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Message to CEOs: It’s time to get serious about your Web team

Putting the right people in the right places to drive profitability

By now, most executives clearly understand that their Internet presence is a useful tool to drive revenue, build relationships and reduce costs. In fact, many organizations can now tout their Web, e-commerce and other related sites as their most profitable sales channels.

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So why then does their Internet team still look like it did five years ago?

Stuck in the past
The fact is many companies don’t realize that despite the success they have enjoyed online, chances are they are still leaving money on the table. Many organizations’ current Internet strategies hearken back to the days when the Marketing department identified the youngest person they could find and said, “You’re it.”  That ambitious person took the reins and guided the company as best they could into e-business.  However, they can’t be all things to all people.

Today, that organization’s Internet presence strategy is probably still grounded to some degree on whatever continues most interesting to that individual, be it analytics, organic search rankings or social media. Even some of the bigger e-tailers that employ specialists who are focused on conversions, retentions, or basic customer service still look at the Web as a tactical, ad hoc channel, and not as the strategic asset it could be.

Here’s a good way for an organization to gauge if they’re being too myopic in their Internet strategy. Free online tools such as Quantcast (www.quantcast.com), Compete (www.compete.com) and Fireclick’s Conversion Rate index can provide some insight about the kind of traffic the company is receiving as compared to its competitors. Paid resources such as Internet Retailer’s E-Commerce Guide and Hitwise can also offer great details on the various service providers that other companies use, as well as very specific details about what is happening on rivals’ and industry Web sites. Noticeable differences in a competitor’s favor should give any firm reason to rethink their Web presence.

Staff it like any other sales team
Companies need to understand in detail how the Web can help build stronger relationships with existing customers as well as attracting new ones that traditional sales channels can’t do as effectively.  The key is in knowing who they are. Most organizations already have that data; and may only need help extracting it. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) integration along with CRM analytics may be the ticket to quickly making the most out of the data available in a combination of a company’s customer lists, purchase history, Web analytics and email lists. From there, organizations may consider expanding their Web presence to capture interest from areas though such tactics as social networking, email, online advertising and whitepaper seeding.

However, leveraging any new Internet strategies and programs effectively requires that organizations bring their Web team up to date in order to improve, fix and optimize the different aspects of their online business similar to how other employees in the company are working on the more traditional departments. That means hiring people that can work together in a strategic, coordinated effort on all aspects of Internet Presence Management, not just a select few. It also means that companies must make honest assessments of the internal skills, strengths and interests from its current team to get the most of out them and set them up for the best chance for success. So while today the Web business unit may not be the biggest stream of an organization’s revenue, putting the right people in the right places can grow it to be among them.

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Overcoming obstacles in moving forward
The challenge, as with other aspects of any business, is where companies should make investments so to enhance that online growth as well as the profitability. Hiring 10-15 additional specialists, though perhaps ideal, is not realistic. Organizations should therefore leverage key partners who can support the different aspects. Not only can they tap into a wide array of experts, but they can also flex these resources much faster – and often times at lower cost – than with full time staff.

Regardless of how one slices it, businesses need to get serious about how to make the most of their Internet presence. The Web can deliver more sales, enhance profitability, reduce costs or strengthen relationships. Most companies still structured similar to years past haven’t fully explored all the ways that to maximize online profitability. The evidence is all around with growing, dedicated e-tailers in nearly every category who have paved the way. The online world is ripe for well-branded companies to take advantage of their carefully cultivated assets.

Given a little creativity, the right breadth and depth of resources, some passion and some dedication, nearly any company can realize monetary benefit by leveraging the business they’ve already built – online.

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