As a relatively recent addition to the marketing powerhouse, the role of customer marketing has yet to cement itself permanently into the business hierarchy; Where customer marketers sit within organizations is still changing.
In this article, we’ll explore this phenomenon, going into:
- What a typical marketing organizational structure looks like,
- What the role of marketing within an organization is, and
- Where customer marketing currently fits with insight from our professional community.
What is a marketing organizational structure?
The structure of an organization often depends on the type of business, and the culture of the organization itself. But there are some significant features that all marketing teams have.
Marketing is the process of creating interest in a product or service. This role involves a lot of cross-collaboration, and the positioning of marketing reflects this.
Marketing can sit directly beneath the CEO as its own entity. But it can also be headed under other teams, such as sales and revenue. This variety reflects different workflows and processes and, as such, can often indicate organization-wide priorities.
Within marketing itself, there’s often a breakdown into more specialized teams.
Typically, marketing structures can be broken down by:
- Marketing function - With teams broken into product, content, digital, and creative marketing.
- Customer stage - With teams split into acquisition, retention, conversion, and design. These usually get broken down again into different marketing functions.
What’s significant about this is that customer marketing tends to overlap in its priorities; it’s vital to both the customer journey (and as such the customer stages) and the marketing functions, be it content, digital, creative, or product.
Not only that, but the role of a customer marketer can often be blended or absorbed by other roles, particularly if an organization hasn’t established a clear customer marketing team. Those under the titles of customer retention specialists, customer success, and even product marketers can take on customer marketer duties.
What is the role of customer marketing within an organization?
Where customer marketing differs from traditional marketing roles is that the field of responsibility is much broader. Because customer marketing is centered around marketing to existing customers, the role has a lot of overlap with other non-marketing specific teams, such as Customer Success.
In general, customer marketing has its fingers in a lot of different pies, so to speak, and, as such, often gets assigned to a variety of departments (some fitting better, than others). Either way, where organizations put customer marketing reflects the part of the customer marketing role they want to prioritize.
For example, if customer marketing is headed under customer success, then customer advocacy and customer feedback would be significant. If customer marketing is under product marketing, then developing products to align with current customer interests might be the priority.
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What did the Customer Marketing Alliance community say?
When we asked our community on LinkedIn, 57% of respondents answered with Marketing, with an even 14% for Product Marketing, Customer Success, and Other positions.
When the question was raised in our Slack community, the answers seemed to reflect this difference. There were some interesting insights into the journey some of these customer marketers took to land in the space they’re in now.
Here are some of the responses we got:
Marketing, product marketing, and corporate marketing communications
“We’re in the Marketing department on the Corporate Marketing Communications team (which is PR, Brand, Social, Corporate events).”
“Sitting under marketing as well, together with the product marketers.”
Alex Ruddock, Product Marketing Manager at Influitive said:
"Marketing for us."
Corporate marketing communications
This is an interesting one, as corporate marketing tends to be an avenue of communication with potential customers and stakeholders, rather than existing ones. However, customer marketing with its connection to existing customers is a go-to team for customer feedback.
When thinking about branding, brand storytelling, and consumer psychology in the acquisition of new customers, it’s the experience of existing customers that can tell you what does and doesn’t work for your target audience.
Product marketing is itself a rather elusive role. Like customer marketing, it often assumes responsibilities that overlap with other teams. They’re the driving force behind getting products to market and then keeping them there.
Customer marketing can help support a number of their tasks including customer and market research, by helping analyze and collect feedback from the existing customer base to create accurate buyer and user personas. They can aid in creating sales collateral by speaking to users about what new features they’d like, which can inform the decision to update a product, or create a new one altogether.
Customer marketers can also help with product messaging, as maintaining a strong relationship with existing customers comes with a deep understanding of the market your business is in, and can help prioritize certain messages that have worked to retain customers in the past.
Customer success and demand generation
Melissa Meyer, Senior Manager of Customer Marketing at Fiix said:
“Currently we’re in marketing, [...] Historically my team has always sat under marketing, but in one past role I did sit in Customer Success under our Head of Strategy where I held a dual role of customer advocacy and community management. When under marketing as a team of one, I’ve sat under a variety of marketing functions like Field Marketing and Demand Generation.”
Katie Meeker, Director of Customer Marketing at iCIMS said:
“Product Marketing. [I] have also sat in Demand Generation and Account Management - both were not great fits.”
The one difference is that customer success has a hand in recruitment, which is one area that customer marketing has less involvement in.
We've mentioned a wide variety of departments, but both quotes bring up Demand Generation.
Demand Generation can be described as a data-driven strategy, focused on driving awareness and interest in an organization's products and services, with the goal of developing long-term customer engagement.
Long-term customer engagement is a high priority for customer marketers. Successful customer retention can help increase the number of advocates for an organization. In turn, this can help improve business success, by stabilizing the bottom line, increase growth, and increase cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
The difference between these roles is that customer marketing isn’t data driven. Customer marketing prioritizes the relationship between customer and business, rather than sales. While this comes as a huge benefit, proving ROI (return on investment) can be tricky.
The success of the customer marketer can be seen in increased retention rates, and decreased churn rates, as well as more qualitative feedback in the form of customer advocates and positive customer feedback.
Revenue and sales
“I just got moved under Product Marketing which is under Marketing… which just got moved under the Revenue/Sales org. I’ve never seen marketing sit under revenue, so I think this will be interesting.”
“Product Marketing. Our CMO reports to head of Revenue, not to CEO.”
Here we have another recurring position, with customer marketing being overseen by revenue. Over the last few years, businesses have become increasingly aware that customer retention is more profitable than customer acquisition.
The fact that some companies are placing customer marketing under revenue and sales, indicates that the connection between revenue and customer retention is being realized. The future of customer marketing will become more data-driven because of customer retention getting closer intertwined with revenue and sales.
Want to gather more insights?
Our State of Customer Marketing Report is now available to download for you to discover detailed insights into:
👓 Key responsibilities,
💼 Company culture,
🧠 Career ambitions,
🥇 Industry placement,
📈 Team metrics,
🤝 Cross-functional collaboration.
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