What role should the company owner have in the company’s digital marketing program?

This may not be good news, based on how many things are already on your plate, but here goes: You need to know what’s going on in your digital marketing department.

Let’s start some scary examples of things that can happen in departments without oversight:

  • The person who has your social media passwords left the company on bad terms and refuses to give you the information.
  • Someone set up your business Facebook account through his own personal account.
  • An employee is sending out rage-filled tweets about current events on the company Twitter account.
  • Your email marketer has been using spammy verbiage, resulting in your emails being flagged and blocked before they reached your customer or prospect.
  • Your SEO expert made unfortunate choices that caused Google to penalize your website and restrict it from search results.

In each of these situations, the person in charge of your digital marketing is carrying out rogue activities, whether intentional or not, that ultimately harm the company.

What’s an owner to do?

Owners tell me they don’t know enough about digital marketing to have any input in how these activities should be run.

Baloney.

Do you let your bookkeeper to use a personal email account to log into your accounting software?

Do you sanction the IT department inserting malware into your computer network?

Do you allow the human resources department to posts signage that opens you to a discrimination lawsuit?

Do you permit your production manager to damage equipment and endanger workers?

Of course you don’t.

For every other department, you expect that your department managers will follow best practices, operate safely, and communicate regularly. Yet many owners allow the digital marketing department to operate in a silo, with no oversight or accountability.

Here are the first steps to becoming more involved in the digital marketing department.

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First: Require monthly written reports from anyone doing your digital marketing (whether inside your company or outside) and from anyone managing digital marketing employees.

Whether presented in person or in a written report, the report should detail what’s being done, how success is defined, how activity is measured, how much you are spending on these activities, and how the current methodology ties in with the overall digital marketing plan. Furthermore, the report should show at each stage how the digital marketing plan integrates with the overall sales and marketing strategy. If you don’t know how to interpret this information, have a consultant review the monthly reports.

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Second: Include the digital marketing program in the budget with its own line items.

Create properly named line items so percentages of salary can be assigned. If an administrative person is spending one week per month doing the email newsletter and associated tasks, allocate 20 percent of that person’s salary to digital marketing. Each person who has a role in should have his or her time reflected on the annual budget and time sheets.

There are good outcomes for this practice. The manager can evaluate whether the percentage of time is appropriate for the return on investment. Also, the management team can decide if digital marketing should be outsourced or delegated if it starts taking up a disproportionate amount of time. And finally, the owner at any point can compare the budget to the financials to track changes and trends. In addition, any costs associated with the program, such as AdWords or email services, should have their own budget codes, not be lumped in with other marketing costs.

If you have an independent contractor doing your marketing, don’t lump that cost in with other contracting costs. Consider hiring your consultant on a retainer so you can predict your monthly fee.

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Third: Have a trustworthy and knowledgeable employee run your digital marketing program.

Let’s face it, many companies turn this important work over to an intern or a temporary worker. When I ask owners why they do this, they say that digital marketing is “new” and therefore no “real money” should be spent on this activity.

This pains me to hear. Digital marketing is not new. We have 25 years of best practices with email (I opened my first email account in 1991), 20 years of web marketing (I was writing strategic web copy for clients in 1996), over a decade of social media (I joined LinkedIn in 2007), and 20-plus years of search marketing (search engines debuted in 1990 and grew to mass use by the end of the decade). New? Not so much.

The fact is, large and small companies around the world use digital marketing to attract prospects and engage with customers.
To make a program like this work, you need find or hire a trustworthy person, and then make sure they get the proper training so they can execute a profitable program.

I believe in having an employee work with an outside consultant for the strongest and safest combination, with checks and balances. Which leads me to….

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Fourth: Contract with an outside expert to help with strategy, tasks, schedule and audits.

An outside expert in digital marketing can help you and your team evaluate opportunities, choose methods, set goals, measure results, hold members accountable, and provide technical support for as long as it takes to get things flowing smoothly. Furthermore, an expert can back up the digital marketing team during vacations, special projects or rush times.

An expert audit once a year will force you to address your program periodically instead of letting a program languish, get stale, or go rogue. Your audit may include input from other company departments, feedback from customers, reports from vendors, analytics from your software providers, intelligence gathered from competitors, an inventory of digital assets, and measuring the ROI of individual campaigns against your bigger goals.

