3 Reasons To Form A Direct Marketing Center Of Excellence

If you’re at all like me, you’re marketing a variety of different web assets – products, properties, businesses – and you’re working alongside a number of other marketing channels in a larger group. In our case, it’s the Direct Marketing (DM) group – in your organization, it may be called ‘acquisition marketing’ or ‘performance marketing’.

In any case, how can you be sure you’re supporting the proper marketing initiatives with the appropriate marketing mix? How do you make budgeting decisions for each of the channels – search, display, email, affiliate marketing?

If you’ve been doing this a while like we have, you’ve probably got the basics down pat. You know how to support other marketing channels with search, how to engage with marketers from the respective businesses, and how to report out on results.

We’re very fortunate in that we’ve enjoyed a great deal of continuity in our DM group. I have the pleasure of working with some very talented counterparts in the other marketing channels and, as a group, we’ve been the beneficiary of some quite capable leadership. So the question arose some time ago, how can we raise the bar for our group?

One of the ideas that came up was to create a ‘Direct Marketing Board’, a type of Center of Excellence (CoE)– but not some figurehead kind of CoE where middle managers sit around and complain about upper- and lower-management, but one that actually makes a difference – one that makes real decisions that add value to the bottom line. One that can take decision making off of our leaders’ plates and move it closer to where the money is actually made and lost.

So, where to start?

The Direct Marketing Board or Center of Excellence (CoE)

The Direct Marketing Board or Center of Excellence (CoE)


First, your VP Marketing (or whoever sits on top of your marketing teams) needs to have buy in. This means that as a group, DM needs to have a track record. You wouldn’t want to throw a bunch of newcomers or people unfamiliar with each other into a CoE and expect them to formulate a cohesive strategy – these need to be seasoned marketing people who already trust one another. After all, at some point, you’ll be making decisions about who gets what budget, and for that you need folks who’ve been around the block together, preferably more than once.

Once you have executive support and a solid DM team, set up a meeting with the respective channel heads. Make it over lunch if you want, you’ll be there a while. During the first meeting everyone should cover their own channels and talk about how they work. Topics you’ll want to cover for each channel: Broad description (how it works, what you use it for – acquisition, retention, branding), what are the key metrics (KPIs) used to measure success, what are each channel’s particular strengths and weaknesses, and how you are currently budgeting/planning for it.

For the next (and subsequent) meetings, try pivoting from a world of marketing channels to a world of campaigns, events, and strategic initiatives. Pick an important upcoming event and talk about how each channel should support it. Dig into the details – talk about creative, budgets, flighting, which channels to (and not to) use.

What you’ll probably find out is that when you’re done, you’ve essentially built out a brief and a media plan for the event. Once it’s ironed out, use this as a blueprint for other events and campaigns. Pretty soon you will have built an entire process and practice around supporting company initiatives with DM.

Now that you have the blueprint, turn it into a Powerpoint presentation and deliver it to your VP as a group. There will be some minor tweaks as you gather feedback, but the intention here is to give something to your boss that he can take to his peers in the organization. The end-game is to give the DM group a more influential role in the planning stages of a campaign.

If you’re successful, when new events and initiatives come up, you’ll have a seat at the big kids’ table, and can thus drive some of the budget allocation and planning decisions of the supporting campaigns. By doing so you will create campaigns that are better informed than they would be without your expertise in media.

What Else Can The Direct Marketing CoE Do?

For one thing, since heads of marketing channels generally mange teams, the CoE can be used to decipher and handle teambuilding issues. This can range everywhere from troubleshooting staffing issues to creating formal cross-training programs. In either case, you’ll be better equipped to build and retain winning teams.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, you can build better reporting dashboards to show off your new cross-channel integrated goodness.

To summarize, we’ve covered three very good reasons to think about forming a Direct Marketing Board, or ‘DM CoE’:

  1. Gain control over and drive planning and budgeting for campaigns and events
  2. Tackle teambuilding and development issues with your peers
  3. Build better and more integrated dashboards for cross-channel reporting

And, once you’ve solved all those problems and you’re still looking for something to do, then you can sit around and complain about upper- and lower-management.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Industrial Strength


About The Author: is Vice President, Marketing at Move, Inc., parent company of Realtor.com and other significant real estate-focused web properties. In this capacity, Roth oversees Paid and Organic Search, Affiliate, Mobile and Social Marketing for the Company. Prior to his arrival at Move, Dave was Sr. Director of Search and Affiliate Marketing at Yahoo!, Inc.

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  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Good stuff, David. The larger the organization the more problematic silos can become, and this type of cross-functional communication helps to break down those walls. We find that attribution considerations often bring these structural challenges to a head, recognizing that performance objectives tied to people’s bonuses often ensure conflict between channel managers. Getting everyone on the same team is imperative.


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