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The Marketing Gaps: Talent, Technology and Strategy

Posted by Paul Roetzer on August 21, 2014

Following is an excerpt from The Marketing Performance Blueprint (John Wiley & Sons, 2014). Visit performance.pr2020.com for additional information and resources.

The Marketing Talent Gap 

Digital marketing has revolutionized the industry, Marketing Gapsand the job market. Corporate marketing departments, small businesses, and marketing agencies struggle to recruit and retain qualified professionals for career paths that did not exist three years ago, while academic institutions are faced with the need to adapt curriculums to the real-time nature of business. 

The majority of professionals gain their digital marketing knowledge on the job rather than through full- time school programs. This lack of training and formal education is affecting marketers’ confidence in their ability to execute critical digital marketing functions, including ecommerce, personalization and targeting, marketing measurement, social marketing, digital advertising, and content marketing.

In Search of the Unicorns 

The job of every marketer, from the copywriter to the chief marketing officer (CMO), is to connect actions to outcomes. However, according to the 2012 Marketing Skills Gap survey conducted by Focus (@Focus) and the Marketing Automation Institute, 75 percent of marketers say their lack of skills is impacting revenue in some way, and 74 percent say it is contributing to marketing and sales misalignment.

So, while marketers are charged with consistently producing meaningful results, including website visitors, subscribers, followers, leads, and sales, they often lack the fundamental skills, technologies, and strategies to unlock their company’s potential.

Modern marketers must have a clear understanding of how their actions impact organizational goals. They are expected to continually expand their digital knowledge and capabilities, manage increasingly complex technology integrations, and devise strategies and campaigns that directly affect the bottom line.

Forward-thinking organizations seek hybrid professionals who are highly proficient writers, analytical, creative, and tech savvy, with strong competencies in business management, information technology (IT), and human behavior.

These next-generation professionals excel in emerging core-marketing disciplines such as analytics, automation, content marketing, email, mobile, and social net- working. They envision on a strategic level, building fully integrated campaigns, and they have the capabilities to execute on the tactical level, performing activities that drive real business results. 

But modern, hybrid marketers are a rare breed.

In his blog post “50% of All New Marketing Hires Will Be Technical,” Scott Brinker (@chiefmartec), president and CTO of ion interactive (@ioninteractive), states, “There’s a real scarcity of technical professionals, even more so for those with passion and aptitude for marketing.” 

Brinker says, “There will be enormous competition for those unicorns, not just from other marketing departments, but from marketing software vendors, consulting firms, agencies, and a whole new bumper crop of start-ups, all of whom need this talent in pursuit of their missions.”

The Marketing Technology Gap

Marketers are being called upon to take leading roles in the selection, activation, and management of marketing technology solutions. Gartner Inc. (@Gartner_inc) forecasts that by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the chief information officer (CIO) does. This makes sense when you consider the array of marketing technologies required to build and measure business success:

  • Analytics
  • Call tracking
  • Content management systems (CMS)
  • Customer experience management (CEM)
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Ecommerce
  • Email marketing
  • Internal social networks
  • Marketing automation
  • Project management
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) management
  • Social media monitoring/management

Marketers are becoming technologists, and the traditional-minded professionals and businesses that fail to adapt will become irrelevant.

But are marketers ready to assume the role?

Marketing software is a burgeoning space, being fueled by venture capital funding, mergers, acquisitions, and initial public offerings (IPOs). While the money accelerates innovation, it also creates a complex and fluid matrix of players and possibilities for marketers to navigate.

As the numbers of devices, screens, and channels expand, it becomes more difficult for marketers to create a connected customer experience. Marketers are often faced with the difficult decisions of best-in-breed versus all-in- one solutions, and legacy systems versus the latest and greatest. Siloed platforms and processes only widen the gap. Marketing technology systems must be integrated, with the ability to share and interpret data.

