What is the best structure for a marketing department?

Over the last decade, the shape of marketing departments has changed significantly. The introduction of new technologies, increased demands on businesses and shifts in customer needs and expectations have all played a part in this change. Yet the challenge of acquiring the right skills on a tight recruitment budget still remains. 

This puts marketing leaders under significant pressure to build a team with all the skills and expertise the business needs to get a good return on its wage investment. This article will examine how marketing departments have changed and give advice on building a team with the right skills to drive effective performance

How have marketing departments changed?

Compared to the early 2000s, today’s marketing departments look very different. Technological developments, shifting organisational structures and new trends have driven these changes and affected the types of roles now required in marketing teams. 

New technologies

From websites to search engines to social media, today is a much more digitally-focused world compared to ten years ago. Just like the wider business, marketers have had to stay abreast of these technologies and develop their skills to make the best use of them. 

Marketing teams have also had to adapt to the rapid pace of change. Having colleagues who can identify, understand and implement emerging technologies quickly is essential for any business wanting to position itself as innovative and forward-thinking. 

Shifts to centralisation

Particularly in big corporations, business departments were traditionally kept separate and siloed from one another. Nowadays, having fast, full access to a range of performance data and using it to make decisions quickly is key to effective business growth. 

To make this possible, greater collaboration and alignment between different departments is required. For example, getting sales and marketing teams to work closely together is now seen by 72% of leaders as having a positive impact on business performance. This makes colleagues with teamwork and communication skills invaluable. 

Audience-first focus

Historically, marketing departments were structured around products or services. Now, customers are the central focus of the most effective marketing strategies. This means modern marketing teams have changed from being experts in their business’s offerings to specialists in understanding target audiences and their needs. 

A marketer’s key skill used to be the ability to quickly recall product technical specs or service USPs. Now, they need to be able to balance the skills of data analysis with the empathy required to understand customer needs. 

What are the key marketing roles?

Shifts in the challenges marketing departments face mean the makeup of these teams has also changed. Though the required skills and expertise will flex depending on a business’ budget, operations and needs, there are some roles which are essential to creating an effective department. 


As ever, having marketing managers and leaders in place who are responsible for running operations, developing strategy and driving performance within the department is essential. The number of levels and seniority of marketing teams will depend on the size and complexity of an organisation. 

They can vary from a single marketing manager to a team that includes a chief marketing officer, marketing managers responsible for specific operations and groups of junior executives.


Today’s marketing departments spend a significant proportion of their time on running and optimising digital activity. The exact roles you need within a digital team will vary depending on the particular technologies, channels and infrastructure your business uses, but here are some key specialisms that need to be included:

  • SEO – to help your business rank well on search engines and be found by target audiences online
  • Social media – a key channel for engaging with audiences and establishing an online business presence
  • Website – the central hub for all online activity, developers, CRM specialists and UX designers will keep your site running effectively
  • Email – an effective method of communication between the business and its customers or other audiences
  • Data – with all this digital activity comes reams of performance data which can be leveraged to achieve better marketing results
  • Advertising – whether via Adwords, remarketing or PPC, having a specialism in digital ads will ensure you make the most of your budget


As marketing has shifted from focusing on products and services to meeting the needs of key audiences, content marketing has become a key tactic in digital marketing strategies. Amongst businesses with a very successful content marketing strategy, 53% plan to grow their content team in 2023.  

Creating blogs, videos and social media content that showcases a business’ expertise and is genuinely helpful to customers and prospects requires several specialists, including:

  • Videographers or photographers who can capture and edit high-quality visual content
  • Designers who can design effective graphics for a variety of different online and offline formats
  • Copywriters who can write short and long-form content that’s persuasive, informative and engaging
  • Strategists who can analyse performance data and develop plans to create content that effectively meets audience needs


Though digital activity drives a significant proportion of modern marketing, there is still a place for offline tactics within a wider strategy. To make sure these tactics are leveraged as effectively as possible, a team may need to include specialists in:

  • PR or public relations who can deal with media enquiries and promotions
  • Advertising who understand how to develop and place ad formats effectively
  • In-store experience who known how best to upsell and serve customers on location
  • Events who can promote your brand and its offerings effectively at the most appropriate functions

Optional or supportive roles

For today’s marketing teams to function effectively, they need to collaborate and gather support from other business functions. There also might be certain roles which sit across multiple departments, including marketing. These jobs may include:

  • Technology or digital transformation specialists who can understand and implement the latest platforms and tools effectively
  • Product specialists or experts who can be called upon to develop accurate and effective content or promotions
  • Customer service colleagues who ensure the efficient delivery of any services or products
  • Customer experience specialists who make sure each business touchpoint is delivering effectively for customers
  • Sales teams who work closely with marketers to help convert as many prospects as possible
  • Branding specialists who make sure your business’s personality is communicated throughout your marketing

How should you structure your marketing department?

