Bigger isn’t always better. Unlike their traditional counterparts, lean teams are built on efficiency and agility. Lean teams have the power to deliver impactful results with limited resources, which gives them a unique advantage by maximizing productivity.
To unlock the full potential of a lean team, you need more than just talent and determination — you need a well-oiled MarTech stack. Armed with the right mix of marketing technology tools, lean teams can streamline their operations, strengthen collaboration, and achieve remarkable outcomes.
Whether you’re a sales-driven organization or a marketing- and product-led company, you can supercharge growth by understanding how best to structure your lean team and finding the right set of MarTech tools.
In this article, I’ll reveal the secrets of lean teams and guide you through the process of structuring your team for success. You’ll also learn the essential tools that should be part of your MarTech stack, empowering your lean team to thrive and grow in competitive, fast-paced landscapes.
Table of Contents
What does “lean” mean?
The idea behind lean teams has its roots in manufacturing.
The first person to introduce the concept of lean manufacturing was Henry Ford when he developed assembly line production in 1913. This principle focused on maximizing productivity while reducing waste. It changed the way businesses operated and soon became an approach employed in all kinds of industries.
Whether it’s applied to manufacturing processes, managerial styles, or marketing team structures, the lean approach aims to minimize wasted time and resources by optimizing processes and prioritizing the actions that drive the most value.
To maximize the efficiency and results of your lean team, it’s crucial to structure it appropriately.
How to structure a lean team
Lean teams are typically characterized as being small and integrated. Members might span various departments or skill sets, creating a multidisciplinary culture that’s perfect for collaboration and getting tasks done.
One of the unique traits of lean teams is their ability to embrace a broader organizational mindset focused on driving efficiency throughout the entire business. Rather than focusing solely on their departmental goals, lean teams look at the wider business impact. They have to, because there isn’t any time or effort to waste.
If your lean team is centered on marketing, this might encompass a mix of roles across SEO, content marketing, PPC, videography, graphic design, web development, and email marketing. Meanwhile, cross-functional lean teams might span marketing, product, sales, and customer service departments.
How you structure your team will depend on your acquisition, or go-to-market, strategy. By adopting the correct approach, you can harness the full efficiency and power of a lean team. The two most popular sales approaches are the top-down and bottom-up structures, each of which are suited to different go-to-market strategies.
For sales-led organizations, a top-down approach will best align with their goals. Marketing or product-led companies, on the other hand, would benefit most from a bottom-up strategy that casts a wider net for leads.
Choosing the right strategy sets the foundation for building a successful and impactful lean team. Now let’s explore both approaches in more detail to aid your selection.
If your lean marketing team has a strong sales focus, a top-down strategy is the way to go.
In top-down sales, businesses target the highest company leaders and key decision-makers. By adopting this method, you can align your team’s efforts with your sales targets, ensuring a streamlined and goal-oriented approach.
In a sales-led organization, it may be beneficial to have fewer marketers and more sales representatives to maintain a strong sales focus throughout your marketing efforts. The team’s goals may also be inherently sales based, such as driving calls-to-action (CTAs) to book a demo.
A lean team built with a top-down foundation should focus on sales enablement and equipping your team with the necessary tools and resources to close deals. These methods involve analyzing a list of select companies and roles and targeting a few large accounts that match your ideal customer profile (ICP). To win their business, these lean teams might focus their efforts on personalized one-to-one outreach.
While this style of outreach may seem time-consuming, the right MarTech tools can ease the process. MarTech tools that optimize lead generation or customer relationship management activities should be a pillar in a top-down-structured lean team.
It’s also good practice to personalize landing page copy for individual accounts. Optimization and generative AI tools come in handy here: You can use them to make copy adjustments in real time and serve dynamic landing pages tailored to each visitor.
A bottom-up strategy is well suited for lean marketing teams that prioritize marketing and product-led initiatives.
A bottom-up approach targets a larger crowd of people to buy, use, and benefit from your product or service. It allows for a wider reach and a comprehensive focus on generating leads. By using one-to-many marketing, once you eventually reach the key decision-makers, you’ll already have strong buy-in from their employees (your main users).
Unlike the sales-led top-down approach, a bottom-up strategy emphasizes marketing and product-driven efforts to attract potential customers. As such, a bottom-down lean team will most likely include dedicated marketing and product roles to execute product-led campaigns effectively.
Lean teams following this strategy often concentrate on organic acquisition, leveraging partnerships, implementing strong SEO practices, and using an omnichannel marketing strategy to generate leads. Marketers in bottom-up lean teams may tend to focus on crafting product and growth marketing campaigns, capitalizing on social media channels, and developing engaging email series.
