A guide to marketing ops organization structures

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Where should marketing operations sit within a business structure? A simple answer might be — with the marketing team. In practice, that’s not always the case.

Listen to revenue and marketing operations specialist Kelly Jo Horton. “When you think of your marketing organization structure you have to take into consideration talent, budget and the maturity of your marketing and sales departments,” Horton said at MarTech. “These roles can sit in any number of organizations and the organizational structure will dictate level of efficiency and job satisfaction.”

Watch the full presentation here. 

Three organizational structures

The three major marketing department organizational structures are:

  • Digital center of excellence;
  • Business systems-centered marketing operations; and
  • Revenue-centered marketing operations. 

Horton has worked in all three configurations.

“Marketing operations serves every organization and every department in the company, so it makes it difficult to figure out where roles should go,” she said.

The digital center of excellence is mainly employed by large international enterprise businesses with established marketing departments and long-term agency relationships. It is a proven model to centralize resources and to work closely with domestic or international regional marketing organizations. To successfully implement the digital center of excellence model, a large budget is usually required with abundant internal resources like staffing, consultants, training and planning. “This model keeps all its resources in one group,” said Horton. “You also have peers to work with you for strategy.” 

In a business system-centered structure, marketing operations sits under systems, or perhaps alongside IT. This usually comes with centralized administration responsibility for all platform owned to manage contracts and governance. “If you are going to put a marketing operations person in IT or [business] systems that person needs to have a lot of marketing experience,” said Horton. “Because otherwise you will just get a technical resource who is just taking orders from tickets and not questioning if it is the best way to do something, or if it is a best practice.” 

The third and final marketing operations department structure is a revenue-centered model that can apply to companies with either large or small budgets. Also known as a growth-centered or general marketing model, marketing operations person is usually an individual person or a small team. In this role the marketer(s) work closely with sales.

“A centralized marketing stack is needed in this model,” said Horton, because of the limited amount of staff often employed in this model. This limited amount of staff also could lead to integration of the marketing team into the sales department. “It is beneficial to be in the same organization as sales. It is beneficial to be a part of these departments because marketers will be included in these discussions more often. The pro is that you have a relationship with sales, but the con is that if you are a one-person operation you have no peers working with you.” 

As well as increased integration with sales departments, the limited staff often implemented in this model can also lead to marketing operations personnel being a part of the IT department, adding a different dynamic to the marketing role. Marketers in this organizational structure need to be versatile and ready for increased interaction with both IT and sales departments.

Researching best practices for each marketing organizational model is necessary to completely execute the strategies and tactics behind each model. Marketers need to make sure all team members are educated on implementation of a new model, along with the expectation of their roles.

“No matter the organization structure, what you need is strong alignment between your organizations,” said Horton. “It is your job as a marketing operations person to be the glue and develop these relationships no matter which organization you sit in.”

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Rodric Bradford
Rodric J. Bradford was an Editor of MarTech Today and has worked in the marketing technology industry as both a journalist and corporate project manager. Prior to joining MarTech Today Bradford served as Convention and Technology Beat Reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Business Press publication and worked as Technology Reporter for Global Gaming Business, the world’s largest casino publication. In the corporate world Bradford has served as Technology Project Manager for CNA, Cigna, General Dynamics and Philip Morris. Bradford is an alumnus of the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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