Built for Specialization, not for Buyer Needs: The Problem with the Traditional Marketing Org Chart

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03 March 2021

Throughout the pandemic, my mother has made a hobby of rearranging the drawers in her kitchen. Each time we pay them a visit, the silverware has been switched with the measuring cups. The plastic baggies with the spatulas – you get the idea. 

She is searching for the arrangement that will maximize productivity in the kitchen.

(At the expense of my Dad’s sanity, but I digress.) 

One can say the same about the most popular construction of the marketing organization. Organized for efficiency and specialization, but counterintuitive to the ultimate objective (buyer-centric marketing).

Silos erected in the name of productivity and skills specialization

Let’s acknowledge how silos happen in the first place. If you have ever worked for a small company or startup – you have experienced being a human Swiss Army knife. Your small team was agile and productive because each of you had intimate knowledge about product, brand, demand generation and ops. You may not have been a master of all of these domains, but you knew enough to make marketing happen.

As your org grew – so did the need for more specialization in marketing, and just like that: silos were born.

The silos force marketers to be focused on the task of marketing, not the desired outcome of their activities. How can a product marketer keep a pulse on the needs of the market when they’re so focused on promoting the latest feature and function? How can portfolio marketers ensure brand continuity through the late stages of the buying process if they are focused on early stage awareness-building? How can growth marketers create and capitalize on demand regardless of how it enters the funnel?

The product, portfolio, growth and operations structure would work just fine if an organization sold one product to one audience, but that’s not the growth plan, or the reality, of most B2B organizations in the mid-market or enterprise space.

No one owns the narrative through the buying process

The narrative of a solution (the comprehensive story of the problems that gave rise to your products, and how you make life better for buyers) should align to a buyer’s information-seeking behavior.

However, most organizations have multiple products or lines of business, with different levels of internal investment and priority, competing for the same audience’s attention. 

Solution marketing and selling was supposed to solve this. If you could get a good understanding of the problem you were trying to solve, then you could bundle products together into a more holistic solution and lead with that. If the audience understood the solution, they would understand how multiple products contributed.

This is where the current marketing org falls short.

The typical, siloed marketing organization delivers a fractured solution narrative – an incomplete story that fails to address the changing information needs of the buyer as they become aware of challenges, and begin researching to compare solutions. 

In the product, portfolio, growth and operations model – who is the custodian of the narrative? Who is responsible for ensuring that the buyer’s changing information needs are addressed for all solutions with cohesive themes, messaging, and content throughout the marketing and selling process?

Today’s answer is no one. And everyone! 

The democratization of a solution’s narrative is one of the biggest barriers to synchronous marketing. Not only that, but when a marketing function is forced to produce a marketing product that will get “approved”  within their own organizational construct, as opposed to a marketing product that is impactful, the result is diluted, ambiguous, and safe. 

So what is to be done?

 Stay tuned for Part two: Reimagining the marketing organization for better synchrony.

More in the Synchrony Series:

What is Marketing Synchrony?

Synchrony in Market Context: How to get (and stay) on the same page


Ashley Shailer
By: Ashley Shailer
Ashley has spent more than ten years designing and implementing world-class demand creation and lead management strategies that leverage the latest in marketing technology. She’s held client-side and analyst roles in marketing systems and marketing operations, and consulting roles that leverage her unique expertise in lead nurturing, account-based plays, content, messaging, and social media strategy for more than 40 clients.

In her spare time, she can be found enjoying a good super hero movie, a solid single malt, and dessert (not necessarily in that order).
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Ashley Shailer
By: Ashley Shailer

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