What CMOs Need To Know About Internet Marketing: The Essential Guide


A CMO once asked me: “Why does effective Internet marketing always take longer and cost more than I expect? And why am I always disappointed with the results?”

…And thus began a beautiful and prosperous relationship.

Within the sometimes crushing demands of running an entire marketing team, and oftentimes having to bootstrap and roll up your sleeves, there comes a point where your perceptions of Internet marketing and the realities diverge – sometimes significantly.

It’s not your fault, really.

You’re tasked with high-level strategy, oversight and execution.

Your job is to effectively delegate – you can’t be bothered with the overwhelming minutiae and a never-ending landscape of change.

But therein lies the problem.

Because without understanding the real costs – both of time and resources – that effective Internet marketing takes, this gap will widen.

Your expectations will further diverge, and your ability to effectively manage your team and resources will suffer, deeply affecting the results you were hired to achieve.

The CMO’s Disconnect

In light of that divergence, I’m going to help close that gap, clarify value and help you understand where and how you should apply your resources to master Internet marketing.

I’ll do this by delving into the 4 primary Internet marketing domains that most CMOs are responsible for, and then work through how your expectations and misconceptions have diverged from reality, and how to bridge the gap.

A CMO’s 4 Primary Internet Marketing Responsibilities:

  • Branding: website, logo, messaging, copy, etc.
  • Social: Facebook, email, Q&A, reviews, etc.
  • Content: blog, PR, video, articles, podcasts, etc.
  • Paid: display, PPC/CPC, retargeting, affiliates/JV’s, etc.

We Can Then Break These Down Into Three Relatable Steps:

  1. Your Expectations: Sometimes you know enough to be dangerous, but don’t understand enough to be a thorough and effective leader of your marketing efforts.
  2. The Reality: After going over some of your expectations, I’ll juxtapose them against the realities you’ll encounter.
  3. How To Bridge the Gap: So how do you close this gap? I’ll give you a playbook so you’re armed with the knowledge you need to successfully navigate this ever-changing landscape.


CMO's Guide To Mastering Internet Marketing: Branding and Website

Let’s Start With Branding

Unfortunately for most CMOs, creating an integrated branding strategy usually comes well after the company has established an initial online presence and built out marketing channels in the haste to secure market share or users.

This leads to having to start from scratch when it becomes apparent that your message isn’t working effectively, while at the same time, different departments of the company are focusing on disparate strategies that aren’t congruent.

For purposes of this discussion we’ll focus mostly on online branding such as a company’s look and feel (logo, colors, messaging, etc.), website, and similar marketing collateral and assets.

Your Expectations:

  • The IT, sales or marketing team can quickly develop a rudimentary website in order to acquire users, generate sales and create brand awareness.
  • A ground-up branding and website strategy is a luxury. Your graphics person can create what you need internally and your sales team can whip up some quick copy for the site.
  • If you outsource, you expect a high quality website for a “reasonable” price without any handholding.
  • You know this first version of your branding/website is a placeholder. Once things settle down, you’ll circle back and do it the right way. You just don’t have the time right now.
  • You need to showcase your latest press release or product launch, and tie it all to social media. Your website is the perfect platform to accomplish this.
  • When your online presence grows and becomes more unwieldy, you’ll hire more staff to compensate. By then you can hire someone to oversee the next phase of your growth.

The Reality:

  • You get stuck. Deadlines, product launches, meetings, new initiatives and day-to-day maintenance pull you further and further away from your initial vision of what your branding strategy should have been.
  • It can be almost too much pain to bear to think about starting over and recreating a branding presence, messaging, website, landing pages, content and other assets from the ground up.
  • Often, it’s easier to let your existing team make quick updates, fixes and roll out new features and content, rather than consider an outside firm or bringing on additional staff with the expertise you simply don’t yet have internally.
  • As a result, your internal team – already overwhelmed with daily tasks – starts making updates less frequently, more erratically and with less thought to your company’s overall branding and messaging, if you had one to begin with.
  • Amid all the chaos, there comes a point when your customers, vendors and internal stakeholders begin to pressure you because your infrastructure just wasn’t created properly to handle your growth.
  • After fiddling with this approach for months and oftentimes years, you realize that you need help either internally or externally depending on your budget and timeframe.

