Half your marketing team should be top-of-the-funnel

Marketing Team

Mike Volpe is the CMO of Hubspot, which is a fairly successful marketing (inbound marketing) organization. He gave a talk at INBOUND, their annual conference — Malcolm Gladwell was there this year, guys! — and one of his slides apparently caused 80 percent of the room to whip out the ol’ iPad/Surface/iPhone/Droid and snap a pic. When 80 percent of an inbound marketing crew decides something is clip-and-save pic-worthy, you know the topic is important to the general state of marketing — so Volpe went and wrote a blog post about it.

So what was this slide, and what’s this all about?

Well, it was about structuring a marketing team. Before we get to the slide, let’s talk about the average size of marketing teams. Remember: marketing is important. Also remember: it’s much simpler than most people want to believe. And finally remember: a lot of times, it’s very misguided.

Now, different companies are different sizes, so you can’t really compare A to B per se. Proctor and Gamble will have a lot of people in marketing, and little non-profit C over here will have 1. But in general, here’s the deal with marketing department sizes:

Marketing Department Sizes

Let’s average “medium” and “large” and say the average team is about 8.5 people. I work in a marketing division right now, and I’d say if you construe “editorial” as different than “marketing,” we’re probably about 8-10 people and it’s a mid-sized company. Sounds about right.

OK, so 8-10 people or so … 8.5, give or take.

Marketing is supposed to drive sales. That’s the essential function, even though a lot more comes with that (segmentation, branding, etc.)

So how can you take those 8-10 people and make sure they’re structured in a way that most helps to drive sales?

We’ll get to the slide in a second, I promise. First we need to review the general methodology of inbound marketing:

  • Some people work under Attract, which means “drawing visitors in.” These are content writers, designers, SEO specialists, and social media. This is, to use potentially outdated business parlance, “top of the funnel.”
  • Some people are Convert, which is conversion optimization — so stuff like landing pages, calls-to-action, lead nurturing, etc.
  • Some people are Close. They essentially help sales to close opportunities.

Alright, so … let’s say you have those 8-10 people. How should you organize them? Here’s the slide.

How To Organize Marketing Teams

This may confuse some people. Everything — everything — is about sales, right? And sales is bottom of the funnel, but you’re saying that … wait, let me get this straight … on a 9-person team, 5 should be top and only 2 should be bottom, helping sales? BUT WE NEED TO MAKE QUARTERLY PROJECTIONS!!!

Right, but, as Volpe explains:

So if your team has three people on email marketing but only one content creator — who probably also runs social media and puts together design hacks on the side — then you’re not investing enough headcount in the “attract” stage. Your next hires should be top-of-the-funnel marketers. The more helpful and compelling content your team produces, the more effective you will be at driving traffic to your website and building a base of loyal followers and fans who eventually convert into customers.

Makes sense, right?

This kind of rolls up with another idea that people in marketing seem to get twisted a lot — the goal isn’t for stuff to be “viral.” It’s actually to create and foster retention. That’s how you ultimately build sales and customers and clients and all the other things you want. It has to start with a relationship, which often comes from a need or a context, which the content can help people understand.

So yes, the bottom of the funnel is where the money gets made, and that’s ultimately the goal. But you need people at the top of the funnel to make sure the “customer journey” is being done right.

(This is all based on the idea, of course, that you believe content/inbound marketing is really tied enough to business goals.)

Ted Bauer


  1. I’ve been in a larger marketing department and now am in a department of 1 at a small business. It’s a challenge to do it all, but I agree, a lot of my time is spent at the top of the funnel. Interesting post!

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