September 19, 2022
Adapt or die. Of all the usual functional teams in an organization, Marketing needs to heed this Darwinian reminder more than most. Job titles and department composition in HR and Finance look remarkably like they did ten years ago, whereas over half of the roles in a contemporary marketing department did not exist or were in their infancy even seven years back. We seem to have moved relatively quickly from in house teams of generalists to divergent specialists. The generic brand manager of 2015 would need to have developed a range of competencies too wide and too deep to be contained in a single role in 2022. Now we have specific roles for variations of content development, demand generation, optimization, various types of analysts, and the list continues to grow.
Pressure from an evolving environment
The growth of tech tools* for supercharging marketing efforts has naturally swelled the necessary headcount. However, once we have our martech team in place let’s not make the error of assuming that job is done. The fluidity and constant evolution of tech is both a gift and a curse. This year’s solution may be next year’s weak spot. Bear in mind that an estimated 8 in 10 marketers chose to upgrade or replace a part of their martech stack in the year prior to polling (2021**). That demands a great deal of attention and information gathering from team members looking to make the best improvements.
Marketing technology and ongoing rapid digitization account for much but not all the pressure to keep up. The consumers and users at the heart of our professional efforts are being profoundly changed thanks to skirmishes with a pandemic and massive global economic disruption. It’s hardly surprising that their engagement with brands, media and communication is in flux. The finest in the marketing fraternity make the effort to stay in touch with their shifting targets, trying to read the proverbial room sufficiently to be able to maintain and grow relevance. However, there are always new lessons to be learnt as different approaches are trialed. Marketing campaign successes and failures across industries warrant monitoring in a world in which test-and-learn practices and agility keep your brand in the fast lane.
The CMO’s response
With this volume of mission-critical new news continuously available to marketing professionals, how does the diligent CMO plan for success? Growing the organogram is not enough. We need to nurture our people’s knowledge, not only of their specific niche but also of other marketing competencies.
What does this look like in a busy and usually pressurized marketing department? How do we build in the time to honor a claimed commitment to a culture of learning?
1. Be the leader who commits to continuous learning and takes active steps to embed
2. Make the strong case in the boardroom to motivate that marketers need more dedicated time for ongoing professional learning than most other functions.
3. Lead by example, purposely trying new tools and means of insight gathering and being seen to do so.
4. Give the precious gift of learning time to each team member. Given the volume of new information to absorb to remain properly current, a full day every two months is a reasonable starting place for your marketing learning program.
5. Acknowledge that learning can come in many forms, including formal online courses, time spent with an innovative supplier or partner of choice, free flow online research, trade visits, consumer interaction and observation spaces.
6. Recognize learning efforts and impact. This can take the form of gamified leader boards, formats provided for peer feedback on shared learnings, or simply a personal note encouraging individual learning projects.
7. Build in protocols for sharing learnings so that key insights gathered get properly disseminated throughout the team. and sharing of learnings.
8. Insist on the cross-pollination of information and skills amongst your team. Team members should be actively upskilling in at least two of the skill zones adjacent to their own. We must be cognizant of the risk of isolated and therefore less effective pockets of knowledge and The goal of marketing remains to produce a fully integrated plan for maximum impact, and this starts with the brand team.
If you’re still wondering how to find the time to implement a marketing learning plan, then consider the implications of not doing so. The adapt-or-die adage has very real weight for marketers. Instilling and acting on a culture of learning in your marketing department is an opportunity to make the most of change rather than to be threatened by it, to lead rather than to lag.
What marketing learning program elements have worked best for you? In the spirit of shared learning, please let us know your best practice tips for maintaining current knowledge flow through your marketing teams.
* The number of martech solutions available worldwide grew from 150 in 2011 to 9500 in 2021. In addition to this, there had been strong acquisition activity in the sector in the preceding years. (according to Statista)
** 83% of marketers replaced or upgraded a part of their martech stack in the 12 months prior (2021) (according to Wildfire)
Marketing and business strategy, insight management, strategic business development, digital research, growth marketing, reputation management, customer behavior, data analysis, Certified Scrum Master/CSM
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