How's Your Online Marketing Department Staffed?

I’m often asked these days, “What’s the ideal organizational structure for the online marketing function?” Most of you struggle to determine what functions are significant and need full-time attention. While there’s no “right answer” that fits all organizations, here are some key online functions that need consideration.

1. Online merchandisers.
Similar to their offline counterparts, their function is to develop a deep understanding of the product line, regardless of such factors as seasonality or demographic. They maintain strong vendor relationships and keep abreast of new product introductions. They also work closely with the taxonomy researchers, item content and creative staffs to deliver timely page changes, online advertising and promotion.

The biggest difference from their offline counterparts is their ability to take advantage of the minute-by-minute merchandising environment. If the Northeast is having a snowstorm, it’s time for that snow shovel promotion!

2. Rich media and specialty content staff.
These are the folks writing the copy, working with the graphics and A/V staff to create such “wow” content as comparison shopping charts, sizing charts and rich media applications like video product demonstrations. This group can also maintain relationships with vendors since many rich media materials are now available directly from vendors via file transfer protocol, ready and waiting to enrich your Web site.

3. Search management staff.
These employees manage and maintain the effectiveness of keywords on all organic and paid search campaigns. They manage and report all site and Web search successes and failures to drive search effectiveness and return on investment.

4. SEO/best practice researchers.
This group researches and integrates the latest search engine optimization (SEO) algorithms and industry trends, making recommendations on how to add, change or structure all content to improve SEO.

5. Taxonomy research.
This department provides ongoing input involving the optimization of site keywords, site navigation and site structure as it affects SEO.

6. Process documentation.
Like all other areas of your business, you have an established process on how to run online marketing. Unlike other areas, however, this one changes weekly, even daily, and as such needs documentation, communication of changes and constant training.

7. Customer service liaison.
Often your customers contact your call center when they can’t figure something out on your Web site. Quick identification of problems and solutions is key to improving the real-time Web experience. These employees monitor all feedback related to your site including e-mail, phone, site error messaging, failed site searches and promotion tracking.

8. Advertising management staff.
This group manages the process, graphics, pricing, source coding and timing of all online advertising used internally or sold externally.

9. Web graphics staff.
If your site is keeping fresh and constantly updating, new graphics are always needed. This department understands the environment is different from your catalog, and uses graphics to support the user experience while maintaining procedures to ensure a stable, fast-loading site.

10. Affiliate marketing staff.
These employees handle external feeds, affiliates, foreign forum posts and affiliate development.

11. E-mail marketing staff.
This department is responsible for conceiving, running, tracking and reporting on all your e-mail programs, including transaction-generated e-mails such as order and ship confirmations, and auto-generated e-mails from back orders, wish lists, abandoned carts, among others.

Outsourcing Options
Leading companies today realize they can’t be experts in all of these areas and choose to outsource some or all of these functions. In the offline world, you wouldn’t consider being a printing expert or buying your own presses — the online world is much the same. Nonetheless, understand these functions in detail and the opportunity they represent. It’s common to see companies operate a simplistic Web site while spending millions on paid online advertising or catalog prospecting.

With SEO, search engine marketing and improved e-commerce functionality, both your new customer acquisition and customer retention could improve dramatically.  So, how’s your online marketing department structured? Let us know.

Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fl., that services clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at or (954) 383-5221 (direct line).

Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services B2B catalog company clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes @ or (954) 383-5221

Comments or questions are welcome.

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