Because this type of team casts a wide net in pursuit of attracting as many prospects as possible, they focus on CTAs designed to boost sign-ups. Their goal is to encourage as many people as possible to take the desired action, such as subscribing to a newsletter or creating a free account.
MarTech tools for a bottom-up team prioritize automation and collaboration across an omnichannel marketing strategy. These tools should make it easy for your team to reach lots of potential users in one go. Because the bottom-up approach relies on user advocacy, lean teams that embrace it would also benefit from tools that nurture prospects and analyze customer sentiment.
Lean team structure: What to keep in-house and what to outsource
Lean teams are inherently small, but that doesn’t mean your skill set will be limited. These types of teams work best when they find ways to align in-house and outsourced talent.
It’s essential to determine which roles are best kept in-house and what should be outsourced. Senior roles responsible for leadership and strategy, for example, should be retained internally. However, you may want to consider outsourcing lower-priority, supporting tasks to keep your team lean and focused.
In-house roles for lean teams
Maintaining senior roles, such as the marketing director and sales director, internally is crucial for ensuring the success of your lean team.
People in senior management have a deep understanding of your product or service, as well as a strong grasp of the broader organizational structure, processes, and goals. By working in-house, these individuals can maintain strategic control over the team and its outcomes.
You should also retain customer support and sales roles within your company when using a lean team model. These employees often interact directly with customers, which gives them a deep level of consumer knowledge that can be beneficial for the wider organization.
Support and sales employees should also have a well-rounded understanding of your offerings. By keeping these roles in-house, you can provide these team members with appropriate customer, business, and product/service training to ensure they’re well equipped to support customers and close sales.
Outsourced roles for lean teams
Nowadays, outsourcing is a common business strategy. If you aren’t outsourcing roles in your business, you might be missing out on valuable talent.
About 300,000 US jobs are outsourced annually, with 66% of businesses outsourcing at least one of their departments. Businesses can outsource roles internationally or domestically, depending on their goals, budget, and needs.
For lean teams, outsource tasks such as design, writing, or ad management to subject matter experts (SMEs). Your members can then benefit from the valuable knowledge and insights of SMEs as and when they need them.
Outsourcing specialist marketing activities to experienced freelancers or external teams lets you capitalize on their expertise while keeping your in-house team small. Your internal members should brief the outsourced specialists on the required activities, ensuring everyone works together towards a unified goal.
Unifying in-house and outsourced roles in lean teams
By strategically determining what to keep in-house and what to outsource, lean teams can optimize their resources and focus on their core competencies. Outsourcing opens the opportunity to access specialized expertise, reduce costs, and increase flexibility.
If your lean team consists of a mix of internal and outsourced roles, adopt communication, collaboration, and data sharing tools to make it easier for them to work together. You can also use talent management tools to oversee team members effectively, find new candidates, and strengthen team performance.
MarTech stack for lean teams
A well-curated MarTech stack is indispensable for lean teams. Remember, the principle of a lean team is to maximize productivity and minimize waste. So, your MarTech tool stack should lighten their workload and help them operate efficiently.
Here are some key categories of MarTech tools that can enhance your lean team’s capabilities and effectiveness.
Marketing automation tools
Automation and productivity are at the heart of the lean principle. To maximize productivity while keeping resources to a minimum, marketing automation is the way to go.
These tools empower lean teams to streamline their marketing activities, particularly for repetitive tasks, so they can focus on more strategic initiatives.
With marketing automation, your marketers can nurture leads throughout the entire buyer’s journey. The tools can automatically trigger personalized email sequences based on user behavior and engagement, ensuring leads receive timely and relevant content that guides them toward making a purchase. That, in turn, optimizes the team’s conversion rates and generates more revenue with minimal manual intervention.
Email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign are designed to automate email drip campaigns and sequences. That allows you to send behavior- or activity-triggered communications to prospects, automatically nurturing prospects and encouraging them to take the desired action.
When selecting a marketing automation tool, it’s essential to choose one that aligns with the specific needs and objectives of your team. Because lean teams are focused on streamlining processes, it’s also better to have one tool able to perform several functions than to use different ones for each task.
HubSpot, for instance, offers a comprehensive product suite that goes beyond basic marketing automation. They integrate marketing, sales, and support functionalities into their customer relationship management (CRM) system. Your lean team can thus use this single marketing automation tool to perform a variety of functions in one central location.
