Marketing is a discipline that evolves with the changing business environment and the concept of market – whether it is the definition of market segments or new customer requirements. From being a traditional product-driven to a consumer-focused approach, then to a human and more recently to a digital centric design, marketing has been constantly evolving. Marketing 5.0, where we are currently poised today, requires the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to play the role of the Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT) who is empowered with new technologies like AI and ML, to create consumer experiences that focus on ‘the job to be done’.
The root cause of this rapid evolution is customer expectations. The amount of information a customer has had access to, at any point of time, is exponentially higher than what he has had in the past. This has been possible, primarily because of the digital media and easier access to computing devices. Social platforms and apps are constantly delivering breaking news and instant messages purely because the millennials and digital natives who extensively use them expect and demand instant solutions for their requirements.
The adoption of technology, and thereafter increase in expectations has never been as high as it is today, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic lockdowns. E-commerce thrives not only in the metros but has reached even the remote villages across the country. The ability to access the platform on any device, anytime, anywhere and across any channel, premise has lost its value and the world has become a smaller place.
And in return, brands and business houses are listening intently to the new-age customers, in an effort to absorb the latter’s expectations. Personalised customer experience has today become the ‘new normal’ and customers expect sellers to understand their requirements and cater to them accordingly. Personalised marketing efforts are focused on appreciating the uniqueness of every customer rather than placing all of them together into a homogenous bracket.
This rapid evolution, though brilliant for both businesses and customers, has left marketeers gasping for breath. Gone are the days where one made an annual plan and then focused only on execution. Now, the timeline is down to the quarter, and even then, it has to be dynamic. The marketeer has to constantly listen, and tweak strategies based on what the data says. One has to keep themselves updated on trends and best practices – a week’s vacation and you are sure to fall behind. It is believed that there are roughly two technology-based marketing tools launched every minute across the world, and though many are clones, the value they add improves with every new update or launch. The lines that separate digital and physical are non-existent – omnichannel is here to stay – and this further complicates the landscape.
Identifying and bridging the marketing skills’ gap is imperative
The marketeer’s relationship with the digital world has never been so important, like it is today and this trend is likely to continue in the future too with marketing technology gaining traction. Second only to technology, marketing has the maximum number of “open jobs”, thanks to the unavailability of relevantly skilled marketeers. This is an opportunity for every marketeer. Continuous up-skilling cannot only keep you relevant, but will also help deliver greater value from within the ecosystem.
Some skills to tank up on
1. Performance marketing skills – Build on the traditional knowledge of SEO and SEM with hyperlocal SEO, Re-marketing, Content marketing, Bots and more. Learn how to use AI tools to fine tune campaigns and get better returns for your investment.
2. Community marketing – The pandemic has gotten all of us to realise that we don’t really need physical events to do business. Virtual events, webinars and workshops have all been tested and tried over the last 18 months and are already delivering results. Virtual communities based on common interests have gained traction – it’s a great way to learn from peers and keep in touch with what’s new and happening. Effectively leveraging professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, Coffeemug to connect and convert is a good option.
3. Retail marketing –Traditional retail is passé for it is more of a marketing game today. With ecommerce going viral, skills like cross-channel integrations and omnichannel are becoming important. Parallel experiences like geofencing (for awareness), virtual reality (for interest), web applications (for desire and decision making) and personalised cross platform fulfilment (for faster action), are some of the tools used in the digital era for retail marketing.
4. Social media marketing – Automation has taken over in this segment – to listen, respond, connect and engage. Evaluation of tools to understand what suits your organization the best and then learning how to use them most effectively is something every social media marketeer should do on a continuous basis. Leveraging influencers, the art of story-telling, omni-platform engagement, and using user generated content are also valuable skills to get equipped with.
5. Marketing management – With all things being driven digitally, data has become the king. And though, data scientists and vendors alike can present data, it is important for managers to learn how to dig deeper, ask the right questions, and make better inferences. Data analytics therefore, is a skill every manager should learn, even if only to know what to ask. Staying up-to-date on automation tools and the extent of what they can do, help in adding value and efficiency. Other skills a marketing manager might need to add is a global view of his or her industry, and the contract or outsourced market.
How to upgrade your skills?
If the need to upskill has gone up, the availability of knowledge has also peaked. There are many self-paced online education platforms that you can go to and pick topics of interest. And do remember to update your LinkedIn profile after every course you complete. One good way to leverage this across the team is by organising internal workshops and brainstorming sessions. This not only gets the team at large to learn more, it also gives the original learner credibility and confidence.
For deeper learning though, I have found workshops and certified courses be more effective. The community learning – as a class or team tends to teach more than the trainer sometimes. A quick search can throw up a whole host of specialised certifications from some very good institutes. Both short-term certification programs and long-term courses that are most relevant are provided by academia and industry, and the training is available to those who want to update themselves.
Regularly attending webinars, virtual events and round-tables can give an insight into new developments in the industry.
Identifying thought leaders in marketing and regularly following them on LinkedIn, YouTube or Ted Talks can prove valuable to professionals in the domain.
Soft skills such as effective communication, social skills, learning to create powerful narratives that match the market and customer sentiment continue to remain priority areas for marketeers. Working on developing a higher EQ can help in reading customers and making effective decisions.
In a constantly evolving world, up-skilling and updating oneself is the only way to ensure business continuity (from an organisational perspective) and staying relevant (from an individual’s perspective). It is imperative for successful marketeers to be willing to adapt and grow constantly, to continuously learn and reinvent oneself. There is, after all, nothing called bad marketing – only obsolete marketeers. What matters is that one strives not to fall into the latter bucket.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.