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From the Trenches

How to Build an Interactive Marketing All-Star Team

Mike Sweeney | January 28, 2010

Some call it interactive marketing.  Others call it digital marketing.   Still others use internet marketing, web marketing or online marketing.  Frankly, the terminology doesn’t matter.  What matters is that companies need to and want to address this function, and are becoming more and more open to exploring the different ways of doing it.

Occasionally we get a request from a company that has already decided that they’d like to build this function up in-house, using primarily employees as opposed to agencies, consultants and contractors.  The company typically has plenty of reasons for this approach, and while we often present scenarios that represent an alternative option, we do that to help the client arrive at the right decision for the organization.  After all, we call ourselves Right Source Marketing.  We recognize that there are many ways to build a gameplan, and our concern is finding the right gameplan for each individual company.

I like to put myself in the shoes of the person building this Interactive Marketing All-Star Team.  I don’t want to make too many assumptions because that takes the fun out of it, but let’s assume that the company is large enough and places a high enough value on marketing to consider building out this function in-house.  I’ve seen both B2C and B2B-oriented companies that fit this profile, so let’s not restrict ourselves there.

Let’s get started.  Before we get into structure, here’s the qualities I want from every single person that is hired for this team (beyond the typical responsible, detail-oriented, easy to work with type qualities):

  • I want versatility.  Specialists are great, but the most effective specialists I know are the ones that at least understand how other areas impact their area.
  • I want writers.  Everyone on this team will have to write and write well.  Everyone will be responsible for some form of content production, so poor writers need not apply.
  • I want users of social media, but users that understand its business use.  It’s nice that you have 800 Facebook friends, 5000 Twitter followers and 1000 LinkedIn connections, but do you understand how those properties are used for business purposes?
  • I want folks that are metrics-focused, but not at the expense of creativity.  Ok, so I want the best of both worlds.  Give me someone that can write an engaging blog post then turn around and build a financial model for a new product.  Those folks are out there; I know because I work with some.
  • This one is personal, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting the opposite.  I want people that are ultra-organized.  If we’re going to create a marketing machine that spits out campaigns, programs and materials at a rapid pace, we can’t afford to work with slackers.

Let’s move on the specific roles.  Again, these roles are going to look different in every company and in every scenario, but most of these roles are relevant to the average marketing-centric company.

Start at the top.  I don’t care whether we call it a VP Digital, VP Interactive, Online Marketing Director, or even if you just call it Marketing Lead, but I need someone to lead this department.  I want this person to be the somewhat rare combination of a marketer who has dabbled in or played most of the roles below, and who has been elevated for consideration for this role because he or she has consistently found ways to make these functions work like a well-oiled machine.  I see too many organizations that hire this leader based largely on business and education pedigree, and not on marketing and experience pedigree.  Your MBA and previous investment banking experience are great, but that doesn’t qualify you to run this function if you don’t first understand how these interactive pieces work together.

Then I want a set of mid-level managers that run the following categories:

  • Search Marketing:  Give me someone that lives and breathes SEO and PPC, understands the impact it has on all other marketing pieces, and has the Rolodex of potential employees, contractors and agencies that may be needed to fill holes.
  • Web Designer/Developer: I don’t mean to simplify this role too much, but I want a designer and a developer that are 100% dedicated to marketing.  I don’t want IT to have control over my people, as IT and marketing still haven’t found a way to get along.
  • Social Media: I don’t necessarily want to hire the person that has the most followers, friends and connections throughout the various social media properties.  I want someone that knows how to solve business problems with social media, and just as important someone who has a passion for social media that goes beyond just connecting with people.
  • Email: It’s always a bit hard for me to envision this as a full-time, dedicated role, but we’re not going to be about just sending a monthly email newsletter.  If we’re going to do this right and deliver relevant, personalized email to different categories of people (prospects, clients, partners, repeat buyers, etc.) then I want someone in this role that can manage all creative, copy, list management, and reporting aspects.
  • Content Management: We’re going to produce a lot of content, as content production and distribution is one of most versatile marketing tactics.  While everyone on the team will produce different forms of content, this person will be a hybrid of content champion and traffic manager, making sure all the content looks right, is in the right places, and that the appropriate internal and external people are aware of it.
  • Project Management:  If we’re going to be running multiple programs for lead generation and customer acquisition at the same time – all involving various forms of strategy, creative, copy, execution, and tracking – then I need someone that is pushing projects out the door, highlighting problems with current projects, and recommending changes to improve particular projects.

I am going to stop there for now, because if I have those types of people in place I am confident we can fill out remaining pieces.  For instance, we didn’t talk about dedicated writers or video production or even certain forms of customer service which may touch marketing.

Give me this All-Star team, and I may be convinced that building an internal Interactive Marketing department makes sense.

For those of you who are part of (or even run) internal Interactive Marketing departments, or even if you advise companies that fit this profile, I’d love to hear your war stories.  What roles or characteristics are we missing?

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About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.