By leaning on versatile marketing automation tools, lean teams can enhance their efficiency and productivity.
Collaboration is the key to success for lean teams, both for in-house personnel and subcontractors. Collaboration tools play a crucial role in empowering lean teams to streamline workflows, enhance communication, and efficiently manage projects.
Project management tools, such as Asana and Trello, offer a centralized platform to plan, track, and manage projects.
They include features like task assignment, progress tracking, deadlines, and task dependencies, allowing team members to stay organized and aligned on activities.
With clear visibility into project timelines, milestones, and individual responsibilities, lean teams can use project management tools to prioritize tasks, monitor progress, and ensure timely project completion. This promotes collaboration and communication, which fosters efficient teamwork and boosts productivity.
Shared folders and data sharing tools like Google Drive or Dropbox are also indispensable for lean teams, as they provide a secure and easily accessible repository for storing and sharing files. Team members can use shared folders to collaborate on documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and other files simultaneously. This eliminates the need for lengthy email threads and ensures everyone has access to the most up-to-date versions of files.
Shared folders also simplify the process of granting permissions, controlling access levels, and organizing files, enabling efficient collaboration and seamless knowledge sharing among team members.
Communication tools like Slack and Zoom facilitate real-time collaboration and enhance remote team interactions.
Slack serves as a centralized communication hub, allowing team members to exchange messages, share files, and collaborate in dedicated channels. It provides instant messaging, video calls, and integrations with other tools, streamlining communication to reduce bottlenecks and improve productivity.
Zoom, meanwhile, offers video conferencing and screen-sharing capabilities so lean teams can conduct virtual meetings, brainstorming sessions, and presentations. That level of communication fosters effective collaboration, boosts team morale, and promotes a sense of camaraderie even when members work in different locations.
By making collaboration tools a central component of their MarTech stack, lean teams can optimize their workflow, enhance transparency, and strengthen their collective productivity, even when working remotely or across different time zones.
Lead generation and management tools
Collecting and nurturing leads is crucial for both top-down and bottom-up lean teams, so lead generation and management tools are invaluable resources. They enable teams to manage contact forms, landing pages, live chat interactions, and prospect pipelines effectively.
When it comes to creating landing pages and capturing on-site leads effortlessly, look to tools like Unbounce or Leadpages.
These platforms offer user-friendly interfaces and pre-made templates that allow lean teams to build landing pages quickly to drive conversions and capture valuable lead information.
For comprehensive lead management within a CRM platform, consider adopting tools like Pipedrive or HubSpot for your lean team.
These platforms possess robust lead management capabilities, allowing teams to track and organize prospective clients, automate lead nurturing workflows, and gain valuable insights into prospect behavior and engagement.
In addition, customer support teams can leverage live chat tools such as Help Scout or Intercom.
Customer support and live chat tools facilitate real-time communication with website visitors. This lets lean teams provide immediate assistance, answer queries, and address customer concerns promptly, speeding up customer communications.
With the aid of lead generation and management tools, lean teams can streamline their acquisition and nurturing processes, ensuring effective lead management, improved customer interactions, and ultimately, higher conversion rates.
Talent management tools
If your lean team relies on outsourcing, talent management tools can help you maintain organization and optimize team performance. They simplify talent acquisition and management processes.
HR platforms such as BambooHR or HiBob can automate various aspects of team management. Some of the team management functions these tools cover include performance monitoring, setting targets for team members, and managing time off. Handling these tasks through a centralized platform can streamline team operations, giving you a top-level understanding of team capacity, availability, and performance.
These HR tools also aid the onboarding and offboarding processes: You can use them to maintain an employee database and simplify the hiring of new talent.
To automate talent acquisition processes, implement recruitment tools like Zoho Recruit.
Zoho Recruit boasts features like automatic posting of job listings to multiple job boards, leveraging social media for recruitment, conducting background checks, and tracking candidate assessments and interviews. By employing these solutions, lean teams can save time and effort in their hiring processes while ensuring a seamless and efficient workflow.
The right talent management tools can ease lean teams’ workforce management processes, enhance collaboration with external talent, and maximize productivity within the team.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming the capabilities of lean teams. Many AI tools can boost efficiency and productivity by leveraging machine learning algorithms to automate various tasks, allowing particularly small teams to accomplish more in less time.
In content marketing, tools like Jasper AI serve as writing assistants, providing suggestions and recommendations to help create high-quality content that resonates with the target audience.
Lean teams can use AI-powered content creation tools to streamline their production process and maintain consistent quality across their brand communications.
