By Brian Dwyer, CEO of InteractOne

Growing Your Online Business

Over our many years, I’ve taken a lot of calls from prospects and customers who are very frustrated about how to grow their online business.  Sometimes the problems are about pricing, or how they are marketing the site. Occasionally, it is because of the eCommerce platform that’s being used. But quite frankly, in most instances, it comes down to people problems. Who is behind your eCommerce initiative? Who is the staff supporting you, and helping ensure you grow? The number one issue when it comes to people is understanding the dynamics and the depth of staff that you need to make your eCommerce site succeed.

Hiring the Right People

At this point, it’s critical you understand there are three different categories of staffing. The three big categories are first, site management, second is technical staff or those that build and maintain the website, and third is a digital marketing staff.

Many CEOs I talk to are really frustrated about these staffing issues. Without even defining the task and type of people that’s needed, the most common knee-jerk reaction is, “How can we have all these people? We can’t afford this.”  Well, there are lots of resources around to make this happen and I’ll address those in a little bit.

Let’s discuss who those people are, and the jobs that need to be performed.

Website Management Staff

The absolute pinnacle of this is your website senior management team.  From what we’ve seen among our clients, this is the lynchpin. This is what differentiates your success or failure.  Merchants need to understand that the person ultimately in charge of the online initiative has to totally and fluently understand all aspects of eCommerce. From how and where you make money, to the administrative and technical aspects of the site, to merchandising and marketing.  

Knowing how and why everything works together is far and away the most important skill-set.  If whomever you hire to do this job doesn’t get it, you’re doomed. Because of your ability to hire anybody else, whether it’s a programmer or it’s a marketer, falls secondary to the role of who is in charge.

Technical Staff

The second group of hires is the technical staff. These are the people who build and maintain the website. For many merchants, this is the toughest group because you may be totally clueless from a technical perspective, and hiring someone who sounds right may be the wrong person.

Front-end and Back-end Developers

There are two different skill-sets: those on the front-end (designers and programmers that code those designs) and those on the back-end (those that can integrate the website with other systems like your order management system, warehouse system, shipping system, accounting system, and your payment processing system). 

Front-end and back-end are generally two very different skill-sets. Understand who you need to hire. Now, many programmers claim they can do both. By-in-large, they can… but they can’t. It’s like asking an orthopedic surgeon if they can help you manage your diabetes. I guess they could, but it’s generally not their thing. This is true for programmers. Understand their limitations, and if you bypass that, you’re heading down a road of hurt – “hurt” like standing there ripping up $100 bills.

Digital Marketing Staff

The final group is your digital marketing staff. First, what’s your primary objective? Are we building a customer list or building sales? Those are two very different things. And like the other roles I’ve mentioned, there are specialists, and in today’s marketplace, you need to fully, and I mean fully, own that marketing know-how.

eMail Specialist

This is the person who manages the eMail marketing efforts. They need to fully own not only how the technology works in physically constructing the eMail, but also have knowledge of all the metrics from opens to click-throughs. They need to own the CAN-SPAM law, understanding how you build your list legally and ethically.

Paid Specialist

The person who does paid advertising. They need to fully own what affects open rates, copy and layout, what paid options are out there, and how and when you use them. And costs! Among the quickest way for you to go bankrupt.

Organic Specialist

The person who manages organic efforts and search engine optimization. They need to understand what and how the different search engines rank and respect your content. For instance, why one page works in driving traffic and sales and another doesn’t.  

Analytic Specialist

The person who manages analytics. It’s not just understanding Google Analytics, it’s understanding data mining to find that nugget of customers; it’s doing A/B testing to find out what copy or layout drives more sales.

If you can find one person that can do all this, that has all the knowledge needed for each marketing specialization and can execute it flawlessly, well then, you just found the holy grail. I can assure you, that person does not exist. If this isn’t hard enough, we add to it the difficulty of finding just that right person because the industry is still relatively new. eCommerce has only been around for maybe 20 years, and so if you have ten years’ experience, you’re held in high esteem because there’s not a lot of people out there with that kind of skill-set.

Take Care in Who You Hire

And so all of this brings me to a final consideration: you really have to be careful of who you hire. There are a lot of people that talk the talk but cannot walk the walk. You need to fully vet these people to figure out who they are and their capabilities. If you don’t have that know-how, then hire somebody that can help you determine that, because again, this is the cornerstone and the foundation of your eCommerce business.

I hope this has been helpful for you. If you’re interested in talking with me directly, feel free to contact us with any questions. We’re always here to help.