How to Structure Your Digital Marketing Team

When building a digital marketing team, there’s one step B2B companies often overlook. And unless you do this step correctly, chances are your company isn’t leveraging the skills of the people in your organization, or on your teams.

What is the most critical component to scale up many companies fail to do? It’s planning the right organizational structure that sets your team for success.

Popular Digital Marketing Team Structures

In this article, I’ll discuss some of the most popular digital marketing team structures that set companies up for success. Read on to learn:

  • How to ward off some of the most common mistakes companies make for Digital Marketing Team structures and models.
  • The importance of matching your organizational structure with your team.
  • What an organization’s structure means for your business and how to structure your team accordingly.
Planning the right organizational structure sets your team for success Click To Tweet

4 Models for Structuring Your Digital Marketing Team

When it comes to planning your digital marketing team model, here are four of the most common team structures:

  1. Fully agency outsource
  2. An in-house team
  3. Hybrid team structure
  4. A digital Center of Excellence model

1. Fully Digital Marketing Agency Outsource Model

The first model is the fully agency outsource model where your company outsources all digital marketing activities to an outside agency. In this model, the agency does all the work while the stakeholders at the business focuses on business objectives, metrics and leadership inputs. Like all partnerships, this can be a win-win solution for both the business and the agency.

This model works best for small or medium size companies depending on how you slice and dice. Outsourcing your marketing to an agency allows you to avoid many ground level activities and can get your program up and running in a short period of time. Since an agency works on so many different projects, they’re the pros and eliminates the trial and error. Ideally, the agency knows what they’re supposed to do so they can hit the ground running.

In fact, by not hiring in-house full-time employees, companies save time and money as the agency can create strategy, processes and execute on the business objectives. With hiring, it could be a hit or miss and not to mention that “it takes a village” when it comes to launching your digital marketing program. Also, outsourcing is cost effective because you can cut the cord at any time. With an employee, it’s not so simple.

Outsourcing is cost effective because you can cut the cord at any time. With an employee, it’s not so simple. Click To Tweet

In a nutshell, the agency gets a lot done fast in a short amount of time. That is the beauty of the fully agency outsourced model.

2. In-House Digital Marketing Team

In-house teams have been around forever and people try and experiment with this model. But as the name suggests, all digital marketing activities are basically done in-house.

The truth of the matter is, there are no pure 100% in-house teams because even big enterprise companies with 10,000+ employees still work with outside marketing agencies.

The fact is that it doesn’t matter how big you are, everyone is constrained for resources in some shape or form. And if you’re large, you need outside resources to get things done faster. So there is no such animal as a pure in-house team.

An in-house team essentially does most of the marketing work. That means the company builds a team that consists of a creative team, a search team, a social media team, an email team, someone who does data analytics, a content writer, a copywriter, a marketing coordinator, and so on. When it comes to digital marketing it takes a village.

But, in my experience, in big enterprises, there is never a 100% reliance on an in-house team. Usually what ends up happening is a combination where 80% of the work is done in-house while 20% of the work is done by an agency. Again, for this model to succeed a lot depends on how committed the leadership team is to fund and build an in-house team.

At the same time, one of the downsides of an in-house team is knowledge decay. Basically, people in companies work in their ivory towers or walled gardens and after a while, you begin to see the knowledge levels of your in-house team stagnate because they are only working on one project and as such it makes them oblivious to what others in the industry are doing.

Of course, you can send employees to conferences and online training. But in digital marketing, nothing beats the experience of being in the trenches. Since an agency works with many clients, they see what works and what doesn’t work with other clients, so they can bring economies of scale to marketing.

3. The Hybrid Digital Marketing Team Structure

As the name suggests, a hybrid means you have a few marketing employees on your team and you also work with an agency. This is typically the most common team structure.

Once a company reaches a scale of say 50 employees or say a certain amount of revenues, that’s when the hybrid team model kicks in. When you reach that critical mass, you realize you’ll want to make a couple of marketing hires– maybe an internal Web designer or marketing program manager, a content writer or social media person. So you have a few team members internally within your company and also work with an outside agency.

In this model, with a 3-person, 5-person, or even a 10-person marketing team, the business inputs to the agencies are driven by the in house team. They provide the business objectives, the goals and the strategic direction and the agency executes on that strategy. And when you work in close partnerships, the hybrid team structure generally has a better chance to succeed.

4. Center of Excellence (COE) Model

I’m a big proponent of this Center of Excellence model because you have team structure where you don’t need to hire a lot of people and can still work with an outside agency.

When you have a big business with multiple business units, you can hire two or three really in-depth subject matter experts (SMEs) to create your Center of Excellence team. These SME’s then become the central nervous system of your COE.

The beauty of the Center of Excellence model (COEs) is you don't have to hire an army. Click To Tweet

The job of a COE is to provide all the best practices, new knowledge, and even produce thought-provoking lunch and learns within your company. They are like the scouts looking out for new technology in the marketplace, going to conferences and vetting new marketing agencies and consultants. They know the best practices that impact the company and different business units in the way of ROI modeling, new platforms and new tools.

The beauty of the Center of Excellence model (COEs) is you don’t have to hire an army. These guys bring in the strategy and then go out and look for the best agency, hire and train people internally, and get the right technology for the right job.

This kind of team structure is generally used in enterprise companies with office locations in multiple time zones in multiple states or continents. So again, a Center of Excellence is cost-effective, yet ensures your company is on the forefront of digital marketing.

To sum it up, when you fit one of these marketing team models to your company, your probability to achieve growth goes up tremendously. To scale your business matching the organizational structure is the first step. As digital marketers, your job is to investigate which model fits best to meet your company’s business needs. That should be the first step when creating your digital marketing team.


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