How to stay competitive in the fast paced world of digital marketing

16 Feb 2017

  • Innovation
  • New thinking
  • Technology
  • Digital Marketing
  • Marketing Technology

By: Richard Harris, Managing Director, ADMA IQ

Article originally published on LinkedIn.

I have been an avid reader of the New Scientist for over 20 years. It’s part of my weekend ritual to enjoy a cup of strong black coffee and immerse myself in what is happening in the world of physics, biology and of course, technology.

I read this magazine (yes, in print form because sometimes you need the tactile experience too) because apart from feeding my inner nerd, I found that I began seeing businesses, and in particular marketers, using the advances discussed in the New Scientist to build new business solutions. I would read an interesting article on gene editing using CRISPR and sure enough half a year later we see commercial applications. The same is true with new materials created in labs and new GMO’s designed to increase yields for crops.

Lately, I have noticed that there has been an increase in the articles relating to Artificial Intelligence (AI). For the purposes of this discussion, when I refer to AI I am using it as a catchall phrase to cover areas such as: Machine learning, Automation algorithms, Driverless vehicles and natural language machine interfacing or “traditional” AI.

In this month’s edition alone we learn of the Libratus AI that managed to beat four of the world top poker players at Texas Hold-em winning $1.7 million more than the humans combined. Given that poker offers incomplete data (i.e. some cards are hidden in the hand of the opponent), this is quite a victory coming as it does after an AI beating the world’s best GO player. Another article highlighted an AI solution being available from a UK company that monitors staff behaviour and will raise an alert about any unusual behaviour that could indicate a security risk or indeed, notify management if staff are slacking off. And in Japan we have an AI aunt agony giving love advice and an insurance company that has replaced 35 of its staff with AI to review and process claims as this will increase productivity by 30%.

We are hearing more and more about how AI will offer a range of benefits in helping businesses offer better service while increasing efficiency. We are also coming to understand just how much of our world will eventually be impacted by these technologies. In particular the effect it will have on the kind of jobs humans will be employed to do.

Nor is it just individuals who will affected. Algorithms like Block Chain are being applied to medical diagnostics or trading energy directly between people with no middle man, not to mention BitCoin facilitating peer-to-peer value exchange. These technologies will start to cut into the intermediary role that many companies exist to facilitate today and also cause a big shift on how our global economy will run.

If you feel that none of this will impact you, or these technologies and terms are new to you then I implore you to reconsider, as in reality there will be very few roles in the future not impacted by these technologies. As working individuals, we will need to adapt and grow our skills in line with the rapidly changing demands of business (until computers finally enslave us or offer us a Star Trek-liked utopian existence).

In my daily discussions with marketing leaders, the same issue comes up time and again. The value offered by using data insights leveraged through marketing automation is becoming more understood at board and executive levels – indeed in a recent study we found that for executive teams the confidence in their companies’ ability to execute these strategies was higher than those who bear the responsibility of executing the strategy. The biggest risk to an effective strategy is not lack of technology – it’s the lack of key skills and capabilities within marketing teams that presents the largest risk to success.

So what does all this mean?

It means that we as marketers must invest in ourselves. We must invest time in developing our core skills in digital and data-driven marketing. We must stay current on technology developments and constantly be seeking new opportunities to apply our creative and practical minds on to how to use these technologies to improve the outcomes of our marketing strategies. To help, here are some suggestions on steps you can take to begin investing in your own brand.

1)     Understand your role: What kind of marketer are you? What are your strengths? When are you the go-to person in your team? And what are you passionate about? This represents a starting point. A base camp if you will, that will allow you to evaluate your options and help shape a career plan that will allow you to reach your goal.

2)     Have a goal: While this should go without saying, it is nonetheless a common problem. This problem is exacerbated by the fast pace of change in technology which in turn creates uncertainty in what our industry will look like in 10 years time. So while a long term goal is important, having short term achievable goals is vital. This can be in for the form of learning new skills or gaining understanding in key concepts. The ability to learn and reskill will become increasingly critical to businesses who are also faced with uncertainty and will need an agile workforce that can quickly adapt to changes in the market.

3)     Evaluate yourself: To be competitive you need to understand how your skills and capabilities compare to your peers. ADMA IQ (the professional skills development arm for the Association for Data-driven Marketing & Advertising) has created a Professional Capabilities Standard framework that defines the skills marketers should possess across a range of key marketing roles. More importantly, they have developed an online benchmarking tool so that marketing professionals can gauge how they compare to peers in similar roles. This framework is kept current and updated so that new skills & capabilities are added as business demand for those skills increases – this way you have the ability to keep abreast of these changes and focus your professional development in areas that are important to your career goals.

4)     Professional Development: Like it or not, you will have to keep learning. The good news is that there are many ways to do this. Increasingly popular for many business is the 70-20-10 approach to skills development. This approach focuses on the majority of learning being ‘on the job’. 70% should come from challenging assignments (opportunity to be exposed to new ideas that go beyond the strict scope of your current role), 20% from developmental relationships (mentors, coaches or colleagues) and 10% from targeted training courses. If you are serious about taking control of and driving your career, then having an understanding of how your company will invest in your development is vital. As demand for highly skilled marketers increases, companies are seeing career development as a competitive advantage when hiring new people.

5)     Networking: Under the 70-20-10 principal, developmental relationships are important. And while finding a mentor or coach is important, there are many other people that can help add to your knowledge and skills. Your peers, like you, are seeking to learn and grow. These like-minded people are found at conferences, meetup groups, seminars, and industry events. So get out there! Find your tribe and make those connections. The more engaged with the industry you are, the more opportunity to learn new things and meet new people will present themselves. While this can be daunting, you will find that most organisers of these events will be more than happy to facilitate introductions where possible.

6)     Reading: Again, this should be obvious. Read your ADMA newsletter, subscribe to blogs that discuss areas of interest to you and find content outside of the usual suspects. At the top of this article I mentioned I read the New Scientist. I do this because it not only gives me a view of possible future trends but it also broadens my understanding of a range of topics that have allowed me in the past to form relationships with people who share an interest in science. So challenge yourself to find sources that offer opportunities to understand new concepts or stimulates ideas you can apply to your job.

The bottom line is that we are facing a time of ongoing change and challenge. While there is uncertainty, there is also tremendous opportunity. Those of us who take control of our skills development and invest time in learning how to learn, will ultimately be the marketing leaders of the future.

For more information about the Professional Capability Framework and how to benchmark your skills you can visit

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