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e-Marketing for the IT Professional, Part 1: Communicating a Clear and Concise Selling Position

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Most marketing professionals wouldn't expect their IT staff to plan, write, and design a customer brochure. But they seem to feel perfectly comfortable asking those same folks to create the company web site, without knowing the challenges of e-marketing today. Bad idea.
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A little over a year and half ago, I wrote an article for InformIT entitled "Is Your IT Staff Giving You the Business?" Briefly, the article took the position that the online channel should be treated like any other marketing channel; it should be planned, designed, and marketed by businesspeople, leaving the building of the infrastructure to the IT staff. Not the other way around. The article created quite a stir and the discussion board was hot with debate. Businesspeople and IT professional took sides and had at it.

At the end of the article, I proposed that both businesspeople and IT professionals learn to speak to each other about the needs of each and the limitations that technology may have in meeting those needs. This eleven-part series is a first step toward that goal. As a business professional, I hope to show you, the IT professional, the challenges of e-marketing today—positioning the organization; and acquiring, retaining, and monetizing traffic—and what you need to know from the business point of view to properly implement the e-marketing needs of your organization.

By reading this series, you will not only be able to understand the challenges of the business side of your organization when marketing your organization's digital presence, but you might even get ahead of the game—knowing even before they do what's required of your IT department.

This first installment deals with what your IT staff needs to know when creating the most important part of your organization's digital presence—the organization's message—and how to present that message on your home page.

Getting the Message

So your IT staff has been given the task of creating your organization's web site. Or, if you already have a web site, your organization's objective has evolved and now has to deliver a new message to the marketplace.

Before your IT staff touches a mouse, they need to know the message that the web site (and most importantly, the home page) has to deliver to visitors and potential customers. First of all, as an IT professional, did you participate in the design, discussion, and decision of the organization's message—or were you just handed a "mission statement" and told to build a web site around it?

Maybe you were given some vague directions like these: "We need to project our true vision of what we can do for our customers and a quick sure-fire description of our product. Maybe a testimonial or two—oh, and make sure that you get visitors to leave their email address!" And how many times have such verbal instructions or "notes" resulted in complaints from your marketing department when your IT implementation—whether by design or programming—didn't meet their business objectives?

In the words of the Captain of Road Prison 36 in the movie Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

First, the business side failed to communicate in a clear and concise manner exactly what the organization will do for their customers, clients, members, or participants, and how they will do it. And second, your IT staff failed to get the businesspeople to sign off on the design and implementation of the message every step of the way.

So where should you start? You are very aware that the navigation elements of a web site portrays the different aspects of the organization and the objectives it wants to meet. An organization's message that portrays its selling position has a similar construction of elements. And by a selling position I'm not referring only to e-commerce sites. Every organization's web site is "selling" something—a product or service, information, membership for profit or nonprofit, or perhaps a political or social position looking for support.

These elements of the message, and their clear understanding, are important for proper web site development—especially on the home page.

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