The most absurd marketing idea of the week

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A couple of weeks ago, MarketingSherpa held a b-to-b lead-generation conference in Boston. Among the themes that emerged was that many marketing departments lack the in-house technology smarts to execute the kind of targeted, multiplatform marketing campaigns required in the 21st century.

Nobody argues with the fact that the people working in marketing departments need to upgrade their skill sets. Marketing went digital a long time ago, but much of the marketing industry is still playing catch-up, which is a critical problem that needs addressing. But one of the recommendations that came out of this conference - that marketing departments need to have a dedicated IT staffer assigned to their department to make up for this technological ignorance - is so patently absurd that it needs a stern rebuttal.

First of all, let's look at the overhead costs of adding such a person to a marketing department. In the US, plain, vanilla IT staff earn in the neighborhood of $75,000 per year - IT managers much more. Add in all the elements of a full compensation package, and you're certainly looking at a yearly cost above $100K. This isn't exactly chump change, and most CMOs would rather put this money toward media, online or offline, with a potential for tangible ROI.

Secondly, few marketing departments are equally busy throughout the year. There are many peak periods of activity associated with campaigns, but there are many lulls as well. Paying an IT geek to sit around doing nothing productive during these slack periods is a ridiculous waste of money.

Thirdly, IT geeks might be able to wax poetic on the Linux kernel or quote verbatim from The Matrix, but it's rare to find one that understands the special language of business and marketing. It's not impossible to train such a person to think like a marketer, but it will always be an uphill battle, and I don't know too many marketers who would happily deliver such training.

So this issue is a complete non-starter, and yet, I'm amazed that so many marketers are now considering it. The only conceivable reason is desperation, and that's never a good mental state in which to make a decision.

Embracing the Digital Age

If the issue of dedicated IT personnel for marketing departments is a non-starter, how should marketing departments approach the problem of how to market in a digital age? Well, you have to start thinking about what your actual core competencies as a marketer are. Do you want your staff spending their time strategizing or mired in time-consuming tactical decisions across multiple digital marketing platforms? Do you think that just because your in-house team is able to access self-serve digital platforms such as Adwords, they are therefore qualified to operate them in a way that exceeds your competition's ability to do so?

These are very basic questions, but I don't hear many marketers asking them. Instead, many companies continue to march, lemming-like, toward the in-sourcing decision.

Frankly, one major factor contributing to this movement is the fact that digital marketing agencies, who in theory are supposed to be the experts and possess the technological savvy and specialized staffs to execute modern digital marketing campaigns, have performed so poorly. Until they improve their performance, it will be nearly impossible to present an argument against in-sourcing that anyone seriously believes.

David Pasternack is president of Didit, a New York-based search marketing firm. Reach him at dave.pasternack@didit.com.

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