Why you need to train for digital marketing gain

CMO Council looks at how leading companies are identifying the digital talent gaps that need to be filled in the marketing organisation for success

Leading companies are identifying the digital talent gaps that must be filled in order to keep pace in today’s competitive digital landscape.

Since its inception, digital has been viewed as the path forward for marketers, who are able to engage, inform and connect with consumers more effectively and efficiently than ever before. From email and social media to big data, personalisation and beyond, organisations are now able to capture valuable information about their customers that allows them to deliver experiences that truly delight and engage.

This has led to a competitive landscape that shifts and evolves on a daily basis, which is making it all the more imperative for organisations to deliver the kinds of experiences that stand apart in consumers’ minds. However, it has also created organisational gaps as the skills needed to remain abreast of all these changes also require new talent. While the digital future may have once seemed to be a far-off reality, one thing is certain: When it comes to digital, the future is now.

And marketers know that digital channels are critical to engaging today’s consumer. Global spending on digital advertising will reach US$178 billion in 2016, almost 30 per cent of total ad spending, according to eMarketer. However, according to new research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), marketers do not have the skills they need to compete in today’s digital world and, in fact, the shortcomings in this area are greater than may have initially been estimated.

BCG research also indicates that marketers are still largely focused on the past, working to catch up on yesterday’s needs rather than devoting attention to develop the skills they will need for the future.

According to a BCG Perspectives piece, “Digital marketing is not only the future, it’s the present. But do today’s marketers have the skills they need to operate in a digital world? New research by The Boston Consulting Group shows that they do not - and that the gaps and shortfalls are bigger than companies assume. The signs for the future are even more troubling, as many marketers seem focused on catching up on yesterday’s needs rather than embedding into their organisations the capabilities and expertise that will be required tomorrow. The companies that act now to transform their marketing capabilities will be much better positioned to connect with their customers in the years to come.”

Capgemini Consulting’s recent report, The Digital Talent Gap: Developing Skills for Today’s Digital Organisations, underscores this positioning, stating that more than 4.4 million IT jobs were created around big data last year, yet only a third of those jobs were filled. Furthermore, the report reveals that the impact of digital technologies is felt across the entire organisation, leading to a heavy demand for digital skills. In fact, Capgemini’s study in conjunction with the MIT Center for Digital Business found that 77 per cent of companies believe the lack of digital skills is the primary hurdle to their digital transformation.

Furthermore, although more than half of companies realise mobile expertise is key to digital transformation, more than 80 per cent of companies say they lack skills in mobile.

Furthermore, Capgemini notes that current efforts to develop digital skills are not synced with the strategy as only 4 per cent of companies align their training efforts with the digital strategy, and companies are spending 20 per cent of their training budgets or less on digital.

As both BCG and Capgemini conclude, traditional marketing skills remain important, but they are no longer enough. In order for organisations to remain competitive in the digital world, it is time to begin focusing on the need to expand, upgrade and better equip talent to boost digital marketing proficiency and pave the way for a successful future. However, this process will not be identical for each individual company, and marketers face a number of challenges that must be overcome to achieve this level of success.

Identifying the digital talent gaps

Senior vice-president of SAP Global Marketing, Maggie Fox, says that every company must find the most appropriate definition and strategy for its own unique journey. The tech piece of the puzzle has not been the challenge for SAP as they are well versed in rolling out new technologies and solutions.

The challenge in this area, Fox says, has been with the people and adapting mindsets to progress with the technology. She explains that the key to success is motivating teams to focus their efforts on driving new processes that will support digital this transformation.

"The marketplace is a living thing. In order to succeed as an organisation, we need to meet the pace of the market. And as marketers, we are the closest to the voice of the customer,” she says. "For any transformation to work, adoption is critical to success. And for people to adopt new technologies or methodologies, they need to believe in them and understand the vision. The more they understand this, the more likely they are to shift behaviors and stop doing what they were previously doing. I cannot emphasize enough the need to communicate why transformation is important."

Bodee Kittikamrom is global director of digital and corporate marketing communications for Littelfuse, a multinational electronic manufacturing company. He says the company has made significant strides over the last five years and rates their digital proficiency at a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. He sees the greatest gaps within the relationship between marketing and sales.

“We see ourselves as one of the leaders in the industry, but we still have much more work to do in terms of the system [technology stack], process and culture,” he explains. “We would like to be a digital-first organisation and the leading marketing organisation in our industry, so we invest in new software/hardware, industry meetings/conferences, as well as bringing on additional deep subject matter experts in different areas of digital. We also invest in collaboration initiatives, which create more opportunities for learning and sharing across the company.

Read more: New digital index aims to identify consumer perceptions of online marketing

“However, gaps exist in the area where work is shifting to marketing from sales. We need to influence and drive aligned changes within the traditional sales process.”

The key to digital optimisation

The age of digital is certainly upon us, and the need for transformation—across both platforms and people—is clear. Having the talent in place to understand the changes that are occurring and remain nimble will be paramount to success. In addition, a culture of constantly learning and keeping up to speed with customer needs and how technology can help to address those needs will be critical as well.

For Laurie Borgen, senior director of global digital marketing for Thermo Fisher Scientific, this is less about digital marketing and more about marketing in a digital world. She says that formalising digital marketing education for B2B marketers is key to improving the quality of the customer experience while maximizing the lower cost of digital acquisition.

“A centre of excellence for digital strategy and operations can drive rapid experimentation and innovation, as well as digital operational excellence,” Borgen says. “The blending of digital talent and expertise into existing marketing teams modernises current approaches quickly while fast tracking development and adoption of new digital strategies and capabilities.”

According to Capgemini’s report, successful development of digital skills will require the following:

  • Identification of a vision and future skill requirements
  • Assessment of skills gaps
  • Constant evaluation of progress
  • Bridging the skills gap

Most importantly, it will be important to remember that digital is a moving target, not a destination. There is no digital “finish line,” where the work is suddenly complete and marketers can sit back and marvel at the transformation. The shift will be two-fold, involving changes in both buyer behavior and in business behavior. Both of these must be considered when gauging where, how and when organisations seek to connect with customers.

This article originally appeared in CMO Council’s PeerSphere magazine, July 2016.

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