Psst! Your Skills Require an Upgrade

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performance_landscape_small.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE – The proliferation of the World Wide Web (WWW), the fall of the Berlin Wall and technological innovations that are driving network, processing and storage capacities have unleashed an unending cascade of changes that have dramatically altered the skills a successful marketer requires to really stand out from the crowd.

Not to freak you out, but remember: there are myriad new markets, millions of new buyers, countless new media options, and new innovative research and analysis tools all driving the need for a major skills upgrade. Marketers must be able to examine global opportunities, rather than domestic.

Direct marketing, once primarily paper and physically-based now take digital, virtual and mobile forms. The four-color, high-gloss corporate brochure is now the company Web site. Breakfast seminars with 25 people in single city, are being replaced with 7×24 global webcasts and podcasts. Mass media once considered impersonal, in some forms can now be personalized. Campaigns targeting finite sedentary audiences now contemplate mobile and infinite.

Manual tallying of campaign results is now — indeed has to be — automated in order to keep up with the pace of activities and vast volumes of data. Integrated marketing campaigns once offline and thought a ruse for vast unsubstantiated marketing expenditures are now online and offline and measurable at every step of the way. We have gone from subjective marketing campaigns to objective marketing campaigns.

We are living in a world where change is pervasive, and the impact on the marketer is profound. Marketers are being forced to master international skills, online skills, analysis skills, innovations in marketing technologies, and more. Curiously, one thing has not changed: the need for strong knowledge of fundamental marketing skills. Unfortunately, what I have witnessed over the past several years of running marketing departments is that there is a severe and growing shortage of these fundamental skills.

My experiences were supported in a series of interviews with a number of marketing managers. It seems as though the last decade’s emphasis on mastering new media and using Web-based technologies to track the results of marketing initiatives are having the desired effect. That is the good news and the bad news. These skills have been improving at the expense of the core skills that have always been essential to the development of effective campaigns and to diagnosing the root cause of why campaigns falter. Without these skills marketing professionals are experiencing campaigns with global reach that can sing and dance across the computer screen of anyone who responds, generating millions of visitors, downloads, and page views, but that produce poor ROI and cannot support an organization’s revenue objectives. Worse, marketers are ill-prepared to diagnose why the campaigns have failed.

To succeed in marketing today, a marketing professional must incorporate the newest skills for online, international, analysis and technological innovations into a strong fundamental marketing skill set, which includes: (1) conducting effective marketing research; (2) developing successful marketing strategies; and (3) understanding the effectiveness of promotional mix elements for a given strategy.

Marketing research skills are required to: identify the attractiveness of market opportunities anywhere in the world; to help identify the elements of a successful product that will be positioned to be competitively superior in some valuable and sustainable way; to define the characteristics (behaviors, psychographic, demographics, etc.) of the various target buyers, influencers and target markets (geographic, horizontal and vertical), and to understand the best ways to reach the targets.

When it comes to online campaign design, marketing research is needed to help answer questions, such as: What is the profile of your target buyer and/or target organization? What target buyers are receptive to online initiatives? What Web sites do target buyers visit? Why do they visit these sites? What interests them? When do they visit? Are they using search? What engines do they use? How do they think about your solutions – what terms might they type in? The good news is that a lot of this research can be conducted online. Gone are the days of trekking to the public library and sorting through some periodicals guide to literature and schlepping across the country to conduct a focus group.

Marketing research, done right, will provide a foundation that permits the development of an informed marketing strategy – which is a plan that cannot lose. This plan revolves around a product whose sources of differentiation and value to the target buyer are central to the product’s evolution and to all communications. But, talking about sources of differentiation is necessary but not sufficient. Communications strategies must also address whether you are communicating to local or global audiences. Are you communicating with end users, resellers or suppliers?

Do your target buyers care about how your product has been built or are they more interested in the benefits it delivers — how it can help them? Will you need to educate your targets on what your product does and how it can help them, or are they informed and more interested in how your product is better than competitive offerings? Having these strategic elements thoughtfully defined will guard against the execution of marketing campaigns that generate lots of visitors and page views from all corners of the earth but few interested buyers.

Beyond being strategically rooted, an effective campaign must incorporate the right mix of promotions; a task that has reached a new level of complexity. With customers spanning the globe, creating promotions that target specific customer types can be an exercise in micro-segmentation. Fortunately the sophisticated web analytics tools available today permit this micro possibility.

As to media selection; for every type of old media there is a new e-media analogue, complete with thousands of vehicles to choose from. Then there is the completely new and powerful world of online search. Which online and offline mix elements you choose must be tied to the preferences of your target markets and buyers, with consideration of course to budgets, ROI and other stated objectives. You can be sure of one thing though, marketing budgets will continue to shift from offline to online and the options for online marketing will continue to evolve. One reason is greater ROI but the other is the ability to monitor and measure performance.

This brings up yet another skill that marketers must have in their tool bags. Marketers must be skilled at analysis and building integrated campaigns with measurable objectives. Gone are the days of hiding behind that cloak of no measurable data or an inability to track diverse initiatives. With that, gone too are the excuses for why marketers cannot create reports on campaign ROI — with details on performance metrics for each integrated initiative. Today these reports are required and offer a great barometer of what is working and what is not.

A marketing career today offers an incredibly rich and rewarding experience, but you have to have the right up-to-date skill mix. Failing this, your career will be plagued by products and campaigns that can’t fulfill their objectives. Your skill mix must be framed around a solid core of marketing fundamentals, which now incorporates international marketing, new media, framing ROI and the latest in marketing technology innovations. Because change is pervasive you’ll need to keep your skills fresh.

A career in marketing can be fun and exciting. It can also be fulfilling; you can take pride that you are playing a significant role in the success of your company. A career in marketing is for the adventurous, those who love to learn and those who want to make a difference.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The article is right on target. Today’s marketeer must have or at least understand web tools, analze data, AND have basic marketing slills to understand marketing problems.

    Our company is a great example of a firm that needs the skills Kathleen reveiws and ther many others in the Bay area.

  2. Hey, Bruce,

    I went to your web site and (from the outside looking in) you’re in a lot better shape than many tech companies I’ve worked with… Which is great, because if you’re admitting a need for the WebTrends seminar series, at least you’re part of the growing group of enlightened tech (and other industry) marketers who recognize the power of learning from others… That’s the beauty of sharing information online with others, isn’t it?

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