The principle of marketing has not changed much over the years. The job of the marketer is to get the product (or service) in front of as many of the right people as possible. That’s true of old world above the line advertising and it’s true of digital marketing that relies on data-rich behavioral analysis.

To be effective, you need to keep up with the trends, the techniques and the technology. One way to keep up is to get ahead – to stay on top of what is coming. I asked several marketing specialists for their thoughts.

Here are the two questions I asked them to answer.

  • How do you think digital marketing will change in the near future?
  • What’s the most important new skill marketing people should adopt?

Tom Bowman

Media and technology specialist (Colab Consulting)

Tom Bowman

“AI is ‘like having a million interns’ at one’s disposal, says Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz. The effect is to extend their work-forces exponentially.

“Just imagine the quality of service you could offer with that firepower. And the good news is AI is the electricity of the 21st century. We can all have it. It is how we use it that matters.

“Digital marketing worth its salt will empower companies to improve their product and service offerings, giving consumers more of what they want (better, cheaper and how they want it). This means inevitable innovation and the prizes going to those who are brave enough to challenge their own established strategy.

“Think Now TV versus Sky Subscriptions. Or ‘pay as you go’ gym membership. Not to mention supper at the press of a smart phone button!

“Digital marketing is on a new path now. We will learn about individuals and automatically tailor products for them at scale. We’d better do it creatively.

“Once upon a time Google only hired engineers. Being scientists, they looked at the internal progression of staff and found that, very often, those with non technical educations were becoming leaders.

“I doubt you’d get into Google if you didn’t believe technology is changing the world. So the best skill for marketers is an open learning attitude. Test and challenge. Positively. The second key skill is an understanding that data is power when collected and used appropriately. Add entrepreneurial flair and you’ll probably be running your own show!”

Jessie Willson

Jessie Willson at Sony

Global Search Marketing and Analytics Manager at Sony

“I expect to see more and more real time data, with an even stronger need for automation. Marketing teams will get insights using AI and automation. More personalisation, too.

“You need analytics to stay competitive, grow your marketing and your business capabilities. Analytics can help you gain a better understanding of customers and serve them to best effect.”

Charlotte Powell

Head of Creative, iPresent

Charlotte Powell

“We have seen a huge increase in the amount of content being produced over the past few years but, with the changes to Google SEO, I am hoping we will see in increase in the quality of that content. Pushing out three pieces of mediocre content a week and optimizing those keywords, then re-publishing the same pieces 20 times a week through social platforms is no longer going to be enough. That’s a great thing!

“We are now so saturated with content and so much of it repetitive and non-original. Twitter has already put a stop to the automation of tweets going out multiple times from multiple people, to prevent saturation of repetition.

“With GDPR, everyone’s inboxes should start to look a bit clearer from spam too. The number of leads going to sales may be fewer, but the quality of these leads is going to be of a much higher quality. These leads will be people who’ve done their research and marketing teams will need to be prepared with some great content to answer questions and guide these leads the rest of the way.

“Focus will be on getting those inbound leads, I think marketing efforts are going to be far more focused on social campaigns with the inclusion of high-quality video rather than intrusive email marketing. Marketing teams are going to have to start being far more strategic to produce original, educational and captivating content. Video content has been growing steadily but I think we are about to see it explode onto social.

“Engaging the customer’s attention through humor, thought leadership, knowledge and responsiveness is going to be critical to collect those all-important opt-ins and get customers into the pipeline.

“Marketers are going to have to start listening more for social lead generation. Prospects are already sharing their needs, pain points and experiences on social media. You need to join conversations and start them where they are happening. Social platforms have the greatest pool of free leads out there and marketing can utilise that.

“Follow those important keywords and buyer signals and start using that great content you’ve created to inform and nurture people into great leads and lovers of your product or service.”

Valeria Sologoub

Marketing Manager, Mentor

Valeria Sologoub

“Companies always need more customers. But they need more of the right kind of customers. And they need to massively improve their engagement with existing customers.

“It’s not news: digital technology has considerably impacted marketing. It has completely changed the way customers interact with brands. Marketers are used to disruption, adapting to constantly changing customer behavior and new technology developments.

“The B2B digital marketing is transitioning from reactive to a proactive, driving mode. Marketing is shifting from grabbing the attention of a potential customer at a particular touch-point in their journey, to having meaningful interactions and online relationships with customers.

“Owning the customer journey, rather than following it, will be a step ahead of the game.

“With all the technological advancements, such as multi-platform experience and interactive content, it’s getting more and more difficult to surprise the audience. Sending emails to your contact database with content to nurture the journey is not enough anymore. Changing the display messaging in online advertising in response to clients’ signals and behavior is good but soon won’t be enough.

“Why? Because it is reactive.

“Being ‘spoiled’ by marketers reacting to their every step, (now) even on mobile, clients will expect personalization and customization on an even greater scale.

