The Analytical Marketer: Why and How Should You Transform Your Marketing Organization?

By the time customers engage with your company—by visiting your website to download a white paper, for instance—they have traveled through almost 60 percent of their decision or buying journey. That means they have done their homework, networked with their peers, searched through research reports, joined communities, read blog posts, and more. Most of that decision journey now occurs in the digital social world. This new journey is a complex maze of influences that spans channels and defies consistency. What used to be a very linear relationship has now evolved into something continuous, where people are at various points in the maze. Our customers are now always on, always engaged, and always consuming information.

The challenge we have as marketers is to ensure that we are present and relevant at that 60 percent stage (or more) of the customer’s decision journey. That challenge continues to grow, as the number of ways in which a customer can connect with your organization in the digital world literally grows daily. Gone are the days when you could simply wait for customers to walk into your storefront to engage with them. Gone, too, is the simplicity of controlling your interactions with your customers through phone calls and snail-mail communications.

By 2020, estimates indicate that 30 billion devices will be connected to the Internet.

In the digital and social world we now live in, we can no longer fully control how or where we can make those connections with customers. Things are going to speed up. Consider the Internet of Things.  Our cars, refrigerators, even our toothbrushes—are now linked together and transmitting data about our habits and decisions. By 2020, estimates indicate that 30 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. Can you imagine how much data will result? Are you prepared to take advantage of it?

Customers now have more choices for who to do business with and how. The challenge for organizations, then, is to be present in whatever channels the customer expects to find them in.

But rather than relying on what we marketers might call a “peanut butter” strategy of trying to be everywhere equally, we need to be more strategic and tactical about our outreach. We now have the tools to understand, predict, shape, and enhance the customer experience in ways previously unimaginable. And in this age of data and analytics, both managers and marketers must lead the way forward.

Building Talent and Skills

As a leader, how do you navigate your organization’s shift to becoming more analytical and customer-centric? You need to ensure that your people have the requisite skills to perform in the new kinds of roles you’re creating. And that takes two components: incorporating a different filter for hiring new employees, and also assessing your current staff to see if they have the desire and capability to evolve and embrace the new analytical skills they’ll need.

The analytical marketer needs to be active throughout the buying process and work hand in hand with salespeople to provide the information that will help them close deals.

What does an Analytical Marketer look like?

Marketing managers must look for evidence of different skills and experience in evaluating both applicants and current employees interested in becoming analytical marketers. But what to look for is open to debate. Here are some thoughts:

Sales skills.  It’s no longer good enough for marketing to simply focus on filling the top of the funnel and passing leads off to sales. The analytical marketer needs to be active throughout the buying process and work hand in hand with salespeople to provide the information that will help them close deals.

Social media skills. Social media dramatically change the buyer-seller-influencer dynamic. But only those actively participating in social media tangibly appreciate the differences between old-style, one-way media conversations and group interactivity.

Journalism and storytelling skills. With buyers getting the majority of their information from the web, and with potential sales an increasing priority, there’s no end to the need for juicy, targeted content. Storytelling also comes into play in campaign design.

Process design skills. Automation is just beginning to penetrate the market. As anyone who has been part of a re-engineering effort can attest, it’s not the automation that increases productivity. It’s the process changes that automation enables and enforces. Deploying marketing automation will require skills such as process modeling, project management, the ability to train and manage change, and ease with technology.

Data and analytics skills. Technology captures and makes available enormous amounts of data about buyer and seller behavior. A marketer must be a data guru with a passion for analytics and curiosity.

Domain expertise. Customers don’t care about our products. They care about themselves and their problems. Building a bridge between our products and the customer requires knowledge of both realms.

Collaboration and exceptional communication. These skills are not mutually exclusive. On just about every job posting these days, you will see that “communication” skills are a must. Communication has a different meaning for marketers in our world. Traditional communication skills need to be supplemented with an intense focus on collaboration through effective communication. There are no one-man or -woman bands, only full orchestras with very clear objectives and constant interaction.

Creativity and innovation. We need people to reach for the next idea. The term “creativity” is no longer applicable to just the agencies or the designers. Today’s channels and digital work approaches enable and encourage creativity at all stages of marketing and the marketing process. Creativity is at the heart of innovation, which is not only required but rewarded.

Leadership. A leader is someone who is willing to take risks, drive change, and build trust. We need these skills at every level of the organization, not just the vice president level. Today’s marketers, regardless of their role, have a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership in their field and across their business for maximum impact.

While far from exhaustive, this list of skills confirms that we are no longer looking only for traditional marketing skills. Marketing managers need evidence that candidates or existing employees bring different skills and experiences. Good analytical marketers leave a well-lit trail to make sure such evidence is easy to find.

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review Press. Excerpted from The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization. Copyright 2016 Adele Sweetwood. All rights reserved.

Adele Sweetwood

Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Shared Services at SAS
Adele Sweetwood is Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Shared Services for SAS, the world’s largest independent analytics company. Most recently, she led the transformation of the marketing organization to meet the challenges and opportunities of data and analytics in a globalized market.
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