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How to Avoid Becoming a Marketing Fossil

marketing_fossilIn his new book, The Marketing Performance Blueprint, HubSpot partner Paul Roetzer, shares a story from Anita Newton, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Adknowledge. A few years ago, despite being a top-tier marketer in her mid-30s with an MBA and leadership experience at P&G, she was "a fossil" on account of her inability to execute a last-minute campaign on her own. Paul is quick to note that Anita is not alone: There are countless marketers who know a lot about the 4 P’s and marketing strategy, but don’t have the skillset to create a campaign that matches how their prospects and leads buy in the 21st century.

Paul’s notion that “nobody ever got fired for placing an ad” is the new “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” struck a chord with me, and served as a poignant reminder that marketers who refused to adapt and embrace inbound marketing strategies will be rendered extinct in an increasingly technology-driven and mobile-first world. To that end, here are five of the lessons from Paul’s book to help all of us adapt our skills and become fluent in an increasingly digital world.

1) Always Be Measuring

Just 36% (!!) of CMOs have proven the short-term impact of marketing spend, while long-term spend dips to 29% in the latest 2014 CMO Survey. In a world where you can measure visits, impressions, conversions, cost to acquire a customer, lifetime value of a customer, and impact by channel, the fact that roughly one third of marketers aren’t using this data to their advantage is alarming. Simply put, marketers who can’t or won’t measure their efforts will be the first out the door, so identifying the software, strategy, and skills that will help your marketing team get to measurable is top on the fossil prevention plan.

Not sure what to measure or where to start? HubSpot’s CMO Mike Volpe created a primer to get you started.

2) Make Real-Time Marketing the Norm

Consumers used to hear about your company and your brand on your schedule: You controlled your ad spend, scheduled earnings calls and investor meetings, and managed PR campaigns based on product launches and business updates. Now, consumers are talking about your brand on social media in real time, whether you’re participating or not, and every customer service interaction on Facebook or Twitter comes with an audience of potential buyers.

To that end, Paul correctly notes that we’ve entered an era where companies are in “bathing suit season” 24/7/365. You don’t get “credit” for real-time marketing; it’s the norm, not the exception. Marketers need to get comfortable with a more transparent approach to the way they do business, and embrace review sites and social media conversations that put consumers squarely in the driver’s seat. Preparing a team and approach that is agile, responsive, and consistent with consumer cadence and expectation is no longer optional.

3) Rethink Your Org Chart

Take a hard look at your marketing org chart: Is it built for the future or the past? There’s no one “right” way to organize your marketing efforts, but chances are if the structure of the team and your hiring approach has been the same for a decade, you need to rethink it. From mobile optimization to marketing automation to coding and copywriting, you need to hire for skills that simply weren’t necessary to be a top-tier marketer 10 years ago.

To that end, Roetzer correctly notes that the key to a successful marketing org chart is “creat(ing) a consistent customer experience, from first touchpoint through purchase, and beyond.” Map sample customer journeys through your buying process and identify gaps where your team’s skillset or structure falls short, then tailor your strategy and hiring plans accordingly.

4) Revamp Your Agency Relationship

It used to be that marketers partnered with agencies to conceptualize, create, produce, and place their advertising, and to develop and deliver on their PR strategy. Metrics were often fuzzy at best (often rooted in C-level happiness with perceived innovation or impact), and reporting was often limited and infrequent. Paul (who runs a highly successful agency in Ohio) thinks clients and agencies can do better -- he recommends engaging and assessing agency partners based on their ability to “consistently produce measurable outcomes” and to “work with agency partners that care as much about performance and success as you do.”

To that end, pushing potential agencies on what metrics they will measure, why they are measuring them, and with what cadence should be top of mind, as should the quality of your full account team. Every agency has senior folks who support business development, but you want to believe in and enjoy working with the folks staffing your account on a daily basis. Agencies shouldn’t just build your brand, they should help build your business -- and be measured and retained accordingly.

5) Make Nurturing Your Nature

Paul identifies as many as six different audiences that can fundamentally impact your business, including analysts, bloggers, competitors, customers, employees, and job candidates. With the potential exception of competitors, your marketing plan should include a business-focused objective for identifying, educating, informing, and inspiring each of these core groups. Effectively employing social media management and marketing automation technology for lead nurturing can make this process highly automated and efficient, but most marketers are leaving money (and opportunity) on the table by either solely focusing on consumers or not effectively leveraging calls-to-action, content, and smart content for a better user experience. Nurturing core audiences sounds incredibly hard (and labor-intensive), but with the right approach and the right technology, lead nurturing with content mapped specifically for each target audience is a surefire way to marketing success.

The conclusion to The Marketing Performance Blueprint includes many tips for improving and augmenting your marketing success, but my favorite is the final one: “Stop making, and accepting, excuses. Start driving change. Build and evolve your team and technologies to become a performance-driven marketing organization.” The biggest risk of becoming a marketing fossil comes from a combination of attitude and aptitude, and you have the ability to control and address both of those issues with an inbound marketing mindset when it comes to hiring, training, and strategic planning. One thing is for sure, marketers who refuse to adapt to an increasingly digital era will be quickly left behind, and Paul’s book is a great reminder and handbook for marketers who would rather be front-page news than found in an archaeological dig.

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