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From the Trenches

It Takes a Motley Crew to Make a Marketing Automation Team

Mike Sweeney | April 2, 2015
Who Belongs on Your Marketing Automation Team

The pioneers of the marketing automation industry were — not surprisingly — very smart marketers. They slapped the word “automation” next to “marketing,” and boom, their targets instantly started thinking that these tools could run chunks of their marketing programs… automatically. Set it up, let it run, make millions, retire. No humans need apply.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just when you thought the massive transformation of the corporate marketing team was decelerating, the growing effectiveness of content-driven marketing, and now marketing automation, is causing marketing leaders to rethink the composition of their marketing teams.

Part of that marketing team now may need to include a dedicated marketing automation staff. But before we dive into the types of people who belong on your marketing automation team, let me offer a couple of quick disclaimers. First, your marketing automation team is only going to be as good as your marketing automation strategy, which is only going to be as good as your overall marketing strategy, which is only going to be as good as your broader business strategy. Second, the blueprint for every company is going to be a little bit different, based on things like marketing objectives, budget, staffing model, and other items.

What do most teams look like today?

Given the youth of marketing automation (just over a decade old), most companies do not employ a dedicated marketing automation team. But the industry’s youth is not the only factor in play — the cross-departmental nature of marketing automation means that creating a dedicated team involves accessing talent that traditionally sits in multiple departments. Step into a conference room for a marketing automation strategy discussion, and you’re likely to find representatives from marketing, technology, sales, customer service, and operations teams.

More often than not, a company jumps in with both feet, licenses a marketing automation tool, assigns someone from marketing or IT to manage it, and after 6-12 months realizes that they are going to require more resources (including dedicated resources) to take full advantage of its potential. Without these augmented resources and the strategy to go with them, marketing automation tools can become nothing more than an expensive email marketing engine.

In summary, the team of today is fragmented and generally understaffed. What about the future team, though?

What should the team look like tomorrow?

To really optimize the impact of marketing automation, the following roles need to be filled right out of the gate, either by insiders, outsiders, or some combination thereof.

Lead Strategist/Planner:

This is the most important role, and the one you should fill first, before you license anything. This person need not be a technologist, however, she should be a holistic marketer and understand the potential uses of marketing automation. She needs to understand corporate marketing objectives, and how to execute against those objectives using technology to make things more effective and efficient. In short, she is likely the MVP of your marketing team.

This role is often filled by one person, but could be filled by multiple people under the right circumstances.


Turning marketing automation into a machine involves the creation of lots of “stuff.” Emails, blog posts, white papers, forms, landing pages, newsletters, and more. And for all of that “stuff,” both content and design are required.

On the content front, you’ll need to fill the following roles:

  • Executive/Strategist
  • Project Manager
  • Editor
  • Writer(s)
  • Optimization/Distribution Specialist
  • Data Analyst
  • Social Media Manager

For more on these roles, learn how to assemble your content marketing dream team. NOTE: This does not mean a single person has to fill each of these roles. Many times, one person can fill multiple roles.

On the design side, at a bare minimum you’ll need a web designer to create things like email templates, landing pages, and customer imagery.

Marketing Technology Administrator(s):

You might call this person the button-pusher or mechanic, but either would be selling the role a bit short. This is the expert user of the selected marketing automation tool, the person who makes the plans and material from the strategists and creators come to life.

Sometimes this is a marketing person who cross-trains on technology, other times it’s a technology person cross-training on marketing. Either can work, as long as this person has an ownership mentality.


This person not only investigates the appropriate information to track, analyze, and report, but knows how to use the appropriate tool — marketing automation, web analytics, CRM — to generate the right data points and reports.

What other voices should contribute?

Some might be surprised that a dedicated or semi-dedicated team does not include direct representation from sales or business development. The reason is simple. Sales and business development folks, from leadership on down, should be focused on selling first, second, and third. They actually have one of the loudest voices in this entire process, but you don’t want salespeople doing the doing. Thinking, yes. Ideating, yes. Selling, yes. Doing, no.

The other voice you absolutely want in your strategy meetings is someone who is responsible for taking care of the existing customer base. In B2B-oriented companies, that’s usually someone with a title like customer success manager. How are you using marketing automation to increase usage of a product? What type of content will help educate your current customer base? Can automation be used to upsell/cross-sell? These are the types of issues the customer success manager should assist with.

Marketing automation is no magic bullet. As a matter of fact, it can become a less-than-magical headache if you don’t consider the staffing implications early and often.

To learn more about the types of work your team will likely engage in, read about our marketing automation services, or if you’re still getting a handle on your marketing technology needs, view the 5 Marketing Technology Must-Haves Checklist.

Related Resources

About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.