How to Build and Scale a High-Performance Marketing Team: Lessons from Leaders at Google, Microsoft, Wistia, Canva & Typeform

Building a high-performing marketing team is hard. Scaling that marketing team to support business growth is even harder. How do you ensure you have the right people and structure not just for today, but to set you up for long-term success?

To find out, I sat down with marketing leaders from some of the world‘s top companies – Google, Microsoft, Wistia, Canva and Typeform. They‘ve built high-performance marketing teams supporting billion dollar businesses and rapid global growth. Here are their top tips and lessons learned.

Hire Talent Who Can Evolve With You

When your company is just starting out, you need marketing hires who can wear multiple hats and tackle whatever comes their way. But as you grow, roles often become more specialized. The key is hiring people who can evolve with you.

Elana Chan, Google‘s Head of Global SMB Marketing, looks for two key attributes in marketing hires no matter the role: "hunger and learning agility."

"In a rapidly scaling company, you need people who have a hunger to drive impact, take on new challenges, and punch above their weight. But they also need to be able to rapidly learn and adapt as the company and their role evolves."

At Wistia, co-founder and CEO Chris Savage has a similar philosophy. "Especially early on, we hire marketers who are creative generalists. People who can create content, analyze data, run campaigns and more. Then as we scale and specialize, they have the agility to focus and uplevel their core skills."

Data supports this approach. According to LinkedIn, the top 5 soft skills companies need most in 2020 are:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Emotional Intelligence

Look for these skills, along with a track record of delivering results, and you‘ll have marketing talent who can drive impact through every stage of growth.

Build a Diverse Team – It‘s a Business Imperative

Building a diverse and inclusive team isn‘t just the right thing to do – it‘s a business imperative. McKinsey research shows that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams outperformed those in the bottom quartile by 36% in profitability.

Diversity drives innovation and better decision making. Google‘s Chan explains: "Diversity is critical because it helps us better serve our diverse customers and challenge established ways of thinking. If everyone on the team looks and thinks the same, we‘ll keep getting the same results."

To attract diverse talent and build an inclusive culture:

• Write inclusive job descriptions using a tool like Textio to eliminate biased language
• Advertise roles on diversity job boards like Diversify Tech and People of Color in Tech
• Standardize your interview process and use rubrics to evaluate candidates to reduce unconscious bias
• Set diversity hiring goals and regularly report on progress
• Provide unconscious bias training for managers and interviewers
• Celebrate employee differences and create safe spaces for diverse perspectives to be heard

"Building an inclusive culture starts from day one and requires ongoing work. But diverse teams build better products and drive better results. It‘s non-negotiable," says Chan.

Structure Your Team to Drive Focus and Collaboration

In a study by Wipro Digital, only 22% of CMOs said their teams are well-structured and aligned to the business. As your company scales, how you structure your marketing team has a huge impact on your ability to execute and drive results.

At Canva, the marketing team reorganized from a more generalist structure to one focused around customer segments as the company expanded globally.

Zach Kitschke, Canva‘s Head of Communications, explains: "When we were only targeting a couple geographies and customer segments, we had a single, centralized marketing team. But as we grew, we needed more focus to effectively reach new global markets and customer types. Reorganizing around segments like small business, enterprise, education, and consumer has enabled us to scale our reach and impact."

Microsoft has taken a similar approach, as John Cosley, Senior Director of Global Brand Marketing, shares: "We structure our teams around customer segments and journeys – engaging customers from awareness through to purchase, usage and advocacy. Specialists in areas like growth marketing, lifecycle marketing, customer marketing and advocacy work together to drive end-to-end customer and business impact."

In contrast, at Typeform, the marketing team is structured around products and the different stages of the marketing funnel.

Sançar Şahin, VP of Marketing at Typeform, explains the rationale: "Because our products serve such a wide range of use cases, we‘ve found a product marketing structure – with marketing leads embedded in each product team – to be most effective in developing deep customer understanding and driving go-to-market strategy. We then have a central demand gen and brand team that works across products to drive awareness and acquisition."

There‘s no one-size-fits-all for marketing team structure. The right one depends on your business model, goals, customers and growth stage. The key is choosing a structure that drives focus and accountability while still enabling cross-functional collaboration.

Align Your Team Around a Shared North Star

Misalignment and miscommunication are the death of marketing effectiveness and efficiency. In a survey of 400 marketing leaders by CoSchedule, just 55% say their teams understand their company‘s vision and mission.

High performing marketing teams align around a shared purpose and have clarity on how their work ladders up to company objectives.

Typeform‘s Şahin shares how he creates this alignment: "Our marketing leadership team meets every quarter to translate company objectives into team OKRs. We then cascade those OKRs to every individual. The key is tying everything back to core business metrics. We look at leading indicators along the full funnel and hold the team accountable to moving those metrics."

At Wistia, Savage keeps the mission and key priorities front-and-center through weekly all-hands meetings: "Every week we get the whole company together to reinforce our mission, share progress towards goals, and celebrate wins. This keeps us aligned and motivated around what matters most."

To create alignment on your marketing team:

• Develop a clear marketing mission and vision that supports the company mission and vision
• Set team OKRs or goals and cascade them to every individual, tying them to overarching business objectives
• Create a single source of truth (SSOT) for goals, metrics and progress, whether it‘s a spreadsheet, deck or dashboard
• Hold regular meetings to reinforce priorities and share progress – both at the team and company level
• Celebrate wins and recognize progress to goals

Aligning a marketing team takes intentional, consistent effort. But teams that are pulling in the same direction go farther and faster.

