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What Makes a Successful Marketing Department

If marketing seems cool, that's because it is cool. And you, by virtue of reading this, You are also cool.
But you don't need to watch Mad Men to know that marketing makes the magic happen.

Marketing is everywhere, and when it does its job–well, you just know it.

Because marketing, when done right, can absolutely transform a business, taking it from small and stumpy to stellar and successful.


But did you know that there are core functions of a marketing department and key marketing-department roles to carry them all out?

Marketing, at the end of the day, is all about meeting your customers' needs so that your business can not just survive, but thrive. Marketers face a variety of challenges and it is very easy to be overwhelmed by all the avenues marketing can take.

If business growth is what you want, you need to be effective with your marketing.

To do that, you need to learn a little bit about two very boring words with big meaning: functions and roles.

Whether you're building out a marketing department or double-checking that you're covering all your bases as your marketing department has evolved, this guide will give you everything you need to know about the marketing functions and roles that matter most.

If you like checklists, download our

Marketing Department Audit Checklist

This checklist will let you quickly identify where your department is thriving and where your department needs support.  Maybe there are some aspects of your marketing department that do not even exists!

Download the checklist to use anytime!

1. It's all about your customer (research)

First and foremost, before you can market anything, you need to know who you’re marketing to.

In other words, who’s your customer? Have you defined your Buyer Personas?

A solid marketing department needs to be backed by huge amounts of research.

The more data you can get on who your customer is and where they hang out, the better off you’ll be.

With so many analytics tools available on the market these days (and several that are free, such as Google Analytics), there’s no excuse for not being data-driven.

2. It helps if you're a good spy

Speaking of research…Customer research is a natural starting point, but your research shouldn’t stop there.

Maybe your product really is a mind-altering feat of human ingenuity and there’s nothing else in the world like it.

Most likely, that is not the case, and you have to contend with competitors offering similar services.

Let me ask you some questions that may or may not keep you up at night:

3. You Need a Marketing Strategy

And when all is said and done, you need an overarching marketing strategy to guide your marketing work and help your business or organization grow.

This strategy could include:

4. Do you have a clearly defined brand?

A big part of having a business is building a brand.

Your goal should be to create a strong, positive image of what your company does and what it stands for.

You can’t control everything that happens with your business, but you can control the time and effort your marketing team puts into brand-building efforts.

This marketing function comes down to who you are and the way you operate.

Use traditional customer-survey methods and any available public data, like comments on social media or review sites, to learn what your customers really think of you. Or, take the time to interview your favorite clients and find out what they like about your business.

Reputation is one of the hardest things to establish, but it’s also one of the best assets you could ever build.

Need help? Hire someone to do a full audit.

Marketing agencies can help with a full competitor audit, brand assessment, website assessment, keyword and SEO research, and a brand audit to help you define the gaps that are making your marketing feel out of control.

5. Do you have someone to fill these marketing roles?

Now you know what you should be doing, but do you know the types of roles you need to fill on your marketing team?

No, that college intern you found on Craig’s List can’t be your Google Ads specialist, customer service representative, and best friend.

Below you’ll find the main roles to be covered on a marketing team.

Not all marketing roles listed here will make sense for all teams, but they’’ll get you thinking about how to set up your team for success.

Marketing Manager

What's a marketing department without someone to manage it all?

Marketing managers need to have a high-level view of company operations and know what's needed to reach customers, get them to buy, and then get them to buy some more.

It's not for the faint of heart, and marketing managers must have knowledge of proven tactics as well as general marketing principles.

They are both team cheerleaders and coaching confidantes.

Email Marketer

Email is not dead. In fact, it's alive and well.

Building an email list is one of the best ways to ensure that you can reach your customers whenever you need to. Working with a good email marketer is a surefire way to not get trapped behind the algorithms of the social media giants.

Email marketers craft copy that converts, they understand outreach strategies, and they know how to design impactful emails that get results.

If the only drip campaign you know about is the one coming out of your leaky faucet, it's time to get some email-marketing help.

Social Media Manager

Social media is everywhere these days.

Older people hang out on Facebook. Professionals humble-brag on LinkedIn. And teenagers make careers on TikTok as world-renowned influencers. It's enough to make anyone's head spin.

A social media manager should know which platforms your business should be on, and they should know how to create content that engages your target audience.

Social media is social after all, and social media managers are typically organized and creative types who know how to--and are comfortable with--getting lots of attention.

Brand Manager

Your business has a brand, whether you like it or not. We’ve already covered that above.

Maybe people know you for your excellent customer service, or maybe they know you as that company with the "weird yellow blob" for a logo.

Who would know what people of think of you?

A brand manager would know.

Brand managers are masters of the look and feel of a business, carefully calibrating colors, images, and stories to create a cohesive brand identity.

Customer Support

What does supporting customers have to do with marketing? They're already customers, aren't they?

The support you give your customers has a lot to do with marketing, actually.

People who have already purchased what you sell are more likely to buy from you in the future, so you should treat them well.

