Digital marketers are in big demand these days. From small companies to large, CEOs are now well aware of the impact digital marketing professionals can make on their organizations – and their bottom line.
In terms of climbing the ranks to leadership positions, digital marketers – being used to interpreting data to ascertain the success of campaigns – are well placed to get to grips with the finances of a large organization.
For example, one of our clients who recently became one of the first female CEOs in her industry, came from an analytical marketing background, where she used data to create one of the industry’s most successful CRM rewards programs. She credits this as one of the key reasons for making it all the way to CEO, because she really understood the numbers in terms of what they delivered for the company.
In fact, finance and marketing professionals often have the same critical thinking capacity. While finance professionals may not be your first audience for the creative aspect, they’re definitely in your corner when it comes to analytical skills.
Financial awareness and knowledge is a critical tool for marketers who want to rise to the very top of business. I encourage you to start thinking of yourself as a commercial digital marketer. Once you work with that frame of reference, you’ll start to pick up on opportunities that come your way to add business financial literacy to your skillset.
Silo mentality is still too prevalent in most organizations. Marketing sits here, sales sits there and customer service sits somewhere else.
Marketers are uniquely placed to become the bridge across the wider organization, eradicate silos and ease friction. Placing your customers first is a winning strategy for business success, and marketers who do this prove themselves as visionaries and robust drivers of businesses. Be aware, however, that many businesses claim to place customers first, but often the reality doesn’t match up to the statement. Take a look at Zappos to understand what a ‘customer first’ strategy really looks like.
Currently, we’re hearing a lot about customer experience (CX), user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design. I advise you to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in these disciplines and to remember that human-centric design practices will always win the day.
Customers are winning back control of their confidential information. Not only has GDPR radically overhauled data protection in Europe, it’s also becoming clear that it’s a smart strategy to earn the trust of your customers by being clear about how their data will be used. Organizations which act with integrity will win more business.
Understanding the nature of compliance, and how to be compliant with the law, is a non-negotiable.
It’s also critical to develop the data analysis skills you need to stay abreast of your own discipline. Currently, I’m seeing massive gaps for data analysts in the following areas:
Marketing automation is also a key growth-driver of the future, both for organizations and individuals. The only way to scale, no matter the size of your team, is to understand how you can use marketing automation software to convert your potential customers into customers. The likes of HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce et al are not one-size-fits-all solutions, and you’ll still need to drive the strategy behind how you use these tools to bring your organization forward.
Developments are happening so quickly these days. Voice search, of course, is the big topic for discussion. What exactly does the rise of voice search mean for brands? I don’t know the definitive answer to that, but I do know that my kids use voice search more than they talk to me some days! They are five, seven and 10. Can you imagine what their user experience expectations will be like in another five years?
Will brand still be the prime consideration for people when they make a purchasing decision? Is it now? Look at the Amazon batteries example. In the US, 31% of batteries sold online are now Amazon own brand batteries.
Don’t throw out the existing marketing channels just yet, but understand how to integrate them to get the best for your campaigns. Even print still has a role.
Getting back to voice search, my research shows that history is repeating itself with how brands are approaching this new frontier.
For example, some well-known FMCG brands are sending customers directly to their voice search app. This is the wrong approach. From an artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning point of view, the brands that teach their “robots” to understand what their customers want, rather than us telling them what they want, will win.
The most common stories appearing in the media at the moment about AI revolve around doom and gloom stories. The machines are coming to take our jobs! The robots have learnt to talk to each other!
Of course, it’s imperative to be aware of the consequences of any new technology. However, not enough attention is being paid to the positive attributes AI bring with it.
Just imagine if AI can help us move away from thinking about what to have to eat tonight, and free up time in our life to think about ‘higher order items’, what value it could add to our lives.
One thing’s for sure, if AI removes poor user experience or friction from my life, I’m all in! Imagine being invited to a black tie ball at short notice, and the AI platform you trust knows you so well, it already has a new dress or tuxedo waiting at home for you.
Marketers who dig deeper into the AI conversation, moving past the superficiality of the current stereotype that defines it, and understand how to use it for positive impact, will fast-track their own career trajectory.
As you build your career path to CEO/CMO level, try to learn from the most advanced digital markets. Take the lessons from the US, UK and Scandinavia and see what you can implement in your organization, wherever you are.
Keep your current line manager informed of the training you’d like to undertake. Make a business case to show how the training will help you perform better in your current role and add value to the overall team and organization. This is an approach you can use from your very first entry-level role right through to middle and senior positions. Even when you’re a CEO or CMO, you’ll still be learning! I always highlight the value of coaching in our professional lives.
Sportspeople have known how critical their coaches are to their success. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon, and still not adopted by the mainstream, for coaching to be part and parcel of the professional world. Yet you’ll benefit endlessly if you invest in a coach to help you achieve your professional goals.
Personalized advice that really takes into account who you are, where you are and where you want to be, will open you up to myriad opportunities. There is lots of brilliant advice to be found in books and online, but only a coach can help you plot a path that is wholly created for you. When you follow a plan that feel authentic to you, the sky’s the limit.
Working with a coach also adds a level of accountability into your plans and the way you proceed. Not only does this help you stay on track, it’s also a good discipline to instil in yourself for when you are in the top seat – and responsible for many people.
My last words are ones of caution and encouragement.
When we speak of career paths, we imagine linear paths. In truth, the path looks more like a wave or a scribble!
So I’d ask you to build resilience. Figuring out a plan is a smart way to proceed with your career, but you should also understand that there could be obstacles and challenges that can derail your progress. Resilience is a key trait to possess if your eye is on the CEO/CMO role.
This is another way a coach will add immense value to your life. Having a sounding board to listen to you when things aren’t going according to plan is worth its weight in gold.
Finally, coaches, with their unique perspective of being an observer as well as being closely aligned with you, are also able to spot opportunities that arise from challenges. It’s up to you go after them – and that’s when the magic happens.