What's keeping marketers awake at night?

Posted by Jenni Armstrong on 08 November 2013

Can businesses and organisations pick up the new skills they require to reinvent themselves, or could they become another victim of the 
digital revolution? Squared Senior Tutor, Nick Watt, examines Adobe’s recent research report “Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night”, which paints a picture of the learning challenges facing marketers today.

“Human civilization has seen three major revolutions in its history. We had the Agricultural Revolution of the ancient times, the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th to early 19th century and finally, the Digital/Tech revolution in which we currently live. Each revolution is marked by a drastic change from the regular, resulting from a new innovation”. Paul Hudson, Elite.

 So it’s no surprise that Adobe’s report ascertains that 76 per cent of marketers think marketing has changed more in the past two years than the past 50. And the cause of all this disruption and upheaval? Digital.

Marketers are increasingly evolving their strategy, and looking to a growing number of suppliers to validate their ideas. While their agencies, who no longer have a monopoly on ideas or creativity in this new digital world, are being forced to find more ways to deliver greater value and expertise to their clients. Brands are also increasingly bringing elements of digital in-house – search, social, content, measurement & optimization, and even site builds are now commonplace. And for many organisations digital is increasingly about business solutions, not just marketing solutions.

So How Are Marketers Responding To All This Change?

• 97% of the participants agree that marketing must do things that it hasn’t done ever before to be successful

But how do you learn to do this in an agile digital world where constant change is becoming the norm? The requirement for today’s marketer is to fail fast, and fail forward. And as everyone is discovering, new skills are required throughout the marketing organization, which makes hiring and training even more crucial than ever. The motto of modern marketing must surely be: the only constant is change.

Do You Have The Skillset?

Less than half of digital marketers feel highly proficient in digital marketing, while marketing generalists (37%) were even less confident in their abilities. Just one in three marketers think their companies are highly proficient in digital marketing. And their coworkers don’t come out much better with only two out of five marketers consider their colleagues to be highly proficient in digital marketing.

Keeping Current

Adobe identified that second biggest concern for marketers, after how to reach customers, is keeping current when it comes to the ever-changing pool of knowledge needed to do the job. One of the answers is of course formal digital training. However, some 80% of marketers have gained all their digital marketing skills on the job, while only 18% had received any formal digital training while in the workplace.

The Skills Gap Is Widening

MIT and Harvard graduate Scott Brinker, now CTO at Ion Interactive in Boston, Mass, is the man behind Martec’s Law. He believes in two things:

• Technology changes exponentially
• Organizations change logarithmically

At it’s most basic the law states that technology is continually changing, and those changes seem to be accelerating (which is the basis behind the theory ofMoore’s Law). However change within organisations – how they think and behave – is still hard and slow. It’s a bit like trying to change the wheel on a moving car, when the car continues to accelerate. Organisations speed of change tends to logarithmic, the much slower rising red curve below it. It takes time for people to alter their thinking and behavior. With groups of people, where there are existing structures, processes, incentives, and cultural momentum, it takes even more effort to change. And the larger the organisation, the greater the resistance to innovation and transformation.

So How Do You Fill The Skills Gap?
One of the biggest challenges for any organisation is finding T-shaped people, who not only have a depth of knowledge when it comes to digital’s any specialisms, but also the breath of knowledge that allows them to strategically join the dots. Especially as marketers are increasingly have to play the role of both chief strategist and ringmaster to an ever-growing number of specialist agencies and suppliers. Marketers are also facing greater challenges when it comes to integrating digital across the whole business, so a holistic approach to the impact of digital on business, not just marketing, is becoming increasingly important. And when it comes employing technologists or a specialist digital agency, do you know enough about digital to spot the good one’s from the plain average?

Formal digital learning is becoming a far bigger investment priority, especially as digital touches every part of business, not just marcoms. Acquiring the right skills and the mindset needed for growth and survival is key, but does your business have the determination to invest the required time and money into their people and grow a better future?