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Structuring marketing, sales and customer success teams the right way

Earlier in this series, we discussed why marketing, sales and customer success teams can become misaligned, and ways to constructively align these teams. In this instalment, we look at structuring these teams effectively.


Structure your team the right way: Assembly line versus pod models

An assembly line has several highly specialized teams that each perform a specific task and are laser-focused on their own unique goals. For example, account executives, sales development representatives (SDRs), customer success, demand generation marketing, content marketing, product marketing—all of them perform particular tasks without necessarily optimizing for the bigger picture.

The assembly line model works well in a large organization. It encourages competition between co-workers and has the advantage of allowing you to isolate a specific problem to a specific team and really understand what’s not working.

For example, do you have a low conversion on sales qualified leads? Let’s dig into the situation with an SDR team that handles them and understand why. Is it down to a specific person or the whole team? Or maybe the way leads are being followed up? Assembly lines make it faster to understand where the problem lies.

This model is designed to maximize efficiency. But it can come at the cost of losing focus and alignment on bigger company goals. When you are just starting out and have a small team, the assembly line model is not the most effective way to go. Creating specialized teams early on will produce unnecessary friction for your customers and promote a focus on isolated goals, not the big company vision—and that’s hardly the best way to achieve a state of hyper-growth.

A pod is a very customer-centric model that’s used by companies like Drift, HubSpot and others. With a pod, you have a sales, customer success and support person all working together as a team. This way, they handle the complete customer interaction and process with a much tighter and faster feedback loop. Each pod works toward exactly the same goal: making a customer successful.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is a big fan of “two-pizza” teams (where the group is theoretically only large enough to be fed by two pizzas), and there is a good reason for it. Each member of the pod wears many hats, is versatile in their skills and responds to the needs of a customer. It creates a real alignment between the teams. Pods also promote team versus individual competition within the company, which can be helpful, again, in increasing collaboration.

If marketing and sales are not aligned, how do you spot it?

A lot of finger pointing and blaming each other are some of the outcomes of misalignment.

You can also spot team misalignment by drilling into each team’s metric. Is what marketing claims really meaningful and aligned with the company’s real needs? “We’ve generated 2,500 leads” can only mean so much. How many of those leads are aligned to your ideal customer profile? How many of them have an actual need? How many can your sales team close? How many of those closed accounts will have enough success with your product that they will renew in the future?

The same goes for customer success claims that the churn is down. What kind of churn has been reduced? Is it revenue churn or customer churn?

These are all important questions to ask to really understand where each team is at and whether they are producing results that matter to the whole company.

Having clear metrics to focus on, shared responsibilities between teams, the correct team structure and a culture of ownership across the company will make a difference in aligning marketing, sales and customer success.

Read more in this series: