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Power Blog

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    Grayson Lafrenz
    by Grayson Lafrenz |

    7 Core Marketing Roles Top E-Commerce Brands Have Dialed-In

    Winning in e-commerce is getting more and more challenging by the day as retailers are flooding the online market due to the rapid decline of traditional brick and mortar retail sales.  Basically, the industry is changing and everyone is looking to adapt!

    To succeed in this competitive e-commerce market, you need to have a diverse marketing team composed of various key players with specialized skillsets. When it comes to GREAT e-commerce marketers, there are very few utility players who can do it all and successfully execute on multiple channels. With this being the case, as you build your e-commerce marketing team, it is imperative that you secure top-of-the-line talent in each of the core areas outlined below.  

    As I outline some of these roles please understand that in a perfect world, where you have millions of dollars to invest in talent, many of these roles would actually be filled by multiple people, not just one. This is because there are nuisances to each of these roles that are better suited for different skill sets and experience levels.  

    It is precisely for this reason that most e-commerce retailers partner with e-commerce marketing agencies to help them fill the most technical positions with the best talent at the most efficient investment rate. Many of these e-commerce brands also choose to go with an agency in order to achieve a lower variable cost as opposed to the fixed cost of staffing a team of seven to ten digital marketers.

    Now, let's take a look at the players and positions you need to scale your e-commerce business.

    Player #1: Technical SEO and Analytics Role

    This person needs to have a strong understanding of SEO and how to develop your website’s architecture and technical elements to make it easy for Google to crawl your website, digest your content, and understand exactly what your company has to offer.

    This person should dictate your organic search strategy and will need to work closely with other key team members, including your content and PPC managers. We have found time and time again that the SEO channel has a huge influence on all digital marketing channels and that, when a good SEO strategy is in place, the most successful e-commerce brands get massive amounts of traffic from Organic Search.  

    This FREE traffic source not only drives revenue and builds your email list, but also fills the retargeting funnels to support your paid advertising program. I cannot stress enough how critical this role is as SEO is what really makes the entire e-commerce engine run smoothly.  

    Your technical SEO specialist should have a strong understanding of on-page SEO and various technical deliverables, including (but certainly not limited to) some of the basic initiatives and routine optimizations outlined below:

    • XML Sitemap & Robots.txt File Structure: This helps direct Google on how to crawl your website and which pages to place the biggest focus on when it comes to crawl budget and importance.
    • Keyword Mapping and SEO Meta Data Targeted: This process lays the foundation for your SEO and one they will continue to refine and tweak over the course of time as rankings grow and competition changes.\

    Here is an example of what an SEO Keyword Map Looks Like:

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    • Competitor Analysis & Optimizations: Your SEO will have eyes on your competitors at all times and will constantly be seeking out opportunities to take advantage of their weaknesses as well as defend against their advances. They will likely use some advanced tools for this such as a rank tracking software that aggregates data for them.
    • Keyword Tracking, Monitoring and Refinement: This is similar to the competitor analysis, but more focused around your brand's SEO data and strategy evolution.

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    Using top tools for keyword tracking and gathering competitor intelligence is critical to setting your technical SEO specialist up for success. Some tools that we recommend include BrightEdge, AWR Cloud and MOZ.

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    • Addressing E-Commerce Platform SEO Challenges: Specific challenges are unique to each e-commerce platform. For example, Magento tends to have problems with basic SEO needs including canonical usage, URL rewrites, redirects, and more.
    • Evergreen Content Ideas Research: Your SEO will help lay out the plan for your content team to continue to build the e-commerce website footprint and target additional keyword clusters and keyword sets that present opportunities but are not currently being focused on.

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    Here is a great outline of how to use Content Clusters to get more impact from your content marketing efforts!

