Developing a B2B marketing organizational structure for a B2B business can be a daunting task. It might have started as a back-of-the-envelope sketch. Now, you’ve got a lot of gaps to fill and you want to be sure you’re positioning key roles in the right place at the right time. Just a few years ago, you could get away with a simple website that contained basic sales information and a “contact us” button. But the move towards digital has accelerated rapidly, completely transforming the traditional go to market model. And that trend is expected to continue to evolve in the post Covid years to come. So, where do you begin? You can hire a management consulting firm which will charge you the big bucks, or you can do a little bit of research and learn where the puzzle pieces go. One place to start is to look at a sample org chart for a middle-sized B2B product company. Your particular business may be much smaller, but that’s OK. You probably have a good idea where the weaknesses are. From there it’s really just a matter of making sure you’re slotting your new positions in the departments where they belong, and adding appropriate roles underneath them. If you already have a marketing team, you’re halfway there. All of this may be easier said than done, however, for new roles that have a strong digital orientation. If you’re a more traditional B2B marketer, those job descriptions may not be part of your everyday venacular. SEM? DAM? CMS? Welcome to the digital revolution!
Below is a schematic of a sample B2B marketing organizational structure for a mid-size B2B reseller I reently worked with in the MRO category. The business itself has several divisions located in different markets, each division headed up by a General Manager. This chart could also represent a business with a head of marketing reporting directly to a President, CEO or an owner(s).
Let’s take a closer look at some of these departments in the B2B marketing organizational structure:
Director of Brand/ Communications
This has two main responsibilities: Brand awareness and company messaging. This person is tasked with creating a uniform brand look and feel across all channels of distribution. Typically in a larger B2B enterprise, 4 or 5 positions will report up: Public relations (and/or marketing communications), industry relations, a brand marketer, a creative manager, and a social media specialist. Website creation would live under creative. In-house creative is often among the last of the roles in this category that go in-house since that can involve many specialized functions such as design and user experience. Website can also fall under Demand Generation, as discussed below.
Head of Content
The head of content is a “must have” department for any B2B’er who generates a great deal of original content for the purposes of demand generation, sales enablement and overall brand support. I call this person the “voice” of the company, aligning all external communications to the brand. Among other thngs, they are in charge of all creative execution which is the responsibility of the Content and Design specialist, who works with other team members covering copywriting and multimedia. In this particular chart, I’ve put this department in as shared services supporting brand marketing, sales and demand generation, but initially it could report directly to the head of marketing before the other roles under it are filled out. Ecommerce refers not to ecommerce operations, but rather tasks such as product descriptions, pricing, sales, promotions, codes, third party marketplaces such as Amazon and other catch-all subsets that all tie back to products that are purchased on the website..
Director of Product Marketing
This role typically exists long before digital positions are added to the mix, but I include it because it is, of course, one of the seats at the head table of most B2B businesses, or at least those that consider themselves “product driven”. And many B2B’ers, at their heart, are highly product-driven (just ask the sales force!). I won’t go into great detail here because many B2B business owners or Presidents/CEOs were once PM’s themselves, but it’s worth noting that this has a heavy customer communications component to it (particulary with outbound messaging), so internal-departmental collaboration becomes key, particularly with brand marketing and content teams.
Director of Demand Generation
A role that is found in larger B2B businesses, the Director of Demand Gen has a strong digital orientation given that a main objective of this group is to nurture acquired leads through the funnel which can have many different digital touchpoints. That is a main job of the Digital Marketing Manager, supported by marketing operations which handles automated communications such as email and social Funnel metrics. Lead scoring, KPI’s and reporting duties will often fall under an Analytics and/or Optimization specialist (rarely are these functions outsourced even in a smaller B2B’er). The job of developing and executing the campaigns fall into the hands of Campaign Manager(s), and that would include Account Based Managers who handle the biggest key accounts. One other important note: Although I’ve put website creation in this chart under Brand, that can also be added here if there are a large, steady volume of leads to capture and events to market. Businesses that engage in a large number of industry or product-specific events often have a stand alone event marketer. Also, a separate partner marketing role might be considered for B2B businesses where partnerships are a key channel.
