Dur­ing my 20-year career as a mar­keter, there were numer­ous times I was pushed out­side my com­fort zone when I needed to embrace change and move for­ward in uncharted waters. Change is never easy, and frankly it made me ner­vous. Well, it has become abun­dantly clear that dig­i­tal has shaken up the mar­ket­ing trade. As a result, today’s mar­keters find them­selves per­form­ing their work out­side their com­fort zone. Mar­keters seem to be expe­ri­enc­ing a cri­sis of con­fi­dence. They doubt their skills, their effec­tive­ness, and their abil­ity to mea­sure impact.

Accord­ing to an Adobe sur­vey titled “Dig­i­tal Dis­tress: What Keeps Mar­keters Up at Night?

  • only 48 per­cent of mar­keters feel highly pro­fi­cient in dig­i­tal marketing,
  • only 40 per­cent think their company’s mar­ket­ing is effec­tive, and
  • most dig­i­tal mar­keters don’t have for­mal train­ing and 82 per­cent of respon­dents say they learn on the job.

While the mar­ket­ing world has changed, the schools that teach mar­keters have not always kept up with the changes. Sure, the uni­ver­si­ties are doing a good job of teach­ing mar­ket­ing fundamentals—branding and the four Ps (prod­uct, price, place, and pro­mo­tion). How­ever, the peo­ple staffing mar­ket­ing depart­ments do not have an under­stand­ing of Big Data, and they don’t under­stand the impact it has on marketing.

The advent of dig­i­tal has opened up a Pandora’s box of new skills that mar­keters need to be pro­fi­cient. There are new con­cerns to think about like what is SEO and SEM and what does an SEO or SEM strat­egy look like? What is behav­ioral, con­tex­tual, and look-a-like tar­get­ing, and how do they work in opti­miz­ing media? How does one deliver a cus­tomer expe­ri­ence that is per­son­al­ized to the indi­vid­ual ver­sus a mass segment?

What Skills Are Needed?

Dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing has caused mar­keters to think in terms of the entire cus­tomer expe­ri­ence and mov­ing them on the road from acqui­si­tion and usage to con­ver­sion and even­tu­ally reten­tion and loy­alty. How do mar­keters do this?

1. Test­ing is key. You will never get every­thing right. Know­ing how and what to test becomes para­mount. You need to be agile, and in a world of dig­i­tal, the mar­ket­ing depart­ment needs to become a test­ing machine.

2. You need to know what tools are avail­able that can assist in doing your job. It is not nec­es­sary to have a full under­stand­ing of the tech­nol­ogy. Instead, you need to know what’s avail­able. You need to have some knowl­edge of social sen­ti­ment and influ­ence, tar­get­ing, per­son­al­iza­tion, media opti­miza­tion, Web man­age­ment, and more.

3. You need to know how to cap­ture data, trans­late it into insight, and inter­pret it. You need to fig­ure out ways to go from data to insight to action.

4. You need to be skilled in break­ing down silos and work­ing effec­tively with cross chan­nels, cross media, and pri­vacy and secu­rity concerns.

Indus­try and School Partnership

To pre­pare mar­keters for today’s dig­i­tal real­i­ties, col­leges and MBA pro­grams need to think of their cur­ricu­lum dif­fer­ently. Com­pa­nies who make the tools to mea­sure, opti­mize, and mon­e­tize dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing need to do their part to help mar­keters learn the nec­es­sary skills and share indus­try best practices.

At Adobe we host an annual Sum­mit, the pre­mier dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing con­fer­ence, where every year more than 5,000 mar­keters gather to learn the lat­est inno­v­a­tive strate­gies and get expert insights and hands-on expe­ri­ence nec­es­sary to suc­ceed in dig­i­tal marketing.

The schools that edu­cate mar­keters are work­ing hard to close the gap between teach­ing just mar­ket­ing fun­da­men­tals and edu­cat­ing future mar­keters in all things digital.

I recently had the chance to talk to San­jog Misra, a pro­fes­sor at the UCLA’s Ander­son School of Man­age­ment, and Michael Schinelli, chief mar­ket­ing offi­cer at the Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Busi­ness School, to get their per­spec­tive on how mar­ket­ing cur­ricu­lum needs to change in the face of the new dig­i­tal real­i­ties. Misra explained:

Mar­ket­ing is fun­da­men­tally chang­ing. No longer are firms and man­agers sat­is­fied with deci­sions made solely on intu­ition and gut, but require these deci­sions to be val­i­dated based on test­ing, data and a ver­i­fied ana­lytic approach. This is even more pro­nounced in the dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing space where unprece­dented amounts of data are now avail­able at a cost point that doesn’t make you flinch. At the UCLA Ander­son School of Man­age­ment we rec­og­nize that data, ana­lyt­ics and dig­i­ti­za­tion are not a fad but are seis­mic changes in how mar­ket­ing is done. We and lead­ing edge firms like Adobe are re-vamping the mar­ket­ing cur­ricu­lum and estab­lish­ing a new focus on data and ana­lyt­ics. The aim is to train and edu­cate a new breed of mar­ket­ing man­agers who will come to this dig­i­tal mar­ket envi­ron­ment with an ana­lytic mind­set and a toolkit that fos­ters data-driven deci­sion making.”

Schinelli com­mented further:

Mar­ket­ing is now as much sci­ence as art due to the con­flu­ence of two simul­ta­ne­ous rev­o­lu­tions.  The first is tech­no­log­i­cal advances in plat­forms like Adobe Mar­ket­ing Cloud, that allow mar­keters to gather, ana­lyze and ele­gantly visu­al­ize large and com­plex data sets to gain cus­tomer insights. The sec­ond is the explo­sion of dig­i­tal devices and channels—from smart phones to social media—which are the com­mon cur­rency of dig­i­tal natives whose lives are trans­acted in pixels.

Com­pet­i­tive advan­tage and rev­enue growth will come from being at the right dig­i­tal inter­sec­tion at the right time with the right offer. UNC Kenan-Flagler offers both dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and data ana­lyt­ics courses to pre­pare tomorrow’s mar­ket­ing lead­ers to be as much chief rev­enue offi­cers as chief mar­ket­ing offi­cers. Flu­ency in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing ana­lyt­ics will be a pre-requisite for these roles.”

Like it or not, we are all part of the brave new world of dig­i­tal now.