The world of marketing technology changes constantly. With a 40 percent increase in martech vendors just between 2016 and 2017, there is no question that fast-thinking entrepreneurs bring new tools and technologies to the table almost every day.
As a marketing technologist, that can be a bit overwhelming. On the one hand, your job requires you to stay on top of all the new trends in marketing technology. Doing so helps you make informed decisions for your team on which tools best contribute to your martech stack. However, on the other hand, figuring out the skills you need to master just to stay up-to-date with current trends can feel impossible.
That is why the ReachForce team put together this post to help marketing technologists like you understand the five essential skills for mastering marketing technology in today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving martech landscape.
However, before diving into that, consider exactly why staying on top of new marketing skills should be a top priority for you as a marketing technologist.
The Need for Strategy in the Growing Marketing Technology Landscape
As marketing technology continues to improve, executive leaders have seen tangible returns on investment. The old days of loosely attributing revenue increases to marketing campaigns evolved into the world of “big data,” where any marketing team armed with the right tools and good data quality can create campaigns that directly contribute to an increased customer lifetime value.
That ability to prove ROI forces executives who may have previously been a bit squeamish about marketing budgets to sit down and evaluate the potential impact of funneling revenue back into marketing campaigns. That is exactly what has happened. According to Deloitte, 2017 marketing budgets account for 11 percent of total company budgets. Marketing technology now accounts for 33 percent of that budget.
This is a big win for marketing teams everywhere, but not one without serious implications for the way marketing technologists approach their jobs. As marketing technology improves and CMOs see bigger and better budgets each year, it often falls on marketing technologists to make sure a strategy is in place to maximize the ROI of your martech stack.
Unfortunately, that does not always happen. According to Ascend2, for many marketing teams, a “lack of an effective strategy” was the second biggest roadblock to achieving marketing technology goals. As a result, 56 percent of marketers believe the martech industry is evolving faster than their company’s implementation of marketing technology.
The Rise of the Hybrid Marketer
Companies wanting to avoid falling behind are now looking for marketing technologists with more diverse skill sets than may have traditionally existed. The days of focusing on one specific element of your team’s strategy — whether it be mobile marketing, social media, content, or any other niche — are done. A new breed of “hybrid marketers” make up the bulk of most successful marketing teams today. These hybrid marketers are jacks of all marketing trades. They actively seek out new skills and knowledge with a mindset geared toward highly effective inbound strategies. In a sense, they are this generation of marketers’ answer to the boundless growth of marketing technology, a team of people that understands successful campaigns require a cohesive, data-driven mindset and actively seeks out opportunities to diversify their skill sets.
So what are those skills hybrid marketers are most focused on at the moment?
The 5 Essential Skills for Mastering Marketing Technology
#1. Data Analysis
Make no mistake about it — this one is first for a reason. If you regularly follow this blog, then you know that data quality stands at the center of any successful martech stack. Without clean, quality data, marketers run the risk of leveraging inaccurate or incomplete insights to fuel campaign decisions. That can be damaging to your brand’s reputation and relationship with clients.
The ability to both evaluate data quality and extract insights from your data management platform ranks as one of the most important skills in marketing today. Luckily, data analysis is a skill that only gets easier over time and with more practice. Here are a few tips on improving your data analysis skills:
- Start small. With data streams coming in from any number of different channels, attempting to broadly extract insights about your customers can feel a bit like fishing…with only your bare hands. Instead of trying to uncover some massive revelation about your audience, focus on solving smaller problems (or answering simpler questions) through your data. What sized company spends the most with you? In which industry do you see the most churn? Think small and get comfortable before trying to solve the big questions.
- Get organized. Fact: You are wasting time if you work with disjointed data. Always fear the “frankenstack” — that disconnected set of martech tools that do not speak to one another, thereby leaving you to tediously piece together insights from across different platforms. The frankenstack is one of the main reasons the ReachForce team advocates making a quality data management platform a foundational component of your martech stack. Without a tool like ReachForce to unify your data streams and scrub data clean, you are ultimately running in place, spending money on tools without any real confidence that the insights you pull from them are accurate to your customers.
- Enrich your data. The more comprehensive your customer profiles, the better the insights you are able to pull from them. Data enrichment gives you the opportunity to create more robust customer profiles without needing to do the legwork yourself. Instead, tools like SmartForms help you get a better view of your audience.
But what do you do with that data once you have it?
