Creating a robust, sustainable marketing function: a strategic, hybrid approach
When I started in my first marketing job, straight out of a marketing degree at university, I quickly discovered my theoretical understanding of marketing concepts wouldn’t be enough in the real world. My knowledge had to be paired with practical skills, especially those involved in digital marketing.
Ansoff’s matrix won’t tell you how to create an effective PPC campaign, but a fellow, experienced team member who has successfully done so for numerous organisations certainly can. It’s this kind of ongoing on-the-job training, coupled with ongoing learning via online resources and events, that has enabled me to continue growing my skill set.
And my marketing training will never come to an end. As an inbound marketing-focused specialist, I know that the constantly changing digital landscape will make me a ‘lifelong learner’, and that’s one of the things that makes my chosen career so rewarding.
At MPG, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by my (currently virtual) team of fellow inbound specialists, as well as MPG’s experts in other areas such as data, analytics, martech, website, marcomms strategy and campaign planning. It is this highly complementary combination of people and skills, brought together by our strong project managers, that enables me to apply my skills in order to deliver a strong marketing performance for our clients. The position I am in means I am constantly improving my skills and learning new ones.
This should be the story of every marketer in the digital age. Unfortunately, the breadth and depth of skills and expertise now needed in a single marketing function is usually underestimated by even the most astute business leaders.
The need for ongoing training and development
Every marketer should have the support from their organisation to learn new skills. This is essential if they are expected to perform well and deliver a good return on the marketing budget they’re managing.
Even the most experienced and accomplished marketer needs training.
This can be in anything from specific skills around content marketing, to more technical digital skills to ensure a particular channel like a website or PPC will work best, or even to gain the know-how to market relatively new types of products, like virtual events.
The ever-evolving nature of marketing demands up-to-date knowledge. New marketing tools and techniques come along every few months, and with competitors fighting for your audience’s attention, having the latest knowledge is essential for gaining a competitive edge.
Often organisations have stronger marketing potential hidden in their existing talent pool, they just haven’t unlocked it – yet.
Generalists plus specialists: a winning team
Don’t expect to be able to train a single person into some sort of marketing ‘superhero’. The breadth and depth of marketing is too much for a single person to handle. Inhouse marketers, who tend to be generalists, need strong, broad knowledge of how all elements of marketing can – and should – function. However, you can’t expect them to develop or maintain in-depth knowledge and up to date skills in specialist areas such as martech, data, analytics and PPC.
MPG’s own marketing managers are generalists – experienced experts in strategy, planning and project management. Every one of them started off working directly with digital tools – going through MPG’s programme of marketing training – giving them practical, foundational knowledge. This is routinely topped up by internal training and specialist colleagues always ‘on tap’ to share their knowledge. This gives the marketing managers the understanding of, and the confidence to, deploy the latest skills and tools for the best results.
But this well-balanced kind of marketing function, with the full range of skills needed, can be built by any organisation. The starting point is ensuring your own, inhouse marketers have the skills – and ongoing skills training – that they need.
What is holding back marketing skills growth?
If you expect your marketers to rapidly and frequently grow their marketing skills, here are the key questions you need to first answer:
- Does your organisation’s culture encourage and cultivate ongoing learning and development?
- Are marketers encouraged to learn new skills to help the business become more successful?
- Is knowledge sharing within your marketing team, and with their marketing peers in other organisations, common and encouraged?
- Are marketers given sufficient guidance on where their skill gaps are and how to develop, or gain access to, the skills needed to ensure their marketing delivers a strong ROI?
- Do they have access to (and time for) the resources and training that will help them grow?
- Is self-learning recognised and rewarded?
As the Covid-19 pandemic has developed, there are many distractions from applying usual best practices in running a business. You may have found that for the past few months it has been difficult to find the time and funds to provide support for your marketers in the right way. Many of them may have been on furlough and are now completely ‘out of the loop’ on latest developments.
So, now is the time to take a step back from what has probably been a very manic phase of business strategizing and rapid ‘pivoting’. You now need to seriously consider how well your marketers’ skills are matched to the challenges ahead.
Either you need to provide structured support and investment in your marketers’ skills development, or you need to outsource your marketing to a team that has the skills you need and will stay on top of latest developments. The logic is clear: poor skills = poor delivery = poor results.
MPG’s marketing training journey: we’re moving forward with our community
When MPG was first launched in 2014, due to popular demand, we ran a training academy. We ran various inhouse and public courses, training marketers from a large range of organisations focused on B2B events and subscriptions.
About five years ago, we decided to rather focus on hiring, training and developing our own team to best serve our fast-growing list of clients from all over the world who have invited us to be their outsourced marketing function.
We have now decided to re-launch MPG Academy to better serve our community –
- To address the urgent need for all marketers within our community to have strong marketing skills in new areas such as virtual event marketing and lead generation
- To make our expertise in these areas more accessible to more organisations who need it at a time when budgets are tight
Re-launching MPG Academy is one of the ways in which we are responding to the impact that Covid-19 has had on our community. We don’t intend to become a training business, but we do hope to be able to share our unique expertise and practical knowledge with many inhouse marketers around the world. In many ways, this is creating competition for ourselves, but we’ve looked beyond that to what really matters: we’re all in this together, and together we need to find the best, most positive way forward.
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