In marketing, there’s this sense that we’re in a constant state of flux. New channels sprout left and right every week. Consumers are evolving rapidly. A three-year pandemic, a major war, and a looming recession aren’t helping.
How do you stay ahead of the curve and gain an edge over your competition?
Well, in this post, I outlined some of the recent changes that have been affecting marketers and what they mean for those who want to succeed. I’ve also compiled a list of recommendations for resources that will help you grow as a marketer or a business owner. Here’s a sneak peek at what that looks like:
So if you’re serious about getting ahead in 2024, keep reading!
The future ahead – and the skills that go with it
I don’t possess a crystal ball – or a black turtle neck, for that matter, which seems to be a requirement for digital futurists. I won’t even begin to presume that I can explain the intricate changes in the world around us, much more predict them. But what I do is read a lot! And over the past few months, I’ve been poring over reports that show the latest changes and what they mean to marketers.
Let’s explore how the economy, politics, and social changes will affect marketing in 2024 and beyond – and what each one bodes for in-demand marketing skills.
There’s been a ton of recession talk all over. But the recent CMO survey by Deloitte revealed that most marketers do not plan to adjust their budget due to the economic downturn. While this is good news, it does not mean that marketers can rest easy – instead, they need to take a close look at their current marketing strategies and investments and ask themselves how they can make the wisest decisions with what they currently have. This means improved measurement and marketing attribution skills will be even more important.
One interesting thing that comes with inflationary pressures is an increased need for stronger value propositions from brands. 40% of CMOs say they will focus on this in the coming months:
This makes sense. By taking the time to identify customer needs and create meaningful value propositions, brands can ensure that they remain competitive during this uncertain period of economic change. By doing so, marketers can ensure that their investment produces maximum returns with minimal risk and disruption.
In terms of learning, this means you need to hone your positioning and copywriting skills.
Brand is politics
We’re seeing an exciting shift in how brands approach politically-charged topics. In the CMO Survey, Deloitte, over 30% agreed that brands need to address political issues – the highest percentage since the survey started in 2008.
Brands didn’t just happen to grow a conscience or get braver overnight, though. This risky approach is motivated by external factors. Customers want to buy from brands whose beliefs and values align with their own; employees want to work with companies they respect and admire; investors want to invest in companies whose core principles are sound. It’s no longer enough for a brand to be seen as reliable or affordable if it isn’t also socially responsible.
The data backs this up – according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, people are more likely than ever to take action when a company speaks out on issues they care about.
This means that brands can no longer ignore these topics if they want to remain relevant and competitive in their industry. Companies that recognize this shift are already ahead of the curve; those who don’t may struggle to stay afloat if they don’t catch up quickly.
In terms of marketing skills, customer empathy is key to finding out the right political topics to address. So learning from your audience remains crucial.
Meaningful brand experiences lead to customer loyalty. This is a truism, but also one I can back with data, thanks to Gartner.
This means that providing the right experience to the right customer is vital for companies looking to maximize their brand loyalty. However, this presents a challenge for marketers as customers are becoming increasingly wary of sharing their data with brands and platforms. Ad blockers, privacy option tinkering, and disabling certain features are no longer a prerogative of the tech geeks – it’s now mainstream:
Still, there are ways marketers can get around this issue. The key is creating content that provides value for customers and gets them excited to share more information with you. In other words, rather than relying on external data, marketers need to focus on having conversations with customers and providing content that is so valuable that it entices them to give away their data.
In terms of skills, you need to focus on content marketing—creating high-value content that encourages engagement and incentivizes customers to share more information with you.
The myth of attribution
Since… well, practically forever, marketers have struggled with validating the ROI of marketing efforts. However, with the latest changes to Google Analytics and the impending death of third-party data, this issue is growing in importance.
This is highlighted by Deloitte’s CMO survey, which found that 8.9% of a company’s total marketing budget goes towards analytics software, a new record number – which will only increase over the next three years, reaching 14.5%.
