Marketing leaders face an ongoing dilemma regarding the creation of the ‘optimal’ marketing team structure. Centralising or decentralising marketing has been under debate for years. But as marketers face ever-increasing pressure to deliver more to the business – higher ROI, improved efficiency, and growth – team design has once again become a very hot topic.

In my opinion, it’s time for us to move away from this pendular debate. It’s unhelpful, muddles the conversation, and orients to many marketing leaders to think in “either/or” terms. What they need to understand is that modern marketing organisations require a “both/and” approach.

Having the right organisational design, utilising both models, is the key to delivering strong marketing results, balancing control and governance with agility and creativity. Both models have their strengths and weaknesses. Overly centralised teams can’t deliver the domain expertise and responsiveness that most organisations need or desire. Overly decentralised teams have the opposite problem, delivering plenty of domain expertise, agility, and responsiveness, but struggle to deliver consistency across its brand, information sources, and analytic models.

Unfortunately, there is not one model suited for everyone.

Org design is and always will need to be tailored to meet the needs of individual organisations. The model your team requires is likely to be different from others given your corporate goals, organisation structure, culture, and staff. But, there are some conventions and best practices to help you optimise your design.

Here are a few suggestions to help you kick-start your optimisations:

  1. Discuss and determine what your marketing’s primary role is – driving revenue, delivering a consistent brand, delivering leads, etc. You need to understand what is expected of marketing. Your answers will dictate your structure, helping define where tighter control is needed, where more agility is required, and so on.
  2. With your marketing role defined, create a tiered organisational model with centralised and decentralised teams working collaboratively in support of marketing’s overall mission, associating each unique marketing function to its preferred model. If you are:
    • Being tasked with growth and customer acquisition with a diverse portfolio, you should decentralise your campaign function into their respective business units.
    • Being tasked with CX and brand, centralise those functions, ensuring tight control and efficiency.
    • Being tasked with a complete rebranding, due to a merger, centralise the team, all functions, for a period of time until the new brand, offers, value propositions, and GTM strategy are understood. You can then decentralise elements to kick-start leads.
  3. With your organisational model defined, prioritise and assign the work across the business, providing clarity and focus for each team, including jurisdiction rules.

If you have been tasked with improving your marketing team structure, keep in mind the “both/and” model. You can also reference the following Gartner research notes (Gartner subscription required):

*This article is reprinted from the Gartner Blog Network with permission. 

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