing teams are structured in a variety of ways, depending on how large a company is.
If you’re managing a billion dollar product category, then you probably have close to 10 to 15 people in your marketing department, and what you’ll find as a similarity is, as you go down in size of the company, you’ll reduce the number of specialists (T-shaped Marketers) and see an increase in the breadth of each marketers’ capabilities.
Going back to the billion dollar product company, we’ll use a subdivision of IBM as an example.
You’ll have a VP of Marketing who’s responsible for the strategic marketing direction, as well as the budget and upward communication and reporting.
The next positions will encompass implementation across channels, so if you’re a billion dollar company, you participate in a lot of channels – from events to the variety of channels across digital – so you might have multiple people across digital.
You’re going to have a product marketer who is designing communications for the product itself. You’re going to have copywriting, SEO, dev resources, and design resources…and all of these might exist individually. Sometimes that larger company is going to break things down into departments, depending on their managerial requirements or the organizational structure of the company, but this is typically the primary.
Let’s look at what the marketing team structure at a smaller company might be like.
For that matter, much smaller: $50 million in revenue. With a company that has about $50 million in revenue, you’re typically going to find three to four marketers. Again, you’re probably going to see an executive-level marketer that is going to drive strategy, maybe a CMO, possibly a VP. Sometimes those are combo positions; they are the VP of Sales and Marketing, but at the end of the day, again, that position is to drive strategy and possibly revenue.
The positions underneath that will be marketing implementation roles and then they typically the company will outsource specific areas, which might be web design and development. Copywriting could also be outsourced, or even the work on a particular channel domain, like social media marketing. You may find that they’re outsourcing one or more components of their overall marketing execution plan.
That is quite typical.
If your marketing department is constructed in a way where your marketers – your three to four marketers underneath your VP, or underneath the strategic role – are doing all the work, they’re probably pushing the limits of effectiveness.
You want your marketing team to be 70-80% of capacity, and we have found that you typically need at least six positions within your marketing department to achieve that “sweet spot” or be working with an outsourced marketing team partner like Uhuru.
The last scenario is if you’re smaller than $3 million in revenue. In this case, you might only have one or two marketers, and that marketer is doing everything – the jack-of-all-trades marketer, who’s talking directly with executives like the CEO, and trying to go from strategy down to social media publishing.
That person is naturally not usually going to be able to drive a lot of business metrics. They’re typically just running the “machine” aspect of marketing. That’s how a lot of small organizations are still doing it, and those companies also hire agencies to be more successful – because, frankly, they have limited bandwidth and limited resources.
How Are Marketing Teams Structured at Other Marketing/Ad Agencies?
If you’re a marketer trying to decide on hiring a digital agency, or you’ve worked with agencies in the past and you’re trying to understand their inner workings in more detail, it’s essential to know the agency’s business models.
Most agencies measure the utilization rate of their team members.
Utilization rate is, per employee, how much you get from them as far as billable resources go.
There’s usually a project manager, or a manager of that department, who’s making sure there’s enough work for the people who are staffed in that department.
So the hint there is, again, a lot of marketing teams are put into departments rather than hives. This creates silos, and these silos, even if they’re implementing agile and scrum, are still not working together to their fullest potential. (i.e. the ad team would be implementing agile and scrum, the development team is also agile and scrum, the copywriting team, and so on).
That’s the most typical structure; most aren’t yet doing it how we would recommend and how we’re currently implementing it for ourselves and our valued clients.
Who follows this structure?
Typically, consultant firms – the big ones, and even some of the smaller ones – and they typically use small cross-functional teams assigned to identify and resolve problems, strategically and through implementation.
That’s how we’ve constructed our team, due to the incredible results that have again and again been proven possible by these means.
Try It for Yourself: How You Can Implement This Marketing Team Structure in Your Organization
The first step to understanding if your organization needs to make a change is to determine or assess the skills of the current team that you have, and there are some straightforward categories that you want to measure in this:
- You typically need someone who is driving strategy. Someone who can do this with an analytical mindset. Measuring from 1 to 10, ask your team about the following areas: statistics, product design, and user experience principles.
- Strategic Thinking
- Quarterly and Monthly Planning
- Analytical or analytics.
- Behavioral psychology.
- Branding, positioning, and storytelling – this might be housed underneath copywriting.
- Marketers who are good at conversion rate optimization, AB testing. Budget planning for advertising. If you’re using HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, someone who can manage those marketing automation tools.
- Someone familiar with ad copywriting – this might be different than specifically copywriting, so we might also include direct-response copywriting.
- Email marketing, which can also overlap with copywriting, but deals with the tools you needed to execute email marketing.
- Ad creative (i.e. graphic design).
- Social media as its own separate area, depending on how you want to handle it.
- If you’re a large organization that has events for brand awareness and lead generation: event planning.
- Public relations.
- Search engine optimization.
- Video production.
- And more – these are just a few!
Make a list of all of these things, and again, you typically want to rate them from 1 to 10.
Have each person self assess, or you can evaluate them.
With this internal teams assessment, you’ll start seeing some of the strengths and weaknesses of your team and decide whether or not you need to hire additional resources. Depending on where your deficits are, that’s how you usually go about hiring team members or bringing on a partner who can compensate for the areas that you don’t have in-house.
Another best practice to note is in marketing communications among your team.
You ideally should have a weekly meeting and daily standups, as per Scrum.
All marketing communications should be in a project/task management tool, and all tasks should be tracked, monitored, and team members held accountable for their work.
Internal teams should not be communicating via email.
Use something like Slack for internal communications and tools such as Jira, Teamwork, Asana, Trello, or Redbooth to house all task-oriented communication around specific work items.
A Resource: Where to Go if Your Marketing Team Needs Help
The use of hive structured marketing teams is growing in all types of organizations throughout the world—with good reason.
These high-performance teams have an advantage over the outputs of individuals because each member can offer new ideas, talent, and viewpoints. In addition, hive marketing teams predictably execute strategy, meet goals and need little management oversight because they are empowered and responsible for their functional activity and accountable for performance.
Want to learn more?
Reach out to us if you have any questions around how you should structure your marketing team.
A lot of our Business Results Specialists help organizations identify their specific marketing team needs to drive a particular business result – but may or may not have the bandwidth, resources, or skills necessary to do all the work needed to drive those initiatives forward to achieve those goals.
During a complimentary strategy session, we’ll be able to help guide you through some of your early-stage decision-making when it comes to constructing your marketing team or how to best optimize your marketing team.
To wrap up, what’s important to us is we want marketers, especially executive-level marketers who are trying to construct a great team, to understand – based off of proven successes with ourselves and our clients – how to put a high-performance marketing team together that’s sure to be successful.
To your success,