If you are a Founder, CEO, or Marketing leader of a B2C e-commerce company, after making your first 3-5 marketing hires and as the business scales, you’ll need to expand the team. This is the perfect time to think through the design of a marketing organization that’s tailored to your business.
Designing the right marketing org requires careful consideration of not just the business’s needs today, but what will be needed in 12-18 months. It takes time to find the right marketers, based on both their specialties and fit with the company’s business model and life stage, so you need to make sure to plan ahead.
At RevelOne, we have placed over 1,000 marketers at some of the fastest-growing companies in the country. We’ve seen some of the most successful models and advised on the best org designs to drive growth.
There is no one “standard” marketing org chart, but there are some common structures used in the most successful companies. The RevelOne Marketing Org Chart for B2C E-Commerce represents a snapshot of frequently used org design in a well-developed e-commerce business. While not the exact model for everyone, it can be a useful baseline or starting point.
But, organizing your department(s) is as much an art as a science, and there are special considerations to keep in mind as you finalize an org design that’s right for you. Below we share five top considerations to think about when designing a marketing organization and building out the team.
1. Companies are increasingly Splitting Apart Creative/Brand and Growth Responsibilities Resulting in 2 Marketing Leaders
It can be tempting to try to find a single leader that excels at both the creative/brand and growth elements of marketing. These rare dual-skilled leaders can be challenging to find. Instead, we have seen many companies successfully split these responsibilities into two distinct leadership roles, each reporting directly to the CEO, president, or co-founder. In this instance, you’d have a Brand leader who’s in charge of messaging, positioning, content, PR/communications, visual identity, and all things creative. And, you’d hire a Growth leader who leads acquisition and retention, tasked with the responsibility of driving revenue by acquiring customers and improving repeat business and loyalty. The level of these roles typically ranges from Senior Director/“Head of” to VP/executive level, depending on the stage of the company and level of experience required.
When the roles exist separately, however, it can be easy for the two teams to operate out of sync. For example, the analytical, performance marketing strategy that’s focused on short-term metrics might deviate from the long-term brand strategy, or the brand team may not be incorporating quantitative learnings from the performance team into its overall understanding of the customer. They can compete for budget or resources, too. Separating the two areas of focus under unique leaders means a CEO or Co-founder will need to devote more time to contention management between the two and will have more direct reports to manage.
2. Separating E-Commerce From Marketing Altogether Can Benefit Product Focused Companies
Often the Director of E-commerce (sometimes called the Director of Product) will fall under the purview of Marketing and answer to the CMO/VP of Marketing. We’ve seen companies with more complex products and buying experiences spin the e-commerce team out of marketing altogether so that it can be managed and optimized independently. In this situation, marketing will focus on awareness, driving traffic, new customers, and retention, while onsite functionality, product merchandising, user experience, and revenue will be managed by a separate e-commerce leader.
We see this most often when the selling experience is more technically complex, or when the site itself functions as the product. In order to then develop an optimal, efficient and effective user experience, an E-commerce or Product leader who specializes in these more complex areas is often the best solution. When pulling E-commerce out of Marketing, however, extra effort will be required to ensure that the visions of your Marketing and E-commerce leaders are well aligned.
In a traditional e-commerce business that sells physical SKUs like apparel or shoes, including your e-commerce team under your overall marketing umbrella may make sense. A relatively straightforward shopping flow getting merchandise into shopping carts may involve more off-the-shelf e-commerce tools that require less technical product sophistication. This model enables a single leader (CMO or VP of Marketing) to have a view and vision over the entire customer journey as well as remain responsible for all things revenue.
3. Breaking Out Analytics into an Independent Department Can Drive Greater Impact
Depending on your e-commerce business, you might be best served by breaking out analytics into its own independent group. Having analytics under the marketing umbrella allows marketing to develop integrated and focused marketing-specific analytics, but it won’t provide an “outside” perspective as it lives within the marketing team. Breaking out analytics so that it operates independently can put the analytics department in a position to serve the entire business (e.g., product/e-commerce, finance) and has the added benefit of providing a more objective audit on marketing spend. They will be able to view marketing’s impact on the larger business as well as provide larger business intelligence that can inform both organization-level strategy and marketing direction.
