“It’s the economy, stupid,” a phrase coined by political strategist James Carville, became a memorable slogan during the 1992 presidential campaign. The intent of course was to rally Bill Clinton’s campaign team around a winning theme, one that has remained relevant right up to the current presidential race.

Marketing leaders can take a page from this strategy as they look to optimize their marketing structures. At the core of the essential disciplines, roles and enablers that together form high-performing marketing functions is the concept of a marketing ecosystem – the perfect term, in my view.

Why? Because how roles and functions work together within marketing is more important than who reports to whom. In other words, a functioning marketing ecosystem is much more than a fancy name for an organization chart.

While the concept of an ecosystem has existed since the era of the ancient Greek scholars, the word itself first appeared in print many centuries later. Today, the generally accepted definition by scientists and ecologists is “a community of living organisms together with their physical environment, viewed as a system of interacting and interdependent relationships.”

The analogy to the B2B marketing environment is striking when the marketing ecosystem is looked at as a system of interacting and interdependent relationships among specialized functional marketing teams (e.g. Web, solution, communications, demand center, field) with shared services and enabling capabilities (e.g. tools, technology, SLAs, interlocks) seeking to provide effective, value-based marketing campaigns to buyers.

Healthy ecosystems provide a variety of outputs that people depend on; the principles of ecosystem management say that, rather than managing individual elements within the ecosystem, resources should be managed at the level of the ecosystem itself. Stable, balanced marketing ecosystems thrive when there are shared goals, aligned investments, and role and process clarity.

Today, there is widespread belief among ecologists that an ecosystem approach is fundamental to managing the sustainable use of resources and dealing with rapid changes in the global environment. The same can be said for marketing.