Marketers have seen their jobs change quickly in the last few years. This transformation continues and is even becoming more accelerated. According to the recent research report ‘The rise of the marketer’ by The Economist Intelligence Unit amongst 478 high-level marketing executives worldwide, more than 80% say that marketing needs to be restructured in a manner that better supports the business. 29% of this group says this transformation is urgently needed.
Why is the restructuring so important? And why do European marketers in particular agree with this? Almost 90% of the European marketers see a need to adjust the marketing organisation, in comparison to 72% of the North-American marketers. In this article I will focus on the transformation and what it means for the marketing organisation. Also I will explore the differences between North-American and European marketers.
The transformation to a five-minute-mile marathoner
“The best marketers are five-minute-mile marathoners who combine speed and stamina”, says The Economist in response to six interviews with marketing gurus worldwide. Most marketing teams are not fully equipped for an “always-on” society. The customer, whether it is a consumer or a B2B-customer, wants to have 24/7 information and fast responses to questions or requests.
The marketer however is already happy with a mapped customer journey, but they don’t realise that the customer does not always follow the speed and sequence of that journey. You must be able to quickly think, adapt and respond via the right channel at the right moment with the right message.
An example of the fact that we still have a long way to go, especially in B2B marketing, is the social media efforts of marketing departments of bigger companies (in Europe). They limit themselves to Monday till Friday from 9 to 5. Is the customer ‘off’ on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning? I don’t think so. At ING 97% of the customer contact is digitally. Of course this requires a modification of the organisation. Vincent van den Boogert, director consumers at ING, recently spoke at the conference ‘Business goes digital’: “The question is not what the next trend is, but how you can organise everything within your organisation so that you are ready to respond to every trend instantly.”
New structures and skills on the to-do list
So if you want to respond to the transformation, you should organise yourself in a different way. Moreover, marketers should have a different set of skills than before. Only then you can meet the needs of the new era of marketing, an era in which engagement with the customer comes first. As I wrote recently in an earlier article, engagement is being seen as an important link in the phase after the prospect has become a customer. Engagement can only be achieved if you have the customer experience in place and this role could be played perfectly by marketing.
But where do we need to invest in to take that role and develop it for the coming years? ‘The rise of the marketer’ research gives us the following answers:
- Digital engagement (40%)
- Marketing operations & technology (40%)
- Strategy & planning skills (38%)
Marketing leaders recognise that in this age of real-time marketing, strong strategic thinking is essential to the ability to adapt to the market and their customer needs. Thus suddenly making the term ‘agility’ a hype, marketers must be fast and agile to keep up with their customers and the market.
Marketers should start thinking strategic and agility is a part of that
In addition to the report mentioned, there has been quite a lot spoken and written about the topic agile marketing. Chris Kenton, CEO and founder of SocialRep: “Many marketers agree that agility is a key component in approaching demand generation, content marketing and social marketing. Short sprints, trial and error and continue to adjust, work very well in marketing campaigns. Also an agile method works well for product marketing. During product development you want to test and improve a product, and by doing so ensure that the user or customers is already involved at an early stage.
Working in short result-oriented sprints seems to be the key to success. But, and it is important to realise, it does not mean that everything needs to be agile in marketing. I have read more about this in the eBook Five principles for agile marketing. Something like a corporate identity or a positioning strategy are examples of long-term subjects within marketing, which you should not handle in a typical iteratively way. In short, you need both an agile ecosystem, you want to be flexible and respond to new trends and ideas. But you still need a structured base plan, which strategists need within your marketing team.
Operational and data skills are important, in combination with understanding the bigger picture
If we zoom in on digital engagement and marketing operations & technology experts, we should consider the following type of marketers: A technically oriented project manager who is also a data manager, with the vision of a business strategist. The new marketer should manage all the details, they are the doers in marketing campaigns, analytics, data, marketing automation, etc. They must be able to link the details and metrics to the overarching business objectives.
Being able to measure ROI is an important condition for success in the new era of marketing.
A research published earlier this year about B2B marketing performance management in the Netherlands, showed that companies who perform better in terms of marketing performance management have:
- A clear structure to monitor budgets and to link costs with the results of campaigns
- More focus on online marketing and knowledge of the tools that are used to keep track of the marketing results
- Experience with marketing automation tools that are being integrated with CRM-systems
- Top-level management that proactively implement improvement initiatives.
In short, the most recent studies show that operational and data skills are important, but in combination with understanding the bigger picture. The transformation of marketing affects the way we work and affects the skillset of the marketer dramatically.
The marketer in Europe
The only thing left to discuss, is the difference between the marketer in North America and the marketer in Europe. What stands out in the research ‘The rise of the marketer’ is that 90% of the European marketers realize that a transformation of marketing is necessary, compared to 72% in North America. A small group who agree that the urgency for this transformation is big, are the same marketers now primarily seen as a cost centre. And guess what, these are mainly the Europeans, according to the survey.
They see the urgency for marketing to contribute to profit, to take responsibility for the customer’s experience and engagement, and to attract new talent and invest in data and technology.