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Fifth: Protect your company from sloppy practices.

Sometimes bad outcomes aren’t caused by negligence or willful disobedience. Sometimes it’s just sloppiness.

Here are examples:

1. Forbid (yes, a strong word) personal email accounts from being used as a login for a company account. I’m not talking about personal social media accounts. I’m talking about the account that represents your brand and has your company name on it. I know why digital marketing professionals are tempted to flow activity through their personal accounts. However, you can get around this by setting up a neutral email account for them on your own domain that you can turn on and off whenever you wish. That way, if you need to reset a password or take control of the account, you can.

2. Establish a checklist to prevent cross posting. Let’s face it, people in your company post to their personal social media accounts continuously, whether you know it or not. Ask your digital marketing manager to show you what safeguards are in place to prevent a personal post from accidentally going out on the company account. There are affordable social media tools that can help with this challenge, especially when there is more than one work account and multiple distribution channels.

3. Safeguard customer data. On a regular basis, your digital marketing manager will be accessing customer and prospect information. This is yet another reason not to delegate this important job to a temporary worker. Whether it’s uploading customer email addresses from Salesforce to MailChimp or allowing an app to access a data file to search for matches, there must be written procedures for protecting data. I recommend you change passwords often, disconnect apps unless you are actively transferring data or doing searches, and perform regular backups of apps that contain data fields. Also, include at least one trigger name in your data lists. A trigger name is one that you have implanted to notify you when the list is being used by an unauthorized user.

4. Pay for professional training for your digital marketing team. Even if your team has a good handle on the tasks the job requires, there are ongoing changes outside your company that must be addressed. First among these are the changes in search engine optimization practices. I also recommend time management training. Digital marketing professionals have complex jobs with many distractions. Sometimes their managers don’t value time spent on digital marketing. Managers tend to pull these workers away from work that requires concentration, focused writing, and strategic thinking. A time management class can help these workers structure their time and diplomatically deal with distractions. When you pay for training, you also signal to other managers that you value the digital marketing team, which leads me to…

5. Treat digital marketing professionals like the managers they are. Why do we continue treating the digital marketing team like they are peons or an afterthought. This is the department that attracts new business, positions your brand in the virtual world, and turns your treasured customer data into opportunities. This is the department that puts together disparate puzzle pieces into a cohesive, strategic program for achieving far-reaching company goals. Yes, in many cases these professionals are young. And frequently they lack specific printing industry experience. I urge you to remember how you treat the other professionals you have on your team. Would you minimize the importance of a financial genius or tech guru just because he or she was young or didn’t have a printing background?

Now that we are respecting our digital marketing professionals and giving them the tools they need for doing their job, let’s talk about one last point: actual revenue generation.

The time has come and gone for companies to use digital marketing just to “get our name out there.” Your program should lay out how you plan to engage with prospects and how you plan to insert them into the sales process where they can become real, paying customers. If your team isn’t converting digital prospects to customers, you need to train your sales people how to handle these leads and how to prioritize them.

You may be reading this and thinking, “I have no idea what is going on in my digital marketing department.” You are not alone. Luckily, there’s hope if your program is already out of control. Get a consultant in to meet your team, clean things up and back on track, define realistic objectives, and make sure the right people in your company are doing the work that must be done.

If owners claim their front-and-center role in the digital marketing program, they will be better prepared to protect the company brand, safeguard client data, know their true costs, and maximize the financial rewards of their investment.

Sandy Hubbard

Sandy Hubbard

Sandy Hubbard is a marketing strategy consultant for the printing industry. She helps owners pull together the pieces of their digital marketing programs and take control. Her specialty is creating programs that can be operated in-house with affordable technology and existing resources. She has helped companies of all sizes make confident and strategic decisions about their digital marketing options. Prior to establishing her consulting business, Sandy was publisher and editor of Printer’s Northwest Trader, a monthly magazine mailed to printers in 14 western states. She can be contacted at HelpPrintThrive@gmail.com or www.linkedin.com/in/sandyhubbardpublisher