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From the Trenches

Building The Internet Marketing Department

Mike Sweeney | July 20, 2008

Clients and agencies frequently ask me about how I’d structure an internal internet marketing department.  Clients typically ask because as they see their internet marketing programs expanding, they naturally begin to wonder if they can save money and take more control by bringing the entire function in-house.  Agencies typically ask because they see client dollars shifting at a rapid clip towards the internet, and they naturally begin to wonder whether they can create a new revenue stream within the agency.

No easy answers here.  Factors include company type, size, industry, budget, existing leadership, financial goals, etc.  It goes without saying that every situation is unique.  Over the next few months I’ll provide some deeper insight into the topic, but here are two initial pieces of guidance:

1) There is a tendency to want to separate internet marketing into its own business unit or department.  In 8 out of 10 situations I recommend against that.  Don’t get me wrong – you’re obviously going to have a separate team with separate staff focused on internet marketing projects – but the more you separate conceptually, the less you’ll integrate.  And that lack of integration is a pet peeve of mine, and wreaks havoc on marketing-focused businesses.  For agencies, that lack of integration manifests itself in clunky client pitches and “us vs. them” battles between interactive and non-interactive teams.  For clients/companies, that lack of integration means your offline and online marketing efforts won’t be as “tight” as they should be, and you may never experience the positive impact that internet marketing can have on your more “traditional” marketing efforts.  The fact is – internet marketing impacts every marketing vehicle, so the separation typically isn’t necessary.

2) Content is king.  Say it again with me.  Content is king.  Sure, a typical organizational structure will include folks with expertise in search engine marketing, email marketing, web design, web development, social media, public relations…but without someone to produce effective, web and non-web friendly content, your marketing execution will suffer.  Why is content, and someone competent to produce that content, so critical? Because it impacts every area and every vehicle.  Good content influences SEO.  Good content influences all of your lead generation and advertising efforts.  Good content impacts your website and its usability.  Good content can make or break your email marketing efforts.  Good content is at the core of your social media marketing efforts.  You get the point.  Regardless of who else you hire for your internet marketing department, don’t skimp on the content and the people that produce the content.

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