How marketing departments (should) work

This article takes you through the structure and responsibilities of the people within an imaginary company’s marketing team and aims to show how a marketing department should work.

As you read through, you’ll probably find yourself smirking and saying things like “Yeah, right” because, as we all know, the reality out there often doesn’t even come close to the ideal scenario. If you are, however, building up a marketing department or trying to budget for one, we hope this sample gives you a good understanding of what should be happening in your marketing team.

Marketing Director

Your Marketing Director, Head of Marketing, President of Marketing, CMO, or however else you choose to call this role will be the person who steers the marketing wheel of the company. Their role will involve no execution whatsoever, but instead, it will require strong strategic thinking and the ability to monitor both the company and the environment, crafting and adjusting the marketing strategy in alignment with the company’s long and short-term goals.

You can expect your marketing director to collaborate with the directors of other departments, most closely those of Sales and Customer Service, but their involvement in product/service development will also be essential.

On a day-to-day basis, your marketing director will attend conferences and other social events in your industry and those of your main clients and will ensure they’re up to date on new developments. This person will be able to point out changes in the commercial world that would influence the company and will be able to prepare a response for the most worrisome or exciting amongst those changes.

For the purpose of this example, we’ll say that the marketing director has crafted the marketing strategy and identifies that the main objective for the next year is to increase market share by 5%. For argument’s sake, we’ll say that there are 5 companies selling a version of this product and Company X, where our people work, has conducted a research with an independent organisation and discovered that they have a 20% market share.

For the marketing director, the increase in market share will be a small piece of a bigger puzzle that they’ve planned to put together over the next 5 or 10 years.


Marketing Manager

After receiving the indication from the marketing director, the marketing manager’s job is to identify the best way to achieve the increase of 5% in market share. There are many possible paths that the marketing manager might choose to follow, and the choice of a path (or paths) will depend on the company’s values, the main company objective, the company strategy, and last but not least – the available resources both in terms of people and budgets.

For argument’s sake, let’s consider the possibility of the marketing manager deciding to achieve said growth by working towards establishing thought leadership* for the company. This is going to be his strategy for achieving the set objective.

* Thought leadership is the concept that describes a person or an organisation as the most knowledgeable in an industry or area of business or life. 

Next, the marketing manager will choose the tactics. Those might be the following:

  • By posting relevant short-form video content on social media
  • By creating a series of blog posts for first-time clients
  • By creating a top-in-class newsletter for its industry.

This strategy, establishing thought leadership, would have to align with the main company’s strategy and long-term objectives.

Aligning with the main company strategy simply means that it has to make sense. If the company is eBay, which is (predominantly) a sales-oriented company, establishing thought leadership makes absolutely no sense. After all, the aim of a sales-oriented company is to generate as many sales as possible, and strategies would typically involve either the production or the supply of the most sought-after products. Long-term strategies that rely on the characteristics of a product or service, such as establishing thought leadership, would not benefit a sales-oriented company.

Once the marketing manager establishes the tactics that they will be utilising to achieve the objective said by the marketing director, it is their job to conduct initial research and plan an outline of activities in order to establish the needed budget. This will be the marketing plan for the year and will outline all main areas of development, the predicted needed resources and human capital.

When the plan is ready, it needs to be presented to the marketing director for approval. When the “OK” is granted, the marketing manager’s job is to assign it to the right people to execute and to ensure they follow up with everyone.

I am only mentioning the latter because you should know that a marketing manager’s job is not to design or execute campaigns. It should not involve the writing of copy for the website, the update of the website itself, graphic design, video shooting, video editing, or anything of the sort.

If you’d like to get the most out of your marketing manager, ensure they have the time and means to manage all processes and allocate resources. Think of them not as your trains that do the routes and deliver the products but instead as the station where all trains receive directions and occasionally stop to receive the needed service.

Expecting the marketing manager to actually produce elements of the marketing (beyond the marketing plan) is the single biggest mistake that companies make, and the most common reason marketing departments become a toxic, undesirable place for talented managers.

Marketing Executive

After the creation of the marketing plan, it’s time to get things going. The marketing manager’s job is to allocate the tasks to the executives in the form of a campaign.

Each executive is then responsible for designing and executing the campaign or campaigns they’ve been tasked with.

What would that mean?

In the example we’re using, the marketing director has decided to increase market share by 5%. The marketing manager has suggested a thought leadership strategy that has been approved by the marketing director (see where responsibility lies?). After the breakdown of tasks, the marketing executive that we’ll engage ourselves with here has been tasked with the creation of a top-of-class industry newsletter. What now?

The planning of the campaign will include several stages and, in the best case, will be designed following a suitable framework. The choice of frameworks is large – SOSTAC, APIC, and RABOSTIC are among the best choices.

Whichever framework is chosen, the first step would be for the marketing executive to carry out an analysis, a.k.a. review what’s currently in place or if there’s nothing (if the company doesn’t have a newsletter), then a review of the industry best practices will be due. This sounds complex, but it simply means that the current newsletter needs to be described – regularity, structure, tone of voice, a typical call to action, etc. If one doesn’t exist, then desk research of case studies or success cases in other similar industries may be described.

Since the marketing executive has been tasked with the creation of a top-of-class newsletter, they have to propose how to achieve this. Based on the information they’ve gathered, they might decide to send it out once every two weeks or even once a month, to have it broken down into different sections, to jam-pack it with the most important information, to follow government regulations in the industry and to describe them, etc. This will be the strategy for the newsletter itself.

In order to make the campaign executable, the marketing executive will have to also identify what “top-of-class” means in terms of metrics and what the timeframe is. Perhaps this means that the newsletter should reach 100,000 people. Or that the click-through rate will be 40%, or that there will be 20% new subscribers. All of this also needs to be given a due date.

So finally, when these are known, the marketing executive needs to describe the approach towards achieving their goal, break it down into actions, and begin executing it. A marketing campaign plan like this would also require a mention of the metrics that will be tracked and a contingency plan – what happens if the metrics are not hit by a specific date.

And finally…

Marketing Assistant

The marketing assistant will be the executive’s right hand. A marketing assistant is typically someone who helps with the little details, such as research, formatting of documents, orders from print houses, sending emails, etc.

In the example above, the marketing executive will craft the campaign, outline the actions and have a pretty good understanding of when they’ll need graphics for the newsletter and when the text needs to be ready. The marketing assistant will have the campaign’s plan and will use it to write the creative brief that will go to the graphic designer and the copywriter.

Since the marketing assistant is almost always a marketing executive in training, the aim of their role is to see first-hand how a campaign is created and how it comes together, and then be able to create and execute one themselves. In most cases, this will be how a marketing assistant gets promoted – by designing and executing a small campaign entrusted to them by the marketing manager.

t post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

Nina Alexander
Nina Alexander

Nina Alexander is a seasoned Chartered Marketer and CIM Member with over 20 years of hands-on marketing expertise. Having held positions such as Marketing Director and CMO, Nina has consulted for over 200 companies, with experience spanning cutting-edge sectors like data visualisation, digital health, blockchain, software development, and SaaS. Nina's contributions to education include creating training content for the L4 and L6 university-grade education programmes, now leveraged by marketing executives and managers at global giants like Vodafone, Centrica, and Adidas. Today, Nina works in consulting technology organisations on marketing automation, and empowering C-level personnel with training on the effective structuring and operation of marketing departments.



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