5 Must-Have Skills for the Modern Marketer

James A. Martin
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Key Takeaways
​Here are the five must-have skills for the modern marketer.

​From a magnifying glass to a cocktail shaker, today’s marketer needs at least five skills to survive and thrive in the complex marketing landscape. At least this is the key takeaway from the MarTech USA conference in San Francisco this month, hosted by Scott Brinker, editor and publisher of the Chiefmartec blog.

Here are the five must-have skills for the modern marketer:

Magnifying glass: What are you seeing?

In his annually updated and highly anticipated martech landscape infographic, Brinker estimates there are now about 3,874 marketing technology products available. That’s up from nearly 2,000 last year and around 1,000 in 2014. Put another way, the number of marketing technology software solutions has doubled every year.

(MarTech USA conference attendance has similarly ballooned, from about 1,500 last year to about 2,500 attendees, according to Third Door Media, which produces the conference.)

Marketers will need a magnifying glass to make sense of this year’s vendor landscape graphic. Seriously, though, a magnifying glass symbolizes a marketer’s need to look closely at an exploding number of vendor options.

Brinker sees a landscapes six main clusters of marketing technology products: advertising and promotion, content and experience, social and relationships, commerce and sales, data, and management. Under those categories, the largest subgrouping is sales automation and intelligence with 220 products, followed by social media marketing and monitoring (186) and display and programmatic advertising (180).

The landscape initially focused on marketing technology software suites, Brinker says. Then it evolved into platforms. Today, marketers live in multi-platform environments, in which they add various specialized but often integrated tools from multiple vendors to their marketing stack. In larger companies, there typically isn’t a single dominant marketing technology platform, rather there’s a platform for marketing automation, a platform for CRM, and so on.

To this end, most vendors are getting better at integrating their product with others in the marketing technology ecosystem, Brinker says. The growth of integration Platforms as a Service, enhanced tag management and cloud/data integration products makes it easier than ever for organizations to build best-in-breed marketing systems.

Balancing innovation and scalability

Marketers face the daunting task of balancing innovation and scalability, which are “diametrically opposed,” Brinker says. Innovation is about failing fast, while scalability is about not failing at all. Innovation explores the unknown, while scalability exploits the tried and true. Innovation questions assumptions, while scalability leverages them. 

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The need for both innovation and scalability is behind the trend toward what Brinker calls “bimodal marketing.” In bimodal marketing, marketing spends 70 percent of its focus on “core” operations and 30 percent on “edge” experimentation with new tools and practices.

“The key is to think of these as two separate parts of your organization and to manage them in slightly different ways,” Brinker says.

Event speaker Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology for Shift Communications, says it’s important to have a structure to “create innovation and spread it through the company.” Shift Communications, a data-driven PR agency, uses what Penn described as the LEAD strategy, an acronym for Learn, Experiment, Adjust, and Distribute.

In the Learn part of the model, Shift team members are required to invest 30 minutes a day reading and researching blogs and websites and saving content later for reading. Exercising curiosity can lead marketers to innovation, Penn says. An article about climate change, for instance, may include a data analysis methodology that can be use in marketing.

Fast and agile like a cheetah

“Agility is the new name of the marketing game,” says Shubu Mitra, director of connection planning effectiveness and productivity for Coca-Cola, in a session on agile marketing. “New consumer touch points, like Snapchat, are appearing fast and furious. Touch point behavior morphs fast, like Instagram changing from a chronological feed to a more personalized feed.”

Because changes happen so rapidly, marketing organizations today need to be like cheetahs—ready to spring into action. “Planning is important, but it’s more important to be ready to modify your plans,” Mitra says.

But what does being agile really mean?

For Jennifer Zeszut, CEO of Beckon, it means transitioning from siloed data to integrated, connected data. “If you have reports for what you do in email, on the Web, in TV or elsewhere, you’re just doing a bunch of disconnected stuff,” she says. “Being able to connect the data dots between your channels and tactics and siloes and doing it in a way that’s relevant in the eyes of consumers” helps your organization be more agile.

Conversely, if you’re moving fast but haven’t connected those data dots, you might be moving in the wrong direction. In other words, Agile isn’t just about going faster, says Jascha Kayajas-Wolff, CMO at Mozilla. Rather, he says, “It’s about understanding and estimating throughput”—that is, how quickly a marketing team can get through the work they’re being asked to do.

Customer experience suffers without context


ext marketing is about “owning the customer experience by delivering the right content to the right person in the right place at the right moment, based on the sum total of their past behaviors and current needs,” says Scott Anderson, CMO at Sitecore

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To do this, marketers must understand their mobile consumer and his/her needs. Taco Bell’s mobile app is a great example of context marketing, Anderson says, because it lets customers create custom menu items, store payment methods, connect to local franchises, preorder and pick up food and more.

“Taco Bell understands the important of convenience, personalization and security to its customers, which is why they’re growing while some others (in the fast-food industry) are struggling,” Anderson says.

Lastly, don’t forget the cocktail shaker

A cocktail shaker is the essence of a civilized society (at least to some). It’s also a symbol for what digital marketers need in today’s multi-platform environment.

“Marketing tech is not bought, it is crafted, like a fine cocktail,” says Theresa Regli, principal analyst and managing partner at Real Story Group. In an event session, Regli told an anecdote in which a bartender explained how he created artisanal cocktails by starting with base elements (such as gin), adding bitters or juices, and trying different mixtures until achieving a smooth, satisfying combination.

“You need to do the same thing with your martech stack” by crafting, tasting, testing, and finding the right balance, the right recipe that works for your organization, Regli says.

These five skills are critical for the modern marketer to embrace.

With all this new technology, marketers are still learning how to best use and exploit it. Technology, along with customer data and insights, is helping marketing evolve from the art of communication to the art of customer experience, from passive communications to interactive content such as online calculators and quizzes.

The real story, Brinker says, won’t be about how the marketing technology landscape is expanding. Rather, it’ll be how marketing leverages all these new capabilities.

This article was originally published on Five 2nd Window.

Author Bio:

James A. Martin
James A. Martin is an award-winning, San Francisco-based journalist. He started covering mobile technology sometime after the Apple Newton bellyflopped but before the PalmPilot went viral. You can reach him at jim@jamesamartin.com.
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