Invest in the Right MarTech to Empower Your Team

A carpenter is only as good as their tools. The same is true for a marketer. Having the right tech stack and data to understand and reach customers is essential for driving impact.

Great marketing technology enables teams to understand customers, personalize experiences, optimize spend, and measure what matters. But with over 8000 MarTech solutions available, investing in the right ones for your team and growth stage is key.

At Microsoft, Cosley looks for tools that drive efficiency and measurable business impact: "We continuously evaluate our stack to ensure we‘re investing in tools that automate manual work, so our team can focus on the strategic, high-value activities that drive growth and customer love. We also make sure we can connect the dots between marketing activities and business outcomes."

Chan shares how Google thinks about balancing MarTech investment with growth: "When we‘re small and nimble, we look for more lightweight, flexible tools that don‘t require huge financial or time investments. As we grow and see traction, we invest more in robust, scalable solutions. The key is striking the right balance for your growth stage while not losing sight of the fundamentals."

Some fundamental marketing technology investments to consider include:

Category Example Tools
Web Analytics Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Amplitude
Marketing Automation & Email HubSpot, Marketo, Mailchimp
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Salesforce, Pipedrive, HubSpot
Content & Experience Management WordPress, Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager
Data Visualization Tableau, Looker, Domo

The most important thing is having a clear MarTech roadmap aligned to your goals and growth stage. With the right tools to understand and reach customers, your marketing team can drive outsized impact.

Foster Continuous Learning to Stay Ahead

The half-life of marketing skills is now just 2.5 years, according to CareerBuilder. Marketers work in an incredibly dynamic field, and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.

The most successful marketing teams are those that continuously learn and adapt. "A culture of learning is so important because the marketing landscape is always shifting. I look for people who have a growth mindset, who are life-long learners, and who are always trying to expand their skill set," says Microsoft‘s Cosley.

Some ways to foster continuous learning on your marketing team:

• Provide an annual learning stipend for courses, conferences and resources
• Host regular lunch and learns with internal and external experts
• Encourage cross-functional projects to share skills across teams
• Create a culture where it‘s okay to fail as long as you learn from it
• Celebrate and reward learning and skill development

At Typeform, Şahin helps the team stay ahead of the curve by bringing in outside experts: "Every quarter, I bring in external speakers and trainers to share new perspectives and level up the team in areas like growth marketing, marketing analytics, and brand storytelling. This helps spark new ideas and keep our skills sharp."

Chan shares how Google makes learning a daily habit: "We have a ritual called ‘One Learning A Day‘ where each team member shares one thing they learned in the last 24 hours. It could be a new insight, a skill, or an ‘aha moment.‘ This normalizes continuous learning and creates a culture of curiosity."

Teams that prioritize learning are better positioned to adapt and stay ahead in an ever-changing marketplace. As a marketing leader, one of the most important things you can do is create an environment where learning is valued and rewarded.

Measure What Matters – and Optimize Relentlessly

High-performing marketing teams measure what matters and use data to continuously optimize and improve. But with no shortage of metrics to track, it‘s critical to focus on the ones that drive the business forward.

"At Canva, we have a set of core metrics that cascade from a company to a team level. For marketing that includes both leading indicators like branded searches and trial signups, as well as lagging indicators like revenue, retention and NPS. We build dashboards for each level – company, team and channel – and review them weekly to track progress and optimize," shares Kitschke.

Wistia‘s Savage warns about getting caught up in vanity metrics: "Early on, we focused on metrics like views and social shares. But we quickly realized those didn‘t necessarily translate into business results. Now, we focus on more meaningful metrics like organic traffic, leads, and revenue influenced by marketing."

Some key metrics to measure marketing performance include:

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): Total marketing spend divided by number of new customers acquired
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): Leads that meet defined criteria for being ready to engage with sales
Marketing Originated Pipeline: Percentage of new pipeline sourced by marketing
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): Revenue generated for every dollar spent on advertising
Organic Traffic: Traffic to your website coming from organic search
Marketing Influenced Revenue: Revenue where marketing touched the lead at any point in the buying process

The key is choosing a focused set of metrics that serve as leading indicators of success for your business and monitoring them obsessively. Put them on dashboards, review them regularly as a team, and use them to guide your optimization efforts.

"The companies that are winning are making data-driven decisions every day to optimize performance. If you‘re not continuously measuring and improving, you‘ll be left behind," advises Typeform‘s Şahin.

Build to Last

Building a high-performance marketing team that can drive long-term, sustainable growth is no small feat. It requires a combination of the right talent, a clear and aligned structure, customer-centric processes and continuous optimization.

But perhaps most importantly, it requires a willingness to adapt and evolve as the company grows and the market shifts. The marketing leaders from Google, Microsoft, Wistia, Canva and Typeform all emphasized the importance of agility, lifelong learning, and constant experimentation.

As Savage puts it: "The most successful marketing teams are the ones who stay nimble and aren‘t afraid to try new things. It‘s less about having the perfect playbook and more about having a culture that embraces change and continuous improvement."

By hiring curious and adaptable talent, aligning around a shared purpose, leveraging technology and data effectively, and prioritizing learning and experimentation, you can build a marketing team that doesn‘t just drive growth today, but is built to last.

The marketing world will keep changing. Will your team be ready?