Design Your Marketing Organization to Fit Your Company’s Growth Stage

An early-stage company requires a different organizational structure than a mature one. Marketing leaders must adapt their teams and strategies accordingly.

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Carolyn Geason-Beissel/MIT SMR

Determining the optimal design of a department or function is a key aspect of organization design and one of the most important decisions C-level executives make. Organization design establishes the essential infrastructure that enables or hinders companies’ effective deployment of strategic decisions, yet it is one of the least studied and understood by business leaders. Typically, leaders find themselves contemplating restructuring for the first time in their careers after being promoted to an executive level and facing an organizational problem that needs urgent attention. It takes adeptness for an executive to even recognize that they have a structural design problem rather than a staffing issue.

Consequently, one of the most significant challenges CMOs face is figuring out how to configure the marketing organization to achieve their company’s goals and objectives, especially when it is pursuing or experiencing rapid growth, as in the case of an early-stage startup. A recurring question we’ve gotten from CMOs and CEOs is how to structure a marketing organization to accelerate growth. As we looked for answers to this question, we realized that few existed and none had the specificity to provide insights at different stages of company growth.

To address this common yet poorly understood issue, we conducted primary research designed to understand marketing organization design at different growth stages and identify the traps that impair marketing success. The research included interviews with 100 CMOs from companies at different growth stages to provide specific insights on the organizational structure and marketing leadership requirements businesses experience as they go from Series A to IPO.1

The Marketing Organization Development Stages

The structure of a marketing department requires continual reevaluation and revision as a company grows. A key question is when such transitions should occur. In our interviews with marketing leaders, they consistently expressed difficulty understanding when to shift the structure of the organization and what it should shift to. As a company’s stages of growth change, the type of marketing it does shifts; as a result, crucially, there is a requisite shift in the department’s structure and in the skills and abilities that employees, including the CMO, must have.

The structure of a marketing department requires continual reevaluation and revision as a company grows.



1. “CMO” is used as a generic term to refer to any individual managing marketing. The specific title could be chief revenue officer, chief sales and marketing officer, or something else.

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