Marketing Has Changed: It’s Time to Rebuild and Realign Your Marketing Department, Too

By Bhuvan Thaker, Marketing and Business Consultant

Sadly, marketing organizations today are not organized as efficiently as they could be. They are continuing under legacy structures, which I find to be irrelevant in today’s fast-paced digital era. However, there is a new approach that structures a company’s marketing department around corporate goals rather than functional responsibilities. 

Micro-Management by Macro Minds

Functional organizations are heavily dependent on senior executives to correctly interpret mass data. Staff merely performs their functions, and all deliverables are pushed upward for executive collation and strategic review. Those executives formulate new directives, which are pushed down to staff in the form of new tasks. 

Without clear and constant communication of the strategy by the executives, staff members are prone to seeing only their tasks and not how any task contributes to the overarching strategy. Worse, their ideas regarding the strategy lack a clear pipeline back to the executive and to each other. While innovation can certainly germinate from a single thought, it’s less likely to happen in this way. Rapid innovation requires a multitude of diverse thoughts bouncing off each other in close proximity until a bright idea comes to fruition.

Organizing for the Flow of Ideas, Not the Performance of Tasks

Marketing organizations should try to structure around shared goals and the company’s strategic initiatives so that team members see themselves as an integral part of the overall strategy rather than as a hired hand with an assigned deliverable. The 3P marketing framework identifies the high-level goals of corporate marketing as the acquisition, retention and development of customers, and it assigns team members to each of those initiatives in what I refer to as the “three pillar marketing structure.”

Unlike the structures of traditional marketing organizations that place employees under functional groups—such as marketing, digital marketing and advertising—in the 3P marketing structure, all team members understand their roles within the overarching corporate strategy and realize that their responsibility is to achieve a specific corporate goal of that strategy. Having a greater purpose inspires deeper thoughts, and team members become encouraged to share their ideas for better achieving the shared goal with other team members. While their assigned task may be to create a marketing campaign, for example, they are inspired to contemplate how that campaign will drive the larger goal.

In the traditional structure, each staff member is focused on an individual task, such as creating a marketing program, drafting a corporate communication or designing an advertising campaign. If any innovative ideas are shared, they likely pertain to how such a task could be better performed and don’t bounce past groups of people who perform similar tasks. With this new structure, each of those individual roles are infused into one in a manner that fosters teamwork, and the end result is a competitive work force that features an array of skills and talents. 

The 3P Marketing Structure

The 3P marketing organizational structure defines each pillar’s responsibility and breaks out marketing functions within each pillar.

Acquisition: This team executes the strategy to acquire new customers. It might include staff previously assigned to perform tasks associated with inside sales, digital marketing and advertising (including search engine marketing and optimization, print and online advertising, email marketing, event marketing, and partner programs). Its success is measured based on customer lifetime value and value per customer.

Retention: Building an ongoing relationship with customers is this team’s goal. Included in that goal is the identification and elimination of unprofitable customers. Required skill sets and teams include user experience design, customer service and support, customer insights, and product design and packaging. Team members are focused on how to maintain revenue from existing stores/customers, and the measure of success is based on an increased customer retention rate.

Development: Expanding client relationships is the goal of this team. Additional revenue can come from migrating horizontally from the client organization to additional departments and subsidiaries and/or migration of the client horizontally across the company’s products and services, including new products. Team members should have the skills to gather and analyze customer insight, maintain the customer relationship, and design/stage events and promotions. Results are measured by revenue retention, customer referrals and data that measures the size and company’s share of customer wallets.

Innovation Will Be the Reward

By organizing the marketing team around strategic objectives and encouraging the team’s higher-level discourse around those objectives, innovation is jump-started and enabled to snowball into bigger and better ideas occurring sooner and more often. In today’s fast-paced markets, companies can’t afford to ignore any source for new and better ideas, especially those of its own employees. Limiting their imaginations or confining them to functional echo chambers is a recipe for slow growth. 

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Bhuvan Thaker is an independent marketing and business advisory partner to technology entrepreneurs in the area of brand, strategy, innovation and visioning. He brings a unique combination of marketing expertise, foresight advisory and hands-on Lean entrepreneurial experience to help any company move above and beyond the obvious.

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