 A Quick Caveat On The Costs of Creating A Website:

I wanted to give a quick aside to talk about how much a website costs.

The reality, and I know CMOs hate to hear this, is that it depends.

But I wanted to give some very broad context because this is often one of the biggest points of frustration for CMOs.

 Costs & Timeframe For EFFECTIVE Branding/Website Creation:

  • Small Corporate Websites: These are simple 10-20 page websites for startups, or companies that sell one product or service and don’t need something expansive. Revenues in this group are often between $0 – $1MM.
    • Investment range: $5,000 – $20,000
    • Timeframe: 2 – 4 months
  • Medium Corporate Websites: These are more complex websites that often require customization and involve a more complicated suite of products and services for a diverse organization. Revenues for companies in this range are typically between $1MM – $20 MM.
    • Investment range: $25,000 – $100,000+
    • Timeframe: 4 – 6 months+
  • Large Corporate Websites: These are the most complex of all, often involving thousands of pages, hundreds of products, services, divisions and custom functionality like secure log in areas for vendors, employees, etc. Revenues for this group are typically $20MM+.
    • Investment range: $100,000 – $1MM+
    • Timeframe: 6 – 12 months+

Based on the above ranges, it might make more sense for you to hire an external firm to handle the creation of your website seeing as hiring even one employee for this task will cost you anywhere from $40,000 – $100,000+ per year and not offer the breadth of expertise a full-service firm might.

However, if your organization is large enough and the ongoing need significant enough, hiring new team members might be the way to go.

How To Bridge The Gap:

  • With this approach in mind, and knowing the rough costs of website development, decide whether an internal, external or hybrid approach is appropriate. Often, it is more cost effective to hire an outside firm than do it in house – think salaries paid, time deferred from other projects, rework, benefits, etc.
  • Finally, if you’ve opted to work with an outside agency, you will need to decide whether you want one that specializes in a particular niche, or a more broadly experienced agency that can help you on multiple fronts. Prices vary depending on services offered.


CMO's Guide To Mastering Internet Marketing: Social Media

The Social Challenge

For most CMOs the word “social” has become the bane of your existence.

As a leader, you understand what effective social media marketing can do for your company – and have seen some really good examples to back that up – but you’re often at a loss as to how your company can succeed in this vital medium.

From Facebook and Instagram, to email marketing, video and other social forms of interaction, the landscape is littered with options.

You know you must devote resources to these channels, you’re just not sure how many, or in what form.

For social, I’m including not just what we know as “social media” but also email and related forms of marketing such as Q&A and review sites, as well as other related channels.

Your Expectations:

  • Why hire a professional social media manager when your kids are always on their phones schooling you on the latest and greatest social platform? You can probably handle this yourself, if not offload it entirely to someone on your team.
  • In addition, who knows your business, customers, culture and messaging better than someone already in-house? Besides, you’ve got some company updates you want to get out there ASAP.
  • Your summer intern did a really nice job with your Twitter account. Maybe it’s time to expand their responsibilities?
  • You can have your graphics person tidy up all your social profiles while your sales team creates the messaging to tie it all together.
  • You’ll then use automated software to make updates remotely and ahead of time to make things quick and easy.
  • You’ll directly measure the success of your social media campaigns and tie a ROI to them in order to justify the time and expense.

