Here is something we know: as a whole, organizations are still not seeing the full benefit of marketing automation systems. To support this, I drummed up some numbers from research firm IDC: B2B companies report at minimum a 10 percent loss in revenue per year due to a lack of sales and marketing alignment around the right technology. Ten percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but in revenue, even a little is a lot.
Clearly, we are still missing the mark. But is it a matter of complex technology or old-school marketing mentality? I would argue for the latter. Many marketers were raised in a world of one-way communication. The buyer came directly to the vendor for information and the vendor supplied it directly.
Surprisingly, this traditional marcomm, PR-driven process is still being taught in today’s universities. Carlos Hidalgo, Executive Director of the Marketing Automation Institute, recalls a time when he was guest lecturing an undergraduate marketing class. He says almost every student had no idea what ”B2B” meant, and absolutely none of them had heard of marketing automation software. It seems strange that the children, who are indeed the future, are not being taught about the future of marketing.
Carlos further explains this change that we have seen that has resulted in a role change for marketers:
“It’s no longer about lead generation, it’s about engagement. You’ve got this buyer who is now so well-connected. They can go to sites like Software Advice, Quora, Focus and even Twitter to connect with other buyers. That’s how buyers are now finding information.”
Buyers are engaging differently, and many marketers are unaware of how to bridge the gap between getting buyers interested and starting a valuable dialogue to provide them with the information they actually want and need.
Carlos hopes to address this gap with the Marketing Automation Institute (MAI). The MAI is an organization focused on equipping marketers with the knowledge, skills and principles they need to succeed in this new age of buying and selling. The MAI provides training both in-person and online. Participants that complete a course will be designated Certified Marketing Automation Professionals.
In a talk with Carlos, I asked him what skills were the most critical for marketers looking to be successful with marketing automation software. He pointed out four:
- Analytics and metrics: Marketing is still a creative endeavor, but with the integration of modern technology, it is becoming more of a numbers game. Marketers are now expected to be able to know how to measure their performance and the performance of every campaign as it relates to revenue. Why? Because now they can.
- Lead management strategy: Traditionally, marketers were focused on stuffing the top of the funnel with leads. This is not lead management. This is lead capture. The modern marketer has to be able to see the pipeline as a whole, measuring their efforts in relation to the rest of the pipeline. This is done by working with sales to properly define all the stages of the buyer’s journey. From there, they can develop a strategy to support that journey.
- Content marketing: If today’s buying environment is all about engagement, how exactly do marketers engage? It’s simple: with compelling content. Content is made up of a variety of things - blog posts, white papers, social media, video, etc. Marketers need to be able
to build a content strategy that will appeal to the needs and desires of their target audience. They must then use their marketing automation system to measure the effectiveness of that content. This allows them to consistently produce the highest quality content that will engage the buyer.
- Social media: Like it or not, it’s here to stay. In fact, the last CRM conference I attended was focused almost entirely on social media and how it can be used to engage and collaborate with your buyers. Much like content, social media requires a strategy. Because it is still a relatively new area of marketing, there is no real right or wrong way to go about it. Marketers have to pick a starting point, identifying what they want to accomplish with social media. Then, once they execute on that strategy, they can monitor their efforts with marketing automation. See what works and what doesn’t. Getting social media down this early in the game will be an invaluable asset to any marketer.
These skills are absolutely necessary, but they do not make up the gamut. In my research and by talking with other experts, I came across a few more skills. One person pointed out the need for marketers to understand the value of a clearly defined process. Layering technology on top of chaos will only create more chaos. Many marketers stressed data. Marketers have to understand not only the importance of data, but how to turn it into actionable insight. Gossamer called it a change from art to science, which I think captures the paradigm shift quite nicely.
What are your thoughts? What skills are absolutely necessary for the modern marketer? Which ones are no longer relevant?