Continuous Evolution: Closing the Capability Gap

Continuous Evolution: Closing the Capability Gap

December 2019 | Marketing Technology

Digital marketing is changing rapidly. New tactics and new technology are needed to stay ahead. Most important of all though, is learning new skills.

As the year winds down to a close, attention inevitably turns to planning for the next one. This is true even for businesses whose financial year does not follow the calendar year. By now, much of that planning will already have been completed. Most people start planning for the next year a quarter in advance. Among enterprise marketing teams, the latter half of Q4 is typically more concerned with what will happen next year than what will happen during the current one.

The annual planning and budgeting cycle gives organisations a chance to reassess their entire go to market strategy in-line with the latest business plan and corporate priorities trickling down from the boardroom. Fundamental changes in product & packaging, pricing models and customer experience will often result from those discussions, during which marketing is a key stakeholder. It usually falls upon the CMO to take the customer's perspective in such conversations.

Then there are the numbers which really matter. Just as with everyone else, marketing will have objectives to meet. That could be a revenue target, a lead target or something else entirely. Whatever the goal is, the primary focus of planning is deciding how to meet it, all while also achieving the softer business strategy objectives that need to be considered. Budgets, calendars and personal development plans are all aligned to that one overarching goal that has been decided at the very top of the corporate hierarchy.

At least that's the theory. In practice, it's never that simple. The world is a complicated place and compromises need to be made. Corporate politics comes into play. The needs of other departments and stakeholders need to be considered. Short term pressures can distract from the long term plan. Market shifts and external events can throw even the best laid plans out of the window.

Constant Change

Yet in the current environment, organisations of all stripes are finding that a shortage of the right people with the right skills is the biggest barrier to achieving their business objectives. Over the past decade, marketing has become an incredibly complicated discipline with an expanding number of variables to consider, major changes in customer behaviour to cope with, and a rapidly evolving industry landscape driven by an explosion in new technologies.

Change is hard and in recent years, marketers have had to cope with a lot of it. In many areas of the discipline, even the bleeding edge trends of a few years ago are now obsolete. Tactics are continually evolving to adapt to new consumer habits. Design trends have changed several times to fit new platforms and new form factors. New solutions are being devised to solve existing challenges, and new buzzwords are being invented to explain old trends. Constant learning is the key to improving campaign results. Without it, you are at serious risk of being left behind. This is true in any walk of life, but particularly in the quickly evolving world of digital marketing.

Finding Skills

In a recent Gartner survey of CMOs, addressing skill shortages topped the list of challenges that marketing leaders are looking to address in 2020. Marketing is a lot more technical than it used to be, thanks to the increasing importance of technology and data in the average marketer's day to day work. What's more, many businesses know that they can do more with the resources they have already. Which is true, but only if you have the people that know what to do with those resources, be that content resources, creative resources, data resources or a sophisticated technology stack.

Not all marketers will be experts in every aspect of modern marketing, nor should they be. The critical thing is to make sure that everyone knows what the art of the possible actually is, and what the advantages and disadvantages of each approach are. Informed decisions can then be made accordingly. It's well understood that the marketing mix needs to vary according to the realities of each business. The fact that data collection requirements and the technology stack need to fit the business model too is often less well understood.

Adapting to the Business

The data collected about a B2C customer is vastly different from the data businesses collect about B2B customers. Scale is the biggest difference, but the lack of an account layer in B2C also matters. Different types of interaction and engagement history are required too. B2B is still centred around personal relationships and the named individual, in a way that B2C marketers only dream about. B2C marketers are only trying to fake a personalised approach because there is rarely any 1:1 real interaction between brand and customer. Whereas in a B2B model, genuine personalisation is expected because someone at your business probably has a direct personal relationship with multiple individuals at the customer. That needs to carry through into the digital environment.

These differences require a totally different technology stack. I've seen many transactional B2C brands fail with marketing automation because the data structure of the typical MAP did not allow effective B2C personalisation and segmentation. Similarly, I've seen Adobe Campaign fail in many B2B brands because of the lack of lead management capabilities in what is still at heart an ESP platform. Other B2B brands have made a success of Adobe Campaign by shifting the lead management and sales enablement capabilities of the marketing tech stack into the CRM Platform or MDM. There are multiple solutions to every problem.

All that matters is understanding what capabilities you have available in your business and then learning how to make the most of them. The actual execution and implementation can be left to specialists if you have them available. If you don't then find someone to be that specialist, either upskilling an existing team member or through recruiting external resource. Until that's done, there is little point in attempting to filling capability gaps with new technologies. Technology is only useful if you know how to use it.

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.