Daniel Rowles

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Last week, we looked at some of the most effective ways to slot digital marketing skills into a company structure, from ‘upskilling’ your existing marketing team to recruiting a single specialist.

In this blog, we’ll continue that discussion of the best ways to incorporate this increasingly important skillset into your business.

Bigger companies should split up strategy and execution

There’s very little cause to presume a talented digital marketing strategist will also possess a flair for the more hands-on skills within the field. Consider the skills of graphic design, copywriting, and product photography, and compare them with the vital aspects of digital marketing planning, which include identifying and measuring KPIs, competitor analysis, keyword planning, project and budget management. There’s not a great deal of overlap in skills between the two sets of activities.

You will encounter ‘T-shaped’ professionals who possess both a deep knowledge of a single specialism and proficiencies in others (the perfect people to employ if your team is small), but in order to get the most out of your digital marketing you’ll need one to have one group of team members focused primarily on strategy, and a second group focused mainly on execution – you might loosely call the former ‘Marketing’ and the latter ‘Creative’. Individual team members may perform tasks across the strategy/execution boundary, especially in smaller teams.

The flow of work from the strategy team to the execution team should be simple – the strategists plan campaigns and set tasks for the execution team; the execution team delivers the work and any feedback; the strategy team signs off the work and gathers performance insights to inform the next cycle of work.

Splitting up strategy and execution allows team members to concentrate on doing what they do best but there does need to be strong communication between the two groups in order for this approach to succeed. We recommend daily progress meetings to encourage collaborative problem solving and more generally; a unity of direction.

Agile upskilling for small teams

Digital marketing is changing at such a pace that HR people are struggling to secure the talent their companies require for optimal growth. This means that for digital marketers, learning new skills on the job is absolutely central to their continuing professional development. Put simply, you may find it easier to train your existing staff in certain digital marketing skills than recruit a new digital marketing department with all the skills you need. Now some of you may have heard of the agile methodology, a smart approach to work that helps teams to be flexible and respond quickly to change. We’re not necessarily suggesting you use agile to train your team but what we do suggest is that you borrow aspects of the philosophy and apply it to how you upskill your workforce.

Agile teaches us to focus on the tasks that will deliver the best ROI for your company. That’s exactly what we recommend you do in choosing digital marketing skills to add to your team through training. Estimate the costs of training and implementation for each digital marketing area you are interested in (e.g. YouTube, SEO, PPC, content writing) and weigh those against a projection of the revenue you stand to gain through the activity (which will always involve a bit of guesswork).

Now you have identified the digital marketing activities that you believe will deliver the best results for your company, your next step is to choose a member/members of staff who will be trained in the relevant disciplines. Digital marketing role candidates can be sourced from all over your organisation, provided the workers in question can spare some time from their working week. Perhaps you employ a sales assistant with a great instinct for Instagram, a visitor experience executive who writes well and could be trained in digital publishing, a data analyst who is just a few steps away from being a Google AdWords wizard, etc. In the average SME, each area of digital marketing will generally be a part-time role at first, so there’s really no need to hire a full-time specialist.

This approach does come with a caveat; the people you choose to train to cover digital marketing roles should be trustworthy, reliable and likely to commit to your company in the long-term. The good news for employers who give their staff access to enriching training and opportunities is that by doing so they will increase the likelihood of retaining those employees in the long-term. As Nick Russell, associate director at The Work Foundation puts it, “Training is a key retention tool. It is part of the employee’s psychological contract of employment – ensuring that they get the opportunity to develop and improve their skills.”

Encourage lively interaction between digital marketing and other departments

If your digital marketers are to communicate your organisation’s selling points to the best of their ability, they will need to live and breathe it just as your workers ‘on the shop floor’ do. Keep digital marketing closely in-touch with other departments by setting up regular site visits and group team-building activities. This approach provides abundant opportunities for digital marketers tasked with creating the organisation’s B2C content.

Digital marketing may also feed productively into the way staff from other departments conduct themselves online, especially on social media. Most organisations now enforce an employee social media policy, governing how employees are allowed to behave on Facebook, Twitter and other social channels. If your company doesn’t have one yet, it may be worth your while to consider making one – here are a few tips.

The digital marketing team plays a key role in formulating this policy, using its social media knowledge to warn against new potential issues. They may also create constructive points on how employees should present themselves and their relationship with the company online – for example, stipulating how to sign off posts on professional forums.

Daniel Rowles has been working in Digital Marketing for the past 19 years, with extensive experience working both client side and within the agency environment. He is a Course Director for the CIM, a certified Google Squared trainer and a lecturer at Imperial College Business School and Cranfield School of Management.

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Claire Bower

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