Four Tips for Setting Up a Centralized Web Marketing Team

We’ve discussed the importance of taking a hard look at your operations and building a Star Wars team. In this series on how to establish a successful digital organization with your company, we’ll take a look today at a big question regarding corporate structure, the ninth C in the 12 Cs.

Many companies with multiple business lines are asking whether to organize certain digital functions under a centralized group or keep them decentralized within individual business units.

Let’s take a look at the Web marketing function.

Consolidating Web marketing functions successfully under one centralized department requires: clearly defining the benefits of centralization, convincing business units of the benefits of a centralized Web marketing department, and implementing organizational changes and new business processes to ensure confidence in execution and smooth, ongoing operations. If you’re planning to go this route, here are some pointers to help you reap the desired benefits and avoid any nasty surprises.

It’s a Win-Win

You’ll need to get buy-in from folks at the business units early on. Convince them that a centralized Web marketing department will make them more successful so that they’re willing to partner with you and to relinquish some autonomy. Here are a few key benefits of a centralized Web marketing team:

  • A team of Web marketing experts dedicated to leveraging this evolving platform and implementing best practices will deliver more successful campaigns for each business unit.

  • Expenses will be reduced because the centralized group can realize cost savings from vendor consolidation, volume discounts, and increased negotiating power.
  • Time to market should be reduced because the experienced Web team should be able to deliver campaigns faster and work with vendors more efficiently.
  • By aggregating assets/brands, the centralized team can create more cross-unit marketing campaigns and bundled deals that will expand reach, exposure, and value propositions.

Welcome to the Client Services Business

As a centralized department, you are now in the client services business. You’ll need to consult, convince, and execute for everyone, and all these individual business units are now your clients. In addition to your day jobs of Web marketing, then, your centralized team will have a new set of client management responsibilities. You’ll need to collect project requests from the business units, evaluate their goals and requirements, present solutions, answer questions, and report out regularly on project status and campaign results. All this requires clear accountability, tracking systems, escalation procedures, and service level agreements. There’s true potential for “be careful what you wish for,” so make sure you’re crystal clear on all the new responsibilities, tasks, and skills that a centralized digital marketing group must have.

Project Prioritization

It’s important to know at the outset that no matter how hard you try, your centralized team won’t have the internal resources to complete every project request. You’ll inevitably get more requests from the business units than you can handle at once. So, you’ll want to have outside vendors and freelancers on call to assist you when you get overloaded. There’ll still be times, though, when you’ll need to triage, putting some projects on hold pending resource availability.

You’ll also need a thick skin when it’s time to inform the business unit of this. To minimize the obvious frustration it will cause and subsequent shouts of “bottleneck!” set expectations early on, establish a clear “project prioritization process” and get buy-in, and have on-going communication and relationship development. For example, one option is that each project request must include an ROI (define) model that describes anticipated benefits. Projects will be reviewed and those with higher anticipated ROI will be completed sooner. This process also helps weed out project requests that aren’t worth doing.

Aligning Compensation Plans

Too often when companies reorganize and change individual responsibilities and departmental objectives, they forget to update individual compensation plans and departmental key performance indicators. As a result new responsibilities are still tied to legacy metrics, and this misalignment causes huge problems. To avoid these problems, you must update compensation plans and targets so that they properly reflect the goals of the new organizational structures. In addition, you’ll also need to clearly define what (if any) department allocations/chargebacks are needed with this new structure and how it impacts the budgets and profit/loss line items of the business units.

Whether you decide to go with a centralized or decentralized approach, go in with eyes wide open to all the key decision-making criteria so you select the right one.

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