While most companies continue to have “online marketing” as a discrete group (similar to product marketing or corporate marketing), many marketing leaders have come to realize this arrangement is less than optimal, and the online marketing group may no longer have a place in the modern B2B organization.
Over the past several years I’ve talked to many clients about where the online marketing group fits within an optimal B2B marketing organization structure. While most companies continue to have “online marketing” as a discrete group (similar to product marketing or corporate marketing), many marketing leaders have come to realize this arrangement is less than optimal, and the online marketing group may no longer have a place in the modern B2B organization.
Much like the “word processing departments” that lingered in many organizations long past the time when computers were on every desk and word processing skills should have been ubiquitous, discrete online marketing departments are a legacy structure that has remained in place far too long. Nearly 20 years ago, when the Internet was first becoming a viable business channel, organizations began hiring “online marketers” with unique knowledge and skill sets that ranged from email marketing and online advertising to Web design and development. The activities of these people were viewed at the time as being separate from the core functions performed by marketing – such as direct mail, collateral development, advertising and public relations. As the value of online marketing became increasingly apparent, dedicated departments emerged that were responsible for executing a variety of online tactics and campaigns.
Since that time, the role and contributions of online marketing have evolved to become extremely strategic and broad as online tactics and strategies now influence (and often dominate) virtually every marketing discipline in leading B2B organizations. However, we continue to see many organizations with online marketing departments that remain entirely separate from these other functions. SiriusDecisions research shows that:
- Over 60 percent of new inquiries that eventually become qualified opportunities currently come in via the Web. This is expected to grow to over 70 percent by 2015.
- Customers and prospects interact with organizations and their brands via online channels far more frequently than via offline channels.
- Organizations capable of executing sophisticated, multi-touch campaigns that integrate online and offline strategies have significantly elevated response and conversion rates.
When considering that online strategies and channels have become core to most B2B marketing efforts and drive the majority of customer and prospect interactions/inquiries, it becomes clear that integrating people with online skills and knowledge into broader functions is both logical and beneficial.
Leading B2B organizations that have realized this fact are increasingly doing away with the siloed online marketing department and placing people with deep online knowledge and skills in broader marketing functions. The result is stronger, better integrated departments that include online and offline knowledge and skill sets needed to effectively design and execute integrated, multi-touch programs. While there’s some variation across organizations, specific online marketing skills and capabilities are often placed in one of several broader marketing functions, including marketing operations, demand center and corporate communications.
The goal of moving online marketers into broader marketing functions is to improve integrated planning, resulting in integrated campaigns and programs – which perform better. When online marketers are integrated into the full planning and execution lifecycle of campaigns and programs, they acquire broader context for their work and become accountable for more than their isolated tactics. Inevitably, they will apply their expertise beyond one-off tactics to identify continuous opportunities for improvement and greater impact.