Remaining relevant in 2018: Are you as a marketer ready?

A marketer's role, personality and overall job scope is no longer well-defined. Marketers need to understand the full customer journey, from the first point of contact to sales, to fulfilment and the cycle repeats to drive customer retention. One day they can be a company's biggest chief data scientist, only to be fighting PR fires the next. The role is ever evolving.

To stay relevant, Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s global chief marketing and communications officer said marketers need to stop looking at themselves as specialists in the field of marketing. Instead, they should look upon themselves more as general managers.

“First and foremost, they should understand the notion that we don't do marketing for marketing's sake. You do marketing for the sake of business. It is about a mindset change,” Rajamannar explained. He added that marketers also need to think about how they can position their function in their respective companies. This comes with the rise of roles such as “chief growth officer”.

But one sure shot way to ensure you keep up with change is to really embrace data and technology. As such, marketers need to be able to understand, collaborate and also educate themselves on the technology out there. They also need to understand how their businesses make money.

“Think about the drivers of profitability for your business, and then evaluate how you are going to influence that and drive it. Also consider how to know when the approach is working and when it is working,” Rajamannar said.

“If the marketers go on to continually state the purpose of marketing properly in their companies, there is no reason for proliferation of these other roles. From my perspective, marketing is what it is - but it needs to be remarketed in the respective companies to stay relevant,” Rajamannar said.

Alan Ho, marketing director at TIBCO APJ, added that moving forward, marketers will need to have a seat on the table and be a major contributor for defining the business strategy. This is because more marketers are being measured on revenue and are seen as the driving force behind a company's evolution.

Become a tech expert

"To be important in a company, marketers need to embrace technology as they will soon see their yearly budgets increase in all things digital and transformation becomes more prominent and on the horizon,"  Aleetza Senn, CEO and co-founder of analytics firms Sparkline, said.

As such, more marketers will also be expected to make the right tech investments to boost the marketing teams' output. This means that they have to upskill their team's capabilities to be able to understand and maximise their investment in digital.

Rajamannar seconded the statement, adding that many CMOs have a technology budget that is sometimes bigger than the CTO’s in the company. With the rapid evolution of technology, this is something which cannot be ignored and marketers need to educate themselves on how to be an expert in the area.

“Don’t just accept the black boxes and think ‘Here, I put some stuff into this algorithm and what came out is the best utilisation of my money’. Be more responsible and understand what is in this box, as the people who created the box might not be marketing guys,” Rajamannar said.

Ho added that with the right technology in place, marketers will be able to plot the full customer journey.

"This is not just about intelligence at the top of the funnel. It is about connectivity and gaining insight across all systems across the full customer journey. This is connected intelligence," he said. He added that given the extreme speed in which marketing is evolving and consumer choices are changing, IT cannot facilitate the decision on technology choices.

"Marketing needs speed to market and building an in-house system is going to take time. With the inter-connectivity required, especially after making the choice on which technology to use. IT becomes an organisation to validate on security and data integrity," he said, adding:

Marketing will need to make the call on which tech to use. However, this can only happen when marketing teams know what they want, and when they have a strategic end in mind.

"It is the trend and it is already happening in larger organisations. The trend towards marketing making more IT-based decisions in today's world is inevitable," he added. This is especially as digitisation, mobility, and IoT have transformed the way marketers understand customers.

"It has given us insights we have never seen before. It is a matter of gaining access to the insight, understanding what it means and what we do with it. It is about the action taken and how we impact the business directly," he added.

Be a data scientist

Rajamannar also added that more marketers need to realise that great marketing cannot be done with understanding data, so they need to be best friends with the company’s data scientist.

“If you are not a quantitative guy you can't do it yourself, you have to learn. It's a constant learning and relearning and reinventing ourselves,” Rajamannar said.

Sparkline's Senn added that marketers will need to adapt and be adept at data analytics.

Traditional marketers are communicators, not technologists. It is important for marketers to bridge the skills gap and embrace the importance of data-driven insights to grow the business.

She added that the CMO role will continue getting pressured, both internally and externally as digital disruption continues to revolutionise how brands operate.

Meanwhile, Dave Sanderson, CEO, Nugit added that going forward there are six things marketers need to keep in mind when it comes to data in 2018:

1.Data is and will remain the top digital currency:

"Beyond the disruptions we have seen caused by next generation technology, new processes, business models, and even new organisations are looking at how to monetise data as an asset," he said.

2. Preventing data lakes from being data swamps will remain a priority:

"Consumers will be expecting a more tailored experience as well as services. Delivering these requires an agile platform that can provide both analytical and operational processing, so brands will be looking for SaaS partners that can help manage this," he added.

3. Data analytical skills will be on the rise:

While data analysts are still in demand, the rise in machine learning within AI means software which provides some of these analytical skills will be readily available.

"They will be easier to use than some of the legacy systems we’ve seen in the past, which still require some degree of technical knowledge. Talent that is able to ask why and search for meaning in the data beyond just the extraction of insights, will be highly valued," he added.

4. Data storytelling will take centre stage:

There will also be a focus on data storytelling. Stakeholders will no longer just want reports that display cold hard numbers and they will expect to know the how and why, in order to make decisions and create a strategy that consistently delivers the desired results. In order to achieve this, brands will need to work on data storytelling to make sense of the numbers and present it in a way that speaks to people.

5. More preemptive analytics will be available.

There will be a shift from post-campaign to real-time and preemptive analytics that can drive transactions, as opposed to just modifying or optimising campaigns. Essentially, beyond predictive analytics that tells marketers what might happen, preemptive analytics will study these outcomes and real-time data, to help brands strategise on what to do in order to achieve a desired outcome.

Naturally, this will lead to a transformative impact on the ability of data-centric businesses, allowing them to identify new revenue streams, save costs and improve their interactions with customers in a more timely and efficient manner.

6. Data agility will separate brands

As more brands realise and understand the potential of data agility, processing and analytic models will evolve to provide this agility. The advantage of being able to understand data in context and take almost immediate business action, is a competitive advantage that will separate brands into “winners” versus “losers”.

“A business that is missing any element will likely suffer a domino effect which will turn their data lakes into dreaded data swamps. If you are looking to make these changes then remember these two golden rules: first, clearly identify your requirements and second, choose software that is user-friendly. Ensuring these two will allow you to see returns in your investment through proper usage, and get your data ecosystem up and running this 2018," he added.