By Chuck Leddy
Today’s B2B marketer needs a lot of skills, both soft (such as understanding and empathizing with the customer) and hard (such as being able to leverage various martech applications). The question is: what skills are most foundational for a successful and well-rounded B2B marketer right now, and what skills will marketers continue to need far into the future?
What follows are the five most in-demand, high-level skills marketers must have to thrive in a fast-paced, rapidly-changing business landscape:
1: A cross-functional mindset. At a time when “revenue operations” or RevOps, is one of the latest concepts, marketers must be able to align what they do with every other function across the organization in order to impact the customer, The most effective marketers possess not just a holistic understanding of the customer, but also a holistic understanding of how their organization’s structure serves and engages their customer at every touch point.
The marketer who sees herself as “just” a marketer and not part of the larger business organization is a bad marketer. Instead, the marketer and the marketing team must collaborate and coordinate with the entire organization, from sales to customer service to product development and beyond, to drive revenues. That’s what RevOps is all about, and it demands a cross-functional mindset on the part of marketers and everyone else in the organization.
2: Fluency with data, data management and data analytics. Data is the fuel that powers the marketing and RevOps engine. Data not only empowers marketers to understand campaign performance (in a reactive, backward-gazing way), but also empowers future-oriented optimization and improvement on the tactical and strategic levels. In today’s B2B marketing landscape, the term “data-driven marketing” is almost redundant.
Marketers must be conversant in data science, being able to access and leverage data to do their work in driving customer engagement. Yes, marketers must always remain creative and intuitive, but they need to blend their creativity with a deep understanding of customer data, data management and data analytics.
3: Storytelling skills. The best marketers in 1920 were great storytellers who understood how to frame information in a way that engaged customer emotions and drove revenues. The best marketers in 2020 did the same, and so will the best marketers in 2120. Marketing will always require great storytellers, and no amount of data and martech will change that. In fact, more data and martech only emphasize storytelling as a true differentiator between mediocre marketing and great marketing.
As marketing technology continues to evolve, skills with technology and data will increasingly become commodified, me-too “table stakes” for all the players. What will make a brand, and a marketer, stand out is great storytelling — the ability to profoundly understand and tap into human motivations through creating memorable, emotional experiences.
4: Skills in finance, budgeting and strategic planning. Numbers and plans are business basics. And while marketers don’t need to have the full skillset of accountants or financial analysts, they do need the ability to decipher and analyze a balance sheet, a P&L statement, and a project finance plan. Money will always matter, in all areas of business, so being conversant in the language of money and financial reporting remains a key skill for effective marketers.
Fortunately, the world abounds with great resources for learning. You can learn budgeting through an online course or through YouTube videos. You can buy and read books on finance or set up lunches (or a Zoom meeting) with finance people who’d be happy, to explain some of the basics of what they do. A knowledge of strategic business planning is also important for understanding how projects get analyzed and (hopefully) approved from a risk-management perspective. For marketers who wish to collaborate across functions and move into leadership roles, in both the marketing department and within the organization, these finance skills are must-haves.
5: A willingness to constantly learn and adapt in contexts of uncertainty. More and more, success in today’s business landscape is about having the ability to learn and adapt to whatever comes next. Should you have a one-year or five-year plan? Yes, but you must be ready to dump those plans as soon as the assumptions they were based upon are no longer valid.
Think of what happened in March of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought lockdowns across the world, forcing people to work from home. That moment changed everything, and the organizations (and people) who were unable to change plans and adapt to “the new normal” suffered big losses. On the other hand, organizations and people who had the capacity to pivot strategies, messaging, even their product and service offerings, were the ones who thrived the most in 2020.
As former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson once said, “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Well, 2020 punched marketers and businesses in the mouth, but those who learned and adapted their approaches got off the floor and bounced back. This kind of necessary agility isn’t just about having the right mindset, although that’s a big component, but also about having robust technology and processes that can scale and flex as needed. What’s true for organizations is equally true for marketers — they must be ready to change when necessary.
Want to learn more about how your organization can mature its marketing operations to help improve results? We’ve been helping marketers for well over a decade – reach out to us here.
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