As a marketing technologist, you almost certainly have been exposed to each of these next few topics. However, building stronger knowledge in each will help you to master your martech stack completely.
Almost every tool in your martech stack will promise to make your life easier, but none live up to that promise more than automation platforms. While some marketers live in fear of automation putting them out of a job, most now understand that marketing automation actually allows marketers to do their jobs better. Behind every great marketing automation platform is someone making it all run smoothly. However, knowing how to do that efficiently and effectively requires focus, training, and maybe even a little luck.
You are on your own for the luck part, but as far as focus and training go, you cannot go wrong with one of the numerous automation certification courses available today. Major automation platforms — like Marketo and Pardot — offer their own product certifications that are a definite “must” if your team uses those tools. For a more generalist certification, check out this one, which is completely free.
#3. Content Marketing
Eighty-eight percent of companies use content marketing today, but only 30 percent believe they are actually effective. So, what gives?
Simply put, determining the right content for your target audience is hard work. Add to that the process of actually creating the content, optimizing it to show up in organic search results, and measuring the impact of that content, and you have one of the most complex components of any marketing strategy.
Content marketing can be complex, but an effective strategy goes a long way.
Like most of the skills in this post, practice ultimately helps make you better. There are specific things you can do to start improving your content marketing skills today, including:
- Dissect the content you love. Figure out what websites you believe do a great job creating and sharing quality content. They can be in your industry, but do not necessarily need to be. The idea is not to “steal” content from them, but rather analyze what makes them your favorite. How do they use social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter? What does their blog content look like? How do they organize landing pages? How often do you receive emails from them? What do the contents of those emails look like? Take a deep dive into their content strategy and figure out what you can adopt (and adapt) to your company.
- Stay up-to-date with the experts. There is no easier field to stay on top of than content marketing. Why? Because content marketing experts create amazing content. People like Neil Patel are constantly sharing new blog posts, webinars, podcasts, and any number of other content forms to try and engage their audience. If you want to know what is going on in the world of content marketing, following along on the blogs of top content marketers and you will have a front row seat to new developments.
Of course, quality content only works if you have the right strategy behind it to boost your search results.
#4. Search Engine Optimization
SEO has been a core digital marketing skill since the dawn of Google. From Day 1 there has been almost nothing but ambiguity and confusion about what actually works and how you can get your site to rank higher in Google’s search results. As marketing technology evolved, companies like SEMRush and Moz came along to help simplify the mystery around SEO. These tools add a ton of value for savvy SEO marketers, but you need to walk before you can run.
That is where Moz’s SEO Learning Center can come in handy. The completely free learning library offers amazing resources to help build a foundational knowledge of the most up-to-date strategies in SEO, helping you get the maximum value from the SEO tools in your martech stack, which eventually helps your site rank better.
#5. Demand Generation
The reason content marketing and SEO have become so important centers around the concept of customer lifetime value. Historically, marketing has focused on top-of-the-funnel lead generation activities — campaigns focused on generating awareness of a product among prospects and attempting to lure those prospects into converting to leads that would then be handed off to sales.
Modern marketers recognize that their efforts can (and do) have an impact long after the initial deal closes. The idea of customer lifetime value — the total anticipated value assigned to a customer over the “lifetime” of their partnership with your brand — gave birth to a new form of marketing known as “demand generation.”
Again, if you follow this blog regularly, the concept of demand generation may not be new to you. That does not mean most marketers fully understand how to make the most of your marketing technology from the perspective of a demand generation marketer.
In addition to your lead generation efforts, focus on building out core skills around:
- Upsell and cross-sell opportunities. The ability to sell new products or higher volume to your existing customers dramatically improves your customer lifetime value (and therefore your marketing ROI). Use data analysis to find the commonalities among customers who spend more with your business after the initial sale, and then target similar customer personas with enticing offers.
- Reducing churn. Retaining your existing clients is one of the simplest ways to make your marketing budget go further. Demand generation marketers evaluate commonalities among customers who previously churned and then try to flag and correct similar behavior among existing customers.
These five skills are some of the most in-demand in marketing today, primarily because they make up a good chunk of a successful martech stack.
ReachForce helps marketers increase revenue contribution by solving some of their toughest data management problems. We understand the challenges of results-driven marketers and provide solutions to make initiatives like marketing automation, personalization, and predictive marketing better. Whether you have an acute pain to solve today or prefer to grow your capabilities over time, ReachForce can unify, clean, and enrich prospect and customer lifecycle data in your business, and do it at your own pace.