The Reality:

  • There are few corporate leaders who are savvy enough to pull off effective social media engagement – Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is one prominent example. If you’re one of those, then the buck stops with you.
  • Your likely role as CMO, on the other hand, is as a caretaker to the talent you need to develop and run your company’s social media presence. It isn’t as simple as hiring an intern and letting ‘er rip – unless you want to live with the potential fallout.
  • Over time, you’ve discovered that you really can’t measure the ROI of tweeting 10 times per day. So how do you justify the investment?
  • You realize that creating, building and maintaining a thriving and robust social media presence – not one based on merely assimilating other content or providing updates on your company – takes time, effort and consistency.
  • That means hiring an outside firm, or finding an internal solution. Social media managers earn salaries that range anywhere from $22,000 (entry level) – $100,000 (manager) depending on job title, responsibilities and where your company is located.

How To Bridge The Gap:

  • Usually, there is passionate and eager talent already on your sales, marketing or customer service teams – you can simply transition them into a full-time role. That means allowing them to get a feel for the medium as it pertains to your company, and then giving them enough time and leeway to succeed.
  • Don’t overextend! You shouldn’t be on every social media platform. Simply choose the 1-4 (and if it’s only one, that’s ok) platforms that best match your company goals, target audience, and message.


CMO Guide To Mastering Internet Marketing: Content

Content Marketing Success

My rule of thumb is that either you do content right, or you don’t do it at all.

The problem with that statement is that as the CMO, how can you NOT devote some of your resources to content marketing?

The reality is that you probably have to and are doing it in some form right now.

Therefore, while your expectations for quality content creation should be very high. Unfortunately this is another area of Internet marketing where your expectations far exceed reality.

According to a 2013 Gartner report, mature companies spend more than 2.5% of their revenue on digital marketing – this percentage is much higher for startups – while 35% of those companies reported that content creation and management ranked among their top 3 digital marketing activities that led to success.

For purposes of this discussion, content includes anything created to further your brand, affinity or customer reach that adds value to your target audience.

Content can include your blog, guest articles, white papers, webinars, videos,infographics and other related assets.

Your Expectations:

  • You’re surrounded by a great team, all with college degrees. They should be more than adequate at creating successful, engaging content.
  • Why hire outside talent to create content when nobody will understand the intricacies of your company and audience like your own team?
  • You just launched a product, were featured in the media, or made a significant hire. It should all be posted on your blog.
  • You’ve dipped your toes into the freelance game and weren’t too pleased with what you found: either quality content creation cost too much, or the lower cost options left a lot to be desired.
  • You’ve looked into hiring a firm or professional agency, but that route is just too expensive considering what you get – $10,000 for a 2-minute video?

The Reality:

  • Creating content usually entails obligating someone on your team – already busy, overworked and not an expert writer – to create copy, write blog posts and perform other related tasks.
  • Writing and creating engaging content is hard. It takes time, thought and inspiration. It can’t be done well by someone distracted with day-to-day activities and deadlines unless you give them the time and freedom to do so.
  • Writing an in-depth and entertaining blog post that is NOT about your latest press release – which nobody cares about and is almost insulting in its laziness – takes a special skill set.
  • Having the creativity to make a viral video that secures your place as a go-to brand requires talent and experience – and quite a bit of luck.
  • It takes a team of writers, editors and producers of content to keep your company relevant, top-of-mind, and engaging.
  • A lackluster or half-hearted attempt to keep up with your competitor’s content efforts will backfire in the form of a tarnished corporate image and the perception of a lazy organization that doesn’t care enough to get it right. You’ll essentially be seen as the “other” guys.
  • The cost of content marketing – as was the cost of branding and creating your website – can be all over the map depending on what you want done, the skills of the team creating your content, and the quality.
  • A skilled writer can run anywhere from $20 – $100+ per hour, or charge $50 – $500+ per piece of content. Other assets like infographics, videos, white papers, etc., will vary greatly depending on the skill, experience and demand of the team involved.
  • Your results will directly reflect the cost/time/quality ratio of the creative process and team involved. Don’t be upset when a lower-tier writer delivers a sub-par document – you get what you pay for, or the time you’ve given the creative process.