    • Schema Markup and Structured Data Strategy: These are two very critical elements for e-commerce brands to have and continue to build out over time. This has your technical SEO’s name written all over it and will be something they will deploy for your brand.
    • Google Analytics and Search Console: Throughout my experience, I’ve learned that great technical SEOs are the best at reporting, and love doing it. They are well versed in Google Analytics and will likely be one of the core team members running your analytics program and reporting on the health of your website.
    • Google Penalties and Algorithm Updates: Google constantly rolls out new penalties and, unfortunately, many websites are victims to these penalties simply due to a lack of understanding. A lot of these penalties were developed to keep companies from  gaming the system but most websites that are penalized actually weren’t trying to do anything sketchy at all, they simply just didn’t understand. Your SEO will make sure this doesn't happen to you and assure that your online presence continues to grow.  
    • SEO Optimized Content Modifications: As your content team deploys new content on your site in the form of product descriptions, blog content, and other resources, your SEO will review their work and optimize for SEO where necessary.
    • Link Profile Detox: The amount of time that your technical SEO specialist will be performing a link profile detox varies from once a year to once a quarter - it all just depends on the size of your brand. Clearing toxic links from your link profile keeps your brand clear of any link-based penalties and also allows your brand to flourish and your rankings to grow.

    If you have a great technical SEO on your team, they can also act as your brand’s Webmaster. They will have a very strong understanding of Google and how to keep your site in a good place and healthy from a Webmaster perspective. This includes routine reviews of Google Search Console and Google Analytics as well as keeping up with any Google Algorithm updates and announcements.

    This is one of the advantages of having an agency expert fill this role for you. The agency-employed technical SEO will have access to hundreds of analytics accounts in order to analyze and compare trends across many brands as well as a team composed of other SEO experts to bounce ideas off. The extra manpower and collaboration will ensure that you remain ahead of the curve when it comes to SEO.

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    Very rarely have I seen the best SEOs work at a brand in-house unless they are the founder or co-founder of the company. If this is the case, I recommend hiring a more Junior SEO that gets coached up and follows the strategic vision of your founder. That is typically the only real instance that I have seen this role be best suited to hire in-house as opposed to partnering with an agency and having them fill the role.

    Player #2: Content Marketing and Email Specialist

    Ideally, this person will work very closely with all other team members mentioned on this list as their role within your e-commerce brand is a major driver to all the digital channels. We often refer to content as the wood that fuels the fire when it comes to e-commerce growth. Essentially, if you have a great content strategy, you have a really solid chance of growing and being successful.

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    Not only do you need a great content strategist who conceptually understands audiences, the online sales funnel, and how to develop topics and content mediums to support this journey, but you also need a content specialist who can actually produce great written content.  Additionally, you want someone with a keen eye for design and design skills to assure that the creative elements are on-brand, engaging, and interactive.  

    Finding a person that is proficient in strategy, copywriting, and design, can be very difficult... if not impossible. You are likely going to have more success getting a strategist who can do one or the other (write or design) and outsource or partner with a firm to handle the other.

    In addition to these skill sets, you want a content specialist who has a strong understanding of email marketing. Your email list is key to driving LTV (lifetime value) of your customers and assuring they to continue to shop with you. To have an effective email campaign, your content specialist will need to understand list segmentation, email copywriting, promotional strategy, and data analysis to optimize your email campaigns and keep your list engaged and healthy.  

    Some of the key focal areas your Content Marketing & Email Specialist will have ownership over include:

    Website Content Development and Iteration: This is a work in progress, and a great content manager will continue to build out resources and content on your site as well as work with your SEO to make your website content is optimized and set up for success. Your content manager should be comparing your content to the competition’s, and doing what is necessary for you to rank on page 1 of Google.

    Blogging and Evergreen Content Development: It is essential that you have a wide array of content housed on your site based on your promotion goals and which channels that piece of content is being used for. For example: 

      • If your goal is to drive SEO: You should be writing long-form articles that answer popular search queries among your target audience.
      • If your goal is to support your advertising campaigns: You should be writing content that is highly visual and engaging, using catchy headlines, and solid built-in conversion points. Content mediums such as video, listicles, and graphical content is often the ideal fit for supporting this goal.
      • If your goal is to generate PR buzz: You should be producing and publishing newsworthy information, contests and announcements about your brand, your mission, or ways you are helping people. These are all great content pieces that will make your PR team's job easier. To better understand how to do this, check out this guide on How to Get Your Company Featured in Forbes.

    Email Strategy and Management: The lifeblood for long-term e-commerce success is often the development of the email list and using this list to drive Lifetime Value of your e-commerce clientele. This typically requires daily management and can be very complicated and time consuming.

    Creative Support: Sales banners, hero images, template design, and other adhoc creative tasks typically fall on the content specialist. However, these tasks may have the potential to overwhelm and impede the workflow of this person if your brand is experiencing heavy seasonality or is launching a lot of new products or services.

    As you can probably tell, this role is typically filled by 2 - 4 team members. In a perfect world, your content team would include a strategist, copywriter, graphic designer, and email specialist. Staffing all 4 of these positions can be incredibly expensive. Therefore, we would recommend that you staff a content strategist who can fill one or two of the four roles and outsource or partner with an e-commerce marketing agency for the others.

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    If you just read that recommendation and thought “I can't outsource or use an agency partner for content due to the intricacies of my brand”, you are not alone! This is a major misconception that many large brands have.

    However, when you partner with a team of experts  who are experienced and great at what they do, they will have no problem completely grasping your brand voice, ideals, values, and goals with a little feedback and clear communication in the early phases of working together. I have found that the first month of work, if done correctly, can get the agency and e-commerce brand aligned and set up to sprint with little feedback or review bottlenecks in future months.

    Player #3: Social Media Manager

    This role is ideally handled by several people with varying skill sets and experience levels. However, depending on the size and budget of your e-commerce business, you may need to try and make due with one person doing their best to manage all roles.

    In a perfect world, your social media marketing team would look like what I outline in this article: The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Social Agency - the article gives a lot of insight into the roles of a well-manned social team, but for the sake of this outline we will assume that you found a person that can do the content and community role and that the the social advertising role is handled by the advertising manager (player #4) and that the social influencer role is taken on by the PR team (player #5) both referenced below.

    Your Social Media Manager will have a major focus on the following areas:

    • Unique Social Content Development: This involves developing and writing catchy content as well as crafting custom branded imagery to support and engage your audience while reflecting your brand image.
    • Scheduling of Planned Content and “As it Happens” Content: Your social manager will be focused on scheduling out their content calendars into a scheduling tool such as Hootsuite or Nuvi as well as keeping an eye out for things associated with your industry and brand that are timely and require immediate action to ride a wave of buzz and take advantage of a trend.
    • Customer Service and Community Management: Daily community scrubs are critical and the bigger your brand gets, the bigger this undertaking is. For large e-commerce brands, this role can be very time consuming as you may get thousands of questions, inquiries, and people engaging with your brand on social.
    • Social Contests and Sweepstakes: The best e-commerce brands run great contests and events to get their audience engaged and excited. This can take some serious planning and management and getting into a routine of committing to doing this type of thing monthly or quarterly is a great best practice.
    • Transactional Opportunity Outreach: Listening to your social audience is key to a truly successful social strategy and is something that your social media manager should be doing daily. However, it is important to note that they should be focused on more than just listening to and engaging people who are tagging your brand or hashtag, but also paying attention to relevant keywords that people are talking about in regards to your brand and taking advantage of that situation to engage with them and make them aware of your e-commerce offering.
    • Competitor Tracking and Reporting: Social reporting and competitor insights often provide tremendous value well beyond just your social media presence. It is one of the best ways to get insights into how customers are responding to different things in your industry, as well as learn what your competitors are focused on and how they are approaching their brand and customer base. This data should be reviewed with your entire e-commerce marketing team and potentially your merchandising and executive team to ensure companywide alignment on trends.
    • Influencer Outreach and Ambassador Programs Research: As mentioned above, this role can be taken A to Z by your social team. However, at Power Digital, our PR managers conduct the actual outreach so that our social team can focus on building the list of influencers. This is a daily or weekly task and something they can do while working on many of these other initiatives if they keep their head on a swivel while conducting community scrubs, transactional outreach, and competitor tracking.
    • Social Advertising and Analytics: More to come on this as I am assuming this will be primarily managed by your media buyer rather than your social content strategist. I say this because, while there is some overlapping knowledge, social advertising is very different from social content and community and therefore, requires a very different skill set.

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    It is also important to keep in mind that, depending on your brand’s goals and audience, your social media manager will likely be managing your social media presence on multiple networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Twitter.

    Each of these platforms requires its own specific content strategy and formatting. Therefore, this team member will need to be very efficient at content creation and adapting your unique content to these platforms in order to keep things running smoothly while achieving true organic engagement and growth.  

    I often see top e-commerce brands manage several parts of this process in-house while partnering with an e-commerce marketing agency on the others. The two things I recommend keeping in house are:

    • Community Scrubs: This can efficiently be managed in-house and is oftentimes better to keep in-house as sometimes agencies lack the constant dedication to keep up on this.
    • “As it Happens” Content: This content includes various industry happenings, news, and updates that your in-house team will always have the best insights into no matter how close the client-agency relationship is. Think of “as it happens content” as that great idea that your CEO has and wants deployed ASAP or a cool photo of new product hitting your warehouse. I have found it’s best to train your in-house team to look for these opportunities and jump on them when they present themself.

    All the other tasks mentioned above can likely be done at a very high-quality and efficient level by an agency partner.

    Player #4: Advertising Manager or Digital Media Buyer

    This role is one that is really critical for many e-commerce brands. Paid Advertising programs, whether through Google’s ad offerings or through social advertisements on Facebook, play a key role in an e-commerce brand’s ability to scale their acquisition strategy and capture additional market share.

    The challenge with staffing this position is that very few people can successfully run all the advertising networks at a proficient level. After all, social advertising is very different than search advertising. For this reason, most brands rely on an agency to man these roles. With that said, if you are going to try and staff this role in-house, that person would likely be responsible for the following:

    • Google PPC Ads: These are text ads based on a search query someone searches.
    • Google PLA Ads: These are shopping ads triggered based on a search.

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    • Facebook & Instagram Ads: A strong social advertising program plays a huge role in an e-commerce company’s retargeting and nurturing strategies. We are also seeing Pinterest really grow and become viable for certain e-commerce brands who are heavily focused on a female demographic.

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    • Cross-Channel Retargeting: This critical role can be filled using a programmatic partner, such as Adroll or Criteo if you plan to manage in house. This greatly simplifies the optimization process and makes it much more manageable for your in-house team.

    Player #5: PR & Outreach Manager

    This person is a major impact player. If they are effective, their work and successes will have a huge impact on the SEO, Social, Content and CRO team members’ success as well. They will act as an ambassador for your brand who helps forge relationships with the media, influencers, and affiliates. Some of their core roles and focal areas will include:

    • SEO Link Building: This is critical to growing your SEO rankings and revenue in the e-commerce world. Getting links from credible third party websites and having them point back to your site not only increases your authority and credibility, but will also support in driving keyword rankings. To accomplish this, your PR manager will work very closely with the SEO strategist and follow that person's direction on outlet targets, anchor text, and focus pages. We have found that although the SEO specialist will typically drive the strategy, the PR manager usually has far more success in conducting this type of outreach.
    • Top Tier & Blogger Outreach: This will likely be the bulk of a PR specialist’s workload. They will help make your brand newsworthy and look to get your brand featured on media and blog outlets that your target audience reads and respects. If they are successful, you will see an increase in brand awareness, brand authority, referral traffic, and credibility, which will likely help your brand convert and retain clients.

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    Wondering why your E-commerce brand is NOT getting featured in the top tier media outlets?  Learn how to get those features!

    • Influencer Outreach: The sky's the limit for most e-commerce brands when it comes to influencer marketing. If you forge amazing brand relationships and partnerships with the best influencers in your industry, you will see a massive impact on your brand and content. To fulfill this role, your PR specialist will team up with your social manager. We have seen the best results when the Social Media team member uses their research tools to create lists of the best influencer targets for the PR manager to use to conduct the outreach and forge the client partnership. Once secured, the PR manager keeps the partnership alive, measures its impact, and works to grow the partnership. Here is an intro to what it takes to Get Started with Influencer Outreach if you are not super familiar with this initiative.

    Player #6: Designer & CRO Manager

    This role is one that I’ve seen many brands mess up on. The main challenge I see brands face is finding a designer that is talented at what they do, but also truly understands e-commerce and the conversion process behind it. Many designers have a deep understanding of design (obviously) as well as branding.

