LinkedInPulseGraphic_CareerAdvancementPost_v0.2This is Part 1 of a 4-part series dedicated to discussing today’s critical elements of a successful marketing career.

The calendar year’s first quarter is an ideal time to update your career objectives and evaluate whether your current role and scope of responsibilities places you on a growth path.

As you consider your career outlook, I want to share insights I’ve collected over the past six months from B2B and B2C marketers – particularly our customer base – and recommend steps you can take to position yourself for success.

The four marketing skills you need

My customer engagements – particularly with fellow CMOs building talent management strategies – consistently point to four skills that marketers need as a baseline to secure their preferred jobs and grow their careers:

  • Marketing automation acumen
  • Deep understanding of customers and buying processes
  • Communication skills to engage with customers and prospects as well as build credibility and align initiatives with stakeholders (sales, ops, IT, vendors, etc.)
  • Data and analytics skills to drive timely, accurate decisions

On top of these four foundational skills, marketers must develop role- and industry-specific expertise that address their organizations’ unique requirements.

In this first blog entry, I’m going to tackle why a high level of marketing automation knowledge is required to advance your marketing career, whether you’re in a demand gen, field marketing, communications or sales enablement role. Technology and marketing automation isn’t just a marketing ops focus. I’ll cover the other three in follow-up blog entries.

What you need to know about automation

Marketers require rock-solid understanding of the role automation plays in planning, executing, analyzing and fine-tuning campaigns in order to deliver marketing outcomes and sales pipeline. Building pipeline has emerged as the single biggest indicator of marketing success, so enabling technology is clearly a top priority.

That said, let’s distinguish between understanding how to leverage marketing automation (list targeting strategies, lead qualification levels, planning nurture campaigns, sequencing content for nurturing activity) and hands-on skills in building campaigns with automation systems. The former skillset is what all marketers need; the latter is not a requirement for all marketers, though it’s certainly a great weapon for those looking to have the most competitive resumes.

Why you need to know it

Marketing automation provides the performance insights needed to drive campaign results, especially when integrated with critical sales and marketing processes and systems. Without a central place to build, execute and measure performance of campaigns, it’s virtually impossible to meet objectives (conversion, funnel advancement, sales pipeline) efficiently or to perform real-time campaign adjustments that are so critical to success.

Before automation technology, many decisions were based on opinion or preference; that isn’t a viable strategy (was it ever a strategy?) in 2015. Many organizations also have performance data scattered across diverse registration and analytics systems, which prevents them from developing a single source of truth and gathering insights in a timely way. Automation systems serve as the definitive source for timely data to drive decisions, performance and pipeline. That’s a big reason they’re central to marketing career growth.

Marketing automation expertise is a critical weapon when it comes to competing against other companies that have technology, campaign analysis and customer insights at the ready. Your competitors are targeting the same finite pool of customers that you are. If they have robust marketing automation tools and talent to inform their strategies but you lack those skills, your company is at a major disadvantage. Your task is to use automation technology better, smarter and faster than your competitors, and know the role these tools best play in your marketing efforts.

The marketing field is full of job candidates who know how to leverage marketing automation, precisely because that’s emerged as a core skill. If you can’t count yourself among them – and differentiate yourself with progressively stronger results supported by automation – your career will be disadvantaged in the same way your employer can be.

Finally, automation plays a big role in augmenting your knowledge of customers. You can conduct qualitative and quantitative research until you’re blue in the face – and research is an invaluable tool in gathering buyer insights – but without the explicit customer knowledge that comes from digital body language and other behavioral data supplied by marketing automation, you’ll never have a complete picture of customers. Automation platforms provide the framework to ensure you’ve got content geared to the individual stages of the customer acquisition funnel and can deliver content that reflects strong customer knowledge.

Today’s most sought-after marketers know how to use data to drive strategy and they have a clear understanding of customers to ensure they communicate with those customer effectively. Without those skillsets – supported by a marketing automation foundation – good luck competing in today’s job market.

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