“Rethinking strategies and putting much more effort into research on customers’ pain points or upcoming client industry challenges, careful social listening, and meaningful data analysis are crucial to stay responsive to clients’ needs.

“In B2B, you can talk to people for a long time, move them from one stage to another in your funnel, have them engaged and still not get sales. Not because they don’t like your company, not because they are shy. But because the proposition isn’t actually what they want at that particular time.

“There is going to be a lot more pressure on digital marketers to play a bigger role in generating new revenue for businesses, irrespective of its type. With greater accountability for results, marketers will need to demonstrate to potential customers that they know and understand their pain points, can come up with even more RELEVANT and TIMELY propositions to help solve problems straight away, and target the right audience effectively with a mix of available marketing tools and technology.

“Staying on the curve with digital hype, marketers nowadays have to be dynamic in dealing with rapid changes in their everyday job: move with internet speed, be insightful with analytics, digital advertising, SEO, social marketing, content marketing, have at least basic technical skills.

“It’s all hard work, and they are all necessary. But what if we could do even better than this?

“Having a broader knowledge of business generally, a better understanding of business functions, such as operations, finance, sales, and the way they all fit together, is crucial for marketing. Understanding the way business operates and having customer and market insights available, it’s much easier to spot an opportunity, develop an idea that helps produce new clients, integrate it, and maybe even disrupt business as usual.

“It’s a big challenge, although by leaving their comfort zone and bringing more perspectives to the company, marketers help the executive team innovate by challenging traditional biases.

“Digital marketers don’t need to be proficient in everything, but to be intellectually curious and have an appreciation of as much as possible.

“If the train companies in the Unites States had thought about themselves as transport companies, not as train companies, they would probably have branched out into flying planes. They simply didn’t see themselves as transport companies, and that was a huge missed opportunity.”

Kiran Kapur

CEO at Cambridge Marketing College

Kiran Kapur

“Yes, digital marketing is going to change. The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica story combined with what will be new public awareness of their rights under GDPR means that consumers will no longer trust digital marketers and digital marketing.

“We also see some businesses challenging how much time they need to spend on social media – e.g. Wetherspoons deleting social media accounts.

“Do I think the effect will be immediate? No, but, over time, current assumptions that companies must pour time and money into social media and online advertising are being challenged.

“New skills depend on the stage of your career, but employers say that marketers (particularly digital marketers) tend to have very specialised skills such as SEO or AdWords.

“This has advantages but there is a need for more generalist, strategic-thinking marketers who can see a wider picture. Clearly, I believe that qualifications help with this – but then I would say that.”

Emma O’Neill

Marketing Manager, Gather

Emma ONeill of Gather

“I agree that more marketers will move towards strategies based on relationship building. I feel
that consumers are demanding more from brands and products (in terms of personalization) and the only way to respond is to establish strong CRM.

“GDPR will continue to have an impact. I think it has changed the way professionals (from sales to marketing) and industries are thinking about how they are capturing and handling data from prospects and customers.

“It’s a great opportunity for businesses to understand and engage with their customers. In the near future, data will be collected and managed electronically through data capture apps – which integrate with CRMs. Traditional methods (pen and paper) and multi-devices could become a thing of the past.

“Looking further ahead, I am really interested to see what my peers will do with IoT (internet of things) intelligence and how this will feed into marketing strategies – taking GDPR and data compliance into account.

“I think the most important new skill marketers could adopt or do more of is knowledge sharing and connecting with other marketers. LinkedIn provides a great platform for this to happen but there is a need for more opportunities to connect and share ideas.

“I am inspired by what members of the tech community are doing and have been practicing for many years. For example, there is a lot of knowledge sharing on best practice, creation open source software and support amongst peers.”

James Lee

Senior Digital Marketing Manager, P&O Cruises

James Lee - Senior Digital Marketing Manager, P&O Cruises

“Attribution. Why? Because when someone nails the reporting of online to in-store conversion, the ROI numbers will scream to invest even more in digital marketing.

“I don’t need a new pair of running shoes. However, I see an inspirational video for running shoes on Facebook. A few days later, I Google some research on the brand. A few days after that I’m served display re-targeting ads. A week later I go to a store and buy the shoes.

“How do we show the return on investment for that currently? We don’t.

“Yes, we have ecommerce tracking. Yes, we have website-to-call tracking. Few, dare I say any, brands have properly tracked the online to the in-store journey. Digital marketing is driving demand across numerous industries, and we are failing to prove that to the stakeholders in charge of the purse strings.

“As for new skills, communication of metrics that matter.

“For many business stakeholders, the digital world is a jumble of jargon. There is impression share, tracking via pixels, conversion journeys, bounce rates, multi-touch something-or-others.

“There are plenty of people in the marketplace who understand large parts of the jargon jungle. What sets the best marketing people apart are those who can articulate the metrics that matter and what we should do as a result of them.”