How have you set up your marketing department? Do you include Sales? How do you manage Customer Support?
This last few months we have changed a lot in our marketing structure and thinking about this process I am confident that our structure with a troika of Acquisition, Brand and Support is a healthy, well founded organization that will last and bring great joy!
Comparing apples and pears
In the beginning we looked at marketing through each channel: One person was in charge of our PPC campaigns, the other worried about SEO, yet another wrote for the blog and the person sitting next to him directed our Social Media activity. So far so good, right? The problem was, that we were throwing all these channels in together. We were comparing them on the same scale looking at visits, transactions, conversion rates. We sticked to this format even when it became clear pretty early that Social Media did bring us visibility but not much in terms of transactions. I was aware of the need of a channel mix and of the behavior of the user of jumping from one channel to the next – actually I was pretty keen on measuring this behavior with great tools like Kenshoo, kissmetrics and Analytics – but the realisation that something had to change in our way of evaluation the work, hit me a bit later.
I was conscious that I needed to change the setup of the marketing department not only because comparing one channel’s results to the other when one would make up one hundreths’ of the other in terms of generated revenue, but also because we always stumbled upon the same problem: Creating coherent content in nine different languages and cultures. We had a lot of brand personality but not one that was clearly defined, we had created a lot of great content but we were not communicating the same message in each channel and surely not in each country. A bilingual user jumping from France to Italy on the website would not find other information but surely a different tone of voice. As there were a lot of people involved in the process of content creation, there were a lot of different personalities reflected in our brand.
Also there was a lack of communications between the different teams and I guess I was at the root of this problem. Having a marketing structure around one person did no longer work for us (This might work in the beginning, and even be useful as the information is centered but when growing it becomes more and more important to span out responsabilities and to leverage creativity from all sides – I wrote about this Growth or Evolution of an organization here).
Country Managers or Channel Division?
I sought help in other companies and their example. Our marketing team included online acquisition channels, a direct Sales team (in some companies more viewed as Account Managers) and a Customer Support team in contact with our users per chat, phone and mail. All of these had to be able to make revenue, communicate our brand values uniformly and be attentive to the customer’s feedback. As we were struggling with the internationalization – adapting not only written content but also culture, marketing campaigns, brand visibility, social media activities and customer attention to each market – I thought about switching from a Channel Division to a Country Manager structure. I counted ourselves and the Country Manager – with market specific knowledge and language skills – aided by an expert in Channels and Sales was quickly discarded. We had a long way to grow till we could afford this kind of structure.
So after some time of looking at other companies, I looked at our team. Changing this perspective seems pretty obvious to me now. How could we make the most of ourselves? So I focused on the people more than on the task and I quickly discovered three broad qualities we had on board:
- Analytical, data-driven, goal oriented people
- Creative, sometimes crazy communicators that where even in our little office creating a great culture and
- Supportive people that gave a shoulder to lean on, people who thrive through helping others and solving problems
Looking at my problem this way, it really struck a chord! These three qualities actually reflected our funnel very accurately: First we worry about getting users to site, then we make them fall in love with our product and convince them that this is the place to create their products and then we help them come through. This would work for us I thought – and it would come very naturally for everybody to work in his best fitting environment – and divided one team up in three.
Acquisition: Includes online marketing channels such as PPC (in our case mainly SEM and a bit of Display), SEO and CRM, sometimes also called Email Marketing.
Brand: Gives the tone of voice of our brand and communicates the personality through our on page content, through our blog, Social Media, through the partnerships we chose, through our prices, through our tangible product and its packaging. Brand is everywhere.
Support: Is active more than reactive. Obviously we thrive to answer calls and mails as fast and well as possible, but more than this our Support is about a buying experience constantly observing the behavior in the checkout funnel. Support is also our hinge with production.
The best part of this structure is that not one team can work alone and needs the others: It creates great communications flows and leaving myself out of it makes it maybe even easier. Acquisition can’t go without brand because it needs content and approval, it can’t go without support if it wants conversion rates to be high and product complaints to be low. Brand can’t make users fall in love that are not brought to site and won’t be able to keep them happy if they can’t finished their purchase or orders arrive in bad shape. And just the same goes for Support.
In abstract terms Acquisitions is responsible for ‘hit site’, Brand for ‘add to cart’ and Support for ‘transaction successful’.
And in case you wonder: We decided to separate marketing and sales and give Sales its very own structure, this time based on the principle of Country Managers. Every Sales Ninja is autonomous with own targets (goals) and customer bases.