Over the last decade, marketing has shifted from a relatively creative profession to a data-driven one. Whether we’re talking how to target our customers more effectively or how to measure success, today’s marketers are expected to know more about data and analytics than ever before.
In many ways, this is great because we can ensure our marketing efforts have an impact. But what if your marketing team has few “left-brain” people?
A recent Spiceworks report, Tech Marketer Career Outlook, shows less than half of marketers are advanced in data analysis, content marketing, and digital media, even though they’re considered among the top five most important skills for today’s marketers. All three of these skillsets require “left brain” analytical skills to be successful, which may explain why many marketers are less advanced in these areas than in writing and communication.
One of the challenges is that most marketers are not technologists, even though a lot of what we deliver is supported by complicated technology. Modern marketing has evolved dramatically in the last decade. We have applied technology and science principles to marketing so quickly that there’s now an inherent shortage of marketing people who excel in data, measurement, and analytics.
But to run a successful marketing program today, the skills gap is important to address. In fact, core knowledge of content marketing, digital media, and data analysis is quickly becoming table stakes for marketers. It’s equivalent to writing skills in the 1950s. If you couldn’t write, you couldn’t be in marketing or advertising back then. Today, if you don’t know how to influence an audience and analyze your success, you can’t be a marketer.
Content marketing: Know your audience and know how to reach them
The purpose of content marketing is to get customers and prospects interested in hearing from your company. It requires you to understand your audience well and provide them with content that meets a specific need, be it an entertainment, education, or buying need. It’s about creating the content they want versus the content you want to create.
But most importantly, marketers must have patience and build an audience first. And unless you have millions of dollars to advertise your content, you won’t build an audience overnight.
Second, marketers need to know who they’re writing for — not what business. What person? And with what purpose? Once that’s understood, you can begin to think about what are the best ways to engage your audience and what type of content resonates with them.
Third, marketers must make their content easy to find, which is closely tied to SEO. This requires an understanding of Google algorithms and knowledge of how to frame content in the right way using the right keywords and tags. To be successful in content marketing, marketers must marry the discipline of understanding your audience with the technical SEO discipline. The next step is giving content marketing a boost, and that leads us into digital media.
Digital media: Work wisely within the media complexity
Although it sounds simple on the surface, digital media is more complicated than most marketers realize. It promises to target anyone in the world with an unthinkable amount of online data. But is it quality data and is it coming from a reliable source? And how do you know if you’re targeting the right audience? And how many times are you reaching the same people with no interest over and over again?
In many cases, marketers automate their digital media execution and leave it up to computers to determine when and where to place their ads, but that could have some unintended consequences when your ad shows up in a radical news site that doesn’t align with your brand. Digital media has quickly become very complex and is heavily data driven. The algorithms that do it at scale can only be done by a machine.
Still, it’s critical for marketers to understand the different layers of digital media. Even if they’re using an agency instead of executing the strategy themselves, digital media must be guided by some broader principles and guidelines to ensure it does what the marketer wants it to do.
Data analysis: Align the measurements
One of the biggest challenges in marketing is measuring the impact of your efforts, particularly in B2B. It’s rare to find linear transactions that you often see in B2C where a customer clicks on an email from a retailer and immediately purchases a product. It’s more difficult for B2B marketers to pinpoint how their efforts led to a conversation with sales.
For example, if a marketer asks a customer how they heard about their brand or why they came to their website, most customers will think of the biggest influence but not the first influence. They may forget they saw a billboard on the highway or several online ads in the last month. But they will remember a colleague who recommended your product. Marketers can’t rely on self-reporting to truly understand how they’re influencing their targets.
To effectively measure your impact, marketers must use data to build models that provide insight into how your marketing efforts are contributing to your organization’s larger business objectives. Too often, measurement models aren’t instrumented with the right input or analyzed correctly, so marketers don’t get credit for what they do or who they’ve influenced.
Ultimately, there has to be a balance on the marketing team between creative and analytical people, because a successful marketing program requires skills on both sides. However, we should be careful not to overcorrect. Digital media, content marketing, and data analysis are all skills we need as marketers, but we shouldn’t forget what our core job is – to influence people. And that still requires creativity.