When it comes to social media management, AI social media tools such as Flick offer valuable assistance.
These generative AI tools help create engaging social media content without the need for a large team. By leveraging AI algorithms, Flick assists in generating compelling visuals, crafting captivating captions, and optimizing posting schedules to maximize reach and engagement.
This allows lean teams to manage their social media presence, engage with their audience, and drive brand awareness without the need for extensive human resources.
The power of AI doesn’t stop there: AI tools like Optimove play a crucial role in data consolidation and management.
These AI-driven customer data tools integrate and consolidate data from various platforms, including CRMs, marketing automation tools, and other sources.
By centralizing data into one unified database, lean teams can understand consumer behavior in greater depth and make smarter, data-driven decisions. In turn, they’re able to optimize their marketing strategies, personalize customer experiences, and produce better results with limited resources.
Google has also embraced AI in their search engine capabilities, creating a conversational AI tool named Bard and transitioning to a Search Generative Experience for displaying search results. If your lean team wants to maximize productivity by staying at the forefront of technology, it needs to jump on the AI bandwagon.
By leveraging AI tools tailored to their specific needs, lean teams can unlock new levels of productivity, efficiency, and innovation, which empowers them to compete and thrive in today’s dynamic business landscape.
Bonus: How I choose my first marketing hires for lean teams
Several factors affect the selection of your early marketing team. To help you navigate the process, here are some questions to ask, along with how their answers can guide your early team hiring decisions.
What’s my marketing budget?
Your budget will tell you which marketing activities you can add to your strategy. For example, larger budgets allow for more paid advertising options.
Budget will also dictate to some extent the level of seniority you can aim for among team members. It’s difficult to hire someone with director-level experience with an early career budget; you need to balance experience with affordability, and your budget will show you precisely how much.
Which channels work best for our brand?
Observe which channels offer the greatest potential for growth for your company and focus your marketing efforts there. Your hires should follow suit.
After you test the waters, you’ll notice a few channels deliver better returns than others. For instance, a lawyer might find greater success promoting on LinkedIn, whereas an investment SaaS might find their best customers through partner referrals.
I try to start hiring based on our channel strategy. For example, if I notice content and partnerships bring us the most and best leads, I’d look to hire a partnerships manager.
What are my weaknesses?
No one is good at everything. When I lead marketing teams, I identify my weaknesses and hire to fill them. For example, I dislike managing social media profiles (the voice, engagement, and immediacy of it isn’t a core strength of mine).
So, if social media is a strong potential channel for us, I search for a social media expert to handle our online profiles and social interactions.
How much do we want to focus on organic versus paid?
Your desired paid-versus-organic skew will tell you which marketing fields you’ll want your hires to have experience with. If you intend to focus entirely on organic, your early hires don’t need to have backgrounds in paid ads. If you want a balance of organic tactics with a focus on content marketing, you’ll want to start with content specialists and generalists.
What skills are necessary versus nice to have?
You want multi-skilled hires in every team, but especially in lean teams. In larger organizations, you might find one employee completely dedicated to webinars and nothing else. But in small teams, everyone should understand and be ready to perform multiple roles.
For instance, a growth marketer might also be skilled in conversion rate optimization, PPC ads, and targeted email campaigns. Or, a content marketer might know how to create case studies, write web copy, and manage a blog and editorial calendar.
Each of those roles can accomplish multiple tasks and work with a variety of marketing channels. List which skills your organization needs and which are just an added bonus.
From there, cross out the abilities you already bring to the table (and have the time to do), then hire for the gaps in the “needed” category.
Once you’ve answered the above questions, you’ll have a good idea of who you’re looking for. Then, it’s simply a matter of making your first marketing hire and onboarding them.
Wrapping up — Build the perfect MarTech stack for your lean team
Lean teams can be a powerful component of your business — if you put the right structure and tools in place.
To build the perfect MarTech stack for your lean team, you first have to understand the specific needs of your organization. Knowing whether your team follows a top-down or bottom-up approach will help you choose the tools that best fit your team structure and goals.
To strike the right balance, determine which roles to keep in-house and which to outsource. By strategically outsourcing non-core tasks, you can optimize your team’s efficiency and productivity while driving growth in your B2B business. Combine this outsourcing model with the right tools to maximize effectiveness.
Regularly evaluate your MarTech tech stack as well to consolidate solutions with similar functions and remove redundant tools. Seeking new resources that offer superior functionality will ensure the solutions align with your evolving needs.
Combine a lean team with a well-designed MarTech stack to achieve remarkable growth and success in your B2B business.