Thursday, September 29, 2011

Designing the Right Marketing Department for Your Growing Business

 When a firm finds it has grown to sufficient size and stability to install an internal team of marketers, it is important to build the right team structure.  There are a several structural options, and the choice of which one will make a significant impact on the direction and growth of the company.  Apart from the easy solution of simply assigning someone to lead the "marketing department" and letting them figure it out, there are a couple of critical components to the decision

What should your marketing department do?

The role of any marketing group will center on a couple of key deliverables.  Namely, a marketing department needs to understand the core needs of the consumer and to understand them in a deep way.  Second, they should understand the role of the brand and how the proposition of the brand (its product delivery, price and promotions) uniquely delivers to the needs of the consumer.  And understanding the competitive trends of the category, the  marketing team should be able to develop a tactical marketing plan.  Some of the elements of that plan will be the sales goals,  new products opportunities and, very importantly, the communication plan that informs the intended target all about the benefits of purchasing and using the brand product or service.

Types of Marketing Team Structures

From basic to the more complex, here are the 3 most common forms of marketing departments:

  1. The PR / Marketing department - the goal of this group is to gain exposure to the product or company services.  They will either directly, or through an agency, contact media outlets, issue press releases, and generally look for any opportunity to raise awareness.  Broad exposure (to the intended target) is the goal and the term “buzz” is often used to describe this group’s goal.  Word of mouth, websites and social media are core tactics of this group’s activity.  While this early type of marketing structure can be lean and effective for the smaller organizations, the team can struggle to think independently and end up feeling as if they are no more than the arms and legs to execute the senior executive’s marketing ideas.

  1. Brand Management - More advanced marketing departments direct the overall activities of the business to meet the consumer needs.  Brand management, as this is commonly called, evolves when the organization is already operationally functional across the core disciplines of sales,  operations,  finance and customer service.  There becomes is a growing need to direct the activities of the business toward a common consumer end. By activities I mean designing the strongest innovation program, building a full business plan with all the necessary marketing programs and then executing the advertising and promotions.  The second component of brand management is the full accountability to delivering the volume lifts needed from the plan they have devloped.  The company and it's most senior executives must feel confident that this type of marketing team will build better plans aligned with consumer desires rather than gut feel.  Expertise in consumer insight and latest marketing principles must deliver what the traditional functions alone cannot through awareness campaigns (i.e. PR).  There is certainly a relinquishment of day to day decision making by senior executives and in a growing firm this separation from these activities cand be difficult.  Many senior executives believe they are uniquely equipped through experience to manage the creative side of the business.   Brand management structures, which were the initial brand management idea of the 1960s assigned a manger to a consumer brand to manage all facets of the business planning and marketing activity

  1. Product Line Management - The “product platform” approach is more commonly found in technology, hard goods, apparel and services.  Here, a manager is assigned to a product type that may have several brands attached.   This structure allows the marketer to be more deeply involved in understanding product evolution and innovation rooted in core technology of the company.  This platform approach has become more common, even in consumer brand companies, due to a couple of key advantages over the brand management approach.  The first advantage is that the product line manager becomes more familiar with the product costs, production process and is able to innovate and bring forward commercially viable ideas that can work in production.  They tend to take on general manager accountabilities for the platform and develop expertise in understanding non-marketing areas such as forecasting,  inventory and cost drivers.   A Marketing Services group will assist the marketer and they tend to specialize in consumer research, advertising and promotional campaigns managing the appropriate agency relationships including all the latest digital communication tools and shopper marketing.  The expansion of scope and knowledge required to execute the right communication tools has made it harder for the traditional brand manager to stay current.

These are the most common types of marketing departments within consumer-based product or service companies.  Each is useful and choosing between them is a matter of fit to the company’s long term goals.  Having managed teams in each type of department, I conclude that none is better than the other; rather, the best fit the business needs, and build leadership capabilities with the department and organization.

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