There are a variety of different structural options for your marketing department. Depending on the specific needs, resources and size of your business, you may decide to build out your teams around the following categorisations. 

By Skillset 

One of the most straightforward ways of structuring your marketing departments, taking this approach means you can build out teams with particular specialisms. This is ideal for medium-sized businesses or enterprises that operate across a range of channels and need to run lots of business-as-usual activities consistently. 

The teams you may include in these types of departments may include social media, content and offline advertising. Depending on your needs and budget, you may have several different levels of seniority within these teams e.g. a Global Content Director, Regional Content Managers and Specialist Content Executives. 

If you take this approach, it’s important to consider:

  • If you have enough ongoing revenue to support the number of specialist teams you require
  • How you will ensure these teams work together effectively on multidisciplinary projects or campaigns 
  • How you will effectively find and recruit the right colleagues for these specialist roles

However, if this structure suits your business, it could bring the following benefits:

  • Teams and colleagues with deep levels of specialism, meaning you can benefit from their expertise
  • Function-based teams have the skills and bandwidth to focus on how to improve and add value to your marketing activities 
  • Easily definable job roles as each colleague will need to have well-defined specialisms and complete specific tasks

By Function

Ideal for smaller or more agile businesses, this approach structures teams on a more wide-ranging basis. Colleagues sitting within these types of marketing departments tend to be multi-skilled and work across several different projects at once. This makes it a useful approach for SMEs that have smaller ongoing revenues and therefore need to operate on a lower headcount. 

The teams in a ‘by function’ marketing department may include creative, account or project management and operations. Rather than focusing on one specific aspect of your marketing activity, the job roles will be more flexible and teams will include a variety of different skill sets. For example, a creative team may include a videographer, graphic designer and content writer. 

If you’re thinking of building a ‘by function’ marketing department, you need to think about:

  • Whether you need particular specialisms within your teams that this approach can’t fulfil
  • If you have lots of business-as-usual marketing activities that need dedicated personnel attending to them
  • The rigorousness of your recruitment and retainment process, as colleagues in this role will need to be multi-skilled and able to work independently

However, there are huge benefits to taking this approach, including:

  • Being able to complete multiple projects and campaigns at once with a relatively small team
  • Having a range of skills within your marketing department with less revenue commitment
  • The ability to have more flexible working terms and even pull in contractors as and when you need to

By Output

The structure defines teams by the marketing output they produce. For example, they may work on brand, acquisition or media. This approach is most commonly adopted by large, established businesses that have set processes and predictable revenue streams. As a result, they’re able to build extended teams which include specialist colleagues all working towards a common objective.

For example, a brand team will be led by a Head of Brand who could be positioned globally if required. They will then have teams focused on particular areas such as product branding, advertising and creative. These teams will have colleagues with the required and specific skill sets they need. For example, graphic designers in creative and copywriters in advertising. 

This is one of the most expansive organisational marketing structures. So before you take this approach, you need to consider: 

  • If you have enough established revenue and processes to justify this extensive structure
  • What support systems you need in place to manage the recruitment and HR of this large (and potentially global) team
  • How the teams under each ‘output’ will be defined and structured to avoid confusion or accidental crossover

Yet, if you’re an enterprise that decides to establish this structure, you could take advantage of: 

  • Some colleagues who can focus on specialisms while others can consider the big-picture objectives
  • A structure that can scale effectively alongside a global business
  • Greater flexibility in the way you define your departments compared to a ‘by skillset’ structure, meaning you have more scope to build your teams according to your specific business needs 

How can departments align structure and strategy? 

With so many potential roles that can be included within your marketing team, it can be difficult for leaders to identify those essential to making their department as effective as possible. Taking the following steps will help leaders create a marketing team with a structure that aligns with their business’s strategy. 

  • Set your marketing goals. This is the starting point for developing your strategy and planning out the activities needed to meet these objectives. From this, you can understand the skills and specialisms you need within your team
  • Draw an organisational structure that includes your current colleagues. Depending on your requirements you may define this structure by function, product or discipline. Based on this think about the skills your colleagues are providing, consider any gaps that can be filled by new roles and draw these in
  • Review these new roles and consider which ones are essential to meeting your goals. Could temporary needs be outsourced? Could you upskill current colleagues to fill the gap? Could certain roles sit across multiple departments? This will help you understand how you can allocate your recruitment budget most effectively
  • Define your requirements in a job description and start recruiting. This will help you to attract the most appropriate talent to your role and ensure any new starter can contribute to your team from day one

By following this process, leaders can build a marketing team that has the skills and expertise your business needs to develop an effective strategy. 

Whether you’re looking for consultants to help you build your department or need to outsource experts for a particular project, get in touch to find out how we can support your marketing team.

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