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From the Trenches

Who is in Charge of Interactive?

Right Source | March 10, 2010

In last week’s post, A Welcome Audit During Tax Season: How to Evaluate Your Marketing Tactics we discussed the first step in making sure you are taking maximum advantage of your online opportunities. Coming out of this first step you should now have a sense of everything you are doing online, your strengths and potential areas for improvement. And hopefully you have now put this together into your interactive marketing plan.

This week, we’ll cover Step 2, which focuses on implementing that plan, and in particular, the places where things most often go wrong.  And, just for fun, let’s number them out McLaughlin Group (I’ll let you do the McLaughlin voice)

Issue Number 1: The Plan Isn’t Right, or There’s No Plan at All

OK, counting this as one isn’t entirely fair. If you read and followed our Step 1, evaluated everything properly, and created an Interactive Marketing plan that integrates with your overall marketing plan then you should be in good shape. But in our experience, this is the most common place where things go wrong – right out of the gates – so I had to put it right at the top of the list.

The ways to fix this are clearly outlined in my last post, so I won’t repeat here.

Issue Number 2: No One Actually Owns Interactive

This is the next most common problem we see. We often see marketing departments aligned by product line, geography, or vertical markets or something else. And, though in some companies this may work on the interactive side, these are definitely few and far between. More often than not it’s a problem when there’s no single person in charge of the Interactive Marketing Plan and Programs. Without one person holding accountability it’s difficult to read, react, adjust and optimize on the fly. It’s also that much harder to have a coordinated online presence when it’s scattered across different resources.

Mike addressed this well in his post How to Build an Interactive Marketing All-Star Team:

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.

Issue Number 3: The Wrong Person Owns Interactive

To some extent this goes hand in hand with Issue Number 2 above, and Mike’s description of the right type of person to lead the charge. But, just as dangerous as having No One Person in Charge is having The Wrong Person in Charge. This can often come in a lot of different flavors:

  • Putting the young and “edgy” person in charge of interactive because they are online all the time, even though that person doesn’t have a marketing background
  • Hand in hand with the above point, if that person isn’t a senior-level marketing leader who is accustomed to working with and for CEOs and full management teams, chances are they – and your Interactive Marketing – won’t see much success.
  • Ignoring the necessary versatility – Settling on someone who isn’t able to participate in all facets of your marketing including strategy, planning, creative and program execution.
  • Ignoring the necessary expertise – We explored this in Issue Number 2 above but it’s critical to have somebody that understands and has been involved in the different aspects of Interactive Marketing rather than just the person who has been in marketing the longest.

Issue Number 4: Afraid to Ask for Help

Whether it’s bringing in somebody from the outside to assess, evaluate and plan, bringing somebody on to coordinate a transition to a structure that relies heavily on interactive marketing, or as a longer term augmentation to your existing resources, it’s OK to ask for help. Bringing somebody in for a project, for part time or full time often makes so much sense for all the reasons outlined in numbers 1 through 3 above.  We do this for a number of clients under a program we call Outsourced Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). So, don’t be afraid to ask somebody for help.

If you can avoid these 4 most common issues you have now laid the foundation for success with the right plan and the right leader.  Now it’s on to Step 3, which we’ll cover next week.

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The Marketing Trenches blog provides thought leadership from actual marketing practitioners, not from professional thought leaders. Designed to help business leaders make more educated marketing decisions, our insights come directly from our experience in the trenches. You can find more from Right Source on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn.