Brave New World

All the buzz these days is about the effect of the Internet on customer relationships. But maybe it’s time to consider its impact on employee relationships within the organization — particularly in corporate marketing and sales.

Ironically, the most resistance and skepticism to the Internet may actually come from within our marketing and sales organizations.

The marketing organization faces the challenge of re-examining marketing objectives, priorities, strategies and tactics. Marketing managers may need to re-cast their programs, re-shuffle their media mix, re-orient the staff perhaps even replace some staff with interactive media specialists.

The entire marketing organization will need to learn new ways of information delivery and response management. Marketing databases and related marketing programs will revolve around the Internet. Fulfillment priorities will change as instant response and electronic fulfillment become the norm. Email will become an accepted form of external marketing communication.

Advertising, direct mail, and telemarketing usage could shift dramatically as these media begin to play more subordinate roles to the Internet. Traditional media will not disappear, but it may relinquish its leadership position. The primary role of business-to-business direct mail or direct response advertising may soon be to lead a prospect to a web response form, an Internet event, or a corporate web site. “Integration” will take on a whole new meaning, as the Internet becomes the core of the company’s marketing effort.

With these changes come difficult budgeting and staffing decisions. Internet marketing will require the marketing manager to accommodate entirely new budget line items — email promotions and databases, development of virtual events, banner advertising campaigns, creation of web pages, electronic fulfillment and response management, web server expenses, and the like. Decisions will not always be clear-cut, as marketing melds with information technology, and budgets become the shared responsibility of more than one department.

Enter The Marketologist

Internet marketing could cause a massive shift in hiring and training the type of individuals who work in a marketing organization, or the kind of services that might be outsourced.

Internal resources may become skewed toward the Internet. Instead of advertising and media personnel, marketing communications project supervisors, marketing services managers, or even direct marketing specialists a marketing organization may need a new cadre of Internet marketing experts.

This could be a team of Internet marketing strategists, web writers, and interactive designers — and it also may require a new addition to marketing: a “marketologist.” The marketologist will be part marketer, part web specialist — a person who embodies and understands the unique combination of marketing and technology that Internet marketing demands.

A Marketing – IT Marriage

The Internet has spawned some unholy alliances, not the least of which is Information Technology and Marketing. In larger companies, these two contrasting functional organizations may already find it necessary to work hand-in-hand to deliver web content over the Internet. And the need goes beyond web sites alone.

The IT department could potentially be an internal barrier to an Internet marketing initiative — not because IT managers want to derail marketing, but rather because they want to control network traffic and user needs. That’s a major part of their responsibility.

As marketing “messes around” with email and the web, some IT managers may get more than nervous. IT’s support of corporate intranets is a given. But web sites, virtual events, or extranets that utilize heavy-duty marketing database engines, include online transaction processing, incorporate voice over IP (the Internet Protocol), and require the implementation of electronic commerce, are something else again. This is the kind of stuff that could choke bandwidth, melt servers, and bring a corporate network to its knees.

That’s why the marketologist could become a key person in the marketing organization. He or she will speak IT’s language, work the relationship, and make sure that the needs of Internet marketing can be accommodated by the corporate IT group. The marketologist will need to understand what the internal IT organization can and cannot provide, and help make the decision, if necessary, to outsource Internet marketing to the appropriate Internet Service Providers.

Trauma In Sales

For the sales organization, the transition to Internet marketing will be quite dramatic and could potentially be even more traumatic than in marketing.

The lead generation and qualification process may not fundamentally change, even though the requirements for information input and dissemination may be drastically different. But Internet-enabled partnering and electronic commerce initiatives could turn a company’s entire sales process upside down. As electronic commerce becomes easier and more cost-effective to implement, businesses may shift some, if not all, of the traditional telephone or face-to-face selling that is now the norm to Internet-based selling.

Telesales may very well become Internet-based as telephony and the Internet converge. Sending voice over IP is already technically feasible — it simply must be facilitated by a company’s network, with the corresponding software and hardware installed by the end user. If demand exists for these applications, there could come a time when prospects or customers go to the web instead of the telephone to ask for information and resolve problems, engaging in a sales or service dialogue only when necessary.

Banks of telemarketers may actually find their work shifting from inbound telephone calls to inbound email and web inquiries. Telesales specialists will be re-trained to “watch” a visitor navigate a web site, be available when the visitor clicks a “Call Me” button, and intercede when that visitor needs more information — pushing web pages to the visitor if necessary. Outbound telemarketers will just as likely be communicating via the Internet as over the telephone.

The direct sales force is likely to change in complexion as well. While in-person sales calls may still occur, they will increasingly be enhanced or even replaced by Internet conferencing. It may begin with just a telephone call that is enhanced with web support. The salesperson will conduct a phone conversation, but direct the prospect to the web to view relevant information.

The salesperson of the future might arrange a virtual meeting over the web with a prospect, perhaps including live videoconferencing. The prospect, of course, could be anywhere in the world.

At this virtual meeting, the salesperson will make eye contact and walk the prospect through a visual presentation on the web with live voice. The salesperson will be able to stop at any point and take questions. The salesperson could show the prospect video clips of customer testimonials and success stories. Or maybe invite the prospect to view and interact with a real-time product demonstration, right then and there.

If a face-to-face meeting is warranted, the salesperson will undoubtedly bring along a notebook computer that has presentations and demonstrations pre-loaded. S/he might connect to the Internet while in the prospect’s office, guiding them through an online presentation, seminar, or demonstration on the web. The salesperson might give the prospect an opportunity to access an online calculator or analyzer to see the ROI benefits of the company’s proposed solution.

This is the new world of interactive marketing and sales — one which shouldn’t be underestimated.

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