The times aren't changing - they have changed. The traditional skills of marketing and publishing have evolved. Data is everywhere and consumers want to select how information is information delivered across a plethora of channels - from the physical, such as direct mail, through to the latest social channels.
Actually it isn't that those traditional skills have disappeared, the basics of Direct Marketing still hold true - test, segment, measure, rinse and repeat. Publishing skills are as relevant than ever - knowing how to engage, build attractive and meaningful prose is still important, production and finishing still has to happen. All of this has made it an exciting but challenging year to be a marketer.
So what key learnings a did I pick up this year?
1. Marketers now have to be publishers
Maybe this is particularly true of B2B but outbound campaign marketing as a sole marketing tool (regardless of channel) seems to be dying a death. Marketers are now considering engaging their audiences with an "added value stream" of relevant content, nurturing leads with great content and building stronger relationships with both prospects and customers. Periodical publishers have been delivering engaging content like this for generations and marketers are now realising that quick messages alone are not enough.
2. Publishers are now becoming cross media marketing channels.
This has always been true to an extent but even more so now. Driven by the huge growth in demand for on-line delivery, revenue models for publishers have had to change - subscription, paid content, advertising funded and blended models are all fair game with no one winner emerging yet. Do what works for you but make it work.
3. Data as a discipline.
At last we are seeing the real recognition of data as a skill set in it's own right. The rightful demands of data governance, the appreciation of data as an asset and the fast growth of data volumes - leading to the rise of big data practices - have all created the need for a range of highly skilled data specialisms. Good news to those of us who have been working with data for many years. This was highlighted to me during one of our conferences this year when several delegates commented on their relief at the emergence of a community where they can learn from each other - something missing from pure marketing forums.
Inbound marketing is on the rise - it seems inevitable to me that increasing legislation, such as the proposed EU Data Protection Regulation, combined with broader recognition of the value of privacy and data by consumers, will inevitably result in the decreased effectiveness of outbound marketing. Put simply we now live in the era of "connected want". Consumers (and busy business people) know what they want, have the tools to make easy choices on-line and purchase directly when ready. A recent survey indicated that 70% of purchase decisions are made prior to contact with the seller. Great marketing will be about being found easily, recognised, trusted and the being the right value. Becoming a trusted source of information around your discipline is already a great way to build brand - but perhaps it will become the best way to sell too. As an illustration Hubspot (who perhaps aren't entirely unbiased here) believe that blogs may not only be an important tool - but they might become the most important tool in marketing. Learning how to do inbound is now essential.
In publishing ubiquity has now become a pre-requisite. The ability to deliver content in the way the consumer wants to get it should be the norm. Print or online is not enough - perhaps the consumer wants one article delivered by SMS or a whole journal delivered by print - today's content consumer is much more likely to part with hard earned cash for something in the way they want it. Marketers have something to learn here - it's much more than simple preference (still a problem for many businesses), its about information delivery the way your target market wants. Micro-managing campaign delivery by channel is, perhaps, the only way outbound will help in the inbound world of next year. Marketing automation, and the skills to use it, will only become more important with time.
Modern marketers need a whole bunch of skills - for those of us in sme's with limited resources this is hard. To manage a cohesive, cross channel, engaging, inbound strong marketing function needs a huge range of diverse skills - for example:
No one person can be expert enough across all these disciplines consequently today's marketer need, more than ever, to rely on teams both internal and external, multiple tool sets and have a thirst for knowledge. As modern marketing demands rely more and more on technical solutions it's also inevitable that the IT community will become more marketing focussed - themselves needing a whole new set of traditional marketing skills to enable them to deliver IT solutions that work. I believe that this rapid and complex convergence of skills is single biggest opportunity and also the single biggest challenge to marketing in business today.
In summary I think (for me at least) the marketing landscape has changed more quickly than any other time I can remember. The demands of new skills will leave shortfalls in the marketing capability for many. Those who can adapt the quickest will win.