This particular B2B marketing organizational structure is, of course, only one of hundreds if not thousands of others where these seven top level departments represent the key functions of marketing. Sometimes “Strategy” has its own stand alone team (with market research among the functions underneath it), and you might find larger B2B’ers with a separate staff of specialists in data and analytics. Multichannel B2B marketers might place the tech stack and website structure under a “Digital” leader, and still others might combine Marcom with Demand Generation.
Here’s another org chart for a Fortune 1000 B2B client of mine in the MRO space that has a very large demand generation group that falls under a GM who runs the company’s US business. The main channels within this integrated marketing team include online, catalog and print advertising, requiring among other things the need for a wide ranging creative team including stand alone roles for video production and a photographer. In this structure, email, PR, social and content all report up to a Manager of Email and Public Relations. It’s not unusual for email to take a bigger role with B2B’ers that have a heavy email calendar (in this case, the mailing list is in the low hundreds of thousands). You’ll notice that this has one person managing PR, the blog and social media. That’s quite a handful, and as a I recall, I believe they ultimately decided to outsource the PR piece to an agency. PR should be among the last functions brought inside until the business reaches at least mid-sized status. Also, you’ll find several technical roles in this structure including database and email system administration. We all know that marketing and technology go hand-in-hand, and while the head of marketing is not expected to be a hands-on techy, that person should definitely have had some past experience along some management responsibility over more technical roles including marketing automation, web development, data and analytics. This particular company publishes an annual “phone book” like catalog, which goes out mostly to existing clients. They also place ads in trade publications which would be the responsibility of product marketers.
Expanding Your B2B Marketing Organizational Structure
Among the most common questions I’m asked when it comes to B2B marketing organizational structure is, “Where do I expand next?” Quite simply, you focus where the need is, and outsource the rest. Marketing departments tend to expand “organically”, as I like to call it; tactical needs arise, contract or full-time specialists are brought in to execute the nuts and bolts, and then department leads are created when leadership and strategy become higher prorities. I almost never recommend you outsource product marketing roles, as they apply to the very strategic and competitive advantage of a business which you really don’t want in the control of an outside resource.
Another question I’ve been asked by B2B start-ups is, “What functions/roles should I hire first?” There are really two approaches to this: What the company needs, and what YOU need as the owner/operator. Obviously product marketing needs to be covered, particularly messaging and product launch. Demand gen is usually next on the list, and then branding. Next thing to consiser is what YOU need, and that means having an honest conversation with yourself about your strenthgs and weaknesses. For example, you might be stronger in product marketing than demand generation, so in that situation demand gen will be a higher priority in your search. I also advise smaller clients to consider hiring someone who has been the customer at one poin their career.You can be creative and you can be logical and methodical, but you can’t “fake” empathy and experience. There is just no substitute for being in the customer’s shoes and on the receiving end of your sales and marketing efforts. And that experience doesn’t always have to be on the B2C side. I have plenty plenty of candidates with B2B businesses who successfully made the transition from brand-side B2C.
A final word on management layers. Usually line managers are not needed until you have around 6 or 7 people, give or take. At that point, it usually becomes to much to manage for one person. The direction of the company will dictate where ythe first line manager should be slotted in, and then additional specialists are brought on to fill in areas where the organization is either stretched too thin or contains weak links in the talent chain.
Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and omnichannel marketing. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 33 years. With more than 200 published articles on his blog and LinkedIn profile, and widely quoted by leading business publishers including Bloomberg, AdAge, AdWeek, DigitalCommerce 360 and Target Marketing, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences and webinars. He is also a vetted member of the Clarity.fm faculty of experts, specializing in the fields of digital commerce. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.