Web Teams Should Be In Marketing
The idea of companies building web teams is not new, but the debate over what department they should sit in remains a hot one. From my experience and perspective, housing them anywhere but marketing makes no sense, since a website is simply another wheel on the marketing vehicle.
I’ve had an interesting run at my company, where my responsibilities around the Web have shifted more often than the Republican party’s definition of “fiscal responsibility”. I have served as a designer, frontend and backend developer, usability guy, SEO expert, yada yada. Then I got to hire one person to do all that, then watched as a new team came together to do all that. Now I mostly sit back and just tell people my opinion, whether they want to hear it or not.
Laately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of a team focused on a company’s corporate website. Zeldman wrote a good article about web teams awhile ago, and while it contains solid points, I categorically disagree with his conclusion that the web team has to be its own independent entity. I believe in its existence, but based on my personal experience, marketing is where it should live.
Monologues and Conversations
Mr. Zeldman asserts that marketing in a monologue, and the Web is a conversation. But in reality, marketing is not always a monologue, and the Web is not always conversation.
Most marketing professionals are more interested than ever in creating a conversation with customers, prospects and partners. Witness the rise of organizations using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and more, and the constant movement toward creating communities, poring over visitor analytics, and the use of complex ecosystem tools like VML’s Seer. (For further evidence in the media, open up an issue of BtoB at any given moment to see this movement in full swing.) Marketing teams may not be fluent in conversation yet, but they are trying their dandiest to get it right.
By contrast, and almost by irony, most corporate websites are, quite frankly, monologues. Simply look at the labels in most top navigations — “About Us”, “Our Services”, “Contact Us”. The tone is constantly “how we can help you” instead of “how we can work together”. These are vehicles of old push marketing, digital brochures that inform without engaging, and are anything but a conversation. But they are marketing, by definition.
Aligning Corporate Interests
The dedicated web team, when it sits in marketing, allows these two ships to actually stop at the same port and have dinner together instead of passing each other silently in the night. It gives account planners and advertising specialists in marketing a dedicated resource with which to execute plans without bureaucratic red tape. It gives the whole of marketing an internal think tank that can provide training, best practices, technical prowess and a laser-like focus on emerging trends and technologies. And the web team itself has access to strategy, budget and veteran insight that would otherwise exist outside their domain. And because everyone is housed under the same division, there is a sense of common purpose and “we’re in it together”.
Creating islands of specialists — one for marketing, one for IT, one for the Web, one for sales, etc — simply results in more conflicting interests, more miscommunication, more mistrust, more wasted parallel initiatives, and most importantly, less collaboration and teamwork. It’s the same for other niche talents — graphic design, media planning, server administration, sales operations, and others all require specialized talents, but are grouped into broader departments to help align corporate interests.
Traditional marketing teams are not smart about the Web. And inexperienced, untempered web teams (like those found in the recent rash of agency “social media” divisions) are idiots when it comes to marketing. Mashing the two together gives companies the best of both worlds. So while some argue that a web team should not be inside marketing, I argue that marketing needs to learn how to have a web team.
In Part 2: The Anatomy of a Prototypical Web Team. Coming soon.