Too many chefs: Building an effective marketing department in a complex organization

It’s the marketing department’s job to turn this tsunami of data points into a steady stream of leads, conversions and revenue. But with so much overlap between departments, divisions and individual jobs, what’s really in Marketing‘s job description?

In the digital world, marketing is not just focusing on developing the brand, market positioning, and messaging — they are also in charge of handling creative, managing media and even community outreach (stepping onto tradition PR toes).

Digital and Big Data are baked right into the marketing pie, critical to the mission of extracting full value from every customer interaction and maximizing ROI. Segregating marketing and other divisions of your organization into their own silos without accounting for the overlap just doesn’t make sense.

Nobody can have the entire pie. In the world of Big Data, every functional leader inputs some ingredients and effort into the recipe, and takes a slice of the fully baked product. If you are in marketing, maybe you can take out an extra large slice, but the key point here is that teamwork is essential.


To be fair, marketing still has a pretty big pie all of its own. These are the key areas that sit squarely in the marketing department’s section of the bakery — that your CMO is responsible for:

  1. Strategic Brand Planning:
  • What does your brand stand for?
  • How are you positioned?
  • What’s your unique selling proposition?
  • What are your key performance indicators (KPIs) that will show how well your marketing is working?
  • Page views?
  • Data captures?
  • Leads?
  • Conversions?
  • What’s the plan for using all your tools, from social media to media placement to sponsorships, to reach your audience?

The main job of Marketing is to create and execute that plan.

2. Audience and Channel Research:Who are you targeting and how are you segmenting that audience? If your main prospects are college students, are you customizing your messaging based on gender, race, location, spending habits, or something else?

3. PR: Marketing also owns all company outreach, from generating media coverage to getting the CEO interviewed in Inc., to dealing with complaints posted on Twitter or Facebook. It’s the CMO’s job to coordinate with you on what your brand stands for, then to support that brand through every communication channel — website, social, speeches, press coverage, and more.

4. Creative: Marketing gets to play with concept, copy, form factor, script, messaging .… all the fun stuff. The goal is to use an efficient iterative process to come up with a message that’s consistent over multiple media types — offline and online ads, blog posts, videos, websites,brochures, podcasts, webinars, SEO and beyond — and drives results based on KPIs. It’s the brainstorming, sketching, deadline-driven part of marketing .… and your people are probably great at it. The efficient iterative process? Probably not so much.

5. Media: Whether it’s in-house or working with an external media shop, Marketing’s probably got its fingerprints all over your company’s media spend, both the “how much” and the “where”.

6. Lifetime Value: Finally, a qualified CMO should have a pretty clear idea of Customer LTV and how to determine it for your various target groups. Which group has the highest potential LTV, which should be where you spend more of your budget? Also, the CMO should also know the optimal strategies to increase each segment’s LTV.

For all the above, marketing and the CMO should be capable of taking the lead, setting the tone and producing results. If your marketing team isn’t pulling its weight in all those areas, plan on some tense conversations. But that’s not the whole picture.


Marketing’s private bakery smells good. But there are a lot of other bakers in your organization — Product, Sales, IT, Customer Service and Finance — and they all want to have their fingers in some of the pies, too. They should, because this is digital marketing and data is king. It’s not about fiefdoms. That was for the days when marketing was high prestige, low accountability. Now, marketing success is about who can get the data, parse it, and use it to bake something wonderful.

These are the other pies and the players who should have a piece in each:

Analytics: Sales and Finance should be involved in campaign analytics, because your salespeople know what your customers are asking for. Engineers or product managers with analytics skills can be invaluable in flagging online/mobile consumer behaviors and patterns, thus identifying important markers that show where customers reside in your sales funnel.

CRM: This is another cross-functional collaboration, whether your marketing team likes it or not. Sure, they are in charge of customer messaging, but what about selecting and developing the database platform, ensuring data protection and access controls? Sales and Customer Service are also likely to chime in with ideas for acquiring, upselling, cross-selling and retaining customers.

Platforms: This is another clear crossover. Who owns the website and the mobile app? This could be Marketing, Product, eCommerce, Engineering, Customer Service, etc. It’s more likely to be all of the above. What about marketing platforms for serving ads?

Selecting Vendors: When selecting third-party vendors, such as agencies, ad tech companies and data brokers, the Marketing department is clearly essential. However, many companies also involve their Procurement departments and technology experts, too.

Technology Budget: Who will ensure that, between Marketing and IT, there is minimal duplication and a highly efficient plan to develop all of these awesome technologies and data platforms? Many companies inject the Finance team here to adjudicate.


Your organization may break down a little differently; you could have other stakeholders in play. For example, you might have a chief product officer who’s always at odds with Marketing over the question of who owns consumer insights (in some companies, the head of marketing reports to the head of Product, which has its pros and cons). There’s definitely a crossover, but there aren’t any hard and fast rules. Consumer insights data are about improving products, but they are also used to acquire and retain customers. The solution is collaboration. The CMO and CPO have to work together.

Bottom line: many functions play a role in marketing, and the Marketing department plays a role in how Finance, Product, Sales and Customer Service operate, and how every other department does its job. So this isn’t a question of territory so much as one of philosophy. Great organizations with great marketing efforts are holistic; departments support each other and everybody keeps their eyes on the goal.

And set asid some budget and time for offsides and team building 😀

Ben Legg is an engineer, author and serial tech CEO. At The Portfolio Collective, he works with entrepreneurs to reinvent themselves and society

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