A few weeks back I spent some time at a major marketing show. Over the years I’ve always noticed that the largest stands in the highest visibility locations typically belong to the latest trend to hit the world of marketing.
This year was no exception with a plethora of firms offering a variety of technologies bringing together marketing automation, campaign management and social media. The systems on offer from the likes of Adobe Marketing Cloud and ExactTarget are pretty compelling and give the marketer an impressive range of tactics to deploy easily through a powerful web-based interface.
But this started me thinking about the value of skills and knowledge in delivering marketing campaigns. The capabilities of these kinds of systems mean that a generalist marketer has at his or her fingertips the power to implement campaigns that not that long ago were the preserve of some pretty niche specialists.
This commoditisation of the technical skills to implement marketing campaigns is an interesting phenomenon.
It means a greater emphasis on the strategic and analytic side of the profession. That’s the space that marketers have to differentiate themselves in to stand out from the crowd.
Think about it like this: I’m a keen amateur cyclist and enjoy riding my bikes on the road and on the trails.
I like to think I have the basic all-round bike handling skills to be able to cycle most places (although my cycling companions may disagree).
One day I could go to a velodrome, hire the same kind of professional bike that an Olympic cyclist would use and then make a pretty valiant attempt to spin the pedals and make it round the track in one piece.
I’d be able to do it at a basic level, but my lack of ability, skills and training to perform at the level of the Olympian would be pretty obvious. I’d be using the tools of a high performer but not be able to perform at a high level.
The new generation of marketing tools are much the same.
They mean that anyone can place pretty complicated campaigns across multiple platforms and produce detailed analysis. They can set up complex, rules-based campaigns using conditional logic and path analysis. And they just need a fairly basic level of skills to be able to get started.
But in the same way that if I rode Chris Hoy’s bike I wouldn’t be setting world records round the track, having a powerful marketing tool at your fingertips won’t make you a great marketer.
It means to be a great marketer, there’s a greater emphasis on being able to spot opportunities, conceive great ideas, interrogate data intelligently and think creatively.
You need to understand a broader range of marketing, relationship and network theories than ever before.
You need to be thinking about what the latest advances in neuroscience mean for marketing effectiveness.
You need to live and breathe multi-channel marketing and know your target audience inside out.
And you need to have a wide understanding of the broad strategic context in which a particular activity is deployed. Customers don’t live in isolation from the outside world and neither can the work of marketers.
The power of the tools available to marketers mean that anyone can place technically complicated marketing campaigns but that doesn’t mean anyone can place great marketing campaigns. And where great marketers can really shine.
Image courtesy of 24oranges.nl