    However, understanding how to design websites and landing pages that drive conversions is another story. To fulfill this role, you need a candidate that has great design skills but also understands data analysis and can run various tests to grow your conversion rates.

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    Some of their key roles will be:

    • Image Design & Seasonal Promotions: This includes designing email templates, banners, product images, and more.
    • Pop-Up / Exit Intent Email Capture: Using pop-ups and email captures in order to build your email list can have a massive impact on your brand’s ability to scale. Your CRO specialist and designer will be responsible for running these campaigns, testing new offers and promotions, and working to increase the conversion rates of captured emails.
    • E-Commerce Checkout Testing: The deepest level of conversion for your brand is getting people to checkout with your product in their cart. However, this requires a lot of testing and optimizations. Here is a guide of some potential reasons why people are abandoning the shopping cart on your e-commerce website.

    If this person has web development skills as well, there is tons of work they will likely help out on to keep your site running smoothly. However, if they don’t have these skills, you may need to hire for that role as well. Whether this person is in IT or in the marketing department depends on the size and structure of your organization.

    Player #7: Manager & Connector Role

    This management role is essential to ensure that your e-commerce machine is well-oiled and running smoothly. This person connects the dots across your entire e-commerce marketing program and aligns all team members and channels. This role may be played by someone on your executive team, including the CEO or one of your founders. Regardless of who takes on this role, it is important that this person has a big vision and always has their overarching goals in mind.

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    Here are some tips for Managing your Marketing Team!

    This person also is responsible for recruiting and building your marketing team as well as setting budgets and overseeing the deployment of each initiative. They should have a very strong understanding of all digital channels as well as analytics and data analysis. Here are some Metrics your Marketing Manager will likely help monitor and report on to your executive team!

    What does it cost to build an e-commerce team like this?

    As you can see, there are a lot of skill sets and critical team members needed in order to have a true top-of-the-line e-commerce marketing team. Not only can this type of talent be difficult to recruit, but it is also very costly. Here’s an inside look at what it would cost to hire for each of these positions in-house:

    NOTE: these price ranges can vary as these roles can cost much more to get really premium and experienced team members but can also be filled with very junior people for less than the prices outlined. I recommend building your team with talent that is both experienced yet hungry to innovate and grow their skill sets.

    • SEO Strategist: $80,000 Annually or $6,666 Monthly
    • Content Strategist: $60,000 Annually or $5,000 Monthly
    • Social Media Strategist: $60,000 Annually or $5,000 Monthly
    • Ad Manager: $80,000 Annually or $6,666 Monthly
    • PR Pro: $50,000 Annually or $4,166 Monthly
    • Designer and CRO Specialist: $75,000 Annually or $6,250 Monthly
    • Manager and Director: $100,000 Annually or $8,333 Monthly

    Total Annual Payroll (at a Minimum) = $505,000 Annually or $42,083 Monthly

    You Want to Also Plan for Additional Budget for:

    • 10% +/- for Payroll Taxes = $50,500 Annually or $4,208 Monthly
    • 7 Employees Insurance x $200 Average = $16,800 Annually or $1,400 Monthly
    • Marketing Tools to Support Team = $12,000 Annually or $1,000 Monthly

    Total Cost for Marketing Talent & Tools: $584,300 Annually or $48,691 Monthly

    As you can see, this can get pretty pricey and we haven’t even talked media spends, recruitment costs, management costs, as well as all the other challenges that come with staffing a team of 7 marketers.  

    Partnering with a Top e-commerce Marketing Agency is an Option

    That is exactly why most of the top e-commerce brands rely on digital agencies to handle many of these roles for them. At Power Digital, we have a proven track record of getting unbelievable results for some of the fastest growing e-commerce brands in the world.  Everything we do is custom and we have experience engaging with brands that have none of these roles filled in-house. We fill in the gaps that your brand does not have in house.  

    If you're interested in learning about how we can help you grow your revenue and profits, please book a 15-minute discovery meeting and we can get the ball rolling on a FREE e-commerce marketing assessment.

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