Many organizations are having to review their marketing structures as the world emerges from the COVID pandemic. Marketing strategies have changed over the past year, so structures are having to change to accommodate them – as Chandler famously put it, “Structure follows strategy”.
The COVID pandemic, and the subsequent shift in consumer behaviour to online for entertainment, shopping and more, has seen organizations ‘pivot’ or at the very least accelerate their transformation to a more customer-centric marketing strategy, enabled by marketing technology. This means that many marketing leaders are finding themselves needing to redesign their marketing function to align and support this strategic direction.
This is not as simple as you might think. Here are some of the common challenges we have identified when working with marketers who are faced with this task.
Centralized vs Decentralized structures
There was a time when marketing structures, in the context of organizational structures, were either centralised, decentralised or a hybrid somewhere between the two. The most common hybrid was a ‘spoke and wheel’ model, with some marketing functions centralised and others decentralised across the business. Even today, we often are appointed to help refine these gross generalisations of marketing structure, usually recommended by a consulting firm with little direct expertise in marketing.
The fact is, while these structural concepts are relevant for overall organizational design, none of them considers or addresses the complexity of day-to-day demands. Developing marketing structures today means you must accommodate the multifaceted – and therefore the diversity of capabilities required to deliver the marketing strategy effectively. While there continues to be a number of industry-standard structures, our experience has shown that you can no longer take a cookie-cutter approach to marketing design.
‘Deck chairs on the Titanic’ syndrome
One of the difficulties of redesigning an existing marketing structure is giving yourself permission to start with a blank sheet of paper. Too often we have worked with a marketing leader who has limited their options by trying to modify the existing structure, rather than taking the opportunity to redesign from scratch. Starting with the redesign objectives and strategic requirements is a better approach than simply cutting and pasting the current structure, as this allows you to explore and consider new ways.
One of the concerns regularly expressed is that the final design may not align with the people currently in the marketing team. While we are supporters of maintaining the current marketing resources, the best solution is to analyse the current model and the proposed model alongside each other. Then you can identify where resources transfer directly and where there is a need for upskilling within the new structure.
The limitations of organizational charts
One of the issues that complicate this whole design process is the application of the traditional organizational chart as the representation of the structure. While it is particularly good at defining hierarchy and functional teams, it often struggles to demonstrate how these teams work together cross-functionally, both within marketing and across the organization.
A more effective approach is to define the functional teams and their capabilities, and then design and map the process flow through the organization into marketing and out to any external suppliers. This provides an opportunity to design based on the strategic needs and the ways of working across a number of models and options. Once a preferred model is chosen, you can then populate the organizational charts to demonstrate resourcing and capabilities within teams and any hierarchy and reporting – although, in most designs, organizations are increasingly flat.
Allowing the tech to lead the structure
Once the decision has been made to implement a significant new marketing technology platform, the challenge is then how best to restructure the marketing team to align to this structure. The problem with this approach is that it assumes that the tech platform is aligned to the structure and therefore is the strategic solution, rather than simply the enabler of the strategic solution.
This means that the technology, rather than the marketing strategy, is defining the marketing capabilities and process. Instead of selecting a marketing tech solution based on functionality, it is best to develop the strategic requirements and choose the tech solution based on the one that enables the marketing process.
Internal and external interfaces
Marketing is not an island with most organizations. The full scope of marketing is often managed by teams including those outside the marketing structure. This means when designing marketing structures, you need to be aware of all the marketing-related functions that may interface and interact with the core marketing team.
To add complication, these other marketing functions are increasingly run by external partners. This includes everyone from the marketing supply chain to the various and an increasing number of third-party tech platforms, media partners and brand collaborators. Only by designing inside a complete picture of the current marketing landscape are you are able to develop a structure aligned not only to strategy but also to the extensive marketing eco-system it will operate within.
Experience has demonstrated time and again there is no ‘right’ marketing model and there is no one best practice structural design. What does exist is a best practice process that will allow you to design a best-fit marketing model and garner input and advice from the key stakeholders involved. This is essential in the successful implementation of any marketing redesign.
It can also help to get external input on alternative approaches and models that have worked in a range of categories. This might challenge you to explore the possibilities available to you before you arrive at the best-fit solution for you and the organization.
This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder of TrinityP3, our partners in Asia. With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and learnings to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimization.
Photo: William Pearce