When operating an independent analytics department you’ll have to make sure that all marketing groups, including performance, brand, and e-commerce are working with analytics using the same data, dashboards, metrics, insights, and interpreting all of this information consistently. Failing to do so will see individual teams coming to the table with different ideas and initiatives on how to use resources that will be in conflict with the other teams’ strategies and initiatives.
4. When to Hire for Brand Strategy Often Correlates to Company Growth Stage
It’s common for brand to be owned by founders early in their growth cycle of a company. After all, in the launch and early growth stages of a company, it’s the founders who are closest to understanding the market, seeing a customer need, and creating a new story, product, and brand to meet it. They become heavily invested in how their product is shaped, presented, and perceived and it’s common for those founders to hold on to these brand responsibilities even after the company has meaningfully expanded. This happens most in brand-forward e-commerce companies where the company’s success and the brand story are deeply intertwined. In these cases, the founder may continue to be the owner of the brand strategy and creative, while hiring mid-level brand managers to help with execution and programs.
When a company reaches a more advanced growth stage, however, its audience often evolves, and growth begins to happen in new markets and through new channels. In these cases, brand strategy should evolve with it. In addition, a founder’s focus at this stage will naturally expand to a much larger and broader set of responsibilities, so they may not be able to give an evolving ‘brand’ the attention and energy that it needs. At this point, there is value in hiring a Director or VP of Brand to take over both strategy and execution. This will allow the founders to focus on other concerns, while also providing a new and fresh approach to brand strategy and execution from a leader who specializes in it. Like with many activities in a company as it scales, there’s value in more structure and process at this point as well.
5. Competitors, Budget, and Growth Strategy Can Indicate How Many to Hire
Every Founder or CEO wonders whether their company is under or over-investing in marketing spend, and marketing talent. As the company grows, it’s a challenge to determine when, and how large to scale your marketing team. There’s no single answer or formula here, so a natural reference point is looking at peer companies in similar markets and growth phases. We’d also suggest three broad drivers that may influence the scale and type of resources you need.
First, if you are creating a new category, you may need a bigger budget to drive awareness, educate consumers and generate demand, as well as more marketing talent to create and manage it. Another scenario is when your product is particularly complex or a high-consideration purchase. This requires more investment to move customers through a longer purchase funnel, and the marketing talent to create the materials and the media needed to do it.
Second, as a general rule, you should not spend more on headcount than you do on media or than you are driving in revenue. The size of your department should grow with the size of your budgets, the success of your business, and new hires should always align with strategic initiatives. Key initiatives we see marketing leaders hire for most often include: expanding or scaling new channels (see our article here for 4 ways to resource the testing of new channels), driving greater efficiency from media spend, increasing conversion rates throughout the sales funnel (also driving down customer acquisition costs), building the brand to drive awareness and/or support other acquisition efforts, or enhancing foundational capabilities (e.g., analytics) that power the growth of the business.
Finally, there are certain types of businesses and offerings that are naturally more social or viral and rely more heavily on product-led growth. These require a more sophisticated, multi-disciplinary team made up of product, marketing, analytics, design, and engineering to develop and deploy a blend of product features, marketing, and growth hacking approaches to test and discover continued growth opportunities. It’s important to note that in early to mid-stage startups where this may make sense to invest in, the fully-loaded costs of these multi-disciplinary growth teams could exceed early media budgets, and so should be carefully considered.
No One-Size-Fits-All Solution
Every business is unique, so every founder, CEO, and Marketing leader will need to decide how best to structure their marketing team to drive revenue for their business. We’ve created our free E-commerce Marketing Org Chart to get you started, and included these and other considerations you can use in your org design.
RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm. We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech. For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.