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Restructuring the marketing function

Glenda LeGendre[1] copyAs a frequent participant in startups over the years, I have had the opportunity to create, develop and lead large marketing functions for diverse organizations. Now that I am a marketing consultant in the digital era, the organizational model I recommend for clients differs markedly from the more traditional model from the past. Happily, the new approach is streamlined and dramatically less expensive.

Most organizations, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, have similar basic marketing needs. The common digital marketing tools include website design with frequent updates, related digital content management, photography and videography, and social media/advertising activities. Businesses may also need more traditional advertising, design and publications support, internal communications, and a media/public relations approach to both build brand awareness and protect a favorable reputation through crisis communications.

Across all these disciplines, the goal is predominantly to generate increased revenues for the organization from its products and services. But there is also a substantial investment in human capital.

It is certainly challenging to hire and retain the staff to perform all these functions. One experienced digital expert can easily command an annual salary of $80,000. With benefits, a full-time digital team could cost an organization anywhere from $300,000 to $600,000. These are highly employable individuals who also tend to be mobile. These facts argue against the need for the traditional in-house team.

Here’s the good news

Even though sourcing these marketing functions individually sounds daunting and expensive, there is good news. The Maryland region has a large cadre of talented individuals who work in collective styles of businesses who can address any marketing support role. Digital firms, public relations firms, ad or design agencies, and other consultants can serve you with success as outsourced staff.

They offer a breadth of skills and are committed to function as members of your team. Although holding key team meetings in person is advisable, much of the follow-up digital work can be accomplished remotely. And, the outsourced digital staff spend their own time and resources investing in the latest hardware/software technology or participating in professional groups.

The newer outsourced model typically requires a monthly fee for some of the major services and an agreed-upon flat fee for special projects (such as photography or video work.) The operating expense is significantly less overall, and results are trackable. Outside vendors should be accountable and effective in communicating their results on your organization’s behalf.

The key to success for the outsourced team approach to achieve your marketing goals is to have a strong and clear strategic organizational marketing plan and a sophisticated marketing director/leader in-house. Creating the marketing plan is essential anyway in the competitive environment.

The internal leadership position should be elevated well above the old title and salary of “marketing coordinator” or manager. This savvy person will be managing the overall business brand while coordinating the outside support team assignments. He/she should be very involved in your organization’s high level goals and strategies.

There is also good news on this front: Most area colleges and universities have developed majors of study that incorporate digital marketing skills along with the desired communications and marketing strategy courses. These combined skill sets are ideal to manage the described variety of in-house needs and outside vendor selection and supervision responsibilities.

Upfront marketing planning along with the hiring of a strong inside staff leader who communicates regularly with top management are the keys to success for this outsourced marketing team approach. Selecting and managing the best outside vendors for the organization’s evolving needs will then be a major focus for the marketing leader.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Strategic Marketing & Communications and can be reached at