There is no right structure. There is a structure for right now.
The growth marketing structure for a single product company is straightforward. As the product offering grows in complexity so does supporting the products.
A good team structure can lay the foundation for growth marketing team and product success. The wrong one will create employee churn, channel conflict, and lower Return-on-Ad-Spend (ROAS). The right structure depends on the maturity of the products, the strategic marketing capability of the product team, and the overlap in target customer base.
The basic structure options include: a central queue, dedicated team member, embedded, and an agency model.
Central Queue Through Growth to Multi Product Company
Shared services, or a central marketing queue, is great with a central capable team and stakeholders that are less experienced in growth marketing. This happens as the company transitions from a single product (or market) organization to a multi-product or international rollout.
The marketing team supported the dominant product and the company needs to experiment with new products to grow revenue. The fiscally responsible solution is to carve off time from the existing marketing team to support the new product. If the product goes well, the team can hire a new resource. If the product doesn’t see adoption, there’s no need to let people go.
As things grow (either the introduction of multiple products or the new product does well), the team has to decide how to prioritize between products. This is the key challenge of this model.
If the product is very successful, the option of embedding a marketer will be discussed.
Embedding Creates Attrition
With a central team and a successful product, there will be tension over speed of execution and knowledge of the product. Embedding a marketing employee from the central queue into the business unit becomes an option. The business unit will want to move faster and work with individuals deeply knowledgeable about the product. If done this creates a matrixed structure.
Matrix structures create conflict. Employees are strung between the strategy of the business unit and the execution of the central team. In order for this to work, the marketing lead needs to defer on strategy and just focus on managing the team members execution.
This can be stressful for all parties and requires constant communication between all parties involved. At some point, just moving the marketer entirely into the business unit organization comes up. This creates a different set of challeneges.
GM Models Mean Dealing With Crossovers and Channel Conflicts
Successful products eventually graduate into their own business structure under a General Manager (GM). The GM role splits functions out of a central area and into a new business unit. The entire unit moves cohesively and allows for more cross functional thought on the business unit. The downside with marketing, like other areas, this creates conflict around shared channels, messaging, and brand,.
Specifically, with digital channels, campaigns from products will compete against themselves. Product ‘A’ and Product ‘B’ will bid against each other. Product A might have superior unit economics but product B might have authorization to run at a more aggressive Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) in the growth stage of the product. Managing this conflict is a key challenge of this model. Especially if there is no longer a central marketing function to make determinations.
A lack of coordination also creates missed opportunity. Advertising one product will create a halo and bring in users for a secondary product. WIthout the right systems, this additional value will be missed and the company will under calculate ROAS.
Internal Agency – When Execution Is All Thats Needed
In the agency model, the business unit tells the marketing team how to act. This structure is all about execution and requires a strategic marketing partner that is part of the business unit. This structure works best with an experience strategic lead in the business unit that has done marketing or worked closely with marketing in the past. And, the “agency” part of this
If the strategy marketing partner is missing, this is a bad structure. If the “agency” side of this includes accomplished marketers that want to execute their own vision. This is a bad structure.
With either a business unit lead that has limited marketing experience or a skilled marketing team, instead consider a shared services model.
This model is viable with a large central team and multiple products. It solves some of the issues of channel conflict and matrix structures, but leaves product knowledge and execution speed as open items to resolve.
Adapting Over Time
Structures change and evolve both as the product offering evolves and as personnel evolves. Organizational structures often grow organically and diverge from an idealized structure. As this happens, the ideal way to staff a growth marketing team to a product will change as well. That’s okay. That’s normal. It’s better to adapt to the new environment than trying to maintain an old structure.