Why this is the most difficult (and fun!) time to be in marketing

difficult time to be in marketing

One reason I am differentiated as a marketing consultant and writer is that I’m old … it helps me connect the dots between decades and generations, between trends and fads. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

And as one of the more senior members of the blogging world I can say with confidence that this is the most difficult time to be in marketing over the past 30 years, and probably the most difficult time ever. Now, that doesn’t mean that every day isn’t fun and challenging. I think marketing is the best business career you could choose. I’m just saying you need to be expending an extraordinary amount of brain power these days if you want to succeed.

Here’s why.

1) Shifting platforms and rules

If you were in marketing 25 years ago the process was pretty straight-forward and your options were defined. Executing a marketing strategy might involve advertising on a TV network (if you had a big budget), or taking out ads in a local newspaper or radio show. Throw in a little PR and a trade show and you called it a day.

Of course today the media scene has shattered into a million pieces. But the fragmentation and choice is not even the biggest part of the problem. Far more difficult than sorting out the options are that the rules of engagement shift on a daily basis.

What worked for clients last week may not work next week because the “rules” are changing, and perhaps dramatically.

Here’s a dramatic insight into this challenge. Years, ago, you knew the demographics and reach of a media channel with precision. You took out an ad in a magazine and could reliably count on the “reach” of your message.

Compare that to the Hurricane we fondly call Facebook. A few years ago, if you did a great job with content and engagement you could count on predictable reach for your marketing efforts. Today, without boosting or other Facebook financial alchemy, the organic reach for most companies is near zero. We are forced to constantly learn and adjust, learn and adjust. We need to adopt a liquid strategy.

2) Information competition

Every day my news stream is filled with trends, charts and prognostications. But allow me to suggest that there is just one mega-trend that is overwhelming our business right now, and that is the malignant force of information density.

If you think it is hard to get your message through today, fasten your seatbelt. In the next five years, the amount of information on the web is expected to increase by at least 500 percent. In other words,by 2020, we will have the equivalent of five of the Internets we have today.

Do you think it might be just a LITTLE more difficult to be in marketing?

The overwhelming growth of information is like a hammer pounding on the marketing anvil. It is forging our strategies, new platforms, and new content forms to help us cut through.

My new book The Content Code is entirely devoted to strategies to help you overcome the wall of content before us.

3) New skills

Did you get a degree in marketing? In addition to traditional marketing classes in strategy and consumer behavior, you are probably sub-optimized if you haven’t also picked up these skills:

  • An immersion in statistics and data analytics
  • Basic content creation and community management skills
  • An ability to quickly assess new platforms and technologies
  • Fundamentals of search, design, eCommerce, user experience, and social media
  • Online networking skills

Most marketing graduates I meet are not prepared for the job market. College curriculums are out-dated. College instructors are out of touch and even resistant to change. At least one major state university in my region does not have a single digital marketing class. To a large degree, companies are placing the responsibility for continuing education on the employee.

There has been a cataclysmic shift in the skills needed to compete and succeed in today’s job market. In fact, it might be an unprecedented upheaval. Keeping up with these demands is another reason it is tough to be in marketing today.

And yet, there is not a single day that I’m not grateful to be in this profession, Without customers, there is no business. Marketers are on the frontlines of the enterprise, an engine for growth, innovation, and profits.

With the rate of change, I fully realize that five years from now I will probably be writing that marketing is even more difficult than it is today. I can’t wait for the challenge. How about you?

Note: For further reading on this subject, check out Christopher Penn’s riff on this post.

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site PowerMoreDell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Carmen Kong

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