Gone are the days when a marketer was solely needed for some creative input. Nowadays modern marketers resemble a Frankenstein-esque experiment. They not only need to possess creativity and lateral thinking to help the brand stand out, but also the ability to analyse data to interpret insights that feed into future strategies.
The former involves being bold enough to try new approaches by breaking the status quo of the same old approaches simply because “they’ve always worked”. The latter, on the other hand, involves trying to get inside the mind of the customer to predict what they will do next and how you can influence (or at least take advantage of) that decision-making process.
The Modern Marketer
If you asked a random person on the street what a marketer does, they might respond by saying something pretty vague. Perhaps alluding to Don Draper of the hit TV series “Mad Men”, but without the advertising.
In other words, a job that’s pretty creative and is about selling a brand, product or service.
The role of the marketer
Whilst, being creative is still a function of many marketers, they must marry being “the artist” with being “the scientist” too. Breaking this down to a basic example: they must understand why and how their next infographic will generate website traffic, social shares and engagement, and also brand awareness.
Marketing is no longer about being a creative genius; it is about applying science.
Because of a technological shift in our society, we now have access to big data – swathes of numbers and metrics, insights and trends on an unprecedented scale.
And there is no hiding place for B2C and B2B marketers alike – all campaigns and even the nitty-gritty day-to-day activities are completely transparent. Every action can be analysed to the tiniest detail to understand if and how it was successful. And why it wasn’t.
Technology, instant data analytics, and the 24×7 Internet is a blessing, and should not be seen as a curse. Sure it makes the role of the marketer more pressured, but all of the tools are there to take advantage of the customer’s behaviour to ensure that creativity and hard data can work together. To bring the artist together with the scientist. The only downside is that a marketer now has to be a blend of both.
Consequently, we are now able to understand how many people are taking action based on our marketing efforts at any time we want and wherever we are located. For example, every single piece of written content – whether on your website, within a blog post, or in a newsletter can be analysed as to how effective it is.
In other words – is it causing your audience to read more, stay longer and make an enquiry or purchase? Furthermore, we can use simple things like Google Analytics to learn what works and what doesn’t. This, therefore, provides us with the real-time luxury of being able to change the content, tone or CTAs according to the results being achieved.
Art & Science combined
However, some may argue (probably the artists) that science, metrics and numbers will only take you so far. You can spend hours looking at data, which leads you to a conclusion that you are going to crack the code and make millions for your business only to be dumbfounded by one thing. Humans. People are irrational. We make irrational choices. We are unpredictable, no matter how robust the predictive data and behavioural analytics.
For instance, how many times have we all made a purchase decision on the spur of the moment without thinking it all through? Fortunately for marketers, however, these instances are the exception and not the rule. When analysed and applied correctly, data can help you understand what approach is more likely to work for the majority of your target audiences.
But although science isn’t 100% accurate in terms of predicting what customers will do in response to a company’s marketing efforts, it’s made huge advances in a relatively short period of time. And at the same time neither is marketing a true art. Certainly not in this digital age that we all live and work in.
It really falls somewhere between the two. So let’s look at just a few of the key ingredients for this modern marketer:
- Written content – copywriting expertise has become as vital as, for example, how inbound marketing became a staple part of the overall marketing mix.
- Visual content – the written word is still important, but the time-poor surfers on the Internet demand visuals that get their attention, and tell them the who / what / when / where / how / why without needing to think. So creative imagery is essential.
- Social media – a bit obvious, perhaps, but digital relationships are dictating the way brands must interact with their customers and prospects. If you don’t “do” or “get” social media, then you could be in trouble!
- Email marketing – no matter how much the world evolves, email marketing is still the tried-and-tested bread’n’butter for modern marketing departments and agencies, and therefore expertise in this area is a necessity.
- Performance tracking – marketing has emerged from the old days of being seen as a costly luxury, to being an effective necessity. However, this has been due to the skill of being able to track and report on all activities and campaigns…ROI is still the name of the game.
- Operations – yes, that’s right, marketers need to wear a financial hat too. More expectations, more transparency, fewer resources, lower budgets…marketers must balance P&L and be experts in budgeting and operations.
- Analytics and data – modern marketers must be comfortable with viewing, analysing and understanding data. More critically, they need to quickly and accurately uncover trends and important takeaways in just a few blinks of the eye.
- Campaign performance – looking at marketing from a sales perspective, it is imperative that marketers are able to understand campaign performance in terms of “the customer”. Whether that is competently using a CRM database or gearing campaigns to push leads down the sales funnel, there is no escaping this aspect now.
Now, this certainly does not mean that every marketer is doomed unless they are a hybrid of part artist and part scientist. If you are a marketer, manage a marketing team, or perhaps run a department or an agency, then ask yourself: “Am I an artist, or am I a scientist, or am I a bit of each?” You will know the answer.
The skills of the modern marketer
Either way, the same rules of “team-ship” apply – varied skill-sets and personalities are vital. And these days this means ensuring that you have a good balance of scientists and artists in your team. Even if you are a creative brand agency, there is no point in coming up with a killer campaign if the metrics and data suggest it will fall on deaf ears.
For example, if you plan to schedule it out on social media to your assumed target market on the wrong social networks and/or when they are all asleep in their beds then it is clear that it will not work. (You may laugh, but I have seen big brands schedule out incredibly creative campaigns on social media but nobody has seen them as it went out at the wrong time and where their mass audience was not active or engaging!)
The danger, of course, is if you focus too much on the science. Your website and marketing materials can easily feel very robotic. Conversely, if you focus too much on the artistic side of things then you won’t know what is working and what is not because you are not taking the time to measure it. It is very important that the modern day marketer understands this and becomes an all-rounder who understands that the two now work together in unison, even if you can’t do that seamlessly yourself.
It is a no-brainer that, as the world ventures more into a technological shift away from “traditional” forms of marketing, we will see the importance of the scientist becoming more and more prevalent in all aspects of business, not just in marketing.
The artist will be the one that ensures that the while the data is highlighting what approaches are needed and where, your campaigns and content will grab attention and cause the customer to take action. Neither can live without the other.
So what are you? Where do your strengths and weaknesses lie? Tell us below what you see yourself as?
Previously, he was Director at Comms Axis, a full service marketing agency specialising in content, social media & website services for businesses of all sizes.
Dan Purvis writes for a number of leading business, social media and marketing sites, including Smart Insights, MarketingProfs, Marketo, MarTech Advisor, Marketing Tech News, MarTech Today, MarTech Exec, and more.
Dan was also ranked by Brand Republic as one of the Top 50 UK Marketing & Social Media influencers.
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