The marketing landscape is shifting rapidly and marketers will need new skills in order to compete. Customer trust in marketing – whether B2B or B2C – is eroding. A new generation of highly effective AI-driven ad blockers and spam detection engines are making it much harder to reach customers. Customer expectations around their experience are growing. In the age where highly personalized, massively convenient buying experiences have become the norm in our personal lives, the typical email marketing experience is jarring.
Marketing skills that emerged over the last decade became more technocratic and execution-oriented based on general, abstract assumptions about customers and their preferences. Investing in learning particularly broadcast platforms–marketing automation, CRM marketing, LeadGen/DemandGen–was built on the assumption that if you built a big enough top of funnel, you could (eventually, somehow) rely on trickle-down effects to a bottom line.
And yet: when you look around to the implosion of marketing and ad agencies, the fragmenting mass media market, and deep disruption in adtech, you get an immediate sense that things are changing faster than anyone expected.
Customer expectations are colliding with average customer experience. Customers expect tailored, personalized relationships; helpful, just-in-time suggestions; and assistive recommendations.
Marketers must learn to adapt their practice to customer expectations or risk losing to competitors who are. Here are five skills you’ll need to survive the coming changes in marketing. And the good news is that each of these implies a return to a kind of marketing that is more human at its core.
This may sound pretty out there coming from a deep technologist, but it’s the key skill of the future for marketers. Why? Because your ability and willingness to understand your customers is directly proportional to your ability to create a lasting, meaningful (read: high-value) relationship with them. It means learning to listen to and anticipate your customers’ needs and wants. Ultimately empathy for your customers is caring and understanding enough to take action on their behalf. And it unlocks superpowers for your whole team.
If empathy opens a door, learning is the way through it. Cultivating a habit of experimentation means you’re becoming more effective every time you think about a marketing campaign.
This skill is about testing a question, a hypothesis, an assumption based on your best understanding of the world at present and taking the results forward. So instead of starting with a general ICP segment and just letting loose a massive campaign, set up an experiment that will help you incrementally test your assumptions. A/B and multivariate testing can quickly reveal that you don’t have one Uber-persona – maybe you have three or four and they respond to different messaging strategies.
Establishing a culture of learning at both the personal and team levels takes empathy and listening and turns it into a always-on improvement learning loop: going from initial assumption to experiment to learning to adaptation, with your marketing impact steadily rising.
Which brings us to measurement. Get used to measuring and being asked to measure. You don’t need to get a degree in statistics in order to take a measurement-first mindset. New reporting and analytics tools are constantly coming on scene to help take the heavy lifting off your shoulders. Use them. You can bet your CMO is getting asked by her board to show concrete results and ROI. So be in a position to be helpful to your entire team by baking measurement into everything you do.
Machines will increasingly be key members of your team from this point on out. If you think about it, they already are – it’s just that are very limited in their capabilities compared to what’s coming.
Machine intelligence won’t kill all jobs, but over time you will see it massively change human work. Machines can operate at great scale but are relatively bad at anything with nuance – like human communications and signaling. Machines are great at some things; we’re still great at other things. It’s about knowing where that line is and harnessing machine intelligence as part of your team.
Machine intelligence is what makes it possible to empathize, listen, and adapt at scale. Look for ways to deploy machine learning products into your human workflows to save time, increase the velocity of team learning, and achieve impact.
Marketers’ past and current workflows have tended to produce an odd side effect: conservatism. After all, it’s kind of a big deal to release a single email or other communication to a million people at once, especially if there’s any sensitivity around it.
New tools combined with these skills however actually support customer experience innovation and adaptation. To take an example, a machine learning engine combined with a well-designed set of message variations that are very different from one another produce a) better campaign performance and b) lower risk than just guessing what works. You can try new approaches at scale by leveraging machines to make the right choices for you. Only the bold survive!
These five skills will enable marketers to create the experiences that customers have come to expect. Consider them the next time you think about your personal and team development. Your future self (and customers) will thank you.
Want more lessons to help you navigate the evolving marketing and technology landscape? Don’t miss 5 Mar Tech Takeaways from Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2018 from Shashi Seth, Senior Vice President of Oracle Marketing Cloud.