The promise of digital targeting has had marketers salivating for years. We would be able to identify, reach, engage and convert consumers one-to-one at scale thanks to technology. Better yet, with mobile devices, we could bring an offer to a consumer who was physically close to our retail outlet thanks to big data, mapping and location services.
Accordingly, substantial investments have been made in a wide variety of technologies from CRM and data mining, to automation, analysis and beyond. In fact, Scott Brinker’s infographic on the landscape of marketing technology (2016) suggests that there were almost 4000 marketing technology solutions vying for your attention and purchase. With so many choices, it’s hardly surprising that marketers wonder where to start with the MarTech stack.
But Byron Sharp, Professor of Marketing Science at the University of South Australia says that the promise of digital marketing is unfulfilled. Or perhaps, we have over stated the role of digital at the expense of brand. This video segment by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) touches on these topics, raising interesting challenges for us all.
Now, there is plenty that I could argue with. There is a huge assumption that analogue marketing metrics are/were valid, and also that marketers are not following through on data, analytics and measurement of business value. But these are quibbles – because the most interesting aspect of this interview is the refocusing of marketing towards strategy.
In many ways, the pursuit of digital marketing and technology has seen us become reliant on tactics masquerading as strategy. We put some technology in place and think that the strategy will magically be enabled.
But this is never the case. As Byron reminds us, “We are in a battle for attention – for physical and mental availability … people [consumers] just don’t think of you enough”. Segmentation, data and technology alone won’t solve that problem – only a tightly threaded strategy and approach to execution will. And that means doubling down on your marketing skills. So don’t just re-evaluate digital – re-evaluate your team and yourself.
It is clear that the skills that brought us through the 20th Century have not prepared us for the next 100 years. Or even the next decade.
Technology, social media and consumerisation has disrupted industry after industry, and while marketing operates in most firms at the forefront of customer experience, many marketers feel out of their depth with the vast array of skills and capabilities that are required. The disruption adds to the anxiety that ripples out across the organisation.
Over the last year I have spoken at conferences and forums in Australia and internationally, consulted with organisations and governments and helped develop new capability roadmaps, skilling programs and events. And the challenges and fears are largely the same.
What I have found, is that this anxiety is reverberating far beyond the marketing department. In the 21st Century, we are all marketers, and we are unprepared for this new future.
In response, I have written an eBook that builds on a series of blog posts and articles, observations, projects and presentations that I have made throughout the year. It looks at the shifting landscape and suggests ways forward for individuals and teams.
This eBook is available for immediate download as a PDF.
I have dozens of conversations with marketers every week. And in almost every conversation, the topic turns to skills. Skills shortages. Employee capabilities. And technology. The rapidly changing marketing technology landscape shifts each quarter with new features, functions, platforms and data coming into play. Meanwhile, universities are pumping out graduates whose capabilities are already out of date.
It is becoming clear that we need marketing skills for the future. But we need them now.
I recently discussed these skill gaps with MediaScope’s Denise Shrivell, AOL’s Yasmin Sanders and RadiumOne’s Adam Furness. Each week Denise presents a 30 minute live video chat on the topics impacting Australia’s media and advertising industry, and this episode focusing on skill shortages was a cracker. On a positive note, we are seeing forward momentum. But are we seeing the gap closing? Watch a replay of the episode below.
Addressing skill gaps by improving your innovation fitness
Over the last 12 months I have been working with a range of clients on their digital and marketing strategies. As part of this work, we map out not just the strategic landscape, but the skills needed to deliver. Sometimes this means:
In-house teams need training
Finding the right agency to fill the gap
Every now and then, creating something entirely new – which is when the project gets really exciting.
One of the programs we have developed to help organisations to continue to move forward in this environment is called Innovation Fitness. The Innovation Fitness program, with its bootcamp, ongoing mentoring and support and target skills audit process is not just about closing the gap, but about delivering changes in the ways that you work.
After all, the future is not determined by technology but by our reactions to it. The questions we all need to ask ourselves is “How clear is our future skills strategy? And are we even on the right path?”.
The marketing skills gap is a hot topic right now. No matter how many clients, colleagues or competitors that I speak with, it’s clear that the marketing industry is facing a skills crisis. And the questions and discussions are often the same:
Do we have the right people?
How do we understand data and put it to work?
Do we have the right technology?
What do we do with the technology we’ve already got?
How do we plug the gaps?
But it is NOT all doom and gloom. Many of the marketing skills and processes that have been developed over the last few decades are still eminently useful in the digital world. They just need some retraining, cross-training. As I explain on the newly revamped Telstra Exchange blog – marketing is from mars, digital is from venus:
In the traditional world of marketing, we’d think about this as media. We’d break it into paid media, owned and earned. It’s media that is created from a central point and pushed out, interrupting the lives of our audiences with its urgency. Even where that media is “earned” or “social”, it’s still created with a particular focus and intention. And from the inside of our marketing command centre we run the sums. Counting, measuring, assessing and reporting.