The Roles You Need on Your Marketing Team

by | Marketing Leadership, Marketing Organization

Professional services marketers fight hard to achieve their titles. Newbies start out as coordinators, move to managers, if they prove themselves, become directors, if they stick around long enough, and often become CMOs when they jump ship and negotiate the title into their new job descriptions. On the line side, there is some usual progression from associate to managing partner. Everyone knows where he/she stands in the pecking order and there is balance in the universe.

Unfortunately, this approach is antiquated, ineffective and harmful to delivering strategic results and superior ROI from a marketing function. It is time for firms to eliminate these job titles and build a marketing team that is playing starring roles in driving the growth of the firm. With a little help from Hollywood, here are the marketing roles casting needs to fill:

The Strategist

Many firms delude themselves into thinking that they have this role covered because they use a complex, months-long business planning process at the start of each fiscal year. While the process often uses buzzwords like SWOT, adjacencies and growth targets, firms seldom ask the basic strategic questions: “What problem do we solve?”, “Who is our ideal client?” and “What do they value?” The Strategist’s role is to get the firm focused on the most important questions. The Strategist is a big-picture thinker with strong business acumen and a passion for meeting clients’ needs. He/she is measured by the firm’s ability to anticipate needs, develop capabilities and build solutions that meet them.

Hollywood example: Moneyball

The Futurist

Business life is like fashion. Consulting fads come and go, historical events happen, demographics change, technology evolves, markets expand and collapse, etc. China, marketing automation, the Internet of Things, mobile, cloud, consulting industry disintermediation are just a few areas of recent import. As the world turns, most professional services firms are content to be followers. The Futurist’s role is to go up on the mountain and think about “What if…?” Having the ability requires the time to think, ingest huge quantities of seemingly irrelevant information and synthesize a hypothesis that provides a competitive advantage for the firm. This person is a constant learner, antagonistic, a born problem-solver, impractical, expensive, innovative and, more often than not, annoyingly brilliant.

Hollywood example: Dr. Emmett Brown

The Enforcer

Many partners think they are marketing gurus because they have seen a cool Apple commercial, read a book on emotional branding or served a big client– none of which qualifies them to layout marketing strategy for the firm. The Enforcer role tells the partner(s) to sit down and shut up (metaphorically speaking). This person possesses the understanding of the firm’s business, strong operational and business acumen and the gravitas to push back on loud, intimidating partners to intelligently build a winning argument. The Enforcer calls a spade a spade, does not take the path of least resistance and is not intimidated by titles. His success is measured by his ability to build consensus, do what is right and move the firm in the direction of its strategic goals.

Movie example: Good Will Hunting

The Idealist

Hitting your number or making partner often takes the front seat when evaluating business decisions. The Idealist’s role is to keep the firm on its highest plane, whether it is fulfilling the mission, living its values or delivering a brand promise. The Idealist is often the voice calling out in the desert. This role is often filled by the naïve, but s/he keeps more seasoned and cynical people aligned with their more noble selves and keeps them from succumbing to greed and vanity. This role reminds us of why we are here. While perfection is unachievable, the Idealist calls us to the quest nonetheless.

Hollywood example: Mr. Smith

The Quant

Marketing is often accused of wasting 50% of its spend. That may be generous for many firms. In a data-driven world, the Quant has become a very hot commodity. Leadership teams rightfully are demanding proof that the earnings they are allocating to marketing are paying dividends. Substantiating the investment should be low-hanging fruit. The Quant’s more important role is to enable all the other roles. To do this, the Quant must possess more than mathematical ability. He/she must be curious, client-centric and understand the inter-relatedness of the roles and other parts of the firm. Number-crunching for the sake of number-crunching is not useful. The result must be applied to learning and competitive advantage.

Hollywood example: A Beautiful Mind or Moneyball  (I love them both).

The Creative

Often professional services firm marketers are relegated to “making things pretty.” The Creative role is not about making it pretty; it is about making it understandable. The Creative plays the trifecta roles of translator, storyteller, and designer. All three combine in a meaningful way to communicate to prospects in an attention-deficit world how the firm is different and can help. You probably know a person like this. They are the go-to-person when a bad idea needs a huge shove to knock it off center. The skill set is unique and the person can often name his/her price.

Hollywood example: Alton Brown (nobody does it as well)


The Marketing Roles You Need in Your FirmThe optimal marketing organization can take many forms depending on the firm’s priorities, but marketing’s role never changes. Its role, as Peter Drucker so eloquently described it, “is to make and keep a customer.” A firm with strategic market capability is not satisfied with titles du jour: social media coordinator, digital marketer or chief experience officer. Instead, they focus on strategic roles.

Many partners fancy themselves filling these important marketing roles, but they don’t. They overestimate their ability, wrestle with balancing competing roles or are not rewarded to fill them. As a result, firms 1.) don’t ask the tough questions, 2.) take the path of least resistance and 3.) squander marketing investments trying to drive growth.

How many of each of these roles and how they are aligned with your firm are ultimately driven by your matrix and level of investment. Recognizing the importance of these marketing roles and admitting that they are not consistently fulfilled is the critical first step in eliminating the wrong marketing jobs and adding strategic value.

Be prudent.


Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

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About the Author

Jeff McKay
Founder & CEO
Prudent Pedal

As a strategist and fractional CMO, Jeff helps firms set smart growth strategies in motion. He was the SVP of Marketing at Genworth Financial, the Global Marketing Leader at Hewitt Associates, and held senior roles at Towers Perrin and Andersen. Learn more.

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