Modernizing the internal marketing department

Internal marketing departments can be a huge challenge. Unlike agencies which have highly specialized workers, everyone tends to work multiple roles. This typically leads to a marketing department that is quickly out of date and increasingly ineffective.

In my last three roles as a marketing director, I have come in to modernize and evolve an existing internal marketing department. I believe for internal marketing to thrive it must be equal parts creativity and data driven. Over time I have discovered 3 main areas of concentration to take an out of date and ineffective marketing department to the next level.


For creativity to blossom, you have to kick down walls and move beyond the desk. Sadly, many times companies are still set up with a desktop computer tied to an ethernet cable.

By dropping the wires and moving to a mobile platform, you enable collaboration. You have the best ideas coming together in the most unexpected places. In my experience, the best creativity rarely happens behind a desk.

For example, in a recent position at a high tech manufacturing company the business had an internal machine shop at the very back of the facility. By bringing the creative department to that area, we were able to brainstorm, sketch out ideas, and then shoot and edit on the fly one of the best ad campaigns in my time at the company. This was a capability rarely highlighted in the industry and led to outstanding results. It never would have happened being tied to a computer.

SaaS and cloud solutions

When I began in marketing, cloud and SaaS (software as a service) solutions rarely existed. Even when they did, they were not in a very good form. Cloud solutions have absolutely changed the way I market and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

First, by going cloud or SaaS, you are instantly giving your marketing people the access to the best possible tools at that moment. I can’t even begin to calculate the time I spent fighting with IT for software updates and implementing the updates, only to then do it all over again a few months later.

Moving to SaaS in everything from Salesforce to Central Desktop provides you with the most up to date tools, and often times extra tools that you never knew you needed. I recently switched over to full Adobe Creative cloud for example. With that, my team gets updates before anyone else, and I have got into things like video and audio production that I would have never experimented with before.

Second, for departments like many of mine that support a national or international sales team, remote collaboration changes the game. I can push out new creative and collect data on the fly from any of my remote sales staff. It has allowed me to instantly adjust and monitor campaigns. Often times in a competitive industry being able to take data from my outside sales and immediately adjust an ongoing campaign based on their feedback has been the difference between landing a big sale and not.

Integration of marketing and IT

The final thing I have learned, and is absolutely critical to make all of the above work, is to strive to bridge the gap between marketing and IT.  In some cases that has been moving a portion of IT under marketing, and at others it is simply demanding that marketing have a seat in IT meetings. As marketing moves more tech and data heavy, it is impossible to be a modern marketing group without extreme collaboration with IT.

This means finding ways for common ground. For example, BYOD (bring your own device) is a huge trend that I always support in any organization, but it scares IT to death. For marketing it is a huge step in solving connectivity and creativity by allowing people to use mobile devices they are comfortable with. This might mean having to be willing to self support those devices or give up some marketing budget for IT projects.

Being a successful internal marketing department often means staying ahead of the curve. By fully embracing open collaboration, emerging technology, and the evolving integration of marketing and IT departments, companies can succeed. It usually requires someone to champion those ideas and make them a reality in an organization. Don’t just sit back; be that person.

Post by Greg Henderson

Greg Henderson is a digital marketing professional. He specializes in transforming traditional marketing departments into the digital era. He currently works with a digital agency focused on transitioning traditional trade publications into digital content sites.