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Resource Planning for Marketing Leaders: Building a Winning Team and Tech Stack

Updated: Feb 26

And how to avoid the Unicorn Mentality


"Hey Debbie, if you had only five people to hire to make up your marketing department, what disciplines would you choose?"


Having just been asked this question, I want to address how I think about building a marketing team and marketing engine, which comes down to resource planning.


Resource planning is the backbone of your marketing strategy, supporting all your initiatives and revenue generation. However, it's not just about allocating funds or picking the right tools; it's about aligning your resources with your organization's vision and strategy to ensure every effort contributes to those goals. Let's break down the basics of resource planning to help you make informed choices to meet your company's vision. 

Marketing Resource Planning

Start with Your Vision. Always.

Every successful marketing strategy begins with a clear vision that aligns with the organization's corporate objectives. What is your organization trying to achieve? Your supporting marketing vision should be ambitious yet attainable, serving as the north star for all your marketing efforts. It's the foundation upon which you will build your strategy, processes, and, ultimately, resource allocation.


Develop Your Strategy

With your vision in place, the next step is to craft a strategy that outlines how you'll get there. This strategy needs to be measurable, achievable, and specific. Lofty goals can only be achieved with a roadmap that details the steps required to reach them. Start by identifying your target audience, determining the channels and tactics you'll use, and setting clear, quantifiable objectives.


Create Your Process

Your strategy will only be as effective as the processes you have in place to execute it. The process includes defining the workflows, tasks, and responsibilities to bring your strategy to life. A well-designed process ensures that your team knows what needs to be done, how to do it, and when it needs to be completed. In other words, all players know their position and where the goal line is.


At this point, you might be thinking, "This is such a simplistic view - why are you stating the obvious?" In my experience, leaders often forget to start at the beginning when they need new resources, a new strategy, a new budget, or when market conditions have changed.


Assign Resources

Only after your vision, strategy, and processes are clearly defined should you begin to assign resources, including your team and the technology they'll use, all supported by your budget.


Team

Deciding on the composition of your team—whether to hire full-time or part-time employees, contractors, or engage with an agency—depends on several factors:

  • Criticality to Strategy: How vital is the role to achieving your strategic goals?

  • Role Objectives: What must this role accomplish? Consider the specific outcomes you expect.

  • Skill Level: What expertise is required, and can you support its development through training or certifications?

  • Duration of Need: Is this a permanent role within your strategy or project-based? How long do you need this skill set or discipline?

  • Communication: Do you have the time to communicate expectations and provide feedback effectively?

  • Company Culture: How important is this role to your company's overall culture?

  • Interactions: Does the role require regular interaction with other team members, and how will this be managed?


Marketing leaders are often guilty of flanking toward a full-time hire when a need arises - and I caution you not to do this. A contractor or an agency might better serve the discipline you seek.


Think about SEO, for example, a discipline we all need. The ever-changing organic search algorithm requires significant ongoing training and certification. Collaboration with fellow SEO colleagues also strengthens the skill level of an SEO expert. Can you support this level of training and peer collaboration? Or is partnering with an agency a better option? While agencies can be more expensive, they offer exceptional skills, particularly in the specialties.


Avoid the Unicorn Mentality


I'm a marketer. What's your superpower?

In pursuit of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, there's a common pitfall that many organizations fall into: the unicorn mentality


The unicorn mentality is the hope or expectation that a single individual can master and execute across multiple marketing disciplines, each complex and specialized in its own right. While the allure of hiring a "unicorn" — someone who can do it all — is understandable, it's an unrealistic and unsustainable approach. Marketing, as a profession, is highly specialized, with deep expertise required in areas such as digital advertising, content creation, SEO, analytics, web dev, and social media management, to name just a few. Expecting one person to excel in all these areas is unrealistic. Rather than searching for unicorns, focus on building a diverse team of specialists who can bring depth of knowledge and skill to their respective areas. Each of these specialties does not have to be a full-time member of your team. Consider contractors or agency support for highly specialized skill sets. 


Technology

Technology does not create your process; it supports it.

Your marketing technology stack should enhance your processes, not define them. Consider the following:

  • Process Support: Ensure the technology supports your existing processes and workflows.

  • Productivity and Scale: Does the technology offer productivity benefits or help you scale your efforts?

  • Unique Capabilities: Can the technology enable you to do something new or improve upon existing capabilities?

  • Administration: Will you need a dedicated administrator to manage the technology, and have you accounted for this in your planning?


Technology can be a strategic team member when it supports a critical process as part of your strategy. 


AI is Technology


New to the consideration set is artificial intelligence (AI). I frequently say that I wish AI for productivity had taken the market by storm like AI for production has. The problem with AI for production is that we're increasing volume in a silo without equally increasing our ability to process that volume.


For example, if you use AI to produce a stack of blog posts quickly, you must still proof, edit, and post these blogs, not to mention the campaigns required to drive traffic to your blog. (I am not advocating native blog writing.) Are you able to keep up with this volume? Is this volume helping you achieve your strategic objectives?


While AI can indeed create content (note I didn't say good content), it is far better at completing repetitive tasks. Consider how AI can help you analyze your marketing data to make better decisions, for example. 