How To Bridge The Gap:

  • First, look to your internal team. Sometimes the very best writers and content producers are right under your nose – if you’re open to the possibility that they don’t fit a standard mold like other positions might.
  • Give them the time to “breathe,” make mistakes, find their voice, be inspired, and create top-notch content. Don’t expect groundbreaking content from overworked staff or those without the innate ability to do so.
  • Finally, hiring an outside agency can sometimes be quicker and more cost effective than internal solutions, or hiring new staff.


CMO Guide To Mastering Internet Marketing: Paid

Paid Media

Paid marketing can oftentimes keep an entire organization afloat and is a necessary spoke on your marketing wheel, regardless of your budget.

From generating new traffic and sales out of thin air, to creating awareness and building your user base, paid channels offer a quick and effective marketing solution for most CMOs.

The problem?

Most CMOs – especially when getting started – become over-reliant on paid marketing efforts without diversifying into other channels.

In addition, because of outsized expectations and budget constraints, you’re probably not utilizing this medium efficiently, or remotely close to its full capacity.

For purposes of this discussion, paid channels refer to PPC/CPC, retargeting, banner ads, promoted content, affiliates, and other related media.

Your Expectations:

  • Your internal marketing lead – sometimes that’s you – should be able to set up and run an effective paid marketing campaign fairly quickly.
  • After creating a rudimentary Google AdWords campaign based on some broad match keywords, you should see immediate results – at least enough to start testing and getting a return on your investment.
  • It’s good enough to simply link your entire campaign to your homepage – you don’t have time to create separate landing pages or run A/B testing, let alone modify each campaign for specific outcomes.
  • You and your team should be able to make iterations on the fly, thereby making necessary adjustments to ensure lower costs and higher conversions.
  • As your budget increases and you bring on more staff, you’ll create all sorts of landing pages and expand your paid channels to include Bing, retargeting and promoting your content – as well as creating an affiliate network.
  • Over time, you should be able to refine your campaigns into a well-oiled machine of repeat leads and sales.

The Reality:

  • Creating an integrated and highly converting paid marketing campaign is a painstaking and methodical process.
  • Forget about retargeting, promoted content or affiliate marketing – you barely had the resources to set up your AdWords campaign and tie it into your analytics program.
  • You’ve discovered, after exhausting your budget quickly, that Google does its best to deliver all the impressions and clicks you said you wanted, as fast as possible. You’re getting clicks for undesirable terms that are costing you dearly without yielding any return.
  • On top of that, because you never bothered to create relevant landing pages, or split test anything, you’re losing even more potential leads.
  • You then come to realize that things like negative keywords, quality score, ad copy, landing page experience, conversion tracking and ad relevance take more time to get right than you thought – if you even knew about them at all.
  • After the initial excitement wears off, you’re discovering that all you really have time to do is log into your dashboard every day to see what’s happening – and it’s not a pretty picture.
  • Your marketing lead is also overwhelmed because of their day-to-day responsibilities running your other initiatives.
  • It takes an expert team to research, design, create and iterate a robust and successful paid marketing campaign that works synergistically.
  • If you’re going to promote or hire internally, average paid marketing salaries range from $35,000 (entry level PPC coordinator) to $130,000+ (manager/director).

How To Bridge The Gap:

  • Start with this guide to help you understand the ins and outs of PPC marketing.
  • If you’re going to do this in-house, familiarize yourself with the various enterprise PPC platforms that are available. If you’re small enough you probably don’t need one right now.

Going Forward

The need to understand the essentials and real costs – of both time and resources – that effective Internet marketing requires will never go away.

Therefore, as the CMO of your organization, it is incumbent upon you to stay diligent in understanding this divergence before the gap widens too deeply.

While the channels and approach for reaching your target audience, growing your brand, and increasing leads and sales may change over time, the core tenets of marketing and processes you can use for understanding them do not.

Using this knowledge allows you to increase your ability to effectively lead and manage your resources while simultaneously creating a thriving and successful marketing organization within your company.

This article originally published in marketingland.com

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1 Response

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