A strong marketing technology foundation is critical to driving performance. Fully integrated core-marketing technologies improve efficiencies, maximize productivity and return on investment (ROI), and create competitive advantages. Yet, many businesses lack, or are underutilizing, fundamental marketing technologies. For example, PR 20/20’s “2014 Marketing Score Report” tells us: 

  • 53 percent of organizations do not have call tracking, which enables organizations to monitor and report offline conversions and assign full value attribution to the proper marketing channels.
  • 41 percent of organizations do not have internal social networks, which strengthen internal communications, corporate cultures, employee relationships, and employee retention rates.
  • 20 percent of organizations do not have marketing analytics, which means they have zero insight into online behavior, including visits, referral sources, page views, time on site, and conversions.

The Marketing Strategy Gap 

When, “What do you think will be most important to marketers in the next three years?” the most popular response out of 13 choices was social media marketing, at only 13 percent, with personalization and targeting second, at 12 percent. Content marketing, which is one of the hottest trends in marketing, came in 10th place at five percent. 

The lack of consensus could simply be attributed to variances in industry, budgets, company size, geographic region, or any number of factors, or it could be highlighting a growing strategy gap in which marketers lack the knowledge and capabilities needed to effectively prioritize activities and allocate resources.

B2C and B2B Consumers Take Control 

We have entered the age of content, context, and the customer experience

In what Google (@google) calls the “Zero Moment of Truth,” consumers increasingly tap into the wealth of data and information available to them and research products in advance of purchases. Gone are the days when a marketing stimulus, such as an advertisement, direct mail piece, or cold call, leads directly to a sale. Google found that shoppers reference an average of 10.4 sources before making a purchasing decision.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) and B2B audiences crave knowledge, answers, and entertainment, while marketers strive to provide remarkable brand experiences that capture the hearts and minds of their prospects and customers. 

Leading brands have become storytellers, seeking to engage and influence audiences in a real-time, multi- screen world, at all phases of the customer journey.

Marketers create videos, podcasts, blog posts, apps, webinars, newsletters, infographics, magazines, and events, all with the intention of connecting with audiences in more meaningful ways. They strive to create value, or, as author Jay Baer (@JayBaer) says in his New York Times bestselling book, Youtility, marketers aim to create content so useful, prospects and customers would want to pay for it. 

The new marketing imperative is to create more value, for more people, more often, so when it is time for consumers to choose a product, service, or company, they choose yours. When done well, brand content answers questions, inspires, and motivates audiences to take action, helping marketers to stand out from the competition. So, as marketers, all we have to do is become publishers, tell great stories, and give consumers the content they seek. Right?

Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

The marketing industry needs storytellers, but content creation and distribution is not enough. While content marketing gives us the ability to produce visitors, leads, and sales, marketers must go beyond storytelling to deliver personalized, highly relevant communications across all channels.

Next-generation marketers have a clear understanding of how their actions impact business goals. Closed-loop sales monitoring and analytics ensure marketers can tie activities to metrics that matter, accurately attribute customer conversions to the appropriate marketing channels, easily identify bottlenecks in marketing campaigns and sales processes, and continually improve over time.

Top marketers develop and activate assets at all phases of the marketing funnel. They build reach and brand at the top of the funnel, generate leads and convert sales in the middle, and retain customers and increase loyalty at the bottom.

Talent Gap + Technology Gap + Strategy Gap = Performance Gap 

Gaps in marketing talent, technology, and strategy are leading to the most significant gap of all—the performance gap. Marketers believe measurement is important, but most are struggling to do it well. Reaching and influencing customers, measuring campaign performance, and proving marketing ROI are among the greatest concerns to marketers. 

So, if you feel overwhelmed, underprepared, understaffed, and under increasing pressure to perform despite the odds, you are not alone. Your peers and competitors face the same imposing marketing gaps.

Traditional talent, technologies, and strategies must evolve. This is your opportunity to reengineer your approach and reimagine what is possible for your business.

Image Source: Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

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