Digital is now projected to consume over 50% of marketing and advertising budgets, yet most marketers (especially senior marketers) grew up in a traditional marketing world. The world of digital, marketing and even consumers change quickly, so marketers need to be able to adapt to succeed.
Modern marketing isn’t just about digital – it is about a new way of working that is more agile, analytical, and accountable. In order for marketers (and all business professionals) to continue to thrive and grow in a quicker-paced data-filled world, we need to upgrade our skills.
It isn’t just about knowledge or traditional technical skills – it is just as much about the soft skills that will make you a huge asset to any team.
1. Sharp Strategic Thinking
Marketers must become very sharp strategic thinkers to succeed in digital. Digital is like a precision scalpel when we are used to using an ax. Digital advertising, for example, is much more complex with choices of channels, objectives, placements, formats, and more that should all be strategically chosen to match business objectives.
With the vast array of tools available and the complexity of them, marketers must be even sharper in their Goals, Strategies, Objectives, and Tactics.
2. Digital Generalist Knowledge
In order to make smart choices, marketers (and arguably, all business professionals) need basic digital marketing foundational knowledge. They need to understand how digital technologies and tools work in order to make smart strategic decisions.
While most marketers don’t need to be implementation experts, digital savviness will ensure that they can make smart choices among options and drive the performance of teams or agencies. This is difficult to do without a solid foundational understanding.
3. Analytical Skills
There is so much big and small data now available and marketers must become masters at understanding and analyzing it. This means not just looking at reports, but being able to dig-in and derive meaning from the numbers.
While marketers pontificate about “big data” the reality is that most don’t make enough use of the data currently available to them. Data is the key to driving results.
4. Consumer Experience Driven
While digital and technology are great, it is really all about the consumer experience. The best marketers keep the consumer front and center and are able to empathize and create meaningful experiences for their customers.
Driving consumer experiences is at the heart of all business and marketing.
5. Integrated Thinker
The best marketing (and businesses really) focus on the consumer – not silos or tactics. They think big-picture and can integrate what is going on.
Modern marketers see how everything is integrated and are able to break down silos to connect the dots and deliver.
Marketing is about connecting puzzle pieces – and we still don’t do a good enough job at that. Media agencies must connect with creative, strategy and analytics to drive results. It is a connected world.
Successful marketers are able to seamlessly collaborate across functions, organizations, and agencies to drive results.
7. ROI and Financial Mindset
While there is more data available to calculate ROI and measure results, marketers must become experts at understanding the drivers of ROI and being able to make smart investment choices based on investment and impact.
Vanity and hype programs that win awards but don’t connect with consumers aren’t going to cut it with financially savvy marketers that can see and calculate ROI. Marketers who can think in terms of the business and financial impact will have an edge in helping their company make smarter choices.
8. Communication Skills
Both internal and external communication are becoming more and more important. Whether it is about selling your ideas internally or selling your products to a consumer, marketers need to be sharp communicators.
People are more distracted than ever before, so you need to break through the clutter to drive impact.
Things change fast. Curiosity means that you are looking, listening, learning and exploring how things work. The deeper you dig the more value you can bring.
Whether it is in terms of consumer insights, understanding technology or digging into the drivers of a result, the curious will hold the answers.
The main reason ad agencies and marketers won’t be replaced by robots is because of their creativity. Creativity is about how you apply something. It isn’t just visual/design/campaign creativity – but creativity in how you use digital tools.
The winners in digital are those who creatively use a new tool or technology to get an edge – not the ones who adopt or understand the technology first.
11. Deep Thinking
In a fast-paced multitasking world, we’ve forgotten about the power of thinking and focus. Big problems require thought. Focus. Attention. Ideas.
Marketers need to create time to think. To solve problems. To get out ahead of things. Avoid multi-tasking (you can’t do it anyway) and spend more time thinking. Approaching something smarter is better than faster.
12. Learn Quickly & Frequently
To keep an edge you have to be able to learn quickly and frequently. It isn’t enough to do periodic formal training and move on. You need to be able to quickly see something new, understand it and implement it.
Consumers change fast. Technology changes fast. The market changes fast.
13. Disciplined Brand Building
In the age of digital, we often get so caught up in the mechanics and technology that we forget about the brand. The reality is that the winners in marketing are passionate and disciplined brand builders.
The brand has a clear and consistent tone, values and representation. With so many more touch-points disciplined and consistent branding is more important than ever. It isn’t about the design or the logos, but bringing the brand promise to life in a compelling way.
This may sound counter-intuitive but the reality is that much of marketing fails. The problem is that by the time we know it failed we have already moved on to the next thing.
With so much data available we know the results. Worse than failure is to continue doing something that doesn’t perform because you don’t know. Modern marketers embrace failing as the path to learning and celebrate failures as successes. This is how we improve.
15. Goals and KPI Driven
Marketing is becoming radically transparent which means that we can immediately see the impact. Marketers still aren’t used to this and we tend to be activity driven.
Modern marketers focus relentlessly on working to improve results and hit targets. Marketing is becoming more active – where we try different things in different ways until we hit a target vs. putting a campaign forward and crossing our fingers.
Adaptability will be one of the keys to long-term success. In the world of change management, there are always those who resist change and simply don’t want to adapt.
Those who can adapt will win. When social media started to emerge as a strong marketing tool the perception was that young people had the advantage. The reality was that most of the big names in social media marketing had over 20 years of marketing experience and were not the tech-obsessed young people.
They were adaptable and saw a shift and jumped on it.
Marketing is shifting from activity drive to results driven. It is about what you can deliver in measurable ways, not getting a project complete.
Marketers need to shift to focus on the results and actively manage activities to get the results they need.