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Building a Marketing Team

After graduating from college, Whitney Thrower fell into the AEC industry as a marketing assistant and spent twelve years climbing the ranks to become a Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications. She held a director title with three nationally-recognized top 100 design and construction firms in the Southeast but eventually found herself wanting to give back and joined Smartegies as a consultant. 

Team Structure

Through her experience as a marketing director, Thrower learned how to optimize her team for efficiency and high caliber work by creating a simple hierarchy with clearly defined responsibilities. Depending on the size of the organization, the roles are subject to change, but ‘marketing assistant’ is a typical entry-level position that entails departmental organization, data management, electronic filing, and other types of support. The marketing coordinator is a step up the ladder and plays a key role in the department with a focus on production. The MC handles the output of deliverables, managing RFQs, RFPs, presentations, and any other marketing collateral that supports the sales cycle. The coordinator position usually has two ranks that carry different responsibilities.

Proposal coordinators and managers seem to be popping up more recently, so depending on a company’s resources, that may be another discipline. However, marketing managers are usually the next step up, and they act as a team leader, managing the day-to-day within their department and working with direct reports. Marketing managers might have a hand in strategy too, but their primary responsibility is to make sure the deliverable goals of the department are being met. 

Marketing Leadership

Once you get to the leadership level, you start to see directors like Thrower. The marketing director is responsible for strategic planning for the department, marketing initiatives in alignment with business goals, managing internal/external communications, and spearheading the talent acquisition efforts. A vice president and director share many of the same responsibilities, but a VP is a leader by title, although the director will generally have a seat at the leadership table anyways. CMO is a title not frequently used because it’s usually only logical if a firm is overseeing global marketing efforts. At the same time, a CMO is representative of the authority marketing has within an organization. Smaller, marketing-centric firms may find CMO’s beneficial to their internal structure. 

Centralized vs. Decentralized Marketing Team

Structure plays a very significant part in determining how effective your firm’s marketing will be. A lot of owners are wondering if their internal marketing team should be centralized or decentralized. A centralized team takes all of the marketing assets and centers them around one department. Having everything under one roof is the most cost-effective solution. The team can work together to maintain brand identity, carry out marketing initiatives, and work with extremely high efficiency.  The drawback is the centralized marketing team’s work is often disconnected from branch offices interested in resonating with their local market. 

Decentralized teams are spread throughout multiple departments, and everyone is individually responsible for their deliverables and initiatives. There is a general alignment with the overarching brand, but for the most part, marketing in decentralized teams is crafted to resonate with the regional target of each branch. Decentralizing can potentially tamper with brand integrity, and with no system of checks and balances in place, inconsistencies will start to become a major problem.

When Do You Need a Marketing Department?

Seller-doers and technical professionals at boutique firms often lead the marketing charge themselves, but it makes sense to redistribute marketing tasks to make time for high-value activities. You should consider forming a marketing department when your business needs to outweigh the skillset of your internal team. Your resources should match your desired level of sophistication at the firm, but more importantly, they should reflect your plans for growth. Marketing is an investment, and it will produce a massive ROI if carried out in alignment with your future growth plan.

For more information about the structure and purpose of a marketing team, listen to our podcast episode, How to Structure a Marketing Team, with Whitney Thrower.