Daniel Rowles

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As a lecturer of the Digital Marketing element of the MSc in Strategic Marketing here at Imperial College Business School, I’m focussed on making sure that students are fully prepared for the fast changing roles they will find themselves in, and have the appropriate skills and knowledge to succeed.

According to The Tech Nation 2016 report, the UK’s digital marketing sector was worth £3.9bn in 2015, up 13.4% on the previous year. It’s clear that even the most antiquated of British businesses are awakening to the opportunities afforded by digital marketing – but for some companies, smoothly incorporating a digital specialist or department remains a work-in-progress.  

Over the course of two blogs, we’ll take a look at some of the most effective ways to slot digital marketing staff into a company structure, from recruiting a single specialist to influencing how digital marketers interact with other departments in a large organisation.  

Build digital marketing specialists into your existing marketing team

Let’s start off with a very basic principle: digital marketing should be at least partially incorporated within your organisation, preferably as part of an existing marketing team. Yes, you can use freelancers or agencies to carry out certain specialist tasks, but you will need members of your team to have ownership of your digital marketing. Fully outsourcing would leave digital marketing divorced from the working life of your organisation, when as a matter of a fact you should be moving in the opposite direction, towards a closer integration that will encourage efficiencies, cost savings and cross-departmental opportunities.

Slotting digital marketing into your existing marketing team can provide a number of benefits:

  • Fluid collaboration across platforms – e.g. listing appropriate digital details like web links and social media details on printed marketing materials.
  • Keeps digital marketing focused and in-step with the master marketing plan.
  • Simplifies the task of maintaining consistency in tone-of-voice.
  • Encourages beneficial exchange of classic marketing principles and new approaches from digital marketing.

Start out with a multi-skilled digital marketing manager

Maintaining a digital marketing presence within your organisation is important, but for SMEs engaging in digital marketing for the first time, hiring just one digital marketing expert to act as the lynchpin of your digital marketing campaigns may be the most efficient and cost-effective strategy.

Hire one digital manager to oversee every aspect of your digital marketing, and provide this person with the budget and the authority to engage more highly specialised freelancers (e.g. graphic designers or SEO experts) to work alongside on a project-by-project basis. Here’s how this approach might work step-by-step:

  • You hire a Marketing Manager/Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) with deep experience and a selection of digital marketing skills.
  • This person plans and manages your digital marketing projects.
  • Freelancers are commissioned to carry out tasks which cannot be performed satisfactorily by the Marketing Manager.
  • Provision is made for the Marketing Manager to train on-the-job (an important aspect of any staff member’s continuing professional development). This will ultimately enable the Marketing Manager to execute a larger proportion of the tasks required in your digital marketing projects.
  • The Marketing Manager delivers the organisation’s marketing campaigns and reports to senior company management. Campaign performance is measured against KPIs agreed between the Marketing Manager and senior management during campaign planning.

This setup offers a number of advantages. Concentrating your wage budget (excluding freelancer payments) on a highly experienced marketing manager will help you to attract candidates with a deep knowledge of how to establish a digital marketing operation within a company. And by supplementing that Marketing Manager’s skills with carefully chosen freelancers, you can put intermediate or advanced skills at your disposal immediately, without making any long-term staffing commitments. It goes without saying that the process of hiring a Marketing Manager should be conducted very carefully!

Look out for Part 2 of this blog, which will cover agile upskilling for small teams and the encouragement of lively interaction between digital marketing and other departments.

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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