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Marketing skills: The best marketing investment for 2016

Marketing skills: The best marketing investment for 2016

It’s 2016 now and marketers across the country are reviewing plans, teams, campaigns and activities. Across the country, desks and screens are filled with spreadsheets, budget print outs, presentation decks and pitches, phones are ringing and moleskin notebooks will be unfurled in breathless anticipation. But modern marketing is more than the sum of its parts. It’s also about people and their marketing skills.

Back in 2012, Gartner made a bold claim – that by 2017, half of the IT budget would be owned (or spent) by the CMO. But many chief marketing officers nor their extended teams have seen much of this shift take place. Until recently. This has been driven by the explosion of marketing software and the benefits that it can deliver.

Marketing technology is not a silver bullet

In just a few short years, Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic has grown both in size and scope. In 2014, he listed 947 companies providing marketing and marketing related software, and at the beginning of 2015 it has almost doubled to 1876. The technology story, however, is just one part of the equation. The other part is distinctly human – it is all about skills.

These days, we can literally purchase and deploy marketing software in a matter of hours. The software-as-a-service offerings from most vendors can have us live and operational very quickly – at least in a vanilla format. Customisation can take longer, but we are still talking weeks and months not months and years. But skills take some time to develop. Competency and training can prove harder than expected, and coaching and mentoring often proves a hit and miss affair. Marketing leaders need a clearer trajectory for their teams to deliver the promised technology ROI. In short – it’s time to plan your teams marketing skills.

Developing your team’s marketing skills

With an increasing focus technology, today’s marketers need to have one foot in the IT camp and one in the business camp. For more traditional marketers, this means adding new skills to your existing expertise. And for digital marketers it means diving deeper into traditional marketing capabilities. It’s a multi-layered world.

Marketing leaders can help set a vision – as well as a path to achieve it – as follows:

  1. Understanding your marketing team skills footprint. When conducting marketing skills audits, I have often found that people have hidden super powers. Learn about your team’s surface and deep skill sets by conducting a skills audit across the five dimensions of marketing skills capability. Have your team members complete a self-assessment to get things started. Rank skills from 1-5, where 1 is novice and 5 is expert.
  2. Set a marketing skills agenda for your teams. With limited resources, it is essential that marketing leaders set an agenda for skill development. This helps prioritise where training, coaching and even technology investments are made. For example, if you have plenty of team capabilities in marketing foundations but are struggling with data analytics, prioritise data analytics over marketing foundations.
  3. Ask for 360 degree assessment. Once the self-assessments have been done, ask direct reports, managers and colleagues to assess an individual’s skills against the same criteria. For smaller teams, just work with direct managers.
  4. Identify gaps between your agenda and the current skills state. Analyse the results to identify where there is a gap in capability and the agenda that you have for your business. That gap – and the people and skills that are lacking – is where you need to invest.
  5. Plan, budget and commit to marketing skills. Now, with all your budgets and planning documents in front of you, identify the best conferences, courses, new campaigns and projects that will build the skills, confidence and capabilities of your teams. Work with the specific individuals to build out a plan for the year ahead that closes their skills gap and delivers the capability that you need.

When it comes to delivering value and returns on your marketing investment, it’s easy to focus on what you spend. But to leverage your investment, re-assess your team and where you want them to take you. Build their skills and help them create value for your customers. That is perhaps, the best marketing investment you can make.

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