Attribution is complicated, and marketers are also starting to realize that they cannot attribute everything. Industry leaders like Rand Fishkin and Tim Soulo have been talking about the elusiveness of ROI and the fact that if we’re only chasing attributable metrics, we’re losing sight of other important marketing benefits.
In terms of skills, there are two sides to the coin. One, we need to up our technical proficiency and know the capabilities – and the limitations – of marketing measurement software. We also need a mindset shift to start viewing “soft” and qualitative data as something we can base decisions on. Lastly, we need to become educators for the rest of the company and help them reach these same conclusions.
Permanently evolving channels
Do you have a feeling that things in digital are moving quicker than ever before? Well, it’s not just a feeling. Take TikTok, for example. The platform reached 1 billion users at record speed – roughly 3 times quicker than it took Instagram to do the same. Customer behavior changes at breakneck speed.
On the other hand, these rapid developments make it harder to understand if the growth of a channel is related to a sustainable change in user behavior or if it’s merely a fad. Want proof? Think of Clubhouse. In February 2021, it looked like this was the big new social player everyone should invest time in. What we saw by the end of the same year, though, painted a different picture.
So marketers must get even more nimble and adapt to the changing digital landscape. But, more importantly, they need to keep up with their target audiences and stay in the know of the channels these people deem important.
Skills are critical – but they are ever-changing
So the world around us is changing quickly, and marketers of all backgrounds need to keep up. According to research by the Harvard Business Review, traditional marketing degrees are becoming less important when landing decent jobs in the field. It makes sense – by the time you get a degree, there’s so much new stuff out there! This means that developing solid skills is key.
However, the skills we need are constantly changing.
According to LinkedIn data, 25% of the top 10 most sought-after skills in 2020 weren’t even present in 2015. And it’s predicted that a full 41% of the most desirable skills will be different by 2025—that’s less than four years from now!
The takeaway is clear: if you want a successful career in marketing, you need to hone your skills and be prepared to adapt quickly.
Will robots take our jobs?
The big question on everyone’s minds revolves around artificial intelligence. But the truth is that AI won’t be taking away our jobs anytime soon. What it will do, however, is make our lives much easier if we know how to leverage this technology correctly.
GPT tech is incredibly powerful when used correctly – it can accurately summarize complex articles quickly or even provide insight into customer behavior patterns. But while GPT can give us excellent results, it can sometimes feel like asking a three-year-old to explain existentialist literature! We all need to be mindful of the limitations of this technology.
So, if you feel intimidated by AI, don’t be! Instead, hone your technical skills and become a master prompter. This will ensure you remain competitive.
Three sets of skills to bring into the future
No matter how quickly technology and the marketing landscape evolve each year, there are fundamental skills that will remain essential for marketers.
Let me bring you back to something Jeff Bezos said: “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. …”
The same thing goes for your career strategy and your marketing strategy. I think with the abundance of new shiny things, we sometimes forget about the fundamentals. So I wanted to explore the three sets of skills that have been consistently important for my work as a marketer over time. Staying focused on these fundamentals is critical to achieving success in my work, and they can help you, too.
Understanding your target audience is the basis of all good marketing. Too often, marketers would focus on stats in platforms like Google Analytics. But speaking directly to customers is a great way to gain insights into their behaviors and preferences. What they value, where they go for information, what’s changing in their behaviour – robust audience research can help answer these questions.
Another crucial part of customer empathy is understanding channel etiquette. Interacting with customers through the channels they use isn’t just about content; it’s also about knowing the channel vernacular. This will help you build content that feels natural and not just like a pesky marketing interruption.
Positioning and copywriting
Positioning and brand differentiation helps us ensure that our message resonates with the right audience. Copywriting requires understanding customer needs and developing messaging based on those needs. To be sure, copywriting isn’t just about creating cutesy headlines – it’s about using voice-of-customer data to craft content that speaks directly to our target personas.
