The Secret Weapon for Building a World-Class Startup Marketing Team

The Secret Weapon for Building a World-Class Startup Marketing Team

Construct an A+ marketing team on a budget with a hybrid Coach/Captain and Player framework.

A framework ideally suited for an early-stage startup’s constraints yet has massive potential.

In this model, the coach, providing strategic guidance, and the captain leading the ground troops are combined into one role, and the players execute campaigns and serve customers daily.

The Power of Coaches

In the traditional coach/captain/player model, the coaches aren’t directly responsible for execution. Instead, they provide high-level strategic guidance and development for the captains leading the players.

They have the “big picture” view and can identify issues and opportunities others need to be more heads-down to see.

The coach works closely with the startup’s leadership to solve strategic marketing problems and chart the path forward. They should have the maturity and experience to guide the captains based on what they see across the ecosystem.

Coaches are also responsible for advancing captains into leadership roles and making sure they get the development needed to support players effectively. This isn’t necessarily done through direct training but by providing meta guidance and feedback to the captains.

Ultimately, the coach’s key responsibility is arming the captains with the right strategic advice and development to lead the players successfully.

Rather than directing the players themselves, they work through the captains. This allows them to coach multiple teams at once and lend their experience where it’s needed most.

The Power of Captains

Captains are where the rubber meets the road. They bridge the strategic guidance of the coaches with the hands-on execution of the players.

Effective captains have typically risen from player roles, meaning they still understand the details required for excellent execution. But they also have the experience and vision to lead players daily. They aren’t doing all the tactical work but remain deeply involved in campaigns, creative, and content development.

The captain is responsible for translating coach guidance into plans and initiatives that leverage the specialized skills of their players. They align the team to strategic goals set by leadership and make sure players have what they need to execute successfully.

Captains must be strong at time management to avoid getting too deep into project management. They need to be in the details enough to lead effectively but keep sight of strategic priorities. This is what separates a captain from a player.

Empowered Players Deliver Results

Of course, nothing happens without the players who focus on hands-on execution. They bring specialized skills in areas like content development, social engagement, product marketing, and campaign execution.

However, strategic vision and high-level goals often fail to translate into their day-to-day work.

That’s where an effective captain comes in — they’re responsible for inspiring players around key objectives and making sure their specialized skills are applied for maximum impact. Rather than trying to tell players exactly what to do and micromanaging execution, the captain acts as a facilitator.

They understand company goals, coach guidance, and player capabilities. It’s their job to bring those pieces together into concrete execution. Players should have autonomy over their domain while feeling supported, focused on the right outcomes, and enabled to do their best work under the captain’s direction.

The Value of a Hybrid CMO Coach/Captain

It’s hard to find a coach who is still excited about the heavy lifting. But if you do, combining the coach and the captain into one role is how early-stage startups can punch above their weight, moving fast and staying aligned amidst rapid growth.

Stop Leaving Money on the Table

If you’re an early-stage startup seeking to build an unstoppable marketing engine, the coach/captain and player model provides a blueprint.

An experienced fractional CMO serving as your coach and captain connects strategic direction to tactical execution. This bridges the wide gap that otherwise swallows resources, stalls progress, and leaves money on the table.

Book a free 15-minute consultation now to discuss your current marketing team structure. I’ll provide an honest assessment of strengths, gaps holding you back, and specific advice tailored to your situation. There’s no obligation beyond the initial consultation.

Follow on LinkedIn


Get in Touch

Or, if you’d prefer to talk rather than text!