Organizational considerations in digital marketing and ecommerce When we think about the digitization of the US economy, the types of industries that first come to mind are media, retail, high tech and pure play dot-coms. It’s a rare business these days in any of those sectors that contacts my office and isn’t already fairly far-advanced as a digital player. But I can point to many other sectors where digital penetration remains shallow. Amazingly, by some estimates only about half of all mid-sized employers in the US are engaged in more advanced digital marketing strategies and tactics. For them, digital marketing organizational structure is still a vague concept.

It’s exciting to see digital marketing continue to branch out into other mainstream categories such as consumer services, consumer packaged goods and financial services. Several months ago, I placed a senior digital marketer with a nationwide chain of truck stops. This past week I received a call from a leading player in the in assisted living space that’s looking to hire a newly created head of digital marketing. I hope I get the chance to speak with this organization’s CEO so I can share my observations on what top performing digital companies are doing differently, from a digital marketing organizational structure perspective anyway, to stay ahead of their competition. Among my clients who appear to be achieving the greatest return on their digital spend, a couple of organizational characteristics definitely stand out:

– They have broken down the silos that defined their pre-digital cultures. Digitization, by definition, requires a different mind-set, one of strong cooperation and collaboration among many departments ranging from marketing to IT, finance to customer service. Senior leaders at these organizations have recognized this, and by encouraging trust and creating more empowerment they’ve been able to break down the “my department” mentality of managers and replace it with an “our organization” way of thinking. Employees who once had a “its not my job” approach now think of their work with a “ what can I do for the betterment of the organization” attitude. Their digital marketing organizational structure reflects this unification of thinking and processes.

– They have established a common view of their customers across the organization. We all talk and hear about the “seamless” customer experience across channels, but in reality, for many organizations that remains as elusive as a Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl victory. I’ve seen it happen many times: Organizational hurdles become far greater than any technological challenge. Achieving a unified customer experience requires greater communication and collaboration across multiple departments, and these clients have achieved that by creating a digital marketing organizational structure that more closely matches the customer-centric approach (more employee empowerment, reporting dotted lines across teams, etc). Equally as important, adopting that single customer view will become an easy sell to employees if it is coupled with increased responsibility and appropriate recognition and/or rewards.

Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of marketing professionals and is the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 28 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.

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