To do this well, we need to understand who our actual competitors are by looking at the Jobs to be Done and figuring out the true alternatives to our solution – even if that is ‘not doing the job at all’ or ‘manual work in a cobbled up spreadsheet’. And this isn’t something ChatGPT will help you with.
Measurement and attribution
This category has two sides. First, we need to know the capabilities of our measurement platforms inside and out. This means being able to coax the insights out of the stats, manipulating data, and knowing when we can rely on automated tools such as TripleWhale to surface insights for us.
However, we must also understand that attribution is never 100% accurate. We should also consider ‘soft data’ or qualitative feedback from customers to ascertain how well our content does its job. For example, do you track your replies to email campaigns in addition to easy metrics like open rates and click rates? You should!
And finally, as a marketer, you’ll also need to educate your team on the topic of attribution. Explain how you’re using qualitative and quantitative data to assess the success of a marketing campaign – it will take some effort, but it’s worth it in the end.
Resources for marketing skills development
So if you know what types of skills you need to develop, there’s an even bigger question to ask. How do you go about developing them?
I was trying to explain the various sources I learned from recently, and I created a simple structure that summarizes each resource type’s role in upskilling. It positions them based on how practical or theoretical the knowledge that I get from them is. And at the same time, it differentiates between structured all-encompassing sources and specific tactical ones. It looks something like this:
You can see that there isn’t anything in the bottom-left quadrant because I don’t think it’s worth spending time on a resource about the theoretical background of referral forms or some other tactical detail. But for all other situations, you will see that you have a choice of sources to use depending on the depth and structure you need.
Let’s look at an example. Say, I want to learn more about UX – an area I have very little familiarity with. I’ll probably look for sources of structured information that can help me learn the basics fast. So I may turn to some books on the topic or jump into a course.
Then again, I might want to improve my PPC skills. I’ve managed ad campaigns for a long time, but my paid acquisitions skills are a bit rusty. I’m out of step with the latest developments. Then I might go to a podcast and hear what tactics experts are using now. Or subscribe to the newsletter of a PPC expert I know who’ll serve as my filter for the latest trends in paid channels. That’s a good fit for my needs – I need to catch up on the latest actionable tips rather than get foundational knowledge.
So if you want to up your skills, you need to create your own “resource diet” to fit your needs. And to achieve the best results, you can use two powerful strategies.
The ‘Who’ strategy
Using the ‘Who’ strategy is a great way to speed up learning and acquire knowledge quickly. This technique involves something simple: asking yourself, “Who knows more than I do in this area?” Find an experienced professional in this field who can provide you with quality recommendations quickly.
For example, if you want to become better at technical SEO, reach out to highly-experienced professionals, ask them for their list of top five resources on the subject, and you’ll be off to a great start.
Putting things into practice
Putting new concepts into practice is the best way to internalize them. After reading a book, watching a video, or taking a course, take the time to write down one idea that you can use in real life. Then add it to your weekly to-do list so you can put it into action!
You may say, “But my boss won’t allow me to test things on our company channels just like that!” Or maybe you’re still not in a marketing position at all. No worries – you can create your own side project and use this as your testing ground. Start a blog on Medium, build a newsletter, register your YouTube channel. Or you can even help a local charity or NGO that does work you’re passionate about – just drop them a line and offer your marketing services for free.
Whatever you decide, if you get hands-on with the theory, you’ll quickly grow as a marketer and become more confident in your knowledge.
Your 2024 marketing learning plan
To create a comprehensive learning plan, consider the following:
- Identify what skills you want to develop and what type of knowledge you need.
- Reach out to someone who can recommend how to continue growing the skill.
- Decide which resources will best help you achieve your goals. If you already know the basics, then go for more practical sources. If you’re completely new to the field, look for structured knowledge.
- Develop practical skills by implementing what you learn and testing it in practice.
Take 15 minutes to answer these questions in written form for a detailed plan on how to continue forward. This is an important step in your upskilling journey as it will give you direction and keep your progress organized. Good luck with your journey!