Put all your technology decisions through the rigorous test of proving how it supports your process, helping you automate or complete tasks at scale, or building efficiency into your day by reducing your workload.


Embracing the Iterative Nature of Resource Planning

Resource planning is not a set-it-and-forget-it task; it's an iterative process that requires regular reevaluation and adjustment. Market conditions evolve, new technologies emerge, and organizational priorities shift. As such, marketing leaders must revisit their resource planning at least once a year, if not more frequently, to ensure alignment with current objectives and the external environment. Here's how to approach this iterative process:


Schedule Regular Reviews

Mark your calendar for at least an annual review of your resource plan. These reviews should be comprehensive, covering team composition, technology stack, budget allocations, and how these resources have contributed to achieving your strategic goals. However, take your time with this annual review if significant market or organizational changes require a deeper dive.


Assess Performance and Alignment

During your review, assess how well your team and technology have performed against your strategic objectives. Have specific roles or tools not delivered the expected value? Is there a new need that isn't being met with your current resource allocation? Reassessment is the time to critically evaluate the effectiveness of your resources and make data-driven decisions as necessary.


Stay Agile

Successful iterative resource planning is founded on agility. Be prepared to pivot your resources in response to new opportunities or challenges. Reallocate budgets, bring in new skill sets, or phase out tools that no longer serve your strategy. Agility also means proactively exploring new technologies and methodologies that can enhance your marketing efforts or reach new target audiences.


Foster Continuous Improvement

Iterative resource planning is an opportunity for continuous improvement. Encourage feedback from your team about what's working and what's not. Feedback loops provide valuable insights that inform your resource planning, ensuring your marketing operations remain dynamic and responsive to internal and external changes.


Plan for Scalability

As you reassess your resource plan, consider your current needs and future growth. This foresight can save you from constant, disruptive changes to your team and technology stack. Planning for scalability involves making strategic decisions that allow for expansion without sacrificing efficiency or effectiveness.


In a Nutshell Marketing Resource Planning

Resource planning supports your vision and strategy like a well-tuned engine. It's a process that demands aligning resources with the organization's vision and an ongoing commitment to agility. By understanding that resource planning is an iterative journey rather than a one-time task, you, as a marketing leader, can cultivate a dynamic and resilient marketing operation. After all, your credibility is partly built by your ability to create a powerful engine for achieving your organization's goals.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


How do you measure the ROI of your marketing technology stack?


Measuring the ROI of your marketing technology stack's ROI is akin to evaluating a well-oiled machine's efficiency and effectiveness. It's about understanding the direct financial gains and the qualitative improvements in your marketing processes. To gauge the ROI, identify each tool's specific objectives, such as increased lead generation, improved customer engagement, or enhanced analytical capabilities. Then, assess the performance against these objectives by looking at metrics like cost per lead, conversion rates, and time saved in marketing operations. It's also important to consider the broader impacts, such as improved team collaboration and customer insights, which may not have immediate financial benefits but contribute to long-term success. Remember, the actual value of your technology stack lies not only in the direct returns but also in its ability to empower your team to execute your marketing strategy more effectively.


What common pitfalls in marketing resource planning, and how can they be avoided?


One of the most common pitfalls in marketing resource planning is the failure to adapt to changing market conditions and consumer behaviors. This rigidity can lead to outdated strategies that no longer resonate with your target audience. To avoid this, maintain a flexible approach to resource planning, regularly reviewing and adjusting your strategy and resource allocation to stay aligned with current trends and data insights. Another pitfall is underestimating the importance of cross-functional collaboration, leading to siloed efforts that miss the mark on delivering a cohesive customer experience. Encourage open communication and cooperation between departments to ensure your marketing strategy is integrated and aligned with the overall business objectives. Lastly, avoid over-reliance on a single marketing channel or tactic. Diversify your approach to mitigate risks and capitalize on multiple opportunities to engage with your audience.


Can you provide examples of successful marketing team structures for different types of businesses (e.g., B2B vs. B2C, startup vs. established company)?


For a B2B company, a successful marketing team structure might focus heavily on content marketing, account-based marketing (ABM), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems to nurture long-term relationships with business clients. This could involve roles specialized in content creation, ABM strategy, and CRM technology management, supported by data analysts to track engagement and conversion metrics.


In contrast, a B2C company might prioritize roles in social media marketing, brand management, and e-commerce optimization to connect with consumers more personally and drive immediate sales. This structure could include social media coordinators, brand strategists, and e-commerce managers, with a strong support system in customer service to enhance the buying experience.


For startups, agility and adaptability are key, often requiring team members to wear multiple hats. A lean team might consist of a digital marketing generalist, a content creator, and a data analyst, focusing on building brand awareness and establishing an online presence. As the startup grows, it can expand its team to include SEO, email marketing, and customer acquisition specialists.


Established companies might have more segmented marketing departments with specialized teams for digital marketing, market research, product marketing, and customer engagement. This allows for a deeper focus on optimizing each channel and tactic, supported by a robust analytics team to drive data-driven decision-making across all marketing initiatives.


In each case, the key to a successful marketing team structure lies in aligning the team's composition and focus with the company's specific business model, target audience, and growth stage, ensuring that resources are strategically allocated to drive the most impact.

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