Marketing fit for the digital age

What sort of skills and competences you need to thrive in a digital age?

Digital marketing age

POSTED ON: Sunday, July 9th, 2017


So you have your marketing plan sorted out and you know a large part of that includes digital marketing (if not, see our previous article in this series for some useful pointers).  Now you just need to make it happen. Unless you’re going to do it all yourself (ill-advised given all of the other pressures on the SME owner manager) you’re going to need to set up some sort of marketing function to make it all happen.  You know from your marketing plan what the function is supposed to be doing and how much you can afford to spend on it.  The question is now what sort of skills and competences you need to thrive in a digital age.

The digital age of marketing certainly produces some new challenges:

  • Fluffy is dead. Pretty much everything is measureable nowadays and whenever something’s measurable, someone can and should be made accountable for it.
  • The digital environment is fragmented and noisy. Gone are the days of a limited number of commercial TV channels, radio stations and magazines. Digital has fragmented the market and increased choice.  This has two main implications: (1) the need to be highly scientific in your targeting (i.e. driven by data and analytics rather than opinion and guesswork) and (2) creative flair to ensure your message is heard above the noise in your targeted areas.
  • Data and analysis. The age-old fundamental question of marketing “how much does it cost to find out” has never been truer than in the digital world. Technology, data and analytics when properly used means you can afford not to guess on marketing decisions.

Marketing needs to be both analytical and creative

Historically one might have got away with being scientific but dull or creative but opinion based.  In today’s world, you need to be both scientific and creative.  Your marketing function needs analytical, data-driven people who can also understand brand, storytelling and experiential marketing. In practice, these skillsets are not always comfortable bedfellows in the same individual and you may need to make sure you have both.

And of course, the ability to manage them so that they work together.  See our previous blog series on people management for some pointers on roles, competences and recruitment if you haven’t already. You can have the most brilliant creative marketing messages, delivered to the right people in the right way.  But it will be useless if you don’t have the organisational grip to process the consequences – i.e. guiding warm leads into prospects, into hot leads and then on to becoming customers.

Test & measure

Technology and data are also, unsurprisingly, a hugely important part of your marketing function.  A key to success in a digital marketing world is to perform the cycle of failure, learning, and evolving very quickly.  The implications of this are that firstly you need to know you’ve failed (i.e. based on data and analysis) and secondly, that you can learn from it quickly to try something different until you find what works.  Technology (and people that can use it) are key to enabling this cycle to work quickly and efficiently.

Coping with 24/7

How your marketing function operates culturally is also subject to rapid evolution in a digital world. Customers interact with your brands 24 hours per day and you will need to be able to cope with this to interact with them on their terms (rather than yours).  This makes rapid prototyping and iteration (i.e. fail fast, learn, try again) even more important.

Culturally your function needs to promote agility and responsiveness in the way your people think and work. In today’s world we expect “instant” feedback / answers and businesses have to find a way of coping and managing an ever-changing on-line environment where any message, positive or negative is there for everyone to see

The impact of legislation

Legislation is slowly catching up with technology and imposing limitations that give “consumer” protection. The latest changes in the GDPR legislation limit what can be done with personal data, bringing B2B marketing practise inline withB2C (e.g. direct email).  Failure to comply carries the threat of heavy sanctions so keeping up to date is key. See our blog on this topic later in the series but suffice to say that an area already requiring analytical and administrative competence is just about to get more complicated and with increased compliance risk.

The journey to digital marketing maturity

We find it helpful to think about marketing functions as being on a journey from ‘Immature’ through to ‘Developing’ and then on to ‘Mature’.  And we think about those under five headings:

  1. Creativity – vision, strategy, campaign development, idea generation
  2. Technology – understanding, selecting and using appropriately
  3. Data – managing, analysing for insight and acting on that insight
  4. People – presence and balance of skills, teamwork and customer focus
  5. Working practice – management, systems and process that bring it all together.

We can put these together into a map – download a copy here and see where your function sits!

As ever, if you would like external perspective or help on any of the above, do get in touch or book a free business help session here.