A few things to think about if you seek a career in digital marketing

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It is fashionable to stress that companies need to worry about digital technology and disruption. Disruption takes many forms and these forms are shifting. Also in regard to marketing careers.

So, buckle up: I am assuming that companies no longer need digital marketers. In fact, let’s throw out the word digital as an entirely redundant term. In 2015 and beyond, companies need marketers that are proficient in re-imagining value propositions for the new world.

Beyond AdWords

Advertising, public relations and most other marketing and communication activities are remnants of the linear past. We are on the verge of a wide-ranging business overhaul forcing us to fundamentally rethink marketing’s function.

Believe it or not, but every person and object of importance will get connected to every other. The number of IP-enabled sensors of all types are projected to exceed 50 billion in 2020. Estimates say that humans might carry some 100+ sensors with them, by virtue of the mass adoption of smartphones and broadband connections.

From a marketing point of view, it breaks with the mundane idea of B2B or B2C. Humans are becoming only a fraction of the identities we have to deal with. Markets also classify in M2M (machine to machine) or C2M (consumer to machine).

Let’s suppose you are active in car insurance. Cars are rapidly becoming computers on wheels. Today, the Ford Fusion contains 74 sensors. It tracks and interprets tire pressure, seat belt usage, sharp braking, lane changes. All this data is uploaded to GM’s OnStar.

With it comes the notion that GM -and other automotive companies might take insurers out of the game now that they can better segment, predict, price and lure drivers according to their former and actual driving behavior.

As an insurance marketer, what would you do when you become confronted with this disruption? Raise your AdWords budget?

Changing roles

Marketing needs to pass from the familiar world of marketing plans to the fast-moving world of platforms and ecosystems that form around application programming interfaces and ‘mashed up’ data streams.

Apple’s iTunes, GM’s OnStar and Google’s Nest or Apple’s Homekit for smart homes are completely redefining markets and the ensuing marketing play. More industries are expected to follow suit in similar fashion, forming temporary or structural (smart) platforms around clothing, health care, groceries, travel and the like.

Marketing requires a different cadence to be effective in this embryonic yet fast-growing reality. Rapid application development, experimentation, feedback loops and validation replace academic market studies and the judgment of executives up in the hierarchy.

Traditional marketing metrics – such as market share are inadequate for these networked, platform-based markets. Also CRM as silo-ed, business-specific system is becoming antiquated. Data sets have value beyond the silos within which they originate. The power of aggregation lies in the many non-intuitive relationships between data. With the ascent of networked platforms, companies will integrate and aggregate their data across product lines and off/online channels enabling them to dramatically improve value propositions.

In this context, marketers no longer have a specific function or job title. They will work in teams on projects and programs of varying complexity, together with data scientists, full stack engineers, ecosystem designers and content producers. Marketer’s distinction and salary will correlate with the insight and innovation he or she brings to the team and to the company’s performance alike.

Forward marketing

For some companies, digital technology is oil to lubricate. These companies have achieved their status because they have successfully figured out operating models that work. They have a legacy operating rhythm that tends to be slow and they define marketing in terms of generating website traffic, sending out e-mails or optimizing webshop conversion. Technology solutions are in service of these tactical goals.

For other companies, digital technology is oxygen to grow ideas. Companies in the forthcoming networked, platform age will no longer harness technology to the imperatives of their current business model; They will renew their business model to the possibilities of technology. Digital then sits at the very core of the company’s capabilities. Marketer’s role in these companies is not to develop a better app rather than to rethink value propositions which is a far more daunting challenge. These will become booming jobs. To win, marketers need to learn new skills and competences. Recently, Amsterdam-based Forward Marketing Institute started offering training for marketers that aspire jobs in the networked, platform age.

Technology is transforming business as much as marketing. It has profound implications for people seeking a career in marketing. Step forward and enjoy!

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