Assembling your very own interactive dream team in-house

If you’ve got the capability and the plan (and I can’t stress this enough), then you might one day be daring enough to focus on creating your own little interactive dream team in-house as opposed to hiring an agency to handle your web campaigns either piecemeal or in totality. I’m not adverse to either method, but have known many companies to simply outsource some or all of their development work to a great agency and keep simple maintenance and email marketing all in-house, or there are those companies that keep everything in-house and then there are those that give it all away.

Here are my two-cents on what you’ll need to create an effective interactive team in-house. I can’t stress enough that before you try this, you had better get all your ducks lined up in a row and are planning long-term because if you should only have a short term need for only part of this plan, it might be better (and more cost-effective) to outsource that particular portion.

Project Manager:
Got to have one of these. They can go by a variety of titles (e.g. web marketing manager, emarketing manager, producer, etc.). These are your tactical executioners. They will take the strategic plan and make it work and follow through on campaigns, making sure along the way that all assets are gathered, resources chosen & assigned, budgets are kept, timelines are revised, and information is communicated, along with any quality assurance testing that may be needed.

Creative Designer:
All projects need to have some creative spin on it. Otherwise where’s the “WOW” factor? Whether it’s simply for back-end or front-end design, creative folks will know how to make things look good and this is probably more preferred than simply having barebone design that your stakeholders will look and ask “so this is why we spent $XX on this project?”

The creative role is responsible for making things look great and will determine creative standards such as styles, templates, any interactive work needed in flash, for banners, and any other needs throughout the strategic plan of the web program. When you think “design”, these are the folks to talk to…not coding. We will get to that a little bit later on.

Technical Developer:
If you plan on doing something with databases or making things work interactively through some process or perhaps integrating a Content Management System or some other application, then you’ll talk to the developers. They will take the pretty graphics created by the designer and build it out. If you’re going to have someone work on your website, then you might want to have a developer that knows your server capabilities and what languages they know. No, not languages like Chinese, Spanish, German, or English, but programmatic languages – ASP.NET, ColdFusion, PHP, MySQL, etc. This will help make your projects run smoothly.

Any new feature you’d like to have for your website or have any new applications you’d like to build out, then you talk to the developer. They’ll work on the inner-happenings of a site to make it function and behave according to your specifications.

Online Advertiser:
Now you have a website up, you’re going to need to promote it to everyone. If you bring in someone who knows how to optimize your site and other campaign efforts, you’re golden. They should be copywriters and strategic thinkers. Falling into this category is Search Engine Optimization and that involves tweaking copy and getting search engines to notice the sites via keywords and related information. In addition, they’ll need to be proficient in Search Engine Advertising or Marketing (SEA or SEM) – whichever is your cup of tea. This is keyword buys to place ads on Google, Yahoo, or any of the major search engines. Tracking and analysis is big in this role and also understanding where the trends are. Banner advertising and strategic link placement also fall into this category so this individual better know how to sell the site and make deals. Media buying/planning experience may prove handy.

Email Marketing:
If you’re going to bring your email marketing in-house, ideally this person will need to be responsible for managing the database of names your company would use to communicate with. They’d need to be responsible for sanitizing the list to make sure any one who “opts-out” would be permanently removed, that all email campaigns adhered to CAN-SPAM rules and regulations along with other email best practices. Analytics and continued testing would fall into this role. Copywriting may also occasionally fall into this area because they would be the expert on how to address specific markets in emails.

Social Media Community Manager:
If you want to evolve, you’re going to need to have a face to which people can talk to. This is what your community manager is going to be. Yes, this role is not really necessary, but I highly suggest you invest some money into getting one. With everyone talking online whether in groups, on Facebook, or using blogs, it helps to have someone spend all day monitoring these trends with an affinity for these types of applications so it doesn’t feel forced when they respond. It could essentially fall into a public relations role as the point is NOT to sound like you’re marketing your product to the consumer, but being receptive of their question, suggestions, feedback, and yes…criticism. But this community manager will also lead the charge to integrating social media into other marketing efforts to make sure that using sites like YouTube, Twitter, blogs, social platforms like Ning, Facebook, etc. will help drive traffic to sites and generate high ROI.

These are the five base players that I believe are necessary to have a powerful interactive team. Again, if you have the means, it wouldn’t hurt to have these skillsets in-house because they all work in connection with each other. This is for a long-term period, not one that will last a few months. If you’re thinking of taking an ad hoc approach, there are very skilled agencies throughout the country that would gladly assist you whose core competencies are dealing with the web and all the major players.

What are your thoughts? Are there other members of the team you would add? Would you bench anyone?

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