One of the biggest problems faced by businesses today is the inefficient collaboration between marketing and sales teams. So when it comes to Search Engine Marketing – who owns it?

By the name of the activity itself, most would say the marketing team owns it. If your company is still living in the dark ages (2005), IT likely owns it. However, it would also make sense – in fact, it may make more sense - for the sales team to own it.

Of course it depends on your business and what the goals of your SEM efforts are, but let's compare...

Typical IT department task:

  • Web site production
  • Web site functionality
  • Analytic installation and management
  • Server issues and maintenance

Make sure all IT systems (including web site) are up and running smoothly.

Typical Marketing department task:

  • Audience research
  • Build marketing message
  • Build brand image and popularity
  • Creative (web, print, TV, etc.)
  • Increase market share through marketing initiatives

Increase brand awareness and market penetration, and drive leads/acquisitions.

Typical Sales department task:

  • Handle incoming sales inquiries
  • Outbound sales activities
  • Sales presentations
  • Close deals and up-sell
  • Create repeat business

Close sales and increase revenues, create a loyal, long-term customer base.

When the tasks above are compared, one can easily see how a business leader might categorize their website into any one of these departments. Likely, if you're in any one of these departments, you have a strong opinion about who should own the site. Interestingly, the feedback I've received from dozens of clients, in a myriad of industries, and from each of the departments above - shows no deciphering balance. Some believe their own department should own the site, while others feel that they should never have to touch the site. In almost every case though, it's the executive business leaders who decide where the website belongs in their organizational composition.

So who should own it? All of the above!

Why is it that whenever an online initiative is put in front of a company president, the executive board, or any other business leader – the typical reaction is that it belongs to one particular department that will tackle the “online thing”? Your company's website should not be a dichotomy; singled-out and handed off to whichever department has an employee with Internet experience. It should be seen as a unified business unit, working toward the same, core business goals. In fact, other than a handful of specific intricacies to the online world and its audience base – you should structure most of your online plans based on your traditional marketing and sales strategy.

But how does each department relate to the website? What can multiple departments offer that a single Internet guru cant?

Unless your entire web-side business (including analytics) is hosted elsewhere, you have to have some IT ownership. Someone needs to be the superstar that keeps the site running, ensuring analytics is reporting accurately, and guaranteeing appropriate security and backup measures are in place and working.

If you have a marketing department – they, and only they, should control the messaging of your SEM efforts. This may include online ad-copy, e-media creative, landing page creative and content, and many other factors both on-site and off that exposes your company's brand. This will ensure the corporate brand is not sacrificed for a sales-pitch or an easy way out IT solution (i.e. - universal page titles and Meta tags across the entire site).

You should also ensure appropriate audience and market research is conducted before implementing a campaign.

And finally, it seems obvious that if the site is built to sell or drive leads, there should be significant sales department involvement as well. They should have say in how sales are directed, handled, and reported. They should also be included in the sales process on the site. There are specific offline sales strategies that often work online as well – these should be used to increase conversions.

In the end, the executive team should be looking to each department to fill their respective roles in the online market place – just as they do offline.

If these departments have never worked collaboratively before now, I recommend hiring a few star Project Managers to help bridge the gap and create a seamless cooperative environment.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

March 15, 2007

Scott Orth has seven years experience in Search Engine Marketing, and more than ten years of management experience in industries such as high-tech, hospitality, e-commerce, and communications. Since 1999, Scott has put his business and Internet marketing skills to the test; eventually building revenues of his own e-commerce site by over 2000%.

After receiving his B.S. in Management and Information Systems from George Fox University, Mr. Orth drew on his marketing and management skills to lead full-service interactive agencies; building success for clients like Freightliner, Louisiana Pacific, FEI, and dozens of small to medium size companies; spanning many industries and business types.

With a breadth of knowledge and experience in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer online marketing, Scott has written numerous articles, and is a regular speaker at organizations like the American Marketing Association, Internet Professional Network, Search Engine Strategies, and numerous corporate events.

Mr. Orth is a board member of the American Marketing Association and volunteers on the board of the East Side United (FC) – a local youth sports organization. Scott also co-founded the Search Engine Marketing Council of Portland, serving as the VP of Operations.

You can contact Scott Orth at or by phone at (503) 888-9381

Search Engine Guide > Scott Orth > Using the Internet to Bridge Marketing and Sales