Whether you have one person for your customer support or an entire team, you need to develop a customer-service department built on relationships and respect.

A customer-support professional should have excellent people skills and a high degree of empathy.

They also should be effective communicators on the platforms you typically use to reach your customers.

Data Analyst

How do you know if your marketing is effective?

You know it from the data you collect.

How do you know if the data you collect is any good?

You know it from paying close attention to the information you need to make good business decisions.

How do you know if these questions will end soon?

You keep on reading.

Data analysts are never satisfied until they can quantitatively answer a business' most burning questions, like "What channel drove the most revenue last quarter?" or "How many repeat customers purchase from emails we send?"

The more data you have, the easier it is to make good decisions. But it's also easier to get buried in a sea of meaningless nonsense.

That's where a data analyst comes in.

Graphic Designer

If you want to get attention, it's much easier to show than tell.

For that, you need designs and images that speak to your potential customers.

A visual designer knows how to do this. Trained in color theory and modern-design best practices, a designer is the visual Romeo to your word-based Juliet.

You most likely don't want to drone on and on with words for the rest of your life. Do yourself a favor, and find yourself someone who thinks in images.


Ah, the writer. The one with the way of words.

Can't anyone on your team just write some stuff? Surely, you don't need a designated writer?

Not exactly.

Sometimes, you need an issue-area expert who can write knowledgeably about a topic.

This is especially common in technical fields, such as legal matters and engineering, but it's also common in areas where information can affect a person's livelihood, such as mental health or dietary advice.

Copywriting is a marketing category unto itself, so investing in someone who gets the art and science of it could be one of the best investments you ever make.

And face it, copywriting is time-consuming and writing compelling, SEO copy is a specialized job.

Ads Specialist

If you're running a business, you most likely need to run some ads as well.

And in this digital-first world, digital ads can be the bread and butter of your marketing strategy.

Still, there are so many types of ad platforms to understand.

From the traditional players like Google and Facebook to the newer networks like Instagram and Tiktok, teaching yourself how to run effective ads can be a full-time job and then some.

You need someone who eats ad creative for breakfast, but not really, because then you wouldn't have a campaign. But, in all seriousness, you need someone who loves crunching data and setting up systems to run lots and lots of ad experiments.

It's a demanding role, that's for sure, and one that blends both visual and written elements.

Web Developer

For online businesses, web developers are a must.

Even with the rise of no-code tools, marketing departments often need the technical expertise of web development.

Do you really want to figure out why that form on the page ending in /new-marketing-content-version-2-newest of your website isn't submitting?

Do you really want to try to change your website's theme on your own again?

There are all types of developers, so focus on the ones that are well-versed in the types of problems you need to solve.

Building a data-driven web app and launching a dynamic site redesign are two different things.

6. Do You Know How You Reach Your Customers?

Inbound Lead Growth

Now, there are two big buckets when it comes to how you get your customers.

The first one is inbound marketing, which is a needlessly fancy way to say that the customers come to you.

That's right, you put out your magical content, and they just find you.

In reality, it's not that simple, but it's at the heart of how strategies like search engine optimization and social media work.

The key is to create engaging content that answers questions your potential customers are already looking for.


Outbound Lead Generation

The opposite of that is outbound marketing--going after customers when they're not already looking for what you have to offer.

This could be cold-calling a list of leads. It could be advertising on social media. It could be sending outreach emails until someone answers you and ends your loneliness.

The benefit of inbound marketing is that you could, theoretically, rank a blog post on Google that brings in leads for years to come.

On the other hand, the benefit of outbound marketing is that, if you have the budget for it, you could go find customers right away.

Each form of marketing has its time and place, and which one you choose depends on the type of marketing strategy you have.

If you need lead growth now, you probably have to do some outbound marketing. But your lead-growth strategies will change as your timeline changes and after you factor in how much a qualified lead is worth to your business.

7. Do you have time for sales?

You may not like to hear this, but one of your marketing activities is sales. Without sales, you don’t have a business. You have a hobby–and not a fun one at that. Not all marketing teams have the benefit of having sales team to assist them–or even a designated salesperson.

In this case, you’ll have to educate yourself on the best ways to close the deal. Your marketing plans should factor this in.

The more you can do to establish trusting relationships with your target customers, the more likely they will be to give your their hard-earned money. If you’re spending too much time looking for leads but not enough time spent refining your sales process, then it may be time to consult a marketing director to improve the quality of your leads.

To Set Your Marketing Team Up for Success, Remember Functions and Roles

A marketing manager has many hats to wear, and one of them is knowing how to put together an effective marketing team in the first place. Knowing what to do and knowing who will do it are two realities that marketing directors must constantly grapple with.If your marketing operations are feeling like they’re standing on a stool with a missing leg, we can help.

First Call is a full-service marketing agency that puts strategy front and center.

Whether you’re refreshing your brand or looking to get more traffic to your website, make sure you know the right details to consider. From marketer to fellow marketer, we’re here for you.