A 14-year veteran of the interactive active agency world, I've seen all different sorts of ways that medium to large companies handle the Web channel. How they're structured, how they make decisions, where they report into, etc.
We all remember back when the Web team or webmaster reported into information technology (IT). The marketing department, often on the outside looking in, had minimal feedback especially when it came to the way the brand was expressed. Then, the Web channel broke away from IT and even the parent company. Remember Bluelight.com (Kmart), Barnesandnoble.com (Barnes & Noble), AmericanGreetings.com (American Greetings), etc. Very often these companies had have their own profit and loss statement. In a few cases this worked, but in many or most cases it didn't.
Over the past four to five years, it's become more common for the Web team to sit inside of marketing. Of all the options, this is probably the most natural fit, but still has some significant problems.
These problems exist because the Web for larger companies encompasses too many aspects of the business to fit within just one group. In a way to be most effective it must stand alone while at the same time have significant representation from many different groups within the company.
Now, "stand alone" often can cause problems. Keep in mind, I'm not talking about a standalone company, but more of a department within the company. Again, all key groups must be represented.
Often can be established through the creation of a Web steering committee. Again, I have seen this done effectively as well as very ineffectively. Based on my observations, here are my learnings:
Why Create a Web Steering Committee
First things, first. What's a Web steering committee? It's a cross-functional team that helps guide a Web channel's strategy. If done correctly, this helps ensure there's equal representation across the entire company so it doesn't turn into being only about e-commerce, driving leads, offline sales, or customer service. It a way to avoid having the brand team chime in and say the Web team's activities are "off-brand." Think of the Web steering committee as your board of directors for the Web channel -- senior people with a strong overall company strategic focus. Its members should help look at near-term success while also focusing on what's best long-term.
Who to Include on a Steering Committee
This can depend based on your organization, but I recommend the following for most organizations:
It works best if this team is kept to 10 or fewer people who are senior leaders involved in company strategy. It's also key they have and make the time to regularly attend and actively participate. There's a natural desire to send a junior team member who can easily attend every meeting. While this seems like a good idea, it generally doesn't work. That's because it's difficult for a junior employee to go back to her leader and cover what was discussed and decided. Often this leads to a ton of back channel discussions. If you're going to commit to a Web steering committee, make it a priority for the senior leads to attend.
Traits of a Successful, Healthy Web Steering Committee:
Why Web Steering Committees Fail:
Last week, I attended a Web steering committee meeting at a large organization. This particular committee is aiming in the right direction, and got me thinking about the traits of healthy committees and ineffective ones. Again, when these committees are done correctly they can greatly improve the Web channel's ROI (define) and its overall impact on the business.
If you don't have a Web steering committee with this type of representation, consider it. If you already have one that isn't functioning well or missing some of the elements outlined above, you might want to print out this column and slip it onto the desk of every committee member as well as senior leadership in each of these areas!
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As the Chief Performance Marketing Officer for POSSIBLE, Jason supports the agency's global Marketing Sciences and Media Services programs.
His primary role is to help POSSIBLE teams and clients use data to craft digital strategies that attract, convert, and retain customers - maximizing ongoing ROI across paid, earned, and owned channels. He believes that brands can better serve their customers by understanding audience behavior, and that messaging should be targeted to individual customers through the use of testing, behavioral targeting, and CRM initiatives.
Jason has written extensively about digital analytics, optimization and digital strategy, including an ongoing column at ClickZ.com. He is the co-author of "Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions," which is one of the leading texts in the field of digital analytics. His client roster includes Microsoft, Nike, Nokia, Dell, Ford, Sony, PayPal/eBay, P&G, Alcoa, Expedia, Mazda, Intel, and Motorola, and more. Jason is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars around the world ranging from the Cannes Lions, Adobe Omniture Summits, eMetrics, SES, ad:tech, BazaarVoice, and many other WPP events.
Follow him on Twitter @JasonBurby.
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