As recently as ten years ago, Marketing Departments were widely viewed as little more than service bureaus for most organizations. In the eyes of many businesses, marketing existed only to perform low-level tasks like generate marketing collateral, assemble presentations, and coordinate trade shows. I know this not because I read about it, or because someone told me, but because I was there. During the mid to late 1990s, I watched as companies large and small maintained under-staffed (and under-skilled) Marketing departments. I listened to people tell me how easy my job was. I talked to sales people who were getting things like cell phones and support staff and car allowances, while I was stuck in a cube and forced to use the oldest computer in the building.
Then the Internet happened.
And literally overnight, the view of Marketing’s role in a growing organization changed. Small, innovative companies leapfrogged market leaders by realizing that building brand awareness, generating interest, making sales, and developing loyalty could be done without meeting customers face-to-face. Hiring plans were modified to include investments in high-level marketing personnel who could build skilled and agile marketing teams. Marketing processes were changed to leverage the latest technologies and perform functions sales people were once responsible for—reaching potential customers, sorting through them, and identifying those who are ready to purchase. And I finally got an office, complete with a door and the most expensive computer in the building.
But although life is good for many of us, even in 2009 it seems there are a number of companies who haven’t caught up yet. Many of you reading this article work for or manage organizations who still do not give Marketing—specifically, Internet marketing—credit for being able to do anything but send mass email and publish web pages. If your company is having trouble getting its Internet marketing efforts off the ground, here are five steps you can take to start moving in the right direction:
Step 1: Admit That Marketing is No Longer Overhead. First and foremost, supporting a successful Internet marketing effort requires a company-wide change in attitude. Until you begin to view the dollars spent in this area as investments and not overhead, your Internet marketing department will always be set up for failure. Internet Marketers need to be reassured that they won’t be let go (and that their budgets won’t be scaled back) the minute business slows down. Plus, a good Internet marketer has the ability to make a living with or without you. So if you don’t make sure they feel like a valuable part of the organization, they’ll just leave.
Step 2: Hire a High-Level Marketing Resource First, not a Rookie. Instead of building a marketing team from the bottom up, find an experienced management-level Internet marketer first. Companies often become enamored with marketing people who have experience in a specific industry, or who are specialists in certain types of marketing. But in this case, your search should focus on people who are familiar with a broad range of Internet marketing initiatives, and have a track record of experimenting with new methods and technologies.
Step 3: Allow Your Internet Marketers the Freedom to Experiment. Because marketing technologies and audiences change so rapidly, it is critical that your marketing personnel have the freedom to try new things, and the reassurance to know that an occasional failure is OK—as long as a solid business case was made up front. Not every Internet marketing campaign is going to be a hit. But on the flip side, there are millions of dollars to be made by companies who can figure out creative ways to reach a previously untapped market. Allowing your Internet marketing team some room to roam once in awhile will pay back your company ten times over.
Step 4: Invest in Ongoing Training and and Networking. To ensure your company is utilizing the latest in Internet marketing technology and techniques, it is critical that you support the department’s thirst for knowledge. In the Internet marketing world, knowledge is often tightly held; passed from person to person like a Mayan legend. Part of running an Internet marketing department is to support the transfer of this knowledge through conferences, workshops, and professional memberships in networking organizations.
Step 5: Dare to Dream. To run a successful Internet marketing department, you have to understand the rules of the game have changed. Given the databases, techniques and technologies that Internet marketers have access to today, almost any type of marketing campaign you can envision is now a possibility. Once your Internet marketing team is in place, don’t be afraid to challenge them by thinking big.
Visionary company owners and managers understand that embracing the value of Internet marketing can allow a company to reach unreachable audiences, generate a steady stream of interest, and compete with companies much larger in size. But in order to accomplish these things, you must be prepared both mentally and financially to not only assemble an Internet marketing effort, but support it successfully for the long-term. The fact is, there have been more marketing-related innovations in the past six weeks than there have been sales-related innovations in the past six decades. Gaining a customer has grown far beyond phone calls and personal appearances, into a comprehensive strategy that includes multiple customer touches in dozens of different forms.
Companies from two-person shops to Fortune 500 members are driving more revenue (and significantly more margin) by shifting their outbound focus to targeted, quick-response Internet-based marketing methods like social networking, PPC, blogging, direct email, organic and paid search, e-newsletters, podcasting, webinars, portals and downloads. And the Internet Marketers who hang out at websites like Sphinn and Search Engine Land are leading the way—pushing search, marketing and Internet